"You're too thin, kid," says Roy's mother, "Stop picking at your food, eat properly." He feels like saying, for god's sake I'm thirty-one, but he can see what sort of mood Madam Christmas is in. Shutting up will leave him marginally more dignity.
To his left, Madeline tops up Riza's glass when she's not looking. This is at least the third time she's done that. The first time Riza saw and said yes, the second time she saw and said no but got topped up anyway (because that's how it works in Roy's family), but the third time - well, apparently even the eyes of the hawk get a little less sharp after three and a half glasses of good claret.
He lets Madeline get away with it. Riza is starting to be happily tipsy, genuinely relaxed, and she needs to relax, they both do, but by god you have to battle her (and she's stubborn) or sneak around her (and she's observant) to get her to wind down, sometimes. She always guards him, keeps that little bit of watchfulness, even when rationally she knows they're in safety. But then he can hardly talk, he does exactly the same thing to her, and he knows that sometimes it annoys the hell out of her. Here, though, here in the heart of his brilliant, devious, decent family, guarded and in the middle of a holiday dinner with no duties to rush off to for once, he knows that neither of them can be in danger.
Well, not physical danger, at least.
"So," says Madam Christmas, clinking her glass with a ring. "Let's talk about why you're not Fuhrer yet, kid."
Well, this was inevitable. "Look, you know how delicate things were after the coup. We need to move forward slowly and carefully if we want to avoid a civil w-"
"Don't take that tone with me, you think I don't keep up with politics? I've been in politics since you were in short pants, kid. It's been nearly a whole year, you live in that office, we barely get to see you. I'd like to take this opportunity to ask what exactly you've been doing with yourself." And she gives him the stare. He's never managed to do it quite so well as she can.
"Well, we've actually gathered a lot of support over the last couple of mon-"
"Yeah," Vanessa cuts him off. "When we went on the run, we had to spend three days on the sleeper train to Aerugo, no shower and the restrooms stank. And you're not Fuhrer yet? What are we, ch-"
"No, look, it's not that I don't appreciate everything you've done, but I've said this before, we need to win over the neutral contingent of the military so I can take power peacefu-"
"Yeah," says Bao-Yu wearily, "What they said. Stage another coup, be Fuhrer, we're all getting sick of the futzing around. Your guys smacked down Bradley's ass, and he was all ripped and monstery and everything, Hakuro's just some dude with gout."
"That's not exactly the point. Look, you're a student of history. You want a repeat of the Fifty Years' War, or the Avantine Feuds with twenty candidates for duke all poisoning each oth-"
"Whatever. He's fat, he'll fry like a side of bacon. Snap already." What is it about family arguments that seems to instantly halve everyone's intelligence?
Roy looks around for an ally. He catches Madeline's eye. She just nods at him, sagely and aggravatingly, and passes over the wine.
Roy sighs, scrubs a hand through his hair and tops up his glass.
In vast, incomprehensible betrayal of their solidarity, Riza starts quietly giggling at him.