Title: Guard and Witness

Warnings: Hughes, heh… He should come with a warning.

Summary: Peacetime and the beginnings of a plan

Disclaimer: It's not mine, even after all of this storytelling. Sigh.

Riza feels uncomfortable in civilian clothes, as if she's borrowing them from another person. And, in a way, she supposes she is.

Tough physical labor and a diet of field rations have hardened her body. Her old garments are ill-fitting, their colors too bright.

She pins the waistband of her skirt so that it won't slip off her hips, thinking it's the perfect metaphor for "unfit for civilian life."

Her parents suggest that she just stay in uniform, but a hundred washings won't get the blood and sulfur smell out of her fatigues, and she isn't ready to face the gleaming new set of badges on her dress blues.

Another fast track promotion. Her grandfather hasn't stopped bragging about it since she showed him the declaration.

She moves to her dresser to grab her hairbrush, and her eyes fall on a worn scrap of paper. It contains no note, and no signature- just an address, scribbled in bold pencil strokes.

Major Mustang- no, Lieutenant Colonel Mustang, she corrects herself- pressed it into her hand at the rail station as they went their separate ways.

She wonders if she's really meant to make use of it, or if it's just the sort of courtesy thing people do when they say good-bye.

A part of her is afraid to use it, afraid of what she'll find if she knocks on his door.

But she can't stop thinking about what he said on the last day of the war, and she tells herself that, really, they should pay the price together.

The address leads her to small apartment building near Headquarters, and she makes her way down the shadowy hall to his door. She finds it and hesitates, trying to figure out what to say to him. Then- to her surprise- she hears muffled laughter coming from inside.

Curiously, she raps her knuckles against the doorframe.

"Who is it?" Comes a call from a cheery voice she doesn't recognize, followed quickly by a grumble from Mustang.

He comes to the door, looking tired and pale, and even thinner than she expected, but he's not the broken man that she feared he might be.

"Hawkeye!" He gasps, eyes widening with surprise. "I- you- you're... You're here."

She cannot keep from smiling. "It's good to see you well, sir."

A tall man wearing glasses comes up behind him, peering at her inquisitively. "Now who might this be? She's pretty. Not like my Gracia, but-"

"Hughes," Mustang cuts him off, "this is Sergeant Hawkeye."

"Lieutenant, sir," Riza corrects him.

He smirks triumphantly. "So you did take your commission. Congratulations, it's well deserved."

"As is your promotion, Lieutenant Colonel," she answers, noting the way his muscles tense at the use of his new title.

The other man, Hughes, clears his throat gently. "And as fun as this mutual flattery fest is, maybe you should invite the lady inside, Roy."

Mustang blinks and steps back. "Right, of course. Come on in, Hawkeye." He ushers her inside.

She expects the apartment to be cluttered and filthy, but instead it appears to have been recently cleaned. Stacks of old books have been piled in one corner, charts and graphs rolled up and stashed on their shelves.

The floors have been scrubbed, and smell of piney disinfectant.

She wonders what sort of mess has been cleared up and washed away, but Hughes catches her eye before she can ask, expression saying plainly that she doesn't want to know.

In an instant, the somber mien is replaced by broad smile, and he shoves a half-eaten apple pie toward her, saying, "Come on, have a slice! My girlfriend made it! She's so great!"

Something about his exuberance clicks in her memory. "I think I read one of your letters, sir."

"You sure did!" He agrees merrily. "Wasn't it fun?"

She can't help laughing. "It really was, sir."

"And now he's here forcing food into me," Mustang grumbles, snatching the pie and breaking a piece off with his fingers.

"Right, right, I'm forcing you to cram that in your mouth now." Hughes rolls his eyes. "You're starving. The only thing I've had to force into you is common sense."

Riza notices Mustang's jaw is a little purple and has to ask, "Did that involve a right hook, sir?"

Mustang brings a hand to his face self consciously, but Hughes only grins.

"She's a sharp one, Roy. I think that you need her."

"I really do," Mustang agrees, with a sincerity that makes her blush. "Hawkeye," he asks gravely, "if I told you I was going to the top, what would you say about it?"

Her eyes widen at the prospect, the implications soaring through her mind. Without hesitation, she answers, "I'd say I'll be standing guard the whole way, sir."

Endnotes: And I think we all know what happens next… I hope you all enjoyed reading this. Thank you SOOOOO MUCH to all of my reviewers for being so wonderful!... Now I'm off on vacation for a while. But don't forget about me! I'll be back with more stories in a few weeks!