Abuela standing on the outside of the Diaz family unit and seeing all the ways Ramon was trying to crush her grandson's spirit, and therefore making it her business to cradle and cultivate his sweetness. I have never been more convinced in my life that Isabel Díaz is the reason why Eddie is the man he is today. She nurtured his gentleness and allowed it to blossom and bloom and we should all be grateful to her actually
"She has the sweetest honey beating through her veins, and without her I could never be the same.."
If I bee a bee, then she is me honey.. she is me dream and she is so cunning - eUë
Seeing a lot of people worrying about the WWTDD stuff and Clara and the potential of Yaz dying.
I feel like we’ve got to be leading up to the Doctor bottling it, and Yaz actually having to take her place in one of these major situations. Not just the wwtdd, but also else why have her able to pilot the TARDIS.
And I know that sounds scary and ‘she’s gonna get herself killed’ but I think that’s actually us projecting the same feeling as Yaz’s doubts, that for some reason only the Doctor can do this. When no, no Yaz can probably do whatever she needs to with some backup. Not necessarily entirely safely, but neither can the Doctor. And the result can get her back into the brain state she was in before (and perhaps let her realise her personal capacity to do good as a leader might actually outstrip what she can do as second-fiddle to the Doctor).
But I don’t think we’re looking at a Clara situation, though there will be callbacks of course - we’ve had them already. I think a lot of those theories ignore that by the end Clara had basically suicidally detached herself from her reality on Earth because it was unbearably painful without Rose- Pink, Danny Pink, sorry, and she was exhibiting classic risk-taking behaviour that comes with that. The problem wasn’t just that Clara was ‘doing what the Doctor would’, it was that she was doing it without the Doctor’s ability to survive death. Which she knew and…didn’t care about. One way or the other. She needed the rush to feel good.
Yaz isn’t like that. She seems fairly psychologically well, of course she likes adventure but doesn’t seem to seek adrenaline compulsively, she has family who loves her and she loves back, a sister who’d probably move the universe for her (and then give her an earful), not to mention Ryan, Graham, and even Dan who all have some experience of this life, with the first two proving they know how to encourage psychologically healthy decisions. She refers to herself as not currently being police, because she already got narked at someone for incorrectly omitting the ‘ex’ in there, and she’s not in her role. But there’s nothing saying she can’t go back to that or doesn’t want to - or with Jack’s help somewhere similarly appropriate.
Clara wanted to be the Doctor because she’d lost everyone else she felt she could conceivably be and it made her feel important and alive. Yaz wants to emulate the Doctor because she’s strong, amazing, clever, knows how to save people. She doesn’t literally want to be her, have her exact life and replace her own. She wants to learn.
This experience in the Temple will probably be enough to remind Yaz of that mortality, and she’ll factor that into decisions in a way Clara didn’t want to, and balance it as best she can. And it’s not like she got into this position by a stupid risk in the first place, she just said sure, she’d try to fix something. So will she have to ‘Doctor Up’, yes. But she’ll still be Yaz beneath it all. And will it work out perfectly, maybe not, and will Sonya save her by miraculously turning up to kick someone in the head, maybe yeah. But I really, really don’t think we need to worry about her dying. Not like that.
And besides, surely my rebuttal is somewhat moot to begin with. After all, heartbeat or not, it’s not like Clara really stayed dead either.
Without Her (Bucky x Reader)
Title: Without Her
Pairing: Bucky x Reader
Summary: Bucky races to the compound hoping to find you.
Word Count: 1350
Square Filled: presumed dead
This story is not betaed
Author’s Note: This is my sixth submission for @star-spangled-bingo 2021. This can be read as a standalone or in the same universe as what I am now calling the Dollverse. This story is a direct follow-up to “Away”, but you do not need to read it first to understand what is going on.
Image not mine
He didn’t even remember Sam telling him to go. The only thought Bucky had was of her.
The lights of the city whipped by him in a blur as he raced through the city. The only sound he heard was the pounding of his own pulse in his ears. He would have run to the compound if he thought it would be faster. He just had to get to reach her.
Bucky smelled the smoke before he saw it. Turning the corner onto the long winding driveway, he saw flames still rising from the building. People were running here and there, directing traffic and tending to those that had been hurt.
His bike had barely come to a halt before Bucky was throwing his leg over the side and sprinting towards the chaos.
He scanned the faces of the people in the crowd. He could see the Flag Smashers being loaded into the back of an armoured vehicle in handcuffs. He saw firefighters working to douse the flames. Even in the short time he was there, he could mark their progress, but that wasn’t what he cared about.
Bucky stopped people as they passed, asking them if they had seen you. Every one of them said no. Turning his eyes toward the building, Bucky clenched his jaw and steeled his nerves before moving forward.
“Sir,” one of the men called, “Sir you can’t go in there!”
A hand on his arm pulled him back. Bucky whirled to face the man that had stopped him. The look on his face was as hard and as cold as any he’d had as the Winter Soldier. If this man thought he was going to keep Bucky from going after you, he was sorely mistaken.
The man’s eyes widened in recognition. “Sargent?” His hand fell back to his side.
“I’m going to search the building. Make sure everyone made it out alright.”
The man nodded before telling everyone to make way and let Bucky through. Bucky raced past them. He sent up a silent prayer to whoever was listening that she wasn’t there. A part of him hoped that she’d been delayed somehow. She hadn’t made it there yet. It didn’t matter that he would have run into you along the road. He had to hold on to hope.
Hot debris and ash rained down on him as he made his way through the building. Thick black smoke tried to choke him. Even with all the destruction, Bucky had pushed forward towards the living quarters. They kept a space ready for him in the compound in case he ever needed it. It was where they would have taken Y/N when she arrived.
Bucky found himself in the middle of the common area. He could just make out the seating area to his right. Taking a step down the hall, he trained his eyes on the door leading to his room. It was the only place left to search.
He forced down his growing sense of panic. There was still a chance she was outside. He hadn’t talked to everybody. Maybe if he didn’t find her here, maybe he would find her there. She could be taking care of someone that was injured. It wouldn’t be the first time he’d found her playing mother hen to someone that was hurt. There was still hope.
Coming to a stop in front of the closed door, Bucky closed his eyes and readied himself for what he would see on the other side. An image of your body lying burnt and broken on the floor danced across his mind.
No. She’s fine.
Taking a deep breath, he twisted the nob in his metal hand and pushed the door forward.
A quiet gasp escaped his lungs. The room was gone. Instead of a wall of floor to ceiling windows, Bucky found pieces of jagged, twisted metal. His eyes scanned the horizon.
You don’t know that she was in here.
Turning to continue his search, Bucky’s eyes landed on a suitcase resting just inside the door. His eyebrows draw together for a moment before slowly creeping upward. The bag was in surprisingly good shape. Bucky could still make out the initials engraved into the metal plate on the leather luggage tag. Her initials.
Every ounce of air was forced from his lungs. His knees began to quack. Bucky reached blindly for the doorframe. He didn’t feel the dull thud of his knees hitting the floor. His gloved hand reached for the tag, running a finger along her initials. Tears blurred his vision.
How much more would he have to give? He’d already given a lifetime. He’d been a prisoner. An experiment. A fugitive. Blipped. He’d just started to pull his life back together. She had started to pull his life together. How much more would he have to lose before this curse was lifted?
A raw primal scream boiled up from the deepest parts of his soul. It rang through the night sky, sounding more animal than human. His body shook with his sobs. He couldn’t do this. Not anymore. Not without her.
He ignored the sound. It was probably someone coming to tell him to clear the building, one of the new recruits trying to do their part. He didn’t move. He’d told himself on the way to the compound that he wouldn’t leave without her, and he was going to hold to it. If she hadn’t left the building, neither would he.
“Bucky!” The voice called again.
He blinked. He knew that voice.
Turning to look over his right shoulder, he spotted a figure on the far side of the hall. Bucky gripped the doorframe in his metal hand. Even in the dim light, he could make out their features. He would have known them anywhere.
Her face was covered in ash and soot. There was a small cut over her left eye, but there was no denying it was her.
The doorframe groaned in Bucky’s grip when he used it to pull himself up on unsteady legs. He didn’t want to believe it. Believing it would only make things harder, but she was there.
His eyes locked with hers from across the devastated hallway. He watched a smile he thought he’d never see again lit up her face.
He took a shuffling step forward, still half expecting her to disappear before his eyes. When she said his name again, Bucky dashed forward. He pulled her into his arms, crashed her against him and buried his face in the crook of her neck.
“I thought I’d lost you,” he said, his voice no more than a broken whisper.
She ran her fingers through the hair at the back of his neck.
“You’re not getting rid of me that easy.”
Bucky released his grip and gave her a watery smile. Cupping the back of her head, he drew her lips up to meet his. He ran his tongue along her lower lip. She tasted of ash and smoke, but it couldn’t have been better if it had been the sweetest nectar in the world. She was real. She was flesh and blood and bone.
Tilting his head to the side, Bucky slid his tongue along hers, earning himself a moan. He flexed the fingers of the hand at her waist and pulled her closer. He didn’t care what happened now. The rest of the world could crumble to dust for all he cared so long as long as he had her.
All: @for-the-love-of-dean @adriellej @xtina2191 @iwillprobablybechangingthislater @atc74 @kittycat-cas @number-one-supernatural-trash @faith-in-dean @ashleymalfoy @silver-and-green @ivvitm1109 @beautifulfound @frenchybell @jayankles @thetardishasaquidditchpitch @cuffski @grantsgorgeousgirl @fantasticimpaladoctor @growningupgeek @feelmyroarrrr @percywinchester27 @arryn-nyx @percussiongirl2017 @demonic-meatball @evansscruff @cfordwrites @jotink78 @smoothdogsgirl @plaidstiel-wormstache @stefanypeccinis2 @impalaimagining @love-kittykat21 @esoltis280 @gabriels-trix @pizzarollpatrol @im-a-light-child @maximumkillshot @nanie5 @sleepylunarwolf @hobby27 @emoryhemsworth @sophiealiice @mizzzpink @calaofnoldor @wolfkg @drakelover78 @spnbaby-67 @intothesoul @autopistaaningunaparte @urbankaite2 @jewels2876
Marvel: @itsemmyb @mandilion76 @until-theend-oftheline @ifyougetkilled-walk-it-off @thisismysecrethappyplace @marvelouspottering @but-deans-back-tho @blackeyedangel9805 @always-an-evans-addict-blog
Bucky Only: @stolenxkissess
She’s a lone fire burning in the sand
And cold, lonely night without one
She cocks her pistol Before she pops her collar
She rips the halos off of angels
for the fun of it
If all she does is smile at you
Rainbow kitten surprise
How to:friend, love, free fall
Without Her Chapter Fifteen
It's my Riza is dead and Roy is raising their daughter Beth alone fic. This has not been updated in over a year. I am a disgrace. I am sorry. You read the whole thing so far here on ao3.
Summary: Grumman comes to see Roy and Beth. Roy has a conversation about returning to work and makes plans. Will these be acceptable to Grumman?
Notes: I am so sorry for the delay in this chapter. I realised I had gotten a little confused about my timeline, so I have edited a few bits. Nothing you need to re-read or probably notice, but for me. Hahaha. Anyway - Beth is around five months here. It has been several weeks since Roy visited the office with Beth. He has been in a few times since to grab some paperwork but not for long. He is still on leave officially, but Grumman has been pressing him.
Grumman held Beth with a fond smile on his face as Roy watched from the armchair opposite. Chewing on her fingers, his little girl seemed content in her great grandfather’s arms.
Grumman said quietly. “She’s gotten so big.”
Roy smiled and puffed out his chest. “They do at this age. She sits up on her own now. I just started her on solids this week. Not much, just a mouthful.”
“I’m sorry I haven’t visited in so long,”
“I understand that you did not have time for visiting; you’re a busy man after all.”
“I want to be better for her. I let Riza down when she was a child.”
“I’m not that man.” Roy scowled at the memory of his master and how much he neglected his daughter. “I might be an alchemist, but I would never put alchemy above my daughter.”
The older man sighed. “I know you’re not, and I would never imply otherwise. But I let down my daughter, and Berthold let down his. I want to be better for Beth.” He met Roy’s gaze. “I know you’re better, Roy. You lost your wife, and you’re doing everything you can to be both mother and father.”
It meant a lot to Roy to hear those words from him. Even if he had his problems with Grumman, the man had been his mentor for years.
His little girl let out a whimper, and he took Beth from Grumman’s arms. “She needs her feed. I’ll be back soon.”
Grumman nodded. “Go feed the child; I can wait.”
Roy held her close to his chest as he left the living room. “Are you hungry, baby girl?”
She let out another cry, and she scrunched up her little face.
“Hush. It’s okay, sweetheart. In a minute.”
He walked into the kitchen, and Chris got up from the table. “Give her to me. I can feed her, Roy. Go back and talk to the old man.”
Smiling, he gratefully handed Beth over. “Thank you.”
She pressed Beth up against her shoulder and picked up one of the pre-prepared bottles of milk. Then, she sat back down and cradled her in her arms, putting the bottle in Beth’s mouth. She chuckled as Beth immediately clutched the bottle. “She’s hungry.”
Roy looked fondly at his daughter, eagerly drinking the milk. “She needs it with all the growing she’s doing.” He sighed. “I should get back to Grumman but might be polite to bring him some tea.”
He put water onto the boil and took out a tray, milk, sugar, and two mugs.
“Don’t let him bully you into anything you’re not ready for.”
Roy snorted. “I’m not ready to go back, but it’s time.”
“Don’t worry about Beth. I’ll happily look after her, and the girls will help. You don’t need to get a nanny.”
“Thank you, Chris, but I should probably hire a nanny for at least a few days in the week.” Still, the idea of entrusting Beth’s care to a stranger made him a little sick. “It’s not fair to rely solely on you.”
“Let’s see how it goes,” she suggested.
“I don’t know how I would have coped without you or the girls. Honestly.”
“Go on, your water’s boiled,” she said gruffly.
Roy filled the teapot and returned to the living room with the tea. Grumman was standing and looking at the pictures on the fireplace.
“I brought some tea,” he said.
Grumman sat down while Roy put the tray on the table. He poured some tea for both of them. He waited for the older man to add the milk and sugar before sitting down himself.
“Sir, I have decided I should go back to work.”
The older man smiled. “I knew you couldn’t stay away. You’ve always had your ambitions. And I’m sure it is what Riza would have wanted.”
It is not like Grumman would know what it was that Riza would have wanted. It’s not like they were close. Still, he was right. Roy knew that she would want him to continue working on their goals.
“I still want to continue our work on Ishval and ultimately for Amestris to transition to democracy, and I want to continue my work. My team needs me, but so does Beth. She has to come first so I need some flexibility.”
“Understood, but you know how unpredictable the job is. If you want strict 9 to 5, you’d be better transferring to another position.”
“I’m not an idiot,” Roy retorted. “I know there will be long hours and unpredictable missions. I know how to do my job. However, I’ll set up an office here at the house. That way, I can always take my work home with me rather than work late in the office, provided the situation does not require me to be there in person.” He looked Grumman in the eye. “If you want me to continue in the role, that is.”
The older man frowned. “The job will require travel.”
“I will still be able to do that. In some cases, I might be able to send one of my men in my stead.”
Grumman sighed and laced his fingers together. “Look, Roy, I think it’s admirable that you want to keep her close. Don’t let it get in the way of your career, though. There are a lot of good officers looking for promotions. I need you all in.”
Roy puffed out his chest. “I am as long as you accept my conditions. I’m all Beth has now.”
“You’re one of the men I trust the most in this administration, Roy. I’ve made no secret that I think of you as my protege. So I think we can compromise as long as your work isn't affected.”
Roy met the older man’s eyes. “It won’t be, sir. I will make sure of it.”
Grumman inclined his head and held out his hand for a handshake. Roy took his hand and shook it firmly.
“I want my great-granddaughter to be taken care of. I know you’re in a difficult position, but you can’t afford to get complacent. You may think I’m being cold, but I’m just doing my job.”
The Fuhrer had been pushing, and he could accuse him of being a hypocrite for one minute, expressing concern about Beth being neglected and telling him not to let her get in the way in the next. However, the man was doing his job. Roy was determined not to make the same mistake his mentor and master made.
“I understand, sir, and I won’t let you down.”
Grumman clapped him on the shoulder. “You’ll need a new adjutant.” Roy’s heart ached. Riza was irreplaceable to him and the team. Still, he needed someone to fill her shoes. He had thought about it as painful as it was. “Do you need me to find you a candidate?” the old man asked.
Roy shook his head. “I was thinking that I might divide the role between Havoc and Breda.” Havoc had brutal honesty and excellent instincts. He was also the closest to a good shot as Riza had been. He would have been Riza’s choice of replacement. Breda was a tactician, and his advice and counsel would be invaluable. He glanced at the older man, who nodded his agreement. “I haven't spoken to them yet, I would appreciate your discretion.”
“Of course - I think both men will do a good job. They’ve stepped up in your absence. You will still need more personnel, Roy.”
“About that, I was thinking of asking Maria Ross if she was interested in transferring to our team.”
“Great.” Grumman smiled. “It will be good to have you back.”
Chris looked up as Roy entered the kitchen. Beth was sitting in her high chair, playing with a spoon and bowl.
”How is my baby girl?” he crooned plucking her out of the high chair. Beth’s face lit up, and she babbled something suspiciously like Dada. Roy grinned and bent down to her.
“Come on, say Da da. I’m your Dada. Daddy. Dad.”
She chuckled. “Roy-boy, you’ll be waiting a little longer for that.” The little darling was the light of her father’s life. It was a side of Roy she wished Riza was here to see. Beth hit her spoon off the bowl. She loved making noise—a little hellion like her father that way.
Eyes still on Beth, he asked. “How was she?”
”An absolute angel, Roy-boy,” she replied.
”Do you hear that, Beth?” Roy chuckled as Beth reached for his nose. ”You are the most wonderful little girl in all the world.”
”Be careful there, Roy, or you’ll raise an entitled little princess.”
He kissed Beth’s temple. ”She is my princess. After all, Riza was my queen.”
Chris rolled her eyes. ”Don’t say I didn’t warn you, kid. Oh, and I didn’t give her any banana yet. She just loves playing with that spoon and bowl.”
Looking at his watch, he said, “I should probably give her some food then.” He put Beth back into the chair.
Chris went to the sink and started washing up some dirty dishes from lunch. “How did things go with Grumman?”
“Well, I think they went well. Grumman agreed to my proposals about Havoc and Breda. He said I could take my work home provided there is no difference in my work and I’m in the office during office hours. At least that way, I can finish at a reasonable hour and finish my work at home provided I don’t need to be in the office.”
“That’s good that he’s willing to be flexible.”
She could tell Roy was anxious about getting back to work. He would miss his daughter like crazy, and Beth would miss him too, although Chris didn’t want to say that to Roy. It would be good for him ot get back to work. He was a hard worker.
“I’ll need to set up an office in the spare room, so I’ll need to pick up a desk.”
“You already have a desk in your bedroom.”
“I’m going to use the second guestroom. I'll need something bigger and some filing cabinets. I could do with a lamp. I might go down to the furniture store tomorrow and get them delivered.”
It was nice to see Roy show enthusiasm for work again and she felt much better about it knowing that it was what he decided for himself. It would be good for him, she thought. As long as the reconstruction of Ishval was taking place, Roy needed to be involved and push progress. He would never forgive himself if he didn’t go through with his plans. Nevertheless, it was going to be difficult at first and he would need a lot of support from her and his friends. She knew he missed his colleagues and he had always been a control freak. Allowing his men to do all the work and make all the decisions wasn’t ideal.
“That sounds like a good idea. I can take Beth with me to visit Vanessa while you’re doing that.”
Roy smiled and nodded. “I said I would start back in two weeks, so I have time to sort out everything out. I’m looking forward to it and dreading it at the same time if that makes sense.”
Her lips twitched. “It’s only natural. You’ve been with her most of the time since she was born.”
Sighing, he said, “I’m going to miss her. I’m probably going to end up bringing her into the office, aren’t I?”
Chris laughed. “The first few weeks probably, but she will be fine. I meant it when I said I would look after her. I work evenings mainly, so I can go when you get home. If there are any issues, Vanessa or Madeline or one of the other girls would be happy to help out too if you’re running late or need to stay in the office.”
“I don’t want to take advantage. We’ll see how it goes. You own a bar, it’s not fair to you or the girls. ”
“She’s my grandchild. Looking after her is my pleasure and I’m still living here for now. It makes sense. We can review it when you’re settled back at work.”
“Thanks, Chris. Now let’s see if Beth will take some banana.”
Chris laughed and leaned back against the counter. Beth watched Roy as he waved the spoon in front of her.
“Ooh, it’s a delicious banana.”
Beth opened her mouth immediately and took a nibble.
“Good girl,” Roy praised.
She was damn proud of her kid. He’s taken to fatherhood like he was born for it. He struggled some days with his grief, but Beth put a smile on his face and joy in his heart.
“Let’s eat more,” Roy encouraged.
The next spoon hit her nose as Beth turned her cheek to the spoon..
“Oh, come on, it’s delicious.” He smacked his lips together, and Chris bit back a laugh. How she wished Riza could see him like this. “Just one more spoon, sweetheart.” Beth refused the spoon again.
“There’s that famous Mustang stubbornness.” Chris squeezed Roy’s shoulder as she walked by to grab the dishtowel on the chair. “I think she’s done.”
“But I can be stubborn too,” he argued.
“Pick your battles, Roy-boy, when sparring with your mini-me.”
To be continued…
I just really really like Amber.
Aside from being the first character you meet, she's just so passionate about her job and town even though we're aware of how other characters feel about the Knights or even what the Knights themselves think (+ angry tsundere Diluc). She wholeheartedly helps you in you journey and teaches gliding, the activity she's so proud of. Everytime I read the signboards about your missing sister and the "please contact Amber if you have any info!" I just feel like I have a real friend in Mondstad. Even when you go and tell her you're leaving she wishes you a good journey (this while you guys are having a first/last meal together) and I was genuinely sad watching it lmao
I know I'm probably going to have side/world quests with her still but as far as main adventure goes I love her and I think our interaction with her is heavily based on equal grounds (children, probably same age, learning things and going on adventures together) which makes her feel closer to me
It saddens me that's so hard to have good damage with her bow since others get much better pay off and aiming takes a bit of time and getting hit takes me off aiming and I just grrRRR
anyway amber supremacy ⭐
it’s almost 3am here. i can’t sleep. my gf is in the middle of a crazy fucking work day 12000 fucking miles away so i keep unfollowing & following her on here & on ig to get her attention. am i needy? absolutely. i miss her. i want my baby. I hate this
I miss you every day
Nothing is ever the same
Without you I am not me
My soul is empty I feel
Without her, I’m nothing.
"She looks at me with such honey, I just wonder where I would bee without her.."
I would probably bee looking at the flowers all alone - eUë
makima is a good character and i think she can be appreciated alongside everything she did
my stupid aro brain: soulmates AU....... But platonic?
me: OH YES
Without Her Chapter 17
My Widower Roy fic is back.
Summary: Roy, Chris and Beth spend the day at the Hughes.
Notes: Have some fluff and just a little angst in this one. Gracia is a good friend, and little Beth has a new fan in Elicia.
Roy smiled as the cab pulled up outside the Hughes’ apartment building. He had debated taking Gracia up on her offer, but Chris had encouraged the trip before going back to work. Besides, he was also going to take the opportunity to visit Central Command and speak with Maria Ross. So, it made sense to take advantage of the invitation. He had been nervous about a long trip with a tiny baby, but Beth had been content. That was probably because she had a restless night and worn herself and him out.
Baby bag slung over his shoulder, Roy pushed the stroller into the lobby. His daughter slept on Chris’ shoulder, not a care in the world. She had a bottle back at the hotel, so she was out for the count. He could sympathise- he was also exhausted. Before he had become a father, he had never realised how many essentials were needed for transporting a baby.
“Did you remember the presents?” Chris pushed the button to open the elevator. “What floor?”
“Third floor, Chris, and yes, of course. I have manners.”
They entered the elevator, and Chris pressed the button. The elevator sputtered into life, and Roy decided next time he would take the stairs even with the buggy, as long as someone could carry Beth down.
Chris chuckled. “You never did like these things, did you?”
“No-but it’s not like I refuse to go on them.”
She chuckled, and he sent her a glare.
After what felt like an age, the elevator stopped suddenly, bouncing slightly on the stop. Roy did hate these things. He glanced at Beth, relieved she could sleep through anything.
On the third floor, they stepped out of the elevator. The Hughes’ apartment was the first on the left. The door opened almost as soon as he had knocked on it, revealing Elicia wearing a huge grin.
“Hey, Elicia.” He gave her an awkward one-armed hug to keep Beth’s baby bag from sliding down from his other shoulder.
Gracia joined her at the door. “Hi, Roy. Welcome, Chris.”
Roy grinned back. “It’s good to see you.”
“Come on in,” Elicia ordered.
He stepped over the threshold and adjusted the baby bag slung over his shoulder. He reached into the buggy and held out a bottle of wine. “For you, Gracia.”
“You shouldn’t have.” Gracia hugged him and kissed him on the cheek. Then she turned and greeted Chris.
Roy turned his attention to Elicia. “You’ve grown tall.”
He handed her a little, neatly wrapped gift. Tearing it open, she grinned when she saw the book.
“The bookshop employee recommended it. Said kids your age were obsessed.”
After taking off his coat, he put the buggy in the corner next to the coat rack. Chris and Gracia had gone ahead into the living room, but Elicia had held back for him. He sent her a fond smile.
“Roy,” she said hesitantly, “ I’m sorry about Riza.”
His grin fell. “Me too. Thank you. I miss her a lot.”
“Me too.” Her green eyes were bright. “I think Dad is looking after her up there.”
“I miss him too. Even when I didn’t want a friend, your father was my friend. Persistent and loyal to a fault and so annoying when he wanted to be.”
Elicia giggled and hugged Roy again.
He followed her into the living room, where Gracia and Chris were chatting. Beth was still sleeping, but Roy thought he should take Beth from her to give her a break.
“Let me take her,” he said.
“Are you sure? I don’t think she will sleep much longer anyway.”
“Your arm looks stiff.”
She nodded. “It is, but I don’t want to wake the little mite.”
“If she wakes up, she wakes up,” Roy pointed out. “She’s slept enough anyway.”
“True enough.” She nodded.
Roy carefully extricated her from Chris’s shoulder. She let out a protesting whine but didn’t open her eyes. He cradled her to his chest, and he sat down on an armchair.
“Can I see her?” Shyly, Elicia looked at Roy.
“Come closer to take a look.” Roy nodded. “Don’t think she is ready to wake up, but when she wakes up…I promise you can hold her once she’s settled.”
“I’d like that.”
Stifling a yawn, Roy leaned back in the chair. Looking down at his still sleeping daughter, she was sucking her thumb. He probably should have put Beth into the buggy, but Chris had been holding her since the hotel, and he selfishly wanted to keep her close. He would have to get used to spending most of the day away from her.
Chris glanced over at her nephew and chuckled. Roy was half asleep with Beth in his arms.
“Looks like they’re both exhausted,” Gracia mused.
“I’m surprised Beth is still sleeping, but Roy needs it.”
“I’m awake,” Roy said from the armchair. “I’m just resting my eyes.”
Gracia walked over and put a hand on Roy’s shoulder. “Roy, why don’t you lie down in the guest room?”
Chris could see the indecision on his face. “She’s right. You didn’t get any sleep on the train, and you must be exhausted.”
Gracia nodded. “I’m getting started on dinner, which will take a while. She probably won’t sleep for much longer. So you might as well take advantage.”
“Besides, you’re making the rest of us tired with all your yawning.”
He sighed. “Fine, you’ve convinced me.”
Chris smiled as he got up carefully and left the living room. She hoped Beth would sleep for a little longer.
“Let me help you with dinner,” Chris said.
Gracia shook her head. “There’s no need.”
“Don’t tell me you’re as stubborn as my nephew.”
“Come on then. Most of the prep is done, but you can help me with the vegetables.”
Chris followed her into the kitchen.
Gracia pointed in the direction of the chopping board and started peeling the potatoes. “Can you cut the turnips and parsnip?”
“I’m glad you convinced Roy to come,” Gracia continued, “It’s harder for me to get away between work and Elicia’s schooling. Are you still living with them?”
“I am. He’ll kick me out eventually, although he does need the help with Beth and even more so when he goes back to work.”
“Is he not hiring a nanny?”
“I told him to hold off. Between the girls and I, we should be able to manage to look after her in the beginning.”
“Having you as a friend has been very helpful for Roy. After everything you’ve been through, the two of you have an understanding that you don’t have with others.”
Gracia smiled sadly. “It’s tough, but at least Elicia was older when Maes passed. I can’t imagine having a newborn and trying to cope with the grief simultaneously.”
“He’s getting through it. He’s taken to fatherhood well. He dotes on little Beth.”
“Maes would have loved to see it. He would have teased him mercilessly and enjoyed every moment.”
“I could only imagine. Roy used to complain about his bragging about his family, but mostly Roy enjoyed seeing his friend happy even if he pretended to be annoyed at his boasting.”
“Maes was proud of every lip twitch or small smile he could get out of him, especially when grumpy. He could be so serious at times that I wasn’t sure what to make of him at first. But once I got to know him better, I knew exactly why Maes loved him so much.”
“He doesn’t let his guard down unless he really trusts someone.”
“Maes and Riza were always able to get him to be himself.”
“I was worried about him when he lost Riza. I was afraid that he would shut himself away from the world. But, I am so grateful to his friends, including you, for helping him.”
“I’ve not been able to do much apart from providing an ear. Unfortunately, I am missing out on babysitting opportunities.”
“Roy mentioned to me he was thinking about going to Central Command tomorrow, so if you’re looking for an opportunity….”
Gracia’s lips twitched upward. “Well, I will definitely offer.”
Roy was grateful for the short nap. He felt revived by the time he awoke. Beth had spent much of the previous night fussing, so it was little wonder she was sleeping so well today. The others were eating dessert. Roy had too full to eat more of Gracia’s excellent food. Relaxed, he looked down at Beth, gulping down her bottle.
She looked up at him and smiled. He moved the bottle slightly to disrupt the flow, and Beth whined.
“Roy, she’s so cute,” Elicia gushed. “Can I feed her, please?”
“I’d rather finish feeding her, Elicia, but you can certainly hold her afterwards. I don’t want her getting sick on you.”
Elicia giggled. “Me either.”
“Go on, finish your dessert then, “ Gracia encouraged.
Chris clucked her tongue. “Little Beth doesn’t always know when to stop.”
Gracia caught his eye and smiled. “Chris says you were planning on going to Central Command tomorrow. Elicia and I would be delighted to look after her for a few hours.”
Elicia nodded with vigour.
“Thank you,” he said, “if you’re sure that would be helpful. Give Chris a chance to get out for the day. But only if you’re sure.”
“We’re sure,” Elicia and Gracia said in unison.
After Beth finished her bottle and Roy burped her. Elicia looked at him with her big green eyes. She had her father’s eyes. He had always been hard to say no to, and she had the same puppy-dog expression.
“You said I could hold her,” she reminded him.
“So, I did.” He glanced down at Beth. She seemed settled. “Beth, Elicia is dying to give you a cuddle.”
“Hi Beth,” Elicia crooned.
He smiled, directing her to sit on the couch next to Chris. Gingerly, he put Beth into her arms. Then, making sure she was holding her securely, he stepped back. Beth just gurgled and sucked on her thumb. Tension leaving his body, he glanced at Chris, who nodded approvingly.
“It’s so good to meet you properly, Beth. When you get bigger, you have to come and visit. I’ll talk you to the playground and read you stories.”
It was bittersweet. Roy could just imagine Hughes taking pictures of their girls and Riza smiling with his camera. Swallowing the lump in his throat, he tried for a smile.
“I’m sure she would love that, Elicia.”
Gracia put a hand on his shoulder. “I’m going to make some coffee. Do you want to help, Roy?”
Grateful for respite, he nodded. “Would you like some coffee, Chris?”
“Water would be lovely,” Chris said, “thank you.”
“Elicia, would you like milk or juice?”
Elicia grinned. “Juice for me, please.”
They left Chris and their daughters in the living room and went into the kitchen.
“Elicia is getting so big,” he said quietly. “It’s hard to believe she was as little as Beth once.”
“Roy, time flies by. They grow so fast.”
Gracia heated the water for their coffee. Since Riza had passed, Gracia had contacted him regularly. It was good to have someone in his life that had been through what he had. She understood what it was like to lose her spouse. As much as he appreciated all his friends, and no matter how supportive they were, Gracia could better understand his grief.
Like she was reading his mind, she asked, “How are you really?”
“I’m coping. I have my good and bad days. Going back to work, though-”
“What is it?” she asked gently.
“What if -” he broke off. “It will be hard to get used to being there without her.”
She put a mug of black coffee in front of him, but she didn't sit down. “You’re strong; look at what you have been through already. It’s alright to be grieving. Those hard days will continue, and there might be more hard days when you start back.”
He fixed the coffee how he liked it. “Yeah, I just need to keep in control.”
“Don't put yourself under too much pressure.” She put a hand on his shoulder. “Make sure to take time for yourself when you can't be disturbed, and when you need a moment, don't be shy about taking it.”
“Easier said than done, but I’ll try.”
“It’s hard being a single parent,” she said, “so remember to take time for yourself.”
He lifted an eyebrow. “What about you? Do you take time for yourself?”
She sat down opposite him. I couldn’t let Elicia out of my sight. Then, after losing Maes, I turned in on myself. But after a while, I accepted that I was just one person and I couldn’t do everything on my own.
“I feel like I should have been there more for you. I don’t know if I am as strong as you are.”
“You’ll do it because you have no choice. I had Elicia to take care of, and I put all of myself into being her mother. And Roy, you were a real help back then. You managed to organise things for the funeral and ensure I got my widow’s pension and anything else I was entitled to. You helped me with the practical things, and I am grateful. After all, you were grieving too.”
“Still, I feel like I could have done more.”
“That was a long time ago now. Do you have a meeting tomorrow in Command?”
“No, but I want to speak to someone about transferring to my team.”
“Oh, of course,” she said quietly.
“I’m dividing Riza’s duties between Havoc and Breda, but I’ll need another officer to fill in the gap.”
“I’m sure they will do a capable job.”
“It feels so strange giving Riza’s responsibilities to someone else. I know Riza would want me to continue our work, but I still can’t imagine doing it without her. And Beth’s so little; I’m all she has.”
“You do what feels right for you, no matter what anyone else thinks. As for Beth, you’re not all she has.”
He smiled. “I know. I don’t think I could live with myself if I didn’t return. There is still so much to do, and I owe it to the Ishvallans to ensure they get what they deserve.” A lump formed in his throat. “It was just as much Riza’s goal as mine. But it’s going to be hard.”
“It will,” she said softly. “And that’s alright. I barely left the apartment for a year after Maes died. I just didn’t want to be around other people, I didn’t want them asking me questions or struggling to say the right words. People mean well, but they often don’t know what to say or do.”
“I’ve been luckier than most with Chris, the girls and the team. They’ve all been there for me, although it took me time to let them help. I didn’t want to let Beth out of my sight for a moment.”
“That’s entirely understandable given what you’d been through. It’s been longer for me, but sometimes I still wake up at night terrified and have to check on Elicia. Time helps, although the pain never really goes away. You learn to live with it, to cope better. ”
“I hope so,” he whispered.
“Everyone deals with things differently and at a different pace.”
He appreciated that while Gracia was supportive, she didn’t mince her words or make promises. She could understand how only someone who had been through the same could.
Smiling, he said, “Thank you, Gracia. It’s been so good to have someone to talk to about this. When everyone is so worried about you and wants you to get better, sometimes you put on a brave face.”
She laughed. “I know the feeling.”
He took a sip of his coffee. “This is good coffee, Gracia.”
“You’re very welcome though it might be cold by now. Why don’t we finish the coffee in the living room? I'll get some water for Chris and juice for Elicia.”
She put her mug and the glasses on a tray.
“I can carry that if you like?”
He took the tray from her, and they returned to the living room. Chris was talking to Elicia, who was still holding Beth.
“Right, I will get my camera,” Gracia said. “Get in beside them, Roy. Maes would turn in his grave if I didn’t take this opportunity.”
Roy chuckled and put the tray down on the coffee table.
Elicia beamed up at him as he sat beside her. “I think she likes me.”
Gracia came back in with the camera. “Everybody say cheese!”
“Cheese!” they chorused.
To be continued...