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The Bittersweet Between

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When they are reunited- under the guise of peacetime- Roy’s guilt slices Riza like a bayonet. The emotion doesn’t have to make an appearance in his eyes for her to know; the choreography of war has reshaped them as eternal partners. They’ve shared rations, dodged bombs, and filled their lungs with smoke and terror. Roy does Riza the courtesy of staring straight at her, acknowledging a shared past. She remembers why he was her one of her few solaces on the battlefield.

“You look well, lieutenant.” A barbed question lies beneath his words, the reason for his current remorse; have you recovered from being burned? She can still sense it, sometimes; the fire slinking up her back like a lover’s touch, and her agonized nerves lighting up like a radio board. She can still hear Roy whimpering his apologies in her ear, and she can still feel an echo of the strangest euphoria of her young life. By surrendering to the pain, by erasing her father’s knowledge from her body, she had become free, she was free, she was free.

Roy deserves thanks, not censure.

“If I weren’t well, I wouldn’t be here, sir.” It’s something of a bold rejoinder, but some untested officials smile at this display of camaraderie. Riza continues to stare at Roy. Or, rather, her eyes are locked on his forehead, and she thinks about how easy it would be to pull a trigger and send a bullet into his brain. Death can be as effortless as crossing paths with a gun-toting woman, far removed on the ramparts. Do you escape her, or does she take your life?

Ever since returning to the capitol’s clean and idyllic streets, thoughts like this have wormed their way into her mind, without provocation. She has no desire to see Roy dead (she’d probably die herself if he were gone) but she can’t stop reflecting on the fragility of his existence. The country’s rulers have declared the war over. They have signed treaties and declarations to the effect, but, for Riza Hawkeye, there’s no retreating from the ghosts of Ishval.

“Is that so? I’m glad to have you here.”

*

When he visits her home that evening, Riza gains a clearer picture of why.

“I have something to ask of you, Lieutenant.”

She watches him look around her tidy apartment, and Riza almost smiles. Yes, it isn’t the battlefield, and it my father’s decaying house, now is it? She has created a space for herself.

“What is it, sir?”

“It’s not exactly fair of me, but I think you’re the only one I can trust to do this.”

Time and hardship have peeled away the vestiges of her friend’s untested nature. (It’s rather like looking into the mirror.) He wears authority with ease.

Now if only he could be coaxed to deploy it. “With all due respect, either give the order or refrain from mentioning it.”

Roy scrunches up his face- and some of the years melt away when he does that- but then he throws back his head with a laugh. “Yes, this is why I came to you.” Just as quick as a snap of the fingers, he is somber again. “Do you remember my desire to improve Amestris?”

“Yes, sir.” She searches her heart to see if she shares his wish… but comes away devoid of any hopes and fears at all. “I remember it.”

He turns away from her. “If I ever stray from that course and acquire power for personal gain alone, I want you to execute me.”

The order lands like a grenade. Riza gasps; a sharp little sound in this quiet room.

“Would you be able to do it if necessary, lieutenant? Yes or no?”

He starts, when she stands behind him and rests his fingers against the nape of his neck. Riza can move quickly and silently.

“Yes, I would be able to shoot you.” Her hand clutches at his collar, even if she keeps her voice light. “But please don’t give me a reason to.”

“Oh, believe me, I don’t want to die.” It sounds like a joke, but Riza thinks it isn’t.

“You were wondering about my back earlier?” Riza speaks before she realizes what she’s saying, and she stares at their conjoined shadow o nthe ground.

“Hm? Oh, yeah. May I see it? Burn wounds can be tricky bastards.” Riza doesn’t have to look into Roy’s face to know he’s giving a self-deprecating smirk. “I would know.”

She faces away from him, unbuttons her shirt, and lets the fabric pool down her shoulders like a shawl.

“Good.” Even against the scar tissue, Riza is aware of Roy’s fingers against her skin. He has taken his gloves off. “You healed cleanly.”

“We had good medics.” She can feel him outlining what remains of the symbol on her back, and then he sighs. His breath is warm against her shoulders.

“I regret doing this to you.” Roy’s voice is as quiet as a heartbeat.

Riza narrows her eyes. “Please don’t. I was going to have it done eventually, and I rather it were you than anyone else.” This seems to be how they demonstrate affection, now; they commit to bitter tasks and good, clean deaths. It’s all a soldier can ask for, really.

“I’m glad you’re alive. I’m glad you’re one of the ones that understand.”

Yes, Riza understands. She understands that there is no true glory in war, and she understands what it’s like to bury youthful idealism. “Permission to turn around, sir.”

“Granted.”

Roy seems to anticipate her kiss, judging by the way he wraps his arms around her shoulders and pull her close. Although she has initiated the moment, Riza isn’t entirely sure how to proceed; her arms are ramrod straight at her sides, her hands clenched into fists. For a while they barely move, save for tongues and lips. They’ve never done this before, but they’ve hauled each other out of the line of fire. Riza has an inherent familiarity when it comes to Roy’s body. Her naked torso is pressed against the fabric of his shirt, and Riza feels her senses slowly wake.

She becomes… not pliant, exactly, but curious and receptive. She presses her hands against Roy’s lower back and thinks that they aren’t close enough. After coming back from war and finding herself a stranger in her own country, it’s so inherently good to be understood. He’s solid and warm in her arms, and she’s glad to hold on to him.

When they’re on the floor, and in the process of discarding clothes, Roy takes a moment to run his fingers down the front of her body. Riza catches a hint of joy in his eyes, almost as if this uninjured skin is a miracle. He kisses her breasts, gently at first, but then he sucks one of her nipples into his mouth with deliberate precision. She thinks- in the small part of her mind that can still coolly observe- that she is witnessing Roy’s return to life. She is allowing him to see himself as someone who can deliver pleasure as well as pain. Riza cries out, and then bites into the back of her hand, because being this loud goes against her discipline.

“It’s okay, lieutenant,” Roy says, speaking for the first time in a while. He brushes her thumb against her other breast. His stare is deep and keen, as though he wants to memorize every changing expression on her face. Because he is distracted, Riza can knock him over. He lands flat on his back.

“I know, sir.” She sinks down onto him, letting him fill her. It’s startling and intimate to have him inside her, but far, far from unwelcome. “I trust you.”

Roy looks like he wants to say something, but then he changes his mind. He pulls her down into a kiss. They rock against one another, back and forth, back and forth, and Riza shakes a bit in his arms. After months and months of numb duty, it’s almost too much, too good, too immediate. Riza pulls back, digs her fingers into his shoulders, and arches against him. When he puts his fingers against her clitoris, crests of pleasure build and build. Her subsequent orgasm seizes her body, and chases worry from her mind.

Afterwards, they rest on the ground. In a few minutes they will have to return to military titles and plans and all the other chains they wear. She is prepared for it. She can even welcome it, when she knows she’ll have this obstinate man at her side. For now she is content to be sprawled out, her knuckles resting against the back of Roy’s hand.