One room in the entire town.
Riza shut her eyes and took a deep breath, suppressing the urge to pinch her nose or to give some other outward sign of her annoyance. After all, it wasn’t the poor girl’s fault that the army was completely incompetent. Even with her eyes closed she could still hear the Colonel bickering at the front desk, sharp consonants cutting through his otherwise hushed tones.
It wasn’t a big deal, right?
It wasn’t as if she would mind. Hell, it wasn’t even as if this would be the most intimately coded thing they’d done together, not even close. The scars on her back were testament enough to that, but this wasn’t about anything as simple as trust. This was work, and the rumor mill was already reeling about Roy’s promotion. She knew the last thing he needed was word getting out that he had shared a hotel room with his female subordinate.
But the army had sent them there in the first place. The army had sent them through some tiny backwater town in the middle of nowhere in the name of efficiency and effectiveness as if getting the Flame Alchemist and the Hawk’s Eye to the border four hours earlier would make a difference in a skirmish that had already happened. If the army wanted efficiency, they’d just have to sacrifice some conduct.
“Sir, unless you plan on getting your gloves out I don’t think we’re getting anything else out of her.” Riza drawled, glancing at him out of the side of her eyes. He turned to face her and she could tell he had a headache from the way his eyes were scrunched up. It was almost as if he were trying to put pressure on his temples without actually touching them. She had an urge to reach out and rub them for him, and for a moment she forgot that she had one too. “Why don’t we just take the room?”
The Colonel paused for a minute, glancing at the woman behind the counter. She could see the concentration written on his face as he tried to come up with a solution that wouldn’t involve fire or sleeping outside. If she hadn’t been so adamantly against the situation ten minutes ago herself she might have been offended that he found the idea of sharing a room with her so daunting. Eventually he nodded slowly and collected the key off the counter without a word. The receptionist let out an audible sigh of relief as he turned and began to walk up the staircase. Riza didn’t blame her. She paused for a moment, unsure whether she should say anything to the young lady, but decided it best to simply turn around and follow. Her steps quickly fell into time with her commander’s before halting as he worked the key into the cheap lock.
Riza thought the room might have been nice, once upon a time, but years of neglect had left it irredeemably dingy. The walls were an unpleasant shade of brown that was more likely caused by dirt and water damage than paint. An inquisitive look at the floor showed that grime had seeped into it and melded with the tile itself; the resulting effect was an unpleasant matte finish she doubted could be erased even with years of elbow grease.
“I’m not taking the floor.” The way she said it was almost a sigh, legendary war veteran defeated by a floor.
She turned to look at the Colonel and saw his mouth quirk up briefly on one side before he took two steps forward and flung himself onto the bed. He landed bluntly, face down, long limbs allowing him to take up an unprecedented amount of room. Riza had to suppress a snort as he let out a satisfied groan and said something that was immediately lost in the comforter smothering his face.
“Sir, you’re going to have to speak up.” Even she could hear the smile creeping into her voice.
“this themst cumfalb intha worl.” He raised his volume but didn’t actually move, words dissolving into the bedsheets. If she was going to understand him, or sleep, she’d have to get him moving.
“Sir.” Riza’s eyes crawled towards the ceiling. “You’re going to have to move eventually. You might as well start now.” No movement. “You’re still in your full uniform.” Nothing. “Don’t you want to take a shower?” Crickets. Sighing, she latched onto his forearm and leaned back, letting her weight gently pull him towards the edge of the bed. He shifted his weight to the side to pull back with minimal effort and she swore she could feel his smirk reverberating around the room as he let out a small whine. “Sir.” she began to pull harder and felt him pull back in equal measure, holding his position. She gave a sudden and sharp tug, successfully pulling him out of his ridiculous position but not quite getting him out of the bed entirely. He yanked back, pulling Riza out of her small victory and onto the bed—and his back—as he let out an exaggerated snore. This time she couldn’t suppress her snort, hand moving up to her face in a vain attempt to cover the laugher. She felt him chuckling underneath her and impulsively seized the Colonel under his shoulders, trying to roll him off the bed.
With another exaggerated snore, the Colonel pushed into the roll, putting far more force than expected into the motion and throwing them both tumbling onto the disgusting floor. A quick assessment confirmed that he was indeed wide awake and smirking, long limbs cast over Riza’s own in an easygoing sprawl. The smirk grew into a familiar lopsided smile as he turned to her and she felt a similar one growing on her face as well at the sight of it.
“You,” the Colonel began, pausing extraneously for dramatic effect, “need to work on your hand to hand, Lieutenant.” He pushed his hair out of his face but it immediately found its way back. Riza wondered briefly how many times he’d accidentally caught it on fire. “Luckily for you, I’m a certified instructor.” Riza laughed as he raised his eyebrows.
“Forgive me if I’m skeptical sir, but two nights ago I watched you accidentally stab yourself with a pen.” She cocked one eyebrow up as well as she watched him fall backward in fabricated shock, hand clutching his heart. She had to give him credit, anyone willing to introduce their head—or any body part—to this floor willingly must be truly dedicated to the dramatic arts.
“Get the bandages Lieutenant, I’m wounded.” He looked up at her from his spot on the floor, hand still draped over his chest. Riza let out a huff of disbelief.
“You’re a child, Roy.”
With those words, the air stilled suddenly and she felt a blush rising up her neck and threatening to show on her face. She quickly looked down at the ground to hide it. The last time she’d called him by his first name was, well, she didn’t know. She supposed she must have stopped some time around Ishval, when her childhood idealism was replaced with something else. She’d thought it had just been part of growing up. Childish wants and beliefs replaced with more practical alternatives. A natural progression. Hope became skepticism. Love became loyalty. Roy became “Sir.”
Recently though, she’d found herself hoping for things again. For a future where she wouldn’t be asked to kill. For something that she couldn’t quite place. A fulfillment of sorts that she had no idea how to find. With that hope, all of the other feelings she’d stamped down during the war were beginning to return as well, and that was a problem. Because underneath all of her cynicism, she still thought of Roy as Roy, and she hoped for a future with him that she wasn’t sure she was ready to admit to herself, much less to him.
Riza was roused from her thoughts as she felt a gloved hand on her face, fingers curling near her chin and thumb falling gently on her mouth. It was strange how something as simple as someone’s hand could be so familiar and yet so foreign at the same time. A slight force brought her eye line up until it matched with Roy’s. She was sure she must be scarlet by now. Her mouth opened to say something but she didn’t actually have any words planned, only knowing that this silence, this closeness, she needed it to stop. She couldn’t sit this close to him without pushing back from him. Without closing the distance. She moved her hand onto his own, fully intending to move it away but instead holding it gently. Her other hand moved up to the back of his head, entwining her fingers through his slightly greasy hair. They both needed showers. She could feel his breath on her face; it was carefully controlled. She was hardly breathing at all. Years of training as a sniper meant that in moments of stress her heartbeat automatically slowed and her breathing minimized. Her body was hardly moving. Slowly but definitively his face grew closer to her own until their lips were touching without any real movement—a parody of a kiss. Hot air crept into her lungs as they exchanged breath.
Her grip on his hair tightened slightly, urging him into motion as his free hand moved to the crook near her shoulder and slid up her neck until his hands were crookedly cupping her face. His sudden decisiveness slipped into her, and she found herself responding. The carefully constructed closeness she’d basked in all these years was suddenly overwhelming. Her body moved into Roy’s in an attempt to remove any semblance of space between them. She felt his familiar form on hers in a way she’d hardly allowed herself to entertain even hypothetically. Just when she thought she knew something, the world gave her a way to experience it anew. Roy moved into her as well, and she found herself being pushed backwards slightly, removing her hand from his own to brace herself on the floor.
On the floor.
No, this was not happening on this grime covered, diseased tile. She pulled her head back, keeping her body flush against his.
“Roy, there is no way we’re doing this on the floor.” She narrowed her eyes, a challenge.
“Oh?” His eyebrows shot up, familiar smirk gracing his features. “And what is ‘this’ exactly?” His hand wandered down to her neck, causing her blood to return to her face as she tried to come up with a good answer. What was “this”? This was making her lose her goddamn mind, that’s what it was.
“Good question Roy. What is this?” She allowed the grip on his hair to loosen, but didn’t release it entirely, still holding him close. The question could have been accusatory, but her tone conveyed curiosity, not guilt or condemnation. She was so used to knowing what he was thinking, to their wordless conversations which could be passed in a glance. There was something fundamentally strange about having to have to ask him how he felt. He paused for a moment, thinking his answer over carefully. His mouth moved minutely as he sampled words in his head, looking for the right ones. She’d heard him do it aloud a million times in the safety of his office, writing notices and reports, not a word out of place. This was the first time she’d seen him putting such care into his words for her.
“This has been a long time coming Riza. I- I’m not jerking you around if that’s what you mean.” He absently curled a lock of her hair around his finger as he spoke, glancing at it inquisitively. She felt a strange loss inside her as he broke eye contact, but was relieved when his gaze returned a moment later with a sudden urgency. “You’ve been with me through everything. You’ve seen the things I’ve done —That I was ordered to do. If you hadn’t been there with me—” he paused again, eyes asking her for something, begging. What did he want? She’d give him anything. “Sometimes I just can’t stand spending the night without you.” He whispered this part, words fleeing quickly and quietly from some unknown threat.
She felt a strange turn in her gut. Sudden. Intense. Some unnamed emotion between guilt and sorrow burrowing out of a place where it had lived in solitude for years. The feeling winded her, preventing the platitudes she might have given him from stumbling out. She knew that feeling well. Anyone who’d ever been unable to sleep with themselves knew that the night was longer than the day. All these years she’d been leaving him alone when it mattered most.
He looked at her with an almost childlike expression, one she remembered from before her father, the war, the scars. Hopeful and pure. She’d seen that look wiped off his face before, slowly, repeatedly, but when he held it his eyes looked different. He’d once remarked that she had the eyes of a killer, that he did too. He’d been right.
Maybe her eyes could look like that again too. Maybe people didn’t stay killers forever. Maybe things could be right again. She pulled herself into him once more, pushing them both upright. They were leaning into each other equally, holding each other up like two soldiers facing the wrong way during fireguard.
“I love you too, Roy.”