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a big apple

So Far, So Good


She was sorting through some boxes in the storage space under the stairs when she found the picture—Roy could order her to stay home and rest, but he couldn't keep her from cleaning—and she sat back on her heels, brushing the dust off and absently unfolding a bent corner.

They asked Mrs. Sullivan next door to take it, with her father's ancient camera. Roy's foster mother wanted to see how her boy was doing, and see proof that he still had his eyebrows (they'd only recently grown back, but Roy said he didn't have to tell her that). Such interest was a foreign concept to Riza; she was shocked when "Madame Christmas" sent a letter once a week, covered in signatures and side notes and lipstick kisses and smelling like perfume, and flabbergasted when Roy trekked two miles down the road from the musty dark house and overgrown yard to the telephone at the general store to call home once a month.

Riza had never used a phone; she had no-one to call, and when her father left on research trips, he didn't generally check in or require any contact with her at all. He certainly never sent letters with kisses on them.

But Roy was like a stray beam of sunshine poking in through the unconquerable dust on the windows, like a bird that had gotten trapped inside and stirred everything up with its flapping. He was, at once, polite and respectful ("Would you like me to carry that for you, Master Hawkeye?"), devious ("Oh, Master Hawkeye, you found that codex you were looking for yesterday? I don't know where it could have gone, but I'm glad it turned up again.") and utterly charming ("Miss Riza, would you like to accompany me into town? I'm sure my mother would feel much better hearing you tell her that I've kept out of trouble."). And then sometimes, like today, he was sweetly awkward as Mrs. Sullivan waved them closer together from behind the camera lens, putting his arm uncertainly around her shoulders and then, carefully as though she might either break or break his arm, he settled it around her waist.

An awkward towheaded girl in a dress her gangly limbs were rapidly outgrowing, cheek tilting just a little toward the skinny shoulder of the dark-haired boy beside her. She never would have guessed how far they would come from his warm palm in the small of her back, his nervous eyes casting sideways toward her from under unruly bangs, her heart opening slowly in her chest like a butterfly just waking.

There was another box beneath the stairs marked "Wedding Presents," and she tugged it out, rifled around until she hit an unused picture frame about the right size. It shined up nicely under her industrious shirt sleeve, so she levered herself to her feet, got the hammer and a nail from the secret tool kit in the bottom drawer of her desk (she'd had to hide it from Roy, who fancied himself the world's premiere clap-alchemy handyman) and tacked that faded, forgotten photo up on the living room wall beside her favorite wedding picture. To nobody's surprise, ittle Elysia Hughes had taken it, abandoning her post as flower girl to whip out a camera and capture the moment Roy's lips touched hers for the first time as her husband.

Standing at the altar, she'd worn a wide scoop neckline to show the line of scar tissue along her throat, a low tapered back to outline the rough-textured burns and the edges of the tattoo they obscured. Something old, something new, something borrowed...and Madam Christmas had given her sky-blue studs to replace the plain silver she usually wore in her ears. Baring the proof of their pains, the remembrances of the journey they had already made, was the only way she could think of to lay the full weight of her heart out before him, and he just smiled, eyes glowing as they pledged to embark on new journeys together, and slid his warm palm surely to the small of her back as he kissed her and Elysia's camera clicked.

The momentary satisfaction of decorating did little to ease her restlessness, and she'd noticed a fine layer of dust on the mantle, so she fetched a cloth and set to. There were more photos here, Roy in a bar with the men, all of them draped all over each other and entirely wasted; Alphonse on a camel in the desert, Ed and Winry and their tiny newborn son. Teenaged, somber-eyed Roy and a brightly laughing Maes Hughes in dress uniforms, the day they graduated from the Academy; Riza herself, at the firing range with Becky Catalina and Maria Ross; Riza again, her uniform jacket unbuttoned to show the bump, with Breda next to her sticking his own stomach out for comparison.

Setting down the dustcloth, she lay her hands against her stomach. The bump was much bigger now, and as restless as she was. She rubbed it absently as muscles tightened under her palms, then cleared a space for a new photo in the center of the mantle. She'd never even dreamed, as a quiet, gangly adolescent, or as a young soldier grimed with sand and gun oil, or even as her open throat bled down her chest and Roy disappeared through that transmutation circle, that they would ever come this far. That they could ever be this peaceful, this steady, this happy.

She went to the telephone table in the hall, picked up the receiver, dialed her husband's office. "Roy," she told him. "You should come home and pick me up now. But let someone else drive."

"Pick you up?" came his baffled voice down the line. Then "Oh. Oh! Oh! All right! I'll be right there!" and "Falman, get the car!!" and then the dial tone once he'd fumbled the phone back into its cradle. Riza just let out a tolerant sigh, patted her belly, and went to find her shoes.

Written for fma_ladyfest as a gift for seaweed_fma.