Spoilers: Entire anime series
Disclaimer: Never mine.
The call came in at twenty past oh-eight hundred hours. "Wear sneakers," was all he said, a study in brevity.
She had only one pair, an unwilling veteran of dark closets and forgotten corners. She had bought it on a rare impulse a few years ago before realizing that she hardly had any use for it, not when her military blues and regulation pumps never left her side. But when duty beckoned to Riza Hawkeye, she didn't need memos. She wore the sneakers, awkward misfits that they were, testing their tentative relationship with every step, like a next-door neighbor she was meeting for the first time after months of living beside each other.
Outside, the morning melted against the brick buildings and dripped around the edges. It was the kind of morning that begged to be noticed, but Riza was in too much of a hurry to bother as she set a quick pace to his apartment.
She opened the front door with her own key. That in itself brought her constant amazement, even without the knowledge that she had won it in a fairly easy skirmish. He had surrendered it with no arguments -- unless she counted his warning that he would quarter her dog if she pulled her gun on him inside his own home. So far, she hadn't dared. They never mentioned the key again.
"I'd forgotten about that," he said in greeting, the petulance unmistakable in his voice as he hobbled about the room. "I wanted to surprise you when you rang the bell."
"Consider me surprised, sir," she replied, trying to keep her tone neutral even when she wanted to knock him unconscious and bury him neck-high in sand. In Ishbal. The cause of her own dismay was standing right in front of her. "Should you be walking about so soon?"
He grinned, resting amiably against a bookshelf. "You noticed."
"It would be unfortunate if I didn't," she snapped. "Sir."
Roy Mustang shrugged, the grin never leaving his face. "It seems like a good day for a walk."
"I sure hope you don't mean outside, sir."
He tugged on a blue coat jacket. "You should wear sneakers more often, Lieutenant."
His cane tapped a slow and impatient cadence against the ground. Faster, faster, it urged, ignoring the merchants that beckoned them to sample their wares. Although Riza was used to brisk marches, she dawdled deliberately this time.
"The point, Lieutenant," he began, "is to stop treating me like an invalid."
"Yes, sir," she replied, without changing her pace.
"Insubordination doesn't become you."
Riza offered him a brief glance. "Begging your pardon, sir, but we have all the time in the world."
The cane paused. "Is that where you bought the apples?"
He had stopped in front of a wide stall, where a middle-aged woman beckoned them over. Mustang shuffled over to where she stood, and with his free hand, held up two fingers. The apple seller replied with a grin and handed him two apples. To Riza's surprise, Mustang shook his head.
"I meant two crates," he corrected.
If Riza Hawkeye was in the habit of rolling her eyes, she would have done so at this point. Instead, she sighed. "Sir, I thought you didn't particularly like apples." And I'm not carrying those for you, she wanted to add, but wisely held her tongue.
Mustang grinned. "Ah, they're for you, Lieutenant."
Riza shook her head. "I don't like them either, sir." But in the end, he insisted on the apples, and she bit into the crisp fruit because she wasn't trained to second-guess orders.
They lingered in front of his apartment. If she hadn't known better, she would have thought he was reluctant to let her go. But she did, and attributed his dawdling to his cane instead. Her hand closed over his key, pressing the cold, ridged surface into her palm. It seemed wiser -- and safer -- that way.
"What do you think about tango?" he asked.
"I try not to think about it, sir," she replied.
Mustang tapped her sneakers with his cane twice, looking very pleased with himself. "You'll think about it tomorrow. We'll start early. Don't be late."
Guilt gave her pause. It was not the first time she had flagellated herself in his presence; it certainly wouldn't be the last. As she spoke, the words seemed to come months too late. "I've only been late once in my life. Sir."
The moment stretched the regret between them, and Riza thought that Mustang would say something comforting or witty or whatever it is he did to make her heart foolishly assume that she wasn't doing this for duty but for something else entirely. But defensiveness was a tactic she learned in the military, and she took a deep breath before handing him the key. "If you're better now, sir, then I guess I shouldn't be hanging on to this."
"Is a key too heavy for you to carry, Hawkeye?" His tone was light, but something in the way he stared straight ahead, refusing to meet her eyes, made her think of older conversations, older apologies. Starting over. "Let's pretend that I'd sleep better knowing you have it."
Riza felt a flush betray her and schooled her features back into passable disinterest. "Understood." She clicked the sneakers together, posture straight, eyes on his face. She pivoted.