Warnings: Violence, sexuality, language - the whole gambit.
Spoilers: Oh, dear, yes. Only character spoilers, though - no plot spoilers. Since, you know, the plot is different and all. Hooo.
Chapter 1: Wood Horse
For exemplary actions for the Nation and the person of the King, Roy Mustang, Flame Alchemist, is hereby granted the title of Landsnecht and the town of Resenbool and surrounding territories. Signed this day the Fifth of June under will of His Holiness and eye of His Majesty.
It was good policy to ignore the first two knocks. Those worth talking to would have better than thirty seconds' worth of attention, and those who did not could leave a damn note and learn a bit of patience: he'd get back to them. Probably. Maybe. They were worthless, after all.
Knock two, and now was whoever's cue to go away. He didn't feel like talking to anyone at the moment. It could be his best friend, and he wouldn't feel up to it. It could be someone repaying a debt and he wouldn't be up to it. He certainly wasn't up for a woman – he had to be at the top of his form to be able to withstand their clinginess. They were lovely things, yes, but good Lord were they needy.
Number three. Damn it all. But he was dutiful: despite his reluctance, he shut his book and swung himself over the arm of his chair.
It was a woman, after all, he saw once he'd slid back the bolts and opened the door. Surprising. There would be those who would be startled themselves to hear that he was surprised, but there you were: it was a relatively novel experience for him. He only ever pursued, really, and pursuit inevitably led to her chambers, every time. And he flattered himself that he handled them well, well enough that they never showed up grieving at his door – so it was rare.
But here she was, a woman – and quite a woman, and one he'd never met before – he'd remember. Gorgeous blond hair, and a keen face, and fantastic legs, and this body in all the right proportions, with a cute little skirt that hugged her just right. He caught himself when it registered what the colors on that delightful little skirt were, though: this wasn't a prostitute (pity); she was dressed in the royal livery. An employee of the King, and untouchable. Damn it all.
"Can I help you?" he asked. Bizarre, that someone like her would be here. Messenger? Last he'd heard, they had people of less value to do that.
"Sir Mustang?" she asked, strangely military in her bearing, in her voice. At his nod, she dropped in a sharp bow.
Well, okay. That was disconcerting. And, for the life of him, he couldn't come up with a single rational reason why she'd be there. There were stories, certainly, of the King presenting someone like this to serve as assistant to the nobility, but – hell, certainly not to someone like him. Not to a Landsnecht, no, and not – well, not someone like him. But there she was, bowing –
And still bowing. Was he supposed to do something here? Shit.
"Ah – do you want to come in?" he asked. She didn't respond, but straightened and looked at him expectantly. So he backed away and she followed him into the foyer, and then they were staring at each other (he felt more awkward than she looked), although them being inside was a step in the right direction, at least.
"So, uh – " Maybe he'd gotten it wrong. Maybe? "Is there something I can help you with?"
"The King has sent me to tend to you, sir," she said, declining her head respectfully again.
Well, okay. Fantastic. "Ah – oh. Well, it's a great honor, and – I could have done with a bit of warning," he blurted and controlled a wince. It occurred to him that maybe she'd think he was some sort of rebel if he stuck by it when he said things like that, so just for good measure, he shrugged nonchalantly. Then he chastised himself: the goal was not to impress her, it was to – there wasn't even a goal. It was a situation in which he had been placed but didn't have to resolve. It was a good thing, Roy old boy, to be able to switch out of the court mindset.
She looked up again with eyebrows raised. He thought they were raised, anyway. They were deliciously arched, and that might have been a natural state, or...moving along. "Are you questioning His Majesty's gift, sir?" she asked calmly.
Was there a bit of irony when she said that? No; she didn't look capable of irony. "Of course not. Ah – what does this – entail?"
"Everything, sir," she responded blandly.
"Everything," he repeated, and she inclined her chin. "Well. Taking appointments – "
"Yes – "
"And – everything – "
That last word hit with some force. It explained some things, at least. Many things, actually. Many, many things. Like why she was sent to him when he was undeserving of reward. And why she looked every bit like she was tailored to his liking, because she was tailored to his liking. Brilliant. She'd been sent as a distraction – as an attempt to confine him to his own bed.
Or – what were the rules on this? Was she a trap? Was she still property of the King? Damn it all. He wouldn't put it past His Majesty to send someone to lure him into bed then use that as an excuse to punish him. Treacherous man, the King.
Treacherous indeed. Was she a spy, then? A spy, a trap – Lord. He didn't have the energy to deal with this.
She was looking at him, waiting, again, for his response with unblinking eyes. Hm. A lovely color, that red – "And you're – to live here?" he forced himself to ask.
"They've informed me that you have room, sir. If it's preferable, I can keep quarters at the palace – "
"Oh, no." Oh, yes, you asshole. For God's own love, you have things you don't want the King or his proxies to discover – "Please. You're more than welcome here." Oh, screw it; he didn't want His Majesty to suspect any more than he didn't want His Majesty to know.
"I'm glad to hear that, sir," she said, bowing again. Then, thank god, as though anticipating the question which was weighing ever more heavily upon him: "My name is Rachel Elizabeth Hawkeye."
"Hawkeye," he repeated, and she straightened with – well, she looked vaguely satisfied, as though the most impersonal title was the best. Military indeed. Honestly, if they were expecting him to try to seduce her, they might have given him someone a bit more seducible. Well.
"How much do you know about me?" he asked.
"What do you mean?"
Why the hell was he asking that? Good God. Some inflated ego he had. "What did they tell you about me?"
"Everything you would expect, sir."
Everything he would expect, expecting her to be what he expected her to be, or what he would expect expecting what he was supposed to expect her to be? You know, he'd never liked these sorts of games. "A detailed history, then..." he said with a false laugh.
"Of course," she agreed with damnable calmness. You know, he hadn't been this awkward since – well, actually, his first sexual encounter had been less awkward than this. So, there you go.
Well, he wasn't sixteen anymore. "You know," he announced, "I think I'll have a drink. Care for anything?"
"No, sir. Would you like me to get it for you?" Hawkeye asked. Roy paused.
"I'm perfectly capable of getting it myself," he told her quietly.
"Of course, sir," she replied. Again, there was little discernable irony. Nor did she comment when in the sitting room he fumbled, reaching for a glass, nor when it took him too long to remove the stopper from the whiskey. So he didn't hate her – not for that, at least.
He could resent her a little, though, for making him so nervous as to render him unable to do that which he should have been able to do – that which he'd had long practice in doing. He could resent her for the way she sat there, composed, expectant, as he downed the drink in all its bitter fire.
He set the tumbler down on the counter with an emphatic clatter. Finally, a bit of resolution! He decided right then and there: action. He'd decide what to do with her for the moment to buy himself a bit of time, then he'd seriously decide how to deal with her. "And you know my reputation?"
Motherfucking shit, Mustang, way to be the biggest ass in all of Amestris. Good God. At least she hesitated so that he could quickly assure her to never mind his idiocy: "It isn't really important. What is it that you do?"
"Everything," she repeated calmly. For the love of God, Rachel Elizabeth Hawkeye, attendant to the King, take pity on a poor Landsnecht. And she deigned to hear his prayer: "General secretarial duties. It's common enough that for the first few days, the attendant will organize the lord's materials to her own system."
Praise the Lord. "All right," he said. "Let's do that."
She nodded. "Where's your office?"
"Down the hall..." he said, and then it hit him. He stopped, and she turned back to him expectantly, and he couldn't think of a thing, of a single damned thing – "You know what?" he gasped, trying to cover his panic with a smile. "I think that just at the moment there might be more important things than the books. I think that's a task for tomorrow. I think that – my clothes – need a wash."
She nodded. "I'll take them to the laundry."
He actually generally washed them by hand, but the few extra pfennigs were definitely worth the peace of mind that a few minutes alone would bring. "Wonderful," he said. "My bedroom is upstairs and to the left."
She bowed once again and walked off. He walked back over to his chair and carefully arranged himself to look casual, picked up his book, and listened intently to her footsteps overhead. Not one strayed from where it should have been, and he relaxed, marginally. A few moments later, her feet clacked down the steps again, and he pretended to be completely engrossed – too engrossed, even, to notice her – until the door shut firmly. Then he bolted to the phone.
It took three rings before Jan picked up, and when he did, he was laughing. "Havoc here," he said, his voice still smiling.
"It's Roy. Is someone there?"
"Yeah." The laughter had left Jan's voice, and Roy chastised himself – it wasn't all that dire, really. He didn't need to call his best friend with such fear in his voice that he killed all of Jan's joy.
"A woman?" Roy asked, forcing a bit of teasing into his voice.
Jan laughed again. "Oh, no, Roy. I sure as hell'm not telling you about any girlfriends I might have, thank you."
"Well, don't let me distract you," Roy said. Then, allowing some part of his concern to slip back into his voice: "We're gonna have to talk sometime soon."
A pause. "Okay," Havoc said, and Roy could just picture the uncertain smile that always accompanied that particular tone of voice. "I'll talk to you later, then?"
"Yeah," Roy agreed, and hung up, cursing himself. He took the luxury of peering out the window – no sign of his particular noose – then hurried (but didn't run) to the study. He couldn't have had more than – what – five of them? They were scattered among the other books, though, so they would take a while to collect.
He had six, as it turned out. They formed a neat stack on his desk when he was done, all of roughly the same size and thickness. The most inconspicuous place for them, he decided, would probably be in the sitting room itself – there was a rug – So he carried them in, cradled easily in his arm.
How long had it been since he last used an array? – At least a month, he decided as he sketched the first arc of the circle. It had been on Havoc's request, actually – he'd been complaining because his box of chocolates had been crushed, and he'd wanted it to look nice. So Roy had smoothed out the creases, complaining all the while. In all honesty, it felt good to use alchemy for something so trivial.
The floorboards parted, leaving a hole into which the six books fit easily. As soon as Roy replaced the boards, the circle, complete once again, activated to seal the boards once again. That was actually a graceful bit of alchemy on his part. Quite satisfying. He needed to get back into the habit of arrays again; he'd forgotten how fun they could be.
When Hawkeye returned, he was once again sprawled over his chair. He stood once she walked in, though, setting his book aside. "It was incredibly rude of me, Miss Hawkeye, but I completely forgot to tell you that your room is up the stairs and to the right. I hope you'll forgive me for my inconsideration."
She might have looked a bit nonplussed at his rehearsed formality, in such contrast to his impulsive rudeness before, but bowed quickly and thanked him. Once again, she ascended the stairs, and once again, he tracked her footfalls; once again, there was absolutely nothing amiss.
Good God. He was too tired by far to deal with this.
Just for good measure, he poured himself a second whiskey. Generally, he didn't drink this early, but he did drink when he needed it, and if there was any situation that needed a bit of fortification, it was this one.