Series Title: Games without Frontiers
Series Rating: PG - NC-17
Main Character:Roy Mustang, Riza Hawkeye
Other Characters: Various other members of the Peanut Gallery called Fullmetal Alchemist
Word Count: 1,642
Synopsis: She'd given him a free ticket out of this world, then ran like a little coward. She hadn’t even the balls to watch him use it.
Author's Notes: AU/Non Canon. My own little private timeline; my own private little world. Yeah, and, just to add, my own little crackpot theories. Nothing else related to any episode of any kind, except the usage of the character(s) in question, though some events in some episodes will be used out of context as artistic license. I try not to make the events I use too spoilerish, but if I can’t help it, you’ll get a warning. Commentary is certainly welcome and tends to make me go “you like me! you really like me!”
Each chapter is titled after a lyric in a song that was part of the soundtrack I have for this tale. Check the current music for the song.
Chapter 5: Sometimes I’m Scared of You
Rated: PG for language and situations
She climbed into the car and waited until the door was shut before asking her driver the time. With the information, she began to tremble, slightly, gently, under the surface of her skin. Years of practice hardened her exterior; the only thing that cracked the surface was a polite smile for the young man driving her home.
She wanted to weep in frustration. That was impossible. She had no time to weep right now. Perhaps in an hour she could cry to her heart’s content.
She asked the driver to return to the hall and wait for... a half hour. By the time he returned to the Hall, that would be how much time would be left. If no one emerged, asking for a ride, then he was to go return the car and go home for the evening. The driver solemnly nodded, as if he knew what was going on.
As she opened her door, she noticed something about the key in her hand. It was missing the key ring, the one she’d fashioned out an empty shell casing found in the town where everything had begun. She stopped for a moment, wondering where it had gotten to, when it dawned on her. She was holding the copy of the key, the one she was supposed to have given to him.
Well, she thought with a bitter twist to her lips, he’d have to be extremely drunk not to notice that.
Her home was supposed to be a sanctuary for her. Usually, when she entered, she shed all of the things she’d experienced at work and left them all on her door step. Neatness, calmness, tranquility surrounded her. Nice, neutral colors, minimal lighting. Supposed to calm, to project serenity.
It looked like a mausoleum at that moment. The only sign of life was Hayate, curled like a furry cannon ball, snuffling slightly in his sleep. He was still clutching the little scrap of lace she’d given him earlier. She didn’t feel like laughing, though. The clock was telling her that she had forty-three minutes left.
She was back in the shower, trying to remove the layers of smoke and sweat and dread that caked on her skin. Earlier, she rather thought she would be feeling a bit on the unclean side for having played such a role. Unclean didn’t begin to describe it. Sordid, corrupted, debased, did the list end? But... strangely enough, there was another feeling buried deep under all of that, even under the fear she was savagely kicking into the corner of her mind.
Anticipation. It tracked down her spine as she stepped from the water.
How long did she have?
The clock, of course, told her. She had twenty three minutes.
She’d always thought that when he died, it would be in battle, and she would be there to see it happen. But, she’d given him a free ticket out of this world, then ran like a little coward. She hadn’t even the balls to watch him use it.
She dried herself off with quick, jerky strokes, and then the layers went on. Underwear, tank top, pajama bottom, robe. Layers of soft cotton wrapping her in some semblance of comfort. Until the hour was over, this was all she was going to get.
Then her back started to itch again, a burning tingle right on the back of her left shoulder. Her instinct made her reach up a hand to rub the spot; her knowledge made her snatch her hand away from the palm sized scar.
It only itched to remind her.
She decided to fix herself a cup of tea and wait the rest of it out. There was no sleep for her.
I shouldn’t have agreed to any of this. What had she been thinking? She had boundaries. And she knew that crossing them would have severe consequences. The stark whiteness of her kitchen hurt her eyes. She put the kettle on and turned the gas on high. She placed the cup and saucer out, and readied her tea pot.
A soft, tentative scratching sound caught her ear. She looked over at her puppy; it hadn’t come from him. And the sound was made by metal scraping metal. She knew it.
A key turned in the lock. From the kitchen, it sounded like a sword leaving a scabbard. She froze.
The boot heels clicked across the hardwood floor, fast, hard, like bullets flying, so much so that she had the urge to duck and draw. Her shields instinctively went up. That step was so sure, so confident. Nothing like the shuffling slide she expected from one so drunk.
Then, suddenly, he stood in the doorway of her kitchen, bracing his arms against it for support.
“How dare you?” he growled.
It was like a blow to her stomach, leaving her breathless. But, she’d taken blows like that before and, before he was certainly ready she’d recovered.
He was here.
“You left a suicidal man alone in a room with a loaded gun? Are you crazy?”
And, as usual, he’d given her exactly what she needed to when she needed to say it.
“Apparently you weren’t that suicidal.” Amazing, how calm she sounded. “You’re here.”
She took her attention away from the tea pot long enough to look over at him. He was still standing there braced against the doorjamb, looking for all the word as if he were afraid to let go.
Of course he was. It wouldn’t do for him to fall on his face in the middle of such a dramatic moment. She took in his full appearance with a quick slide of eyes from top to bottom, then back up to pause at the pulse doing double-time on the side of his throat. Impeccable. Back down her eyes went to her tea cup.
“Why don’t you go and have a seat,” she said. “I’ll fix you some tea so you can sober up some.” Before you do what you came here to do.
Amazingly, he went and did as she told, quietly and without comment. She could watch him from the kitchen as he moved over to her couch with the slight stumble she expected and collapsed like a rag doll, overcoat and all. She watched from her safe vantage point as he leaned forward and cradled his head in his hands and wondered what was going through his mind.
In fact, she wanted to desperately know what was going through his mind. Because he was here. She pulled another cup and saucer from the cabinet, just as the kettle began to scream for attention.
She took another look. This time, he was leaned back – sprawled, actually – over her couch, eyes closed, head flung back. Was he sleeping? No, there went his hand, raking itself through the tangled mess of his hair.
He was here.
It was an oddly therapeutic thing, to measure and pour, and mix and stir.
“Why...?” His voice was faint, but in the stillness it was easy to hear the raw edge of it slicing across her nerves. “Why did you give me a choice?”
It burst from her before she could catch it. “What was I supposed to do? Just leave you the gun and let you blow your brains out like I know you wished to do? That’s not part of my job description, sir.”
Other duties as assigned…
“It would have been easier, you know.”
She watched what happened next as if someone else were performing the action. The cup and saucer in her hands flew across the kitchen, in slow motion, smashed against the wall, and fell in pieces on her clean kitchen floor. Tea stained the wall, dripped down to make a little puddle there.
Hayate yipped slightly, then returned to his slumber.
Riza closed her eyes and took several deep breaths. Entirely insufferable! A textbook definition. A head of iron and brains to match.
She bent down to pick up the pieces of broken cup, still cursing him under her breath. All of her focus was on the man on the couch and how quickly she could do him the favor of putting him out of his misery herself, so when the sharp sting finally made it to her brain, she was left flat on her ass, staring in shock at her hand.
She dropped the shard of saucer and stared at the blood welling from her palm. She watched for as long as she could, for it seemed that her vision was suddenly getting more and more blurry by the second.
When the first tears fell, she had no idea what they were. Then the hot tracks burned her face and she was mortified. What was she crying for? It was just a little cut, wasn’t it? It didn’t even hurt that much. It couldn’t have had anything at all to do with the man on her couch and revelation that the man actually wanted to die, would have rather died than come to her house and take what she was offering.
Arms suddenly wound their way around her, plucking pieces of cup and saucer out of her hands, cradling the wounded hand carefully.
“Riza, dammit, what... oh, no.” He was speaking softly into her hair, she could feel him rocking her slowly back and forth, and still it felt like it was happening to someone else. She couldn’t possibly be feeling the warmth of his body around her, couldn’t possibly smell the combination of cigar and cognac, sweat and him. She strained to hear what he was saying; it was hard because it was muffled by her hair and by the alcohol in his veins. But eventually, it finally formed an array that transmuted into something intelligible. And it told her everything.
“I’m sorry,” he whispered.