Wow... it's taken a whopping eight months for me to complete this. I can't believe it's finally done, though! Your reviews were a motivator (especially when I just completely crapped out about half-way through the chapter), and helped me continue writing even though life hasn't been easy lately. I've had to deal with some deaths of people I'm close to, hospital trips, and advanced courses in school, all of which adequately served in destroying any creativity I had.
In short, thank you thank you thank you. To know some people out there are reading made this that much easier to complete.
In addition to all that, the site decided to remove some italics and random punctuation and the like from the previous chapter, so I'll get on clearing that up in due time. ;;
I hope you enjoy!
Roy had never really put into consideration the fact that he was military personnel with loose morals.
Well, all right... loose morals in the sense that he'd chase anything with breasts. It was a healthy habit for any red-blooded male, right? Especially one as handsome as him!
But now that he was pushing thirty, his whole perspective on the matter had been shed in a new light.
Maes was always telling him to get a wife. Easier said than done.
Would he ever have kids? Accidentally maybe... Would he ever be able to settle down in one place? Would he ever get his act together?
And this was the guy striving to be Fuhrer?
"So what is it that you do again?"
Roy had gone out with some empty-headed girls in his rather impressive dating career, but this one took the cake. He couldn't help but feel angry that he'd wasted a good fifty dollars in taking this bimbo out to a semi-respectable restaurant... she, of all people, was not one who would respect the amazing view of the waterfront.
Roy wasn't sure how to react when he found out the girl had roughly the IQ of a paper towel dispenser. It was a paper towel dispenser with assets, at least.
Very nice ones, at that. At least she has that in her favor.
Speaking of which, what was her name...?
"For the final time, I work in the military."
The blonde's hazel eyes lit up. "Ooh! So do you like...um..."
"'Do military stuff'?" The colonel supplied, to which she nodded vigorously. He uttered a soft sigh, rubbing his temples. He could have sworn that hanging around with this chick was making him dumber by the second. Potential bed partner or not, Roy couldn't lower himself to... this.
Not with her working extra hours back at the office. She's the example that the blonde stereotype actually does have exceptions... significant ones at that.
Roy made the easy decision to ditch his date as quick as humanly possible and head back to headquarters to check up on Riza. He hoped she wasn't overworking herself again—that woman could be like a machine with no thought to food or rest when it came to her desk duties.
They finished up their meals over light banter (if you consider Roy answering and answering again mind-numbing questions all night conversation), and the Colonel paid the tab in a hurry. While the two were walking out to his car, Roy saw the sultry look in his date's eyes that could allude to only one thing. Normally, the chance of mindless sex would have appealed to him, but suddenly... he almost felt dirty. No way in hell would he lie in bed with... what was her name again?
"I'm taking you home." Roy's voice left no room for objection as he ushered her into his vehicle and took his seat behind the wheel. He was well aware of the woman pouting at his side, but he found it too difficult to care.
The ride to his date's apartment was mercifully quick, and he made their good-byes as short and sweet and possible. The only physical contact the blonde managed to get from him before Roy pulled away from the curb was a kiss on the cheek.
Roy pulled into a parking spot after another fifteen minutes of driving and headed in towards the HQ he was starting to know like the back of his hand. He climbed the flight of stairs leading to their office, unable to banish the thoughts of how eerie these halls were at night, when everything echoed and only the dimmest of overhead lights were left lit.
And thanks to the lack of visibility and disconcerting atmosphere, Roy nearly set the entire hallway aflame when he saw another figure stop suddenly before him. He caught himself in the nick of time, however, realizing that it was nearly his... subordinate... that he had fried.
Her heart-shaped face looked even more haggard and sharply angled in the insufficient lighting, the bags beneath her eyes evidence of her exhaustion. Despite her worn condition, Riza Hawkeye managed a crisp salute. "Sir, what brings you here at this hour? Didn't you have" -it was impossible to miss the disdain in her voice as she finished her statement- "a date?"
"I'm..." The smooth-talking colonel, for once, was at a loss for words. "...I... ah, I forgot some paperwork I need to do tonight!"
Riza's eyebrows raised as his voice got continually higher in pitch, seeing straight through his lie but not saying a word. "Sir, since when have you done paperwork willingly in the office, much less on your own time, without me breathing down your neck?"
Roy laughed. "True, but it needs to get done! Now go back to your dorm, Hawkeye, and get some rest. You look like hell." Foot, insert mouth. Way to show you care, Roy. "Er... I mean... you seem really, really beat."
Riza managed a small, sad smile at how uneasy Roy was. It was no wonder, as they rarely conversed about anything other than the job. "Good night, sir."
The raven-haired Colonel watched with an inward sigh as the beautiful blonde walked towards her room, forcing himself to wrench his gaze away from her retreating back after she rounded a corner.
It was early in the morning when Roy finally managed to collapse into bed and fall into a fitful sleep, and he awoke a mere hour and a half later. And just about three hours ago I was fighting off the epitome of stupid, he snickered, pushing his way into his office. He was, as usual, fashionably late.
Roy's subordinates gave him the standard it's-too-early-to-be-alive-and-active salute as he took his seat at his desk. He was very aware of two livid brown eyes boring into his skull—he couldn't be sure why—but for some reason he felt ashamed to meet that burning gaze, so he made himself very interested in his paperwork.
Dammit, it's not like I did anything to her... wait, did I? No no no, I didn't insult her or else she'd just point her gun in my fa--
"Riza, can I talk to you outside for a minute?"
Roy's thought trailed off and he looked up just in time to see Hughes drag Riza from the room and shut the door firmly behind them.
There was complete silence before he raised the question. "What was that about?"
Havoc snorted. "Colonel, in all due respect, are you blind or just completely oblivious?"
Roy shot him a scathing look, but his old friend merely tilted his chair back on the hind legs and continued. "You've got to start paying attention, Roy. For Chrissakes, I'm not going to spell it out for you, but..."
Fuery cut into his speech, obviously nervous at the repercussions Havoc's words might have on the rest of them. "Havoc, watch your mouth. Colonel Mustang has it covered."
"Wait a minute--" Roy insisted, but the spiky haired Lieutenant was too busy arguing with Fuery to elaborate further. He just sighed, taking a sip of his lukewarm coffee to calm his nerves. Was he always the last one to be told of affairs in his own office?
Riza and Hughes then returned, hushing the rest of them instantly. The shaky First Lieutenant sat down quietly, wiping sweat from her brow despite the frigid weather.
"First Lieutenant Hawkeye, you don't look too well," Roy said, masking his obvious concern with a veil of official protocol. "You have permission to leave early."
She shook her head. "I'm the only one around here that can get anything done, sir." The others listening didn't even bother to correct that statement as; well, it was mostly true.
Roy understood the note of finality in her voice and left her alone. But throughout the rest of the day, he couldn't help but notice that Riza seemed to slouch lower and lower in her seat as if the very effort of holding herself up was too much, or how her suffering made his chest hurt.
The next couple of days were some of the tensest Roy had ever dealt with, and this was coming from the man who could easily take an armed felon or brain dead date without so much as breaking a sweat. He wasn't used to these feelings of insecurity or doubt. He was Roy, skirt-chaser extraordinaire! He wasn't supposed to be so caught up over the increasingly fragile Riza. He wasn't supposed to be the one tongue-tied and unable to speak!
Goddammit! The tables were turned and he hated it. Roy was in love... for probably the first time in his life... and he had no clue what to do about it.
Confessing to her would probably just result in a bullet in the brain, something he'd prefer to keep from happening.
It was a particularly nippy, snow-capped Thursday morning as Roy headed into work, cursing Mother Nature for her burden as he tried his best to keep his alchemy glove shielded from the onslaught of snow. He had been close to running some poor schoolchildren over on his way to work, and wet weather definitely did not a happy Roy make... so as he saw it, the day couldn't really get that much worse.
How wrong he was.
When he arrived, mostly everyone was present, excepting the only one he really gave a damn about at the moment.
"Where's Ri—Hawkeye?" Mustang asked, suddenly alarmed.
His coworkers shook their heads in unison. "If she comes in an hour or so, we know she forgot to set her clock back," Fuery said. "She's probably fine."
Roy sighed, leaning back in his chair. Havoc took a drag from his cigarette as he noticed the Colonel's tight expression, but said nothing.
The men all fell back into their normal routine of paperwork, but the mundane was interrupted by Breda. "Havoc, how'd your date go last night?"
The blonde Lieutenant choked on his cancer stick and wrenched it from between his teeth, letting it fall to the desk... tip still lit. "H-How'd... you know about that?"
"From your reaction, I'm assuming you were dumped again," Falman nodded, and the wrath of Jean Havoc turned upon him now.
"...Havoc?" Fuery sat bolt upright in his chair, eyes fixed over his friend's shoulder. No one paid him any mind.
"The hell you say!" Jean was more irritable than usual, completely determined in letting his co-workers have it.
Roy snorted, unable to keep himself from interfering. "When was the last time one of your dates didn't end like in rejection?"
Havoc growled, biting back the sharp reply he held on the tip of his tongue. "What I do outside of work is none of your concern," he muttered, folding his arms and pouting.
"What is it, Fuery?" Jean sighed, rubbing his temples.
"Your desk is on fire!"
Everyone jumped from their seats as Havoc gave a yelp, swatting away the flames engulfing the stack of paperwork he had been working on and knocking them to the floor in the process... merely aiding in spreading the blaze faster. With paper products strewn about and the window open, the fire was at no loss for fuel as it began to creep about the room.
"Colonel, do something!" Falman cried. "We don't have anything to douse the flames!"
"We work for the fucking Flame Alchemist and we don't even have a fire extinguisher?" Breda shouted, trying to smother the flames with his jacket and doing more harm than good. The rapidly growing blaze was licking at the legs of Riza's oak desk, quickly enveloping one side.
"A shame my alchemy doesn't work in reverse," Roy shot at the other officers who all were looking like deer in headlights. "Everyone get out of here, now!"
By then the fire alarms were ringing and people were filing out of their respective workplaces. As he glanced back at the smoke leaking from the open door of his office, Roy groaned.
After all personnel had been safely evacuated into the frigid outside and Havoc had withdrawn to a brooding demeanor, Roy found himself wishing he'd stayed inside with the fire. He hated this weather – if a terrorist or an assassin were to attack at this very minute, he would helpless as an unarmed foot soldier.
The Colonel digressed, watching as the first of the firemen on the scene approached the headquarters. The Fuhrer would have his head for this. So much for that promotion he was looking for...
As if his thoughts weren't morbid enough, they plummeted downward even further.
And Riza still isn't here.
As if on cue, the object of his affections hurtled right into his chest.
"Be careful there," he exclaimed despite himself, quickly regaining his balance.
He didn't recognize her immediately, as he was not able to tell what it was at first beneath the layers and layers of clothing she wore. When a strand of blonde hair fell loose from the scarf wrapped around her head, however, Roy couldn't help but sag a bit in relief when he realized who it was.
"C-Colonel?" Riza looked up at him, blinking those beautiful eyes. He couldn't help but notice as a lone snowflake fell free from her long lashes. Riza, of course, asked why they were outside.
"You forgot to set your clock behind, am I right, First Lieutenant?" Falman said. It was more of a statement than a question.
For the next few minutes, Roy Mustang felt himself push the conversation his friends were having from his mind. He saw Riza restrain from reaching for her gun... Havoc hide behind Breda... but the only thing that registered in his mind was how incredibly pink Riza's lips were. He wasn't sure why he'd never noticed before. They were just so perfect, he could just—
NONONONO. Roy wiped his face roughly, banishing such thoughts. Now was definitely not the time!
He was granted a distraction when he saw Hawkeye put one shaking hand to her face, and take a stumbling step backwards. Her cheeks were unusually flushed.
Riza's entire frame seemed to cave in, dropping to the ground like lead. Roy caught her in his arms in the knick of time, saving her from a face plant into the snow. The people around him erupted into a flurry of activity, hearing his shouts and working themselves into a panic.
"What happened?" It was Maes, breaking through a throng of bystanders and yelling to be heard. Roy didn't reply, pausing to pick Riza up and carry her baby-style.
"Riza, you should have stayed home," Mustang hissed through gritted teeth. Was she that caught up in her work to completely overlook her own well-being? "Breda," he barked to his subordinate who stood nearby, looking clueless.
He snapped to attention, "sir?"
"Go find my car in the lot and bring it around. I'm taking Riza somewhere to get warm."
Breda raised an eyebrow, but didn't inquire further. "Right away."
Roy would later think back and wonder why he brought Riza back to his house so impulsively. Maybe it was a sense of protection overriding his sense of duty, or maybe it was just so he could feel safe in knowing he was the only one taking care of her.
As he placed the First Lieutenant down carefully on the large bed in his rarely-used guest room, however, his only thoughts were of making her well again.
Mustang felt her forehead, and snapped his hand back. She was burning up, and was continuing to shiver. He removed Riza's boots and weapon holster (he didn't dare go farther than that, lest she wake up) and covered her with the nicest comforters he could find. He called the doctor, knowing how much she would hate him if he dragged her to a hospital. He then leapt into Mother Hen-mode, getting a cool washcloth for her fever and preparing some chicken soup for when she woke up.
Only after he could think of nothing more to keep her comfortable with did he hear her groan and mumble something indiscernible.
"Goddammit, turn off the heater."
He couldn't help but try his best to stifle a laugh at how she still managed to sound authoritative, even in the throes of illness. Roy's face grew dim; however, when he saw the turmoil Riza's body seemed to be putting her through as she threw her head to the side, moaning, brow furrowed.
And that was when she cried out his name, sounding weaker than he'd ever heard her sound.
His heart constricted for what seemed to be the hundredth time today, but this time... it was out of sheer surprise. Had Riza Hawkeye just called for him? Him; her boss, her tormentor, her Colonel?
Roy pressed his hand against her cheek, wishing there was so much more he could do to help this woman, to take away her pain. "I'm here... you've really done a number on yourself, Riza."
Those gorgeous brown irises opened at last, if only slightly. He smiled. "The doctor will be here soon."
Riza frowned, obviously not excited at the prospect of being bothered by someone else. It was then she uttered the words that sent him reeling: "I don't want a doctor, I want Roy Mustang."
Her gaze became more focused the moment those words left her mouth, as if realizing what she'd blurted unintentionally.
Well, color Roy stupefied. This was a twist that he'd never seen coming, one that had his mind so wrapped around itself that he'd lost the ability for organized thought. What did he say? How did he feel about this? Was Riza really...?
Was his mouth wouldn't do, his fingertips did as he gently brushed the hair from his First Lieutenant's flushed face almost as a reflex. Those beautiful eyes that Roy had drowned in on more than one occasion were boring into his own, two divine pools of open emotion that she'd tried so hard to conceal from him.
Roy pressed his lips to her warm forehead. "I'm here, Riza. I won't leave your side until you're well again."
She looked like she wanted to say something more, but couldn't find the words or the energy to say them. As she let herself drift off into blissful oblivion once more, she could feel his presence beside her and decided it was the loveliest feeling she'd experienced in a long time.
Riza's illness lasted a blessedly short amount of time. The doctor came and went without her ever knowing, and Roy was there for all of it. She was prescribed bed rest for the next week, since a fever stemming from overwork could be dangerous if ignored.
When Hawkeye woke up, she was none too happy to hear that.
"Sir, permission to speak." She was absolutely livid at the doctor's verdict, and Roy wasn't sure if he should be relieved that she was feeling better or terrified for his life. If there was one thing Riza hated, it was being taken away from her job and cooped up inside.
And he was the only thing blocking her from the door.
"You cannot force me to stay here for the next week," she continued, her glare as sharp as the dagger she really felt like running through her superior at the moment. "You and that bunch of morons back at the HQ – or what's left of it—can't function in an office environment without your 'mother' there to pick up after you. Arrgh! I don't want to stay indoors! What the hell do you expect me to do here, knit a scarf?" For the first time in a day and a half, she was on her feet. And she was pacing.
Roy blinked, pretty sure that he should be terrified. He couldn't remember the last time he'd seen Riza so fired up about something. Honestly, he found her frazzled expression and mused hair quite attractive, but he kept his mouth shut. There was one thing and one thing only on his mind, a question burdening the Colonel to the point that it was keeping him from sleep.
"What?" She stared at him. Snapped back to attention, going rigid. "...Sir."
"No formalities, please... Riza," he started, unsure. He could feel a monster of a headache brewing from thinking so hard about this. "Did you mean what you said yesterday morning?"
"What was it I said?" Riza blinked once, realization dawning on her even as she spoke those words. "Oh..."
Roy filled the gap between them, placing a hand on each of her strong shoulders.
"Colonel." Riza was mortified when she felt a blush spread across her cheeks. "No... Roy." Their gazes met. "Permission to speak freely."
Old habits were hard to break. "Granted."
"I..." She cleared her throat and tried again. Unsure what to do with her hands just lying at her sides, she let them ball into little fists.
All that time practicing in the mirror hadn't done a goddamn thing. So she winged it.
"I've never been good at speaking my mind. I'm so used to being the right-hand man, the ill-tempered woman whose path no one wants to cross, that I forgot that I was entitled to break character once in a while." Riza swallowed, feeling her tongue loosen as she continued. "So I just... watched. I found I was talented at it. I watched everyone, but mostly... I watched you." She looked up, saw Roy's face soften. "I saw you date those women, women who would speak as they pleased. You might not notice, but you're quite a lady's man." She got a mirthless laugh out of this. "All that time I just stayed silent. Roy..."
Her Colonel saw, much to his horror, that a sheen of tears was coating her eyes now. "No, Riza. Don't cry on me."
"I'm sorry." She sniffed, humiliation burning deep in her stomach. "I'm a fool and I'm not used to all these feelings. I don't know how to react. I'm such a moron."
A tear fell loose and strayed down her cheek. He wiped it away with the pad of his thumb. "If anyone's the fool here, it's me. It hurts to see you upset, and it's even worse to know that I'm the one who caused it." Before Riza could reply, he caught her mouth with a gentle kiss.
Both of them stayed like that for awhile, neither wanting to break this connection. Roy's hands moved around her waist now as Riza clutched at his shirt. For the first time, Colonel and his protector let their emotions flow without restraint.
They pulled away at last when they couldn't deny their bodies air any longer, just staring at each other with wide-eyes.
"You're different than those other women, Riza," Roy murmured with fierce feeling. "And I'm only ashamed I didn't see it sooner." He kissed her again, this time with more fervor, passion. Holding the object of his affections in his arms after so long was an indescribable sensation. To love someone, to be able to feel so strongly about something without holding back... Roy was a blessed man to experience this. There might be rules against fraternization with co-workers, but he really couldn't bring himself to care. Now, as he held her in his arms for the first time of hopefully many more to come, he only wished he hadn't broken those rules sooner.
Roy heard Riza mutter something about an 'unexpected number six' but he decided not to push the subject.
They had all the time in the world.