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Games without Frontiers

Chapter 46: Can't Stay on Your Morphine, 'Cause it's Making Me Itch

Rating T

Soundtrack: Like a Pill – P!nk

The next week passed in a blur, for everyone in the house. Maes left them that night, because he had to return to work. Gracia stayed, as per their agreement, to help Riza through the first few days. Roy... Roy was a useless, helpless case for at least three of those seven days. All he seemed able to do was stare at their daughter, get in Gracia's way, and turn purple whenever the baby's diaper needed changing.

Riza's life revolved around little moments. Those moments revolved around four things: sleeping, feeding her daughter, staring at her daughter, and feeding herself. She wasn't allowed to do much else for that first week. Gracia wouldn't allow it, and the dark glares from Roy whenever she tried to venture far from her bed kept her trapped within the four-poster monstrosity until she wanted to scream. Inactivity was not something Riza was familiar or comfortable with. Feeding her daughter expended no more energy than it took her to unbutton her gown, feeding herself was simple enough–fork to mouth to plate to mouth to plate. Sleeping was the easiest of all. Riza found herself mind-bendingly exhausted for a good portion of the first week, dropping off into sodden sleep at the most inopportune times.

With the rest of the time she had, her waking moments, she spent thinking. Roy might have thought her distracted enough by their daughter not to remember what he'd told her while she was in labor, but she was far from it. And she watched him during her waking moments, reading, jotting down notes, thinking and muttering to himself. He was making plans. Plans finally to make his move. Plans to upend the entire government from the way it was.

Plans that, apparently, did not include her.

She had always assumed that she would be at his back when he finally made that step, protecting him, watching for traps, ready to defend. But that was before. Before the day, Maes called her up with a wild, hair-brained scheme that put her in her current position.

It was simple practicality that she remain safe in the house. There was no one else to protect their child, and it wouldn't have done for both of them to be at risk during this time. If all went awry, their daughter would quickly find herself an orphan. That was an incomprehensible thought.

Nevertheless, it was almost as incomprehensible that Riza would not be there for the final strike.

She was angry. She felt manipulated, coerced. Her logical centers told her this was the furthest from true fact, but her emotional centers–the area of her brain currently running the game–told her that Roy had planned it this way, to keep her safe, as he so eloquently put it. She didn't need to be kept safe. She was a capable soldier. She could outshoot, out stalk, and–most days–outthink her commanding officer. He would need her clear head, quick eye and steady hand.

"Riza." Gracia's voice broke her current train of thought. "Stop glaring like that. You'll scare the baby."

Riza blinked up at her friend, and then gave a half-hearted smile. "Sorry. It's just that... damn it, I should be helping him!"

Gracia shook her head. "You should be right where you are. And don't you think you're helping him right now?"

Riza frowned.

"If you were in on the whole thing, he'd be worried sick about his daughter, and you know it." Gracia sat on the edge of the bed and tweaked the tiny girl's little nose. "He wouldn't be able to think clearly, thinking that she was here all by herself without her parents."

Riza sniffed impotently. "Still..."

"No still. You are where you need to be and he is doing what he needs to do. I'm not asking any questions about it, and I don't think you should be either."

Riza stared at Gracia. "No offense, Gracia, but you're not a soldier. I have responsibilities, duties."

Gracia arched an eyebrow. "And you think I don't? Military spouses have responsibilities and duties too."

Riza looked away, trying her best not to offend Gracia, who'd given up a period of her life to help Riza learn how to take care of a newborn. Everyone agreed that she would stay for the six-week period Riza would be incapacitated. Elysia would stay with grandparents, safe from the upcoming fray herself.

Maes was probably worrying himself sick as well, separated from wife and child. Riza winced, feeling bad for them, and like a churl for being so selfish. "I'm sorry, Gracia. This... operation must be hard on you as well."

"Every day that Maes goes to work is hard on me."

Riza looked up at her.

"You soldiers... it's your job to go out and put yourselves in the line of fire. In danger every day, whether on a battlefield or behind a desk. The potential for danger is always there for you, and you're always prepared for it." Gracia shook her head. "We military spouses... we have to let you soldiers go every day, and pray that you come back in one piece. And dread that one call that all spouses dread."

Riza closed her eyes. "I'm sorry... I never thought of it that way."

Gracia looked her in the eye. "Start thinking that way. I have a feeling your duties are about to change."

Riza looked up, open-mouthed. "I don't think–,"

"If Roy succeeds, then you'll be the wife of the Fuhrer, with a whole new set of duties that may or may not include the ones you currently have."

Riza stared.

"And... if he fails." Gracia sighed and Riza watched as she bunched the cover up in one fist. "Then you'll be... be a military widow, living on a pension."

Riza looked down at her daughter. The girl was sleeping, something she did more than her mother did. Riza ran a gentle finger down the tiny cheek, rested her smallest finger in the tiny grasp.

There was a sound at the door of her room. She looked up and saw Roy standing there, his expression unreadable. "I was supposed to be at your back, Mustang," she said rebelliously, her last ditch effort.

His eyes narrowed. "You will be, Hawkeye," he said shortly, turning from the door. "Just not in the way you planned."

"Damn you!" She yelled. The baby immediately let out a wail of protest. She pulled the girl to her and rocked her quiet.

"Don't fight him, Riza," Gracia pleaded. "You know it's not practical for you to be in the line of fire with him. You know it."

Riza subsided against the pillows, tired again. "That doesn't mean I have to like it. Or enjoy being manipulated."

Roy suddenly appeared back at the door. This time his expression was furious. "Manipulated?" he growled, keeping his voice lowered for the baby's sake alone. He took three steps into the room, and then stood there, hands fisted at his sides. "So you think I made you pregnant so you wouldn't be at my back?"

Riza straightened her own gaze hardening.

"You are my right hand, Riza. You think I like the idea of you being miles away when I need you most? I hate it. I loathe the idea of going into this without you right there. But you know what?" He pointed. "She needs you at her back more than I do."

"Then why do this now, Roy? Why not wait until I can be at your back?"

"Do you want to know what I found out?" He closed in on her, leaning over and hissing into her face. "Do you want to know what I know that not even Maes knows? Want to know about the report Edward sent me, about a week ago? The one I didn't share with you because I didn't want you going into labor in the damned office?"

"What? What did you learn that makes it so damned important that you make your move now?"

Roy looked over at Gracia.

Gracia shook her head. "I'm not leaving. You say what you have to say. If not telling Maes makes it safer for him, I'll keep what I hear to myself."

"Edward found out a few things. Scar is on the move."

"So?"

"He's gone with the other Ishballans to a little town called Lior. Remember that town, Riza?"

"Of course I do."

"He's being herded there by our forces. On the command of the Fuhrer. Want to know why?"

"Why?"

"Because Scar has something the Fuhrer wants."

"And what would that be?"

"Access to the Philosopher's Stone."

Riza's breath stopped in her throat. "H-how?" She stammered.

Roy shook his head. "I have no idea. But he has it and the Fuhrer wants it. It's why he's built this damned army of State Alchemists."

Riza nodded slowly. She knew that, knew that fact from the day she joined Roy's service.

"Something else."

Riza leaned back, wondering if she wanted to hear this.

"Doctor Winters? She's not at all what she seems."

"We knew that, Roy. We–,"

"She's been the attending physician of every baby born to alchemists in the military for the past fifty years. Now, does she look that old to you?"

Riza's mouth unhinged. If that had been the case, Doctor Winters was either a prodigy or she had to be in her sixties. At the least. The Doctor Winters she knew looked to be, at the oldest, in her early forties. "What does that all mean? How does it connect? I don't understand."

Roy ran a frustrated hand through his hair. "All I know is that Doctor Winters gets her orders from the Fuhrer. I don't quite know anything other than that yet. But, Edward also reported running across one of those damned homunculi again."

"Oh, no!"

Roy nodded. "Just one. The shapeshifting one. Apparently likes to brag, that one. Edward told me that he found out that there were more of them. More than the three we know of. He was told that they were in places we would least expect them to be."

"That means..."

"They could be anywhere."

Riza added up the column and came up with an answer that chilled her blood. "You think that Doctor Winters is one of them?" She shook her head. "That's crazy, Roy. You know it's crazy."

"It's crazy that any of them exist at all. And if this one can change his shape to whatever he wants, what's to say that another of them can't do the same?"

Riza looked down at her daughter, seeking the solace of those peaceful features. She hated it when Roy was in these moments, when he made these fantastic leaps of logic, hated it immensely when he picked up the pieces on the big game board he called his Great Plan, and moved them in configurations that weren't part of the original plan.

Because, in every case, she later found out that his leaps of logic were right on the mark. And, his moves were accurate to the smallest measurement. And as each leap and move brought him closer to his goal, so did each one bring him straight into the line of fire.

And for this one, she indeed would not be there to block the blows.

"Charlotte," she whispered. "We're naming her Charlotte. No discussion. No argument."

Roy looked down at their daughter and put his hand on Riza's. "Of course." He smiled, in relief or pure humor, she couldn't tell. "Can I pick the middle name?"

"If you say Flora, I'll kick you."

]o[

"I miss you, my dear," Maes cooed. "Are you being good with your grandma? You are? What are you doing now, baby? Ah, I wish I were there to take a picture!"

He actually felt a little pain in the middle of his chest at the sound of his daughter's voice. Damn, but he missed his precious angel. He wanted her home, and he wanted to wrap himself around Gracia as well. But, he knew that the both of them were safer where they were. With everything he'd learned they definitely were far safer separate from him than within his grasp.

They had used him. The people he'd made an oath to, used him. Not for the betterment of the country, but for their own ill-gotten gain.

"What, darling? Oh, yes, Auntie Riza's little baby is very cute. Not as cute as you, though. No one is as cute as my beautiful flower. Dinner? Okay, darling, I'll call and talk to you tomorrow." He winced as she asked him the question he'd been dreading. "Well, honey, Daddy is working on a very special case, and Mommy is helping Auntie Riza take care of her new baby, so it would be best to stay where you are. Don't you like playing with Grandma's kittens? You do. Well, it'll only be a few more days, honey, I promise. I promise. You go and eat dinner now. I love you, sweetheart. Bye-bye!"

He dropped the phone into the receiver with a long sigh. His heart was breaking. He wanted his daughter and wife with him. He would very happily jump into the breach with Roy, if only to make these sons of bitches pay for separating him from his wife and child.

A throat clearing startled him. He looked up and across his desk.

Into Archer's placid, sky-blue eyes.

He kept the urge to lunge across the desk to himself and, instead, fed the man a charming smile. "Archer! I wanted to thank you for your hard work while I've been gone," he said expansively, throwing his 'goofier-than-thou' shield up out of instinct. "I never expected a search for one simple maniac to take so long."

"It's all a part of my duty, sir. And, from what I've been told, nothing about these type of people is simple."

You got that right, you bastard.

Maes plucked a pen from his desk and flipped open the first folder in his stack. Disciplinary investigation of unnecessary expenditures for one Elric, Edward. He shook his head. "I swear if Edward spends one more cenz, Roy is going to lose ten percent of his budget for next year," he said. "It's a good thing they're all perfectly legitimate expenditures."

"Ah, the automatic alarm bells go off again, sir?" Archer asked his voice as smooth and pure as rancid water.

"As usual. I can't imagine the paperwork I'm going to have to send out to override that budget loss."

"Do you think the lad will find what he's looking for?"

Maes looked up at his subordinate. I hope he does, you ass, he thought. I'll find great pleasure in watching him use it to wipe your friends right off the face of this world.

That was one thing he hadn't told Roy, although he was positive Roy would add up the column for that conclusion soon. Archer was affiliated with these... homunculi. He didn't know exactly how–the bastard was too good at covering his tracks for even him to follow–but he was affiliated in some way with those horrid creatures.

"I didn't mean to eavesdrop, sir, but did you say that Major Hawkeye had gone into her confinement?" Archer asked, a change in his voice pattern catching Maes' attention. Maes looked up at the man and couldn't see much beyond that cool gaze. How in the hell did blue-eyed people do innocence so fucking well?

And, damn, he hadn't meant for anyone to hear about that yet. Nosy no-good..."Ah, yes. Actually, she's with family," he tried to sound casual, hoping the man wouldn't pry for more information. Normally, he would have thrown in a picture of Elysia to distract, but he didn't want Archer's eyes anywhere near his precious daughter, even in the abstract.

"Well, I wish her much good luck with her new experiences." Archer stood. "Did you have anything in particular you wanted me to work on today, sir?"

Yeah, fucking yourself into oblivion would be nice.

"Ah, no. As you were, Major. Have a report on your progress on my desk by the end of the day."

The temperature in the room went up a good ten degrees as the man took himself from Maes' office. Maes slid the tiny knife back into his sleeve from where it had been resting in his hand, and went back to his work.

]o[

"Where is the brat?" He wanted to know. "And what the hell are you doing here?"

The new addition to this privy meeting was not expected, or particularly wanted, although he was technically one of them.

"It was boring at my old place," the... man drawled, lowering his shades so that he could give his questioner a derisive gaze. The red mark on his hand clashed with the reflective green of the lenses.

"And just how did you get out of your old place? The last I heard, there was no such thing as an escape for you."

"There's no such thing as no such thing," he was told. "Things happened. And... Boom!" He spread out his hands. "I'm here. And curious. I heard things were getting thick and heady."

He was promptly ignored as an irritated blue gaze turned on the only... woman in the room. "I asked you a question. Where is Envy?"

"Picking on the Pipsqueak," Lust told him. She extended her nails and played with the gold braid on his uniform.

He brushed her fingers away and paced across the tiny examination room. "And where is that lazy bitch who likes to play doctor?"

Lust laughed low in her throat. "She's on her way. She won't be happy with your news."

"I'm not happy with my news. It means that they're suspicious of something."

"Or it could just mean that the little spawn decided to come with it was ready."

"Well, in any case, we have to get our hands on it. And it's mother."

"I certainly doubt that the mother will just let you wander in and... borrow her little precious one."

He turned an icy glare on the sultry construct. "Don't you worry about that. Unlike the rest of you, who seemed to be obsessed with that little bastard Fullmetal, I have more substantial plans."

"Of course you do. And we leave all of that... complicated mess in your capable hands." Lust leaned back on the table, placing her hands behind her and inhaling, dragging at his attention with her obvious charms. "He wouldn't have it any other way."

"Humph." The door opened slowly, and Doctor Winters moved into the room. His lip curled as he took in her changed appearance. The severe hairstyle was gone, although she clung to the examination coat as if it were her only piece of clothing. As she turned to close the door, the coat opened and he could see the black shirt beneath it. Two tiny straps held the thing over her generous bosom, much more enticing than the other whore in the room who thought she had to put her wares on display for everyone to see. His inner demon growled, wanting to lick the little red tattoo that peeked through on her shoulder. "Where the hell have you been?" he demanded to know.

"Trying to locate my patient," she said, shrugging a smooth shoulder. She brushed her hair from her face in a slow, lazy movement and raised her violet eyes to him. "She's in Geisa."

He smiled, and moved toward her. Putting his arms on her shoulders, he gave her an approving smile. "Good work, dear. Is she alone?"

Winters shrugged indolently. "She can be. Doesn't the Colonel have to provide a report on his... findings?"

He smiled again, remembering why he'd given her the task to which she'd been assigned. There was actually a remnant of a brain beneath all of that, and, on occasion, she put it to work. He suddenly turned to the other two in the room. "Lust, take your little toady with you. Find the Brat and have him... pick up our quarry. This is what I want done." He was quick and concise with his instructions, so that even the single-minded eating machine at Lust's right could understand what he wanted done.

When they were gone, he turned his regard back on the good doctor. Slowly, languidly, in keeping with her nature, he moved the examination coat off her shoulders and gave in to his earlier impulse.

The... woman... actually purred under his attentions.