emwitchwood: ([fma] riza/ed)
[personal profile] emwitchwood
You know, I got on here yesterday and realized that this entry was just... gone. WTF? And three things I'd had under a cut weren't under a cut anymore.

Title: Talking With Ghosts
Pairing: Ed/Riza
Rating: PG-13
Summary: Out of all of them, she was probably the only one that didn’t regret all the things she had never said to him, because she’d said all that she wanted.

Disclaimer: Just borrowing, unfortunately.
Author’s Notes: This is actually a couple years old. I found it, cleaned it up, and decided to post it here instead of just on FF.net. It completely disregards the movie and all the facts about Hawkeye’s past and family revealed by the manga, since I wrote it before I read more than two chapters of the manga.  
Talking With Ghosts
Riza visited Edward’s grave once a month. She brought pastries instead of flowers, because she was certain that he would have appreciated them more. She came early in the morning so she had plenty of time to give Edward the latest news.
“I saw Alphonse yesterday. His daughter was with him.” She sat with her back against the headstone and her legs curled beneath her. “Every time I see her she looks more like you.” She tucked a strand of hair behind her ear and closed her eyes, tilting her head back against the smooth marble.  It hurts to look sometimes. You’d be thirty-six. Would you have settled down and started a family like your brother? I can’t see it, but maybe that’s only because I can’t see you any older than when you walked away.  
They had sometimes gone for coffee or a late dinner together when Ed was in town, and an unlooked for friendship had sprouted up between them. At first, she had felt it was lopsided: she would almost always be the one to talk and he would almost always be the one to listen. Eventually she figured out that Ed preferred it that way, that he kept coming back because she didn’t expect him to say anything. Listening was a skill that both brothers had, though you would hardly know it just by looking.
“Nessa wants to learn alchemy. She found a box of old newspaper clippings and thinks you’re just grand.” A light summer breeze played with her bangs, brought her the scent of freshly cut grass. “She wants to be a State Alchemist now. No offense, but I hope it’s just a phase.”
It had started the day that Riza’s mother had died. She had gotten the call right after lunch, from an old aunt who had told her, simply, bluntly, that her mother had died in the night, and the funeral was scheduled to take place the coming weekend, and could she make it? The colonel had left earlier in the day, and no one had noticed that anything was amiss after she had hung up the phone. She had worked diligently through the last three hours of the day and when five o’clock rolled around she nodded at the other’s goodbyes. When the door had closed behind Havoc, she’d sat staring at the phone.
Her mother was dead. Riza hadn’t even known that she had been ill.
Her mother was dead.
Of course, she hadn’t talked to her mother in years. Her father, a professor at the local university, had not agreed with her decision to join the military instead of furthering her education. They had argued, not for the first time, but it had been one argument too many and she had left. Her mother had tried to reason with her, tried to convince her to stay. Stubborn and angry, she had ignored the woman’s pleas and after that ignored her letters and phone calls.
Finally the letters stopped coming, the calls became few and far between. She spent a whole year hurting, refusing to break down and apologize. She had always meant to resolve things. But there had been Ishbal, and then the blank time after, and then there had been the Flame Alchemist and his vision- the one that gave her hope that maybe her dreams of making a difference were not pointless after all.
And then it was too late.
The door to the Colonel’s office had opened and Fullmetal had stepped out, yawning and shrugging on his coat. He’d looked at her and his eyebrows had scaled his forehead. “What’s wrong?”
She would usually have said nothing was wrong, that she was fine, but he had startled her and she had said, “My mother died.” She’d never been able to figure out what had made her tell him. 
His expression had turned sympathetic. He had walked up to her and wiped away her tears with the sleeve of his coat. She hadn’t realized she was crying. “Come on Lieutenant. Let’s go grab a bite to eat.”
He’d helped her gather up her things and then took her to a small café a few blocks from headquarters. It had been awkward at first. They weren’t particularly close. It was the Colonel who dealt with the Elrics the most, the rest of them always unsure of their footing. Edward was a child who had seen too much, all hard angles and cold steel one moment and boyish grin and laughing golden eyes the next. He was intelligent to a point where it was almost unnerving, more perceptive than people gave him credit for. Treating him as a child never felt right, yet for all he had been through he was not an adult. Alphonse was easier. His sweet soul and unfailing manners made it hard to feel awkward around him, and he never minded being treated like a child. He seemed to like it, and Riza could imagine why.
She had asked him where Alphonse was. It was strange to see Edward without his brother by his side, and Riza noticed that it made him seem taller, older. He told her that Winry was in town, and Alphonse had taken her shopping. He had decided to use the time to finish his report, but he’d fallen asleep and the Bastard (and Riza noticed that when Roy was not around to hear it, the insult sounded almost affectionate) hadn’t woken him.
“Can’t be too mad at him.” Ed had said. “At least this way I missed having to buy Winry dinner and souvenirs.” His shoulders had hunched. “With how much she charges to fix my arm you’d think you could afford her own damn tools.”
He hadn’t asked her about her mother, or treated her any differently than he always did. That was probably what had made her tell him. That and the fact that she knew if any one of her comrades knew what it was like to lose a mother, it was Edward.
“I didn’t even know she was sick.” she started. “I haven’t talked to her in years.” By that time, they had finished their meal and she was sipping coffee while he was eating his third slice of pie. Back behind the grief and shock, a small voice was asking where someone so tiny packed all that food away.
Ed had not prompted her to say more, had just listened intently. So she continued. “She wrote me all the time after I left, called me once a day, and I ignored her. I wouldn’t talk to her. She probably thought that I hated her.”
Ed had said something to that, but what it was she could not remember. Maybe it had been “If she hated you, wouldn’t she have stopped calling?” or more likely “If she knew you well, then she knew how stubborn you were, and had probably decided to just give you time.”
His expression had been warm, non-judgmental, and just a little sad, and all the words that she had kept inside for so long just came tumbling out. She had told him things she had never told anyone else. About her mother and her sisters and summers on her uncle’s farm in the south. How she had loved to run through the fields barefoot and splash in the puddles left by the rain. She had told him how she and her father had always been at odds, two strong wills that refused to bend, her mother caught in the middle. She told him about years of regretting the arguments but never having the courage to go back. He had listened, and understood. He’d walked her home and made her tea and exacted a promise from her that she’d lay down to bed and even sleep in a little the next morning. He had left the next morning and hadn’t returned for a week. They acted no different towards each other at the office.
They ran into each other as she was leaving work and he was leaving the library. He’d suggested they go for coffee. It became habit.
“We’re going on a picnic tomorrow. Your brother’s idea. We’re making Roy come along.” She huffed, thumped her head back against the headstone. “And somehow I’ve been saddled with making the potato salad and the chicken. Despite all of your efforts, I never did become a decent cook. But, well, food’s food, right?”
It was Ed that Riza told about her sister’s wedding. About being too afraid to go. “It would make my father so uncomfortable if I was there. And it’s supposed to be a happy day.”
“Wouldn’t she be happy to see you there?” he had asked, the warm but sad expression on his face, and it moments like that when he had seemed more adult than teenager.
“I doubt it.” she’d said. She had went in the end anyway and tried to stay in the back, unnoticed, but her sister had spotted her and dragged her into a happy hug, crying and laughing and forgiving her without thought. Her father had hugged her, too, and said how proud he was of her, and she had cried like a child into the front of his coat. 
It was to Ed she confided her feelings for Mustang, of the admiration that had turned into something else over the years. It was Ed she told of her desire to one day leave the military and travel to Xing, Creta, and all the other places she had studied about in school. “I want to see the world beyond our borders.” They found they had quite a bit in common. In their likes and dislikes, their habits, their fierce devotion to a single person that meant the world to them.
She found herself looking forward to seeing him, found that Al’s clanking footsteps coming down the hall or the sight of a red coat and golden braid had a pleasant warmth spreading through her. It dawned on her one evening, while she and Ed sat in her living room and discussed Cretan literature over take-out and wine he was too young to be drinking, that he was probably her closest friend.
“Roy’s not…” She pulled at the grass, agitated. “I know that you loved him, in your own way. It’s obvious that he loved you.” she smiled sadly. “I’m not sure you’d want to see him now.”
Slowly, stealthily, her feelings for Ed shifted, and she found that sometimes when he grinned at her she felt something flutter, butterfly wings shivering against her ribcage. He grew and he changed, his journey honed him down to muscle, sinew, and elegant bones. It should have made him gaunt but it made him sharp-edged and dangerously beautiful. She was not the only one to notice, either. Girls at nearby tables would eye him, elbow each other and giggle. Waitresses twice his age would color when he smiled at them. It had given her a tiny thrill to know that he did not even notice them, his attention focused entirely on her and their conversation.
Every once in a while, as they walked back to the office or he walked her home, she would catch him watching her out of the corner of her eye, and she thought that maybe, maybe his feelings had changed too.    
“Is… did you ever imagine things ending up like this? Or did you not allow yourself to think past restoring Al?” She closed her eyes against the sudden burn of tears. Twenty years later and the loss of him could still stop her breath in her throat.  Would it have been too hard to continue, had you known what was ahead? Could you have kept walking forward if you’d known you were on a death march? “Did you know, Edward, what it was going to cost you?”
Only once did Ed talk while she listened. It was towards the End- that’s how she thought of that terrible night, the End. He’d told her that he wasn’t sure what was going to happen, but he was afraid. Not for himself. He’d been oddly resigned to the fate he saw waiting for himself. No, he was afraid for Al. He didn’t want Al to be alone. He didn’t want Al to be in danger. He had asked her- begged her- to protect Al, should anything happen to him.
They had been sitting in the Rockbell’s kitchen.
“What do you think is going to happen?” she had asked, scared because it wasn’t like Ed to give up before the fight had even started.
He had looked at her with eyes that were too old, far too old for a boy his age, and her heart had clenched. “I have to fix our mistakes.”
Their meeting with him in Central had been almost surreal. His clothes had been covered in dust and he had smelled of blood and alchemy. She listened to him and Roy talk and realized that the weary, somber young man she had often caught glimpses of during their long conversations was all that was left.
“Good luck.” she had told him as he got out of the car.
“And to you.” He had placed his hand on her shoulder for a second, squeezed lightly. “Goodbye.”
She had watched him run off into the sunset through her review mirror and it had dawned on her that he had never said goodbye to her before, always “Later!” the way that teenagers did. She told herself not to think about it, and there were more important things at hand so she didn’t.
When she had heard that they had found Alphonse she had known. It had been such a bittersweet feeling. Alphonse was restored. Edward had accomplished his impossible goal. He’d died but he’d left behind a beautiful little boy he had loved beyond all words.
He’d died, and Riza suspected he’d taken a piece of all of them with him.
She’d visited his grave the first time with flowers, stared down at the headstone and wondered if he was watching her or if he’d already passed on. She’d asked him, and then she’d told him Alphonse still thought he was alive, and before she knew it she was sitting there while the sun went down, talking to his ghost as openly as she had talked to him.
So it was Edward she had told about her concerns for the Colonel’s health. (she always called Roy “Colonel” when she talked to Edward, because that’s what the young man had known him as) It was Ed she told about her worries during the trial. It was Ed she told about her relationship to Roy, and Ed she cried to when the relationship fell apart.
“We’re not who we used to be.” she had told him. “I think that losing you and Maes broke him. I still love him though, and it hurts to know that it’s not enough.”
It was Ed she told about her father’s death. Ed she told about her promotion to Colonel. She confided how confused she was about Havoc. She told him that he had been right, and maybe she didn’t know her own heart as well as she thought, but that was only because she tried too hard. She told Ed about her marriage to Havoc, and she knew that wherever he was, he was laughing.
She told him that out of all of them, she was probably the only one that didn’t regret all the things she had never said to him, because she’d said all that she wanted- unless you counted the unspoken wish that she’d been younger, that he’d been older, that they could have somehow been something other than mother/son/sister/brother. He wouldn’t have wanted to hear that, and it wouldn’t have changed anything. Besides, she was sure that he had known.
Sometimes she felt closer to him talking to the empty grave than she had before he’d left- yes, left, because now that Alphonse had given up she had started to believe that he wasn’t dead but gone someplace they couldn’t follow. Alive, even if only in their hearts.   
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