River of Mud

By: Neptune Butterfly

Chapter 3: The New Hawk

Riza and Sam sat with the other first year junior cadets in the middle of one of the training fields dressed in matching gym clothes. It was hot and humid; normal weather for early September right before the first sudden cold spell hits. Riza felt sweat already going down her back and chest and hoped that her thick hair stayed in the bun Tristan worked on for half an hour that morning. She wished it was thinner like Sam's, who could easily put her hair up in a few seconds.

Sam was just staring up at the sky, at the puffy clouds, happy that she wasn't wearing heels today.

A man in blue sweats and white T-shirt carrying a clipboard walking up to the first years.

"Good afternoon." He waited for a response.

Most obliged with a mumble.

"Come on, now. I know it's hot, but that's no way to address your superior."

In unison everyone gave him a loud 'Good afternoon, Sir.'

"Now, that's much more like it!" The instructor thanked them and moved on to explain what they will be working on that semester.

Riza tried her best to pay attention, but she kept looking at the other training fields thinking about her conversation with Roy the night before. Another group of teenagers were just starting on their laps around a red track wearing the exact same outfits. Riza guessed that they were second years and noticed that their group was significantly smaller. And that there were almost no girls.

On the other side of her own group a nice looking guy with dirty blonde hair was giving her looks and whispering to the other boys, obviously about her. His smile reminded Riza of Jonathan; mischievous but admittingly cute.

Sam nudged her out of her wandering thoughts. The instructor was motioning everyone to pair up for stretches. Riza got up, keeping her eye on the guy as she prepared to stretch.

The instructor had decided to have them run the obstacle course just to see how they did. After the group was done stretching he led them over to the course and divided them up into smaller groups.

Riza found herself separated from Sam and right beside the cute guy and some of his friends.

"Hey, I'm Markus," he spoke at last.

Markus held his hand out, but Riza hesitated for a second, afraid that her head might blush off if she touched it.

"Don't worry, I don't bite," he said.

"Oh, I'm um, Riza. Sorry." She took Markus' hand carefully.

"It's okay." A mischievous smile grew on his face again. "It's really hot out here, huh."

"Uh huh." Her face must be red but not from the heat. 'Dammit.' Riza looked away trying to concentrate on the obstacle course.

This wasn't going to be easy. The course ran along side the three main training fields with many dips and objects to jump over or crawl under. It was only for practice of course, and nobody was expected to complete it in record time, but Riza hoped to make a good impression by being one of the first in her group to finish.

She did have a couple of years of running track under her belt. Her only regret right now is deciding not to keep it up after leaving middle school. Nonetheless, Riza was going to give this her best shot and wipe that awful smirk off of Roy's face.

She felt a light tap on her shoulder. "See that wooden wall over there?" Markus pointed out.

Riza looked over to where the wall stood. A dip in the course filled with water was right in front of it.

"They put that little pond there to make your feet slip when you try to climb it. Just take your time on it and be careful."

"Have you done this before?" Riza asked.

"Naw, one of the second years told me. You're way to pretty to get dirty, and It'd be a shame if you got hurt." Markus winked.

"Uh, thanks for the tip." Riza couldn't think of anything else to say as tried to not let her face get any redder. Did this guy want to ask her out? It would be a first for her if he did. She was normally considered too tomboyish for this sort of thing.

After checking all of their names and seeing who's in what group the instructor had them lined up then gave the first group the signal to go. Riza and Markus were in the third group, and Sam was in the second. Sam gave her friend a quick thumbs up just as her group was called.

Then it was Riza's turn. She had a good running start, being a natural runner, and was done with the first obstacle before most of her group got to it. Only Ryan managed to stay right behind her.

With each new obstacle it became harder to keep the lead. Riza nearly tripped up a few times allowing Ryan to nearly pass her before she finally reached the wall. If she got over this obstacle, then the rest would be easy and she would regain a clear lead.

At the same time both Riza and Ryan splashed through the large puddle then started up the wall. Riza quickly found that he was right; her feet refused to take hold in the round edged gaps of the logs.

Fortunately she wasn't the only one having trouble. Though Ryan was obviously physically stronger, his own weight kept him from being able to climb as quickly as Riza, if it could even be called quick. Soon she was two-thirds of the way up with her legs level to Ryan's head.

Suddenly, there was a sharp tug on the back of her shirt. Riza's hands and feet lost their grip and somehow she bump her chin and knee before falling backward into the water below.

There was a loud burst of malicious laughter coming from up above. Riza looked up just in time to see Ryan with that same smile from before, only now it seemed more twisted to match his laugh. She could feel her face grow red again, this time of embarrassment.

Ryan continued up and over the wall leaving her bruised and soaked. The rest of the group had caught up by then casting nasty glances her way and a couple of them even pushed her down.

Riza finally got up as the next group came along and glared up at the wall. She could quit now, but what good what that do? She scrambled up managing only more scrapes and bruises until most of the groups had passed.

So much for making a good impression.

Riza hobbled into the office the next day with a scraped chin and various bruises especially on her knee and bottom. She sat down at her desk with almost the whole office watching without saying a word. Sam did her best to help carry Riza's bags on her heeled shoes without killing herself and sat down without saying anything either.

The colonel wasn't in his office today, so the atmosphere in the room was relaxed, that is, until Riza dragged herself in.

"Bad day?" asked Roy without looking up from his work.

'That smirk again. How I wish I can just punch him right now!' Riza thought to herself.

Sam wasn't in a very good mood either, sporting her own collection of bruises on her arms and legs. "Leave her alone, will ya! We're both too tired for this."

"That wall was a real bitch, wasn't it?" Havoc chuckled.

"Yeah, I--" Riza stopped and stared. "Wait, how did you know about the wall?"

"You can see the training grounds from here." Breda pointed towards the window.

Sam got up and stumbled towards the window behind the colonel's desk. In the bright afternoon sun outside she saw nearby the parade grounds the three training grounds they were on yesterday. However the course they ran was on the far side and very hard to see from the office.

Her eye twitched. "So, you went down to get a better look, huh?"

"This year's group is the biggest we've had in a while, and besides, we couldn't resist watching our two favorite girls." Havoc gave his biggest grin, but Riza only looked down feeling more embarrassed than ever. She expected Roy to come in with a smart remark. Instead he kept to his work smiling all the while.

"So what about what about your gun training?" Armstrong asked with much enthusiasm knowing that this ought to be Riza's strong suit.

The girls groaned. This time Roy did look up.

"That idiot Markus, we tried to avoid sitting near him, but he got a couple of his buddies to sit behind us and bug Riza throughout the whole class." Sam's contempt was evident in her tone. "She finally told them to shut up, but the teacher caught her talking during her lecture."

"That was sooo embarrassing." Riza groaned some more into her desk. "She talked down to me like a little kid in front of everybody."

"Markus also pulled her down of the wall the first time she climbed it," Sam added. "Too bad the instructor didn't see it, or he would've been in big trouble."

"You better expect more of that," said Roy. The smirk had faded a bit. "The girls tend to be harassed more."

"In the meantime," Havoc placed a pile of files between Riza and Sam, "Don't let anything those boys say get to you. You've got plenty on your plates to deal with as it is."

Sam stared at pile. "I can see that."

Riza yanked a few files off the top of the pile and got to work ignoring the concern growing on Roy's face. "Let's get going then."

Two days later the weather cooled and rained poured down all afternoon. Riza and Sam waited impatiently just inside their school's main entrance with other students, some from the junior high close by taking advance classes at the academy.

Roy was supposed to pick them up today, and he was running late. Riza's foot tapping echoed in the main hall and went faster with each minute.

Sam drew her school bags closer to herself. "We need to find a better way to get there. They can't always come and pick us up you know," She said.

"I know, I know!" Riza's foot-tapping grew louder and more impatient. A sharp pain went through her stationary foot. She yelped and glared at the young dark haired girl beside her.

"Would you stop it already? You're being annoying!" Maria Ross glared back.

"Fine." Riza sighed and leaned back against the wall. "Sorry. I'm just a little irritated, that's all."

Maria cocked her head. "A little?" A smirk crept onto her face. "Is it Roy?"

"I never said--who told you--?"

"--About Roy picking you up? Oh, some guy named Markus." She waved it off like it wasn't important. If only she knew Riza thought. "So, how was your first couple of days in the military?"

"I don't want to talk about it." Riza said as she continued to scan the road.

"Neither of us do," Said Sam.

"I see."

"And stay away from Markus," Sam warned. "Where did you run into him?"

"Here at the front door before you got here. I thought he might be in your class 'cause he was wearing a cadet's uniform."

"Well, yes." Riza wondered how guys were able to change so much faster than girls even when they were wearing almost exactly the same thing, though skirts can be a little tricky. "Anyways, just ignore that jerk."

"All right," Maria shrugged, "But he seemed to like you a lot. Did he ask you out yet---Hey C'mon! Tell me!"

Riza decided to ignore the question and picked up her bags. Their ride was finally here. "Come on, Sam."

As they dashed out into the rain Maria called out, "Hey Riza! I'll see ya tonight!"

Riza turned around. "Why?"

"Tristan's gonna tutor me! And I'm bringing Denny with me!"

Riza turned back to Sam as they climbed into Roy's car. "Tristan never said anything about tutoring."

"You have been a little put off lately. You're hard to talk to when you're like that."

"Whatever Sam." She plopped down into her seat. "It's about time you got here. You better have a good reason."

This wasn't what Roy needed right now. "Cool the attitude. I just came from an important meeting. And I'm afraid this will be the last time I'll be able to pick the two of you up for a while."

"Don't sound so enthusiastic about it," Riza smarted.

"Please Riza, don't start," Said Sam.

"I'll be working with the police on a special case," Roy continued, "Which means I won't be around the office as much. I guess that also means you'll be on your own for at least the rest of the month. He looked at Riza through his rearview mirror. "Remember your promise."

"It wasn't really a promise," Riza said.

"Anyway, just do your best, and stay out of as much trouble as possible."

Riza's face flushed slightly at the unexpected encouragement. Attempting to hide her appreciation she responded, "I don't intended to get into any trouble. I'm not as good you are."

At that Roy was willing to crack a smile. "I hope so."

With the colonel and the rest of the office out of sight, the girls were able to slip in, but it was only a couple of minutes before someone they least expected joined them.

The door opened and shut. "Why, hello again ladies." The girls stiffened up and looked at each other. "Isn't this nice. We have the office all to ourselves." Kimbley said smoothly, obviously to set them ill at ease.

'All to ourselves?' Riza didn't like that.

Kimbley sat down at his desk with some papers and a smirk on his lips not once bothering to look at either of them. Neither of them would want him to.

"Oh, by the way," Kimbley went on as if he'd conveniently forgotten, "There's been a big change in plans. I'll be here to watch you whenever the others are too busy. At least some of my work can be done out of the laboratory." He caught Riza's face with his eye freezing her in place. "And Mustang wanted me to tell you, Elizabeth, he's made arrangements for you two."

"Uh, thank you, but just call me Riza or Hawkeye okay?" She said with a nervous smile.

"What kind of arrangements?" Sam asked him suspiciously.

The alchemist laughed as though he made a joke they didn't get. "Don't worry. Mustang just asked someone else to pick you up from school for a while, that's all."

"Who then?"

"THAT ROY! I'M GONNA KILL HIM!!!" Riza nearly busted the door down when she got home.

Her startled grandmother came marching out of the kitchen pot in hand. "What on earth are you yelling about?!"

Sam though angry too tried to calm her friend down. "Riza, he might not of had any choice!"

"Jeez, what's with all the noise?" Jonathan came from the living room having just woken up from a nap.

"I SWEAR HE ME TO DROP OUT!!! HE'S GOT THAT FREAK KIMBLEY WATCHING US AND GIVING US RIDES!!!" Riza yelled to the ceiling clenching her fists.

"Elizabeth, calm down! We have guests!" Granny Hawkeye angrily pointed to the dining room table.

Sitting on the right hand side was Maria and her blonde haired friend Denny Brosh waving, and on the end in Grandpa Hawkeye's chair facing Riza was Tristan looking more than a little irritated at the interruption.

"Sorry." Riza took a deep breath. "I'll…be going to my room."

"Oh no," Granny Hawkeye stopped her before she could reach the stairs, "Apologize to Tristan, then come and help me in the kitchen," And with that, Granny went back down the hall to attend the stove.

Riza heard Jonathan laughing from behind and turned around. "What's so funny?"

He rounded her and Sam towards the stairs with a big smile and taunted, "That Zolf, he's the one who gave Roy and Tristan the idea to burn down the school the second time! You better watch out!"

"Stop teasing them John," Tristan warned.

Jonathan just laughed some more, "Why, but its true, dear brother. And that last try inspired Kimbley to specialize in blowing up things!"

"Stop it. It isn't funny at all!" Sam followed.

"Don't worry, I'm sure he's not interested in blowing up two pretty girls." He caught her eye winked. Sam's face flushed when he turned and went to the hall bathroom to wash up.

"C'mon Sam." Riza rolled her eyes and dragged her friend into the dining room. "Is that true?" She asked Tristan.

He looked up from Maria's school book. "What? You're worried now? Don't listen to him."

"But is it true?" Riza insisted.

"Yes, he did give us the idea. And they both decided to become alchemists after that. Kinda funny when you think about it, the names they were both given when they became state alchemists relate."

"Flame and Crimson." Riza remembered hearing the others calling Roy and Kimbley by those names a couple of times before.

"I can understand Flame," Said Sam, "But why Crimson?"

"Because of what we used. We told Kimbley we managed to set some trash on fire on our first attempt in sixth grade, and for our class assignment on the elements we wanted to try something more interesting. None of us realized how powerful blood could be. It didn't just burn, it blew the whole dumpster sky high!" Tristan's lips curled at the memory. "Kimbley was the one who used his own blood to do it. And that was just a small test tube full combined with other things we found. Now, Imagine if it were a whole person."

Sam gasped, "Human bombs?!" He nodded.

Maria and Denny who were quietly listening looked at each other and mouthed a big 'WOW!'

It suddenly came to Riza. What could Kimbley be doing in those labs? It seemed silly to her to think they might actually be using live humans for such dangerous experiments. Blood maybe, but not…

"Riza!" Granny Hawkeye interrupted her thoughts. "Are you or are you not going to help me? At least set the table while you're in there!"

"Okay!" Riza yelled back. "Tristan, you mind?"

Tristan grabbed the grammar books on the table and smiled as he headed for the living room. "All right, you're forgiven."

"Don't be a smarty pants." She rolled her eyes and ushered the kids out of their seats as Sam went to sit their bags in the hallway . "Go put your homework up."

Maria tugged on Riza's arm. "Hey, guess what?"

"What?"

"Denny and I decided to join the military today." Maria's smile was filled with admiration for Riza like she was seven instead of twelve.

Riza looked to Denny who threw a wide grin at her. "Yep!"

"Surely, you don't mean today?" She jested.

"Naw, I just asked Mom about it, and she said if you make it this semester then she'll think about it," Said Maria.

"That's…flattering."

They were good friends, but Riza always thought most the other kids, especially the younger ones, saw her as bossy and not someone to look up to. Not that she cared. Her military enrollment however generated a lot of positive comments from them lately, particularly from the other girls.

"Yeah, and if she joins then I will too." Typical Denny did everything Maria did, even take advanced classes he could barely handle by himself.

"Don't get your hopes up guys." Sam returned with an armful of plates and passed them to Riza. "Neither of us are sure we'll even make it through the month."

"Why? Is someone bullying you two?" Maria knew how to hit the nail on the head.

Riza let out an irritating sigh as she set the plates down on by one. "His name's Markus. I told you about him earlier."

With impeccable timing, Jonathan arrived fresh from the bathroom. "Markus? Do you mean Markus Hawkins?"

Riza almost dropped a plate. "You know him?!"

"Yeah sure, I met him a couple of times. I clocked that little punk last spring for stealing my bike. The next day he came back with a few of his buddies."

"Then what happened?"

"Tristan took care of them for me."

"Tristan!"

"What?" Tristan came back from the living room. "They deserved it."

"That's so Cool!" Denny exclaimed.

"No, its not!" Riza started pushing Maria and him out of the room. "Go put your homework up."

"Hey Tristan, can you come to my school and knock out a couple of guys for me? They won't stop picking on me in class."

"Sure kid." He ruffled Denny's blonde hair.

"And they won't stopped picking on me too!" Maria added.

Riza gave them another good push into the hallway. "C'mon, out!"

"You know," Jonathan came up behind her, "If you ask us nicely enough, Tristan and I would be happy to take good care of Markus for you."

"No thank you." Riza push past him. "Sam and I can take care of ourselves. We don't need to be babied."

Jonathan knew the answer already but felt he had to ask anyways. It was interesting to watch his little sister act like she could handle everything.

It was far less amusing for Riza, since she's the one having to prove herself. Just when she thought she found all the road blocks more crop up. Sighing as she took out the silverware she wondered just how many more obstacles will appear to challenge her.


A/N: I'm not dead, just dealing with life. I do plan to eventually go back an revise earlier chapters, so please comment and tell me how I'm doing. Also, I am planning on doing artwork for this and my other stories. They will be posted on my deviantArt page. The link is on my profile page.-NB-