Dude, You Suck and I Like the Other Dude (Laying Down the Ante)

This was originally going to be a companion one-shot to "Dude, You Suck and I Like the Other Dude," but I decided to include it as a bonus chapter instead. Because of my original plan to make this a one-shot, the first section of this chapter will take place between chapters 4 and 5 of "Dude" (at the beginning of Mustang's time off), while the remainder of this chapter actually depicts what Mustang does on his vacation. I apologize for the inconsistency and confusion, but I know you are all smart enough to figure out the timeline. :)

° ° °

Mustang had left the office as soon as he had finished turning in Fuery's and Hawkeye's assessments. He had to admit, both scored far lower than he had hoped. Fuery was usually nervous whenever assessments came around, but this time the outcome could have turned deadly at the shooting range if Mustang had not gone over to steady his sergeant's trembling hands. The thought made Mustang shudder. As for his newly-promoted Captain Hawkeye, she had not done much better, but at least her careless mistakes wouldn't have cost anyone's life today.

What was wrong with him? Was he a bad colonel? He surely didn't think so, but he knew he would be reprimanded severely when the Fuhrer found out how low Mustang's best markswoman had scored. Fuery never did much better than he had today because of the severity of his nerves, but at least he had always passed. Mustang sighed; thankfully the rest of the men under his watch did all right, and when Edward returned from Dublith he was sure to pass with flying colors, like always.

Mustang thanked the driver that had brought him home, but perhaps he was too generous with the tip. He shrugged as he took the walkway to his ground floor apartment—it was too late to take his money back now. As he neared the front door, he noticed some sort of advertisement rolled and tied precariously to the handle. He unrolled the paper, a smile tugging at the corner of his lips. He was tired from being sick and having to deal with all those assessments at work, but upon seeing this flyer, all his fatigue seemed to vanish instantly. No, Roy Mustang was never too tired to get drunk.

The flyer advertised a wine festival that was taking place just walking distance from where he lived. It was at a time like this that Mustang was glad that he had stopped accepting military housing—there was no way the Fuhrer would allow so many of his men, most of whom suffered from depression, post-traumatic stress, or both to just waltz their way over to a festival made consistently of alcoholic beverages.

The festival was set for a week from now, so he tacked it up on his refrigerator to remind him of the event when the time came. If anything, the wine festival would give him something to look forward to as he began his vacation. That, and the fact that he was actually on a vacation.

° ° °

He stood staring at himself in the bathroom mirror. If Death had a face it would look pale and haggard, would have dark circles below and accenting bloodshot and tired eyes. Death's face would be drenched and hot, sticky sweat with sunken eyes and cheekbones with cracked, dry lips that bled whenever he opened his mouth. Mustang wore the face of Death. He leaned in towards the sink and splashed cold water on his face. He was sure that he had another fever.

Mustang's vacation had not been spent the way he had hoped. The first couple of days had been fine, but by the third day, Mustang had begun to feel rundown. He revisited the doctor and received another week's worth of antibiotics. Stronger medicine, the doc had said. After that, Mustang had returned home and collapsed on his bed where he'd a majority of his time off.

Now, two weeks and a day since his initial leave from work and the day that he was scheduled to return to the office, Mustang found that he barely had the strength to drag himself out of bed and dress himself in his uniform, let alone leave the comfort of his apartment and catch a ride into work. He knew his ability to perform his tasks at work would be poorer than they ever were. But he didn't have a choice. He had been absent long enough, and besides, everyone was expecting to see him today. General Hakuro and Hughes, maybe even Hawkeye. He shuddered as a fresh wave of chills ran through him.

He walked into the kitchen where he had a pot of coffee already brewing. He poured himself a mug and grabbed his medicine on the counter. Take one pill with every meal, it read. Mustang looked from his mug to the medicine. Did coffee count as a meal? Shrugging, he popped the tiny little pill into his mouth, washing it down with a sip from his mug. When he brought the mug down from his face, a flash of yellow caught his eye.

It was the flyer advertising the wine festival. While sick, he had not paid his surroundings much attention when he'd crawled into the kitchen for a glass of water (the only thing he had consumed in days) and the flyer that he had found weeks ago and taped to his fridge had gone completely unnoticed. He had forgotten all about it.

He yawned noisily and examined the flyer carefully. He ripped it from the fridge and turned it over in his hands. The festival was today and it started...Hmm, it's starting right now. Mustang tacked the flyer back onto the fridge and downed the rest of his coffee. He had three options now: 1) return to the warmth and comfort of his bed and go back to sleep, an option that sounded better and better the more a pain in his head continued to pound against the inside of his skull; 2) continue his day as planned and return to the office as he was expected to do; 3) go out and explore the sweet delicacies of tasting fine wine.

He scratched his head and sighed. He'd made his decision.

° ° °

It was the next morning and the enticing aromas of cinnamon, powdered sugar, and honey were coming from his kitchen. He moaned feebly and rolled over on his side. Although his eyes were still closed, from the minute he had rolled over, Roy had an inkling feeling that he wasn't in his bedroom. It was when he rolled over again and fell eighteen inches to the floor from his living room couch that he was quite positive he hadn't been on his queen-sized mattress just seconds before.

He landed on his stomach with a thud and the impact had not been kind to him. He could feel something pushing its way back up his esophagus, so he instinctively reached for the bucket that he remembered had been placed beside the couch last night. He cringed as his stomach contents from yesterday's little escapade threatened to escape him as he began to dry heave. Roy could feel vibrations on the floor and sense someone walking towards him, and he took a moment to cease his retching to look over the top of his bucket. What he saw made his stomach churn and he had to slap a hand over his mouth to stop himself from vomiting.

"Good morning, sleepy-head."

Maes Hughes stood towering over him dressed in his civilian clothes holding a bowl of oatmeal in his hand. What made Roy sick was that fact that Hughes was wearing a very snug pastel pink waist apron. Did he mention that the apron was elegantly bordered with frilly white lace and read KISS THE COOK in sequins that sparkled? Well, it did.

"Good morning," Hughes repeated when Mustang continued to stare up at him. "Or do you want me to bid you a good afternoon?"

"What time is it?" Mustang asked.

He swallowed the excess vomit lodged in his throat, gagging as it went down. He pushed his sick bucket away from him and sat up. The sunlight that seeped in through his half-open mini-blinds hurt his eyes and left his head pounding.

"It's about 1:30pm."

Hughes quickly noticed his friend's sudden light sensitivity and quietly shuffled over to shut the blinds. He walked back over to Mustang and extended his oatmeal-free hand to help the man up. Mustang graciously took the offered gesture, and then collapsed back on the couch. He rubbed his right temple fervently all the while complaining about how he felt tired, dizzy, nauseous, etcetera.

"Well, what did you expect?" Hughes asked, his domineering tone hardly escaping Mustang's ears. "You drank enough for Armstrong alone, probably more. Of course you'd be a little more than just hung over."

Hung over...That's right, the wine festival down the street. As another wave of nausea washed over him, Mustang remembered why the human body hadn't been created to tolerate large quantities of red wine-it just wasn't natural, or sensible, really. But being hung over had its perks, too. For example, he was allowed to miss work. He could call up his favorite female lieutenant and bitch and moan like a four-year-old child until she agreed that it was better for him to stay at home. Ah, Riza Hawkeye—what other subordinate could be so perfect, so—wait.

First Lieutenant Riza Hawkeye (now temporarily Captain Riza Hawkeye) had been the reason he had gotten so hammered in the first place. She and Jean Havoc. In Mustang's own little opinionated world, the thought of them together could make anyone act just as rashly. But that was something to worry about in a few moments' time. Right now, there was something else that needed to be cleared up.

"What are you even doing here?" Mustang asked, all the while still massaging the sides of his head. "And why are you wearing that?"

"That's typical—you can't even remember; you drunk-dialed me last night. You told me to come over, and after you opened the door and greeted me with a lampshade on your head, I figured I had better stay over and make sure you didn't do anything that you'd regret later." Hughes put the bowl of oatmeal down on the coffee table before him. "Here, you'll feel better if you eat something.

Mustang picked up the bowl and took a whiff. Mmm, cinnamon. "I smell honey, too."

"Oh, those are the waffles," Hughes said. "I didn't think you would be able to stomach real solid food, so they're for me." He made a face and nodded his head towards the bucket beside Mustang.

Mustang was about to question how Maes was able to make waffles with the ingredients he had in his cabinet, but decided against it. Instead, he inhaled the cinnamon in his bowl and placed the soon in his mouth. It was good. He was going to have to remember to thank Gracia for teaching Hughes the wonderful ways of a woman's cooking.

Then, a thought occurred to him and he nearly gagged on his oatmeal.

"I was supposed to return to the office yesterday!" he exclaimed. "And today—"

Hughes held up a hand. "Already taken care of. I told General Hakuro that you were too sick to call in, since you know," Hughes frowned, "you're supposed to have cancer. He assumed that that was the reason you didn't show up yesterday. I'm sure Hawkeye can handle the boys for a little while longer." He stalked off towards the kitchen, presumably to retrieve his breakfast.

Mustang looked down at his oatmeal and continued to stare at it like it was the most fascinating thing he had ever laid eyes on. He stirred it with his spoon and picked it up, letting it fall back into the bowl with a plop! It was true, he had told Hakuro, Hawkeye, and the rest that he was battling with an intense case of lung cancer. No, no, that wasn't right. He hadn't told Hakuro at all. He knew that he could end up in serious trouble if the general ever found out that he was lying. It could ruin his chance to become Furher. Hakuro only knew that he had been sick, and that part was true. It just wasn't cancer that ailed him.

"So, when are you going to tell them that you're not dying?" Hughes asked. He sat down beside Mustang with a stack of waffles covered in powdered sugar and dribbled with honey. He dug a fork into the center of the stack and twisted. A genuine smile spread across his face as he put the fork into his mouth and swallowed.

"I don't know," Mustang admitted clearing his throat. "I'd like to see how much longer this plays out."

Hughes nodded, contemplating his next choice of words. "I think that's a bad idea, Roy. You've already put Hawkeye through enough trouble, don't you think."

"I don't know about that. After all, she did betray me." He smirked in Hughes's direction when the lieutenant colonel opened his mouth to protest. "Relax, Hughes. I'll be off my antibiotics in a few days; I'll tell them then."

Hughes sighed and hid a grin behind his waffles. Mustang cleared his throat again and coughed into his sleeve, wincing as his head began to throb.

"I've only known you to get that drunk when something's really bothering you," Hughes said quietly. "The last time was after the Eastern Rebellion."

"I've had a lot on my mind," he acknowledged.

Hughes laughed. "And why wouldn't you? You claim to be dying of some terrible illness, that whiz kid alchemist of yours is all the way in Dublith and, of course, two of your subordinates are participating in inappropriate relationships outside of work."

"That's not illegal, Hughes," Mustang snapped. At Hughes's startled expression, Mustang forced a small smile onto his lips. He didn't need the stress of losing a friend to add to everything that Hughes had already listed. Mustang stared down at his oatmeal for a few moments before saying, "Do you want to know why I drank so much yesterday?"

"Not really, because I'm fairly sure I already know the answer," Hughes said knowingly, "but please, enlighten me."

Mustang frowned. How was it that Hughes knew everything? Regardless, he didn't to get this off his chest. If he didn't, he wasn't sure he would be able to tell anyone else when it really mattered.

"I think I'm in love with her, Maes. I'm in love with Riza Hawkeye."

° ° °

The following morning and the day after he had tried explaining everything to Hughes (tried because the lieutenant colonel said nothing and only nodded, and Mustang found the smug look on his face infuriating), Mustang resigned himself to return to work. This time for real. He still felt a little under the weather and his throat was raw from an irritating, nagging cough. Nevertheless, he had already called his office to notify Hawkeye that he would be returning. She had briefly tried to ask him about his health, but he dismissed her questions and demanded that they throw a Homecoming party for him upon his return. He had only been half-joking.

He felt a little flustered after hanging up the phone, but played it off as a mild product of his illness. He shrugged into his uniform jacket and ran a hand through his tousled hair. Well, he was presentable at least. He stepped outside his apartment and hailed himself a cab. He had an unsettling feeling in the pit of his stomach. He wondered if it had to do with what he had planned today, or what her reaction would be when he finally told her.

° ° °

I had planned on writing the actual wine festival, but decided against it at the last second. Again, I hope this chapter wasn't too confusing since I neglected to put it in the right order. Well, drop me a review if you feel the need (and it will be greatly appreciated) and maybe I will be inspired to update a little sooner next time.