series. Fullmetal Alchemist
character/pairing. Riza-centric, slight Roy/Riza
prompt. 19 // Even we are still children (written for 31_days_exchnge)
word count. 2500
summary. Riza has never had much difficulty hitting targets, but there are times she wishes she could miss
disclaimer. Fullmetal Alchemist belongs to Arakawa Hiromu
She is glad she still has a problem with shooting to kill, despite all the times she’s had to do it. It reminds her she still believes in the sanctity of life, just as she did when she first picked up the gun, when she was only a child, before she joined the Ishval Conflict.
It reminds her she is still human.
And even after all this time, she can still recall the recoil of her first shot. It had reverberated through her entire body and the sound had hurt her ears. She had dropped the gun in shock before clamping them over her ringing ears.
She can still remember the muffled sound of her teacher’s laughter.
She had been eating a sandwich when the knock came at the door. Still licking mayonnaise off her fingers, she looked through the peephole to see her neighbour standing on her porch. Despite her surprise, she had opened the door.
“Riza dear, I was just dropping by to make sure you were dealing with… everything.” Riza had noticed the pause, had understood the underlying message.
“I’m fine. My father wasn’t around much anyway.”
She saw the old woman flinch. “Riza…”
“I’m fine. Really. Thank you for dropping by.” Riza moved to shut the door but Mrs. Tamble quickly grabbed it to stop her. She was surprised the old woman could move that fast.
“Actually dear, why don’t you come over a little while? I’ve made some cake and it’s just too much for Victor and me. We could use the company, and I’m sure you could, too. Your father’s gone, and so is that dark-haired man… you must be getting lonely.”
Riza managed to keep her face straight. Thinking about Roy and how he had left was not pleasant. When she first heard of the unrest in the East and of the military’s involvement, she could only hope that Roy managed to stay far away from it all.
Something in her heart knew it was only a fool’s hope.
“Riza?” Riza jerked herself out of her thoughts at the sound of Mrs. Tamble’s voice.
“Thank you for the offer, Mrs. Tamble.” Riza started and her brain told her to refuse, to tell the old lady to mind her own business.
Her mouth had other ideas.
“I’d love to come over.”
The house smelt of talcum powder, potpourri, and that indefinable scent of the elderly. Several family portraits were on display, embroidered images of cats and country scenery also adorned the walls.
“Why don’t you take a seat, dear? I’ll cut you some cake and make some tea.” The old lady gestured towards an armchair before disappearing into the kitchen. Riza nodded her agreement and was slowly lowering herself onto the seat when a series of loud shots echoed from the Tambles’ backyard. She shot up and rushed past the kitchen, ignoring Mrs. Tamble’s shouts, and hurried into the backyard.
Mr. Tamble stood, hip cocked, apparently surveying a fence. Hearing her approach, he turned around and gestured her closer.
“Riza, how nice of you to visit! Helen’s been nagging me about it, saying we should’ve gone over ages ago. But never mind; now you’re here! Had some cake yet?”
Riza was fixated on the gun hanging from his right hand but managed to shake her head in answer to his question.
“No? Well, you best go in and have some. Otherwise I’ll get another earful from her tonight!” he followed her gaze to the weapon in his hand and he grinned. “Unless you’d like to have a go yourself.” He held the gun out towards her.
“Me?” Riza asked, shocked. “I’ve… I’ve never even held a gun before.”
“First time for everything.” he said, now waving the gun at her. The metal twinkled enticingly in the bright sunlight and she hesitantly stepped closer. “That’s my girl! C’mere, I’ll show you how to shoot. Helen will be giving me a hell of a talking down tonight, let me tell you!”
As soon as her fingers wrapped around the metal, it felt right. It was heavy in her hands, and it felt slightly big for her and yet… the weight was comforting.
“Now the first rule is to treat the gun as a weapon, understand? This could kill someone if it’s loaded, so always imagine it is. This leads us to the next rule, which is to never put your finger on the trigger unless you intend to shoot. Fingers slip, your body can spasm and bam! You’ve shot someone!” Riza nodded in understanding.
“Third rule is never point at something unless you intend to shoot it. So don’t go pointin’ that thing at us, you hear?”
Riza giggled. “Okay, I promise.”
“Right, now hang on, let me get those cans back up.” he wandered over to the fence she thought he had been looking at and realised he had merely been surveying his handiwork. Several cans, bent and riddled with holes, lay on the grass until he picked them up and put the back on the fence.
“Now,” he said walking back to her, “let me show you how to use it.”
“Riza Hawkeye, what on earth are you doing with that abominable thing in your hand?” Mrs. Tamble shouted. Riza dropped the gun in shock but Mr. Tamble caught it.
“Woman, don’t shout like that! Look what you made her do!”
“You!” Mrs. Tamble pointed accusingly to her husband. “Don’t you dare teach her how to use that thing, it’s awful!”
“But I want to learn!” Riza said to interject herself into the conversation. “Please, I’m really interested. I promise I won’t point it at you.”
“I should hope not!” Mrs. Tamble replied as Mr. Tamble guffawed. “Fine, fine. Come in and have some tea and cake when you get sick of it.”
Mr. Tamble proceeded to teach her about the gun, all the parts and what their functions were and how to hold it. He then loaded the gun and shot the cans down. Fascinated, Riza watched him reload the gun before unloading it. He handed it to her and allowed her to do it until it felt relatively familiar.
“Now then, maybe you should try to take a shot.” He reassembled the cans on the fence and stood back. From his vantage point, he corrected all the problems with her stance and grip before telling her to, “Aim and fire away!”
She could feel his eyes on her. She could feel Mrs. Tamble’s eyes on her, too, which made her all the more nervous. The sun was now beaming down on her, she could feel droplets of perspiration on her forehead, but she squinted to take aim before pulling the trigger.
The sound from this close was amazing. She wondered why, after all he had taught her over the last couple of hours, Mr. Tamble had failed to mention this bang that was still echoing around her ears. Her body was still shaking from the kickback from the gun. The weight of the weapon, teamed with the sudden weakness in her arms, forced her to drop the gun, clamping her now free hands over her ringing ears. Despite this, she could hear Mr. Tamble’s raucous laughter.
“Now, Victor, don’t be mean! It was her first shot, you expected that reaction, didn’t you?”
“I expected that reaction,” he said, pointing towards Riza. He moved his finger. “I didn’t expect that, though.”
Riza and Mrs. Tamble turned their gaze to follow his finger which was now directed to the fence where, on the grass beneath it, lay a single can. Riza could see it, but her brain barely registered, before the shout of excitement escaped her.
“I hit it!” she began to laugh. “I hit it!”
“You sure did!” he walked over to pat her on the back.
“Okay, you’ve had your fun for the day, both of you. I think it’s time for that cake now, give your ears time to recover.” Mrs. Tamble called from the kitchen window.
“Go on in, I’ll clear this up. And you, missy,” he said, clapping his hand on her shoulder, “You come over and practice now, you hear? You’re a damned natural if I ever saw one, I’m not wasting that talent.”
Riza was euphoric, only managing to nod her assent before heading over to the kitchen.
“One to look out for, I’d say.” Mr. Tamble murmured to himself. “Lives up to her name, that’s for sure.”
Riza would’ve guessed saw more of the Tambles over the next few months than she had seen of her father during her entire life. All three of them had gotten over their surprise at her talent; she hit many more than she missed. Mrs. Tamble was keeping count of the shots she missed (‘Much easier than keeping count of the shots she gets,’ she had said to her husband one night and he couldn’t have agreed more) and after six months, was only up to fifty.
Just to increase the challenge, because shooting cans was simply too easy for her, Mr. Tamble had taken to drawing targets on each can, for which she was increasing the number of bulleyes steadily by the day. It didn’t matter which gun they used from his collection (and he had so many, Riza was compelled to ask one day, ‘Mr. Tamble, do you have a licence for all of these?’ to which he laughed and replied, “Ask no questions, I’ll tell no lies!’), she was proficient in every make.
He decided it was time to up the ante.
“Okay.” Mr. Tamble said handing her her favourite rifle. “I know you’re good with stationary targets. Now here’s the challenge: moving ones.”
“Moving targets?” Riza repeated.
They had gone to the forest to practice. She hadn’t realised at the time…
“You mean we’re going to shoot… animals or something?” she asked, horrified. “Aren’t there… regulations? Laws that say you can’t?”
“You can shoot a certain number of certain species of animals, nothing rare or endangered or anything. I’ll tell you which ones you can shoot.”
“I don’t want to!” she roughly handed him back the rifle before turning away.
“Riza, you can only improve so much with cans. You need to learn how to do this. You don’t have time to take aim and fire for a moving target. You can only predict where the target is heading.”
“I do not! Mrs. Tamble was right, it is awful! I don’t want to kill anything!” she yelled at him over her shoulder as she stalked away.
Riza was still refusing to talk to him as they were eating afternoon tea that day and Mrs. Tamble was left to try to make the peace.
“Dear,” she started cautiously, “how about using moving cans instead? We can hang them from a rope on the tree and swing them back and forth.” She turned to Mr. Tamble. “Will that work?”
Riza caught his eye and they stared at each other for a few seconds before they both mumbled, “Fine.”
She had to admit, this was a lot harder than stationary cans. She certainly missed more often and yet she got more satisfaction out of this than she had before.
“You know, Riza,” Mr. Tamble said during one of their sessions later that week, “I really admire you, for not shooting the animals like I wanted you to. You were right: they were innocent and didn’t deserve to be shot. I’m sorry.”
“Apology accepted.” she said before firing a succession of shots.
“But, Riza, I want you to understand something.” He placed a hand on her shoulder to get her to stop shooting before turning her to face him. “Sometimes… sometimes you may need to shoot, to kill. You might want to protect something, or someone, or yourself, although I hope you’re never faced with these scenarios, especially the latter.”
“I understand. Thank you.” she turned back towards the fence.
And as he watched her shoot round after round, he felt sad.
Mr. Tamble looked up from his newspaper, another article on the Ishval Conflict, to see a fidgety Riza with several sheets of paper in her hands.
“Yes, Riza? Ready to practice?” he asked, rising out of his seat.
“Before we start,” she placed a hand on his shoulder and pushed him back into his seat, “I was wondering if you could do me a favour.”
“Would it have anything to do with the papers in your hands?”
She frowned. “Yes, I need your permission for something.” She placed the papers in front of him and, while she went to get a pen, he quickly read over the forms. By the time she had returned, he had pushed them over to the other side of the coffee table.
“I won’t sign these. And you’d be even harder pressed to get Mrs. Tamble to sign them, but I’m sure you already know that since you came to ask me first.”
“The military? Of all the things in the world, Riza. You couldn’t shoot a deer, let alone another human. What makes you think you’d last a minute? You’d probably be sent straight to Ishval to fight.”
“You know I can fight. You know I can shoot.”
“I know you can shoot tin cans. I don’t think you can shoot a human, especially one that’s probably innocent.”
“I can.” she said sternly. “I can because I have to.”
“You have to? Riza, you don’t have to do anything.”
“I do. I have to protect… someone.”
Tense silence hung in the air. He looked her in the eye, could see her absolute determination.
“I’ll forge your signature if I have to. You can’t stop me leaving, so you may as well try and stop me breaking as many laws as possible.” She moved the forms back in front of him and he sat, pen poised, staring at the documents.
“Promise me you won’t die. Promise me you won’t regret it. That you won’t hesitate, no matter what, because this was your decision.”
“I won’t hesitate. I won’t regret it because I can’t.”
He smiled sadly before adding his signature to the forms. He held them out for her but quickly whipped them away when she moved to take them. “I know it’s too late since I’ve signed already, but I have to know. Is he worth it?”
She smiled before reaching behind him to take the forms.
Mr. Tamble had been right. Hitting a moving target was a lot harder than hitting a stationary one.
But out here, in the country of wind and sand and dryness, the reasons were different than the ones he had given her. In actual fact, they were for the reasons she had given him.
So why the hell was she out here?
She never had any trouble hitting targets, but when the targets were living, breathing, innocent humans…
Sometimes she wishes she could miss.