DISCLAIMER: If it were mine there would so be more royai.
A/N: Uhmmm... for all further purposes of the story, Roy is a colonel. Because I really don't even remember what I have him as in the rest of this. Sorry for the wait, everyone! I had very nearly given up on finishing this story at all, but then I found myself browsing some Royai fics and well.. I felt the urge to write.
Riza woke up to the ringing of her alarm clock, as she usually did. Today, however, rather than shutting up and getting up to shower as she usually did, she groggily groped for it, only succeeding to knock it off her bedside table and onto the floor. Where it continued to trill at her incessantly. Swearing like a sailor with a stubbed toe, she grabbed the clock and sat up, before switching it off. Six 'o clock was far, far too early to be awake.
Her train, much to her dismay, had had unexpected technical problems, causing them to be delayed by about two hours. As a result of this, she didn't actually get home until two in the morning, and didn't fall asleep until two-thirty. The lack of sleep combined with the exhaustion of traveling made waking up at this hour seem positively criminal.
Nevertheless, she forced herself to stand up, collect her belongings, and walk to the bathroom to shower. Maybe it was the sleep-deprivation talking, but she had a feeling that this was going to be a particularly trying day.
Upon entering the office in Central for the first time in over a week, Riza found that her theory about paperwork pileup had been distressingly wrong. Instead of a mountain of late, unfinished, unnoticed paperwork, there was, in fact, a desk. A very nice desk, she noted; possibly made of mahogany. It didn't occur to her to be horrified by the fact that in all her years working with him, she had never seen the top of Roy's desk this clean.
"You did some cleaning, I see," She noted, depositing her bag next to her desk. Fuery looked up from the game of cards he had been playing with Falman and Breda, and grinned.
"We had some extra time on our hands," He explained, "And the colonel's desk was something of a disaster." Riza nodded, smiling.
"I think he'll like it." Havoc stood up, and stretched, "I'm going for a coffee run - who wants some?"
"I do," Riza said, "Our train was delayed and we didn't get in until two - I'm going to need all the help I can get to remain focused today." Havoc winced.
"Ouch, two a.m.? That would explain why the colonel hasn't shown yet," However, showing impeccable timing, as usual, Roy walked into the office, carrying his bag and looking as though he hadn't slept in days. For such a handsome man, he didn't wear exhaustion well. He grunted and sat down. And looked at his desk, and grunted again.
"Do you like it, sir?" Fuery asked.
"Nngh." He didn't look like he had shaved, either. Havoc nodded.
"Right, well I'll get that coffee." Riza raised an eyebrow in Roy's direction.
"Sir, don't tell me you pulled an all-nighter?" She knew that expression all too well. From those nights when he stayed in the office working too late, and his thought process had degenerated into 'Well better to just stay awake than have to wake up in the morning,'.
"No," He said, "I took a nap around six." Riza picked up a pencil and began filling out a form. "I was doing research all night. About Scar and that damn tattoo of his." Riza nodded. Of course he would forgo sleep the day before his return to work to look up obscure alchemy rituals, and transmutation circles. Havoc returned with the coffee, and Roy practically chugged his, before standing up.
"Well," He said, "I'm off to see the Führer."
"Sir," Riza began, "Does that mean you found something? In your research?" He shook his head.
"Not a thing." He confessed, "But something has to be done."
"Mustang, I don't have time for this." Hakuro said, eyeing Roy over the large stack of paperwork he was working his way through. "In case you hadn't noticed, I'm up to my eyeballs in paperwork; the entire office is."
"That may be true, Sir, but State Alchemists are dropping like flies; someone has got to get out there and figure out what the hell is going on." Hakuro nodded.
"Someone will. We've got plenty of Alchemists to tackle the job. No one less could possibly handle the job. You've got to fight fire with fire, after all." Hakuro was no alchemist. He couldn't know how deadly Scar's arm was.
"Yes, but none of them are experienced with dealing with Scar." Roy pointed out.
"Out of the question." Hakuro said, without so much as glancing at Roy. He had gone back to his paperwork. "We need you too much here. You are an authoritative figure. It's not your job to go chasing mass murderers through the streets of Central."
"You are dismissed." Roy bowed, hiding a frown, before turning and walking out of the office.
"So, First Lieutenant, how was your vacation?" Fuery asked into the silence that had descended on the room. Riza looked up from her paperwork and smiled at him.
"It was very nice," She replied. "I haven't has a vacation in quite a while." Havoc raised an eyebrow.
"Really only nice?" She nodded.
"Yes. I got to see Edward, Alphonse, and Winry again, which was lovely. And Resembool is a great place for relaxation." Havoc nodded; somewhat impatiently, she thought. "Second Lieutenant, is something wrong?" She asked. He shook his head.
"No of course not; I'm glad you two had fun." Was it just her, or did he put an extra emphasis on 'two'? Well, if he did, she chose to ignore it, and instead turned her attention workwise, until a very agitated Colonel marched through the door, all traces of tiredness shrugged off.
"What happened, sir?" Riza asked. Roy flung himself into his chair and glowered.
"Hakuro doesn't seem to realize what he's getting himself into." He said. "The only people he thinks are fit to confront scar are the lower-level alchemists. The exact people he's targeting. I suggested that I might be of use, but he claims I'm more needed here, with this damn paperwork!" He glared at the paperwork intently, as though somehow the power of his hatred for it would cause it to burst into flames.
"He is right though - we can't spare you." He opened his mouth to protest, but she held up a hand, getting an idea. "If you're out in the field, Scar will be sure to hear about it - no offense intended, but your alchemy is quite original. However, if you were to send someone more ... nondescript out to do your dirty work, perhaps someone who isn't even an alchemist, you have a far better chance of getting the information you need." He shook his head.
"Sir, you don't need me here to do desk work. You have four other perfectly capable subordinates, and you have Hakuro breathing down your neck to make sure you complete your work. I'm not an alchemist, so he won't be looking for me." Roy shook his head again.
"No, First Lieutenant, I won't allow it."
"And why not?"
"It's extremely dangerous. He may not be after you directly, but if you get in his way, he won't hesitate to destroy you." She shrugged.
"If he can get close enough to use that arm of his." Something in her eyes glinted coldly, and she pulled out one pistol from her belt, "I don't intend to let him."
It was late afternoon in Resembool, and the sun was just beginning to set. Ed and Winry sat outside on the grass, watching it. It was a very clichéd way to spend an evening, and Ed had told Winry that when she ambushed him with a proposition that they sit outside and watch the sunset. She had ignored this, and proceeded to drag him outside. She had something she wanted to talk to him about.
"Ed," She said suddenly. He turned to look at her.
"How long do you think it will be until you join the military again?" He blinked, and sat up straighter.
"What d'you mean?" He asked, "I quit, remember? I quit so that I could stop running around all the time and stay here with you." He watched her expression searchingly, "Why?" Winry sighed.
"You're getting restless. I can tell." She said it matter-of-factly. She grinned at the shocked look on his face, "Ed, you're eighteen years old - I can hardly expect for you to retire just so you can be here with me." Ed didn't even try to argue.
"Winry—I—It's not that I want to be someplace else, ..." She nodded.
"I know. You've been searching for the stone for the past seven years. I couldn't expect you to just stay here forever. You're not used to being in one place." She sighed and leaned back, propping herself up on her hands. "It's all right, though. At least now I know for sure you'll come back."
Riza wore her normal, average civilians clothing to work the next day. She was there only long enough to check in with Roy, be briefed by Hakuro, and collect Havoc, who was going to accompany her. Personally she didn't think it was entirely necessary for him to some along - after all, this was only Scar. Not a homunculous. Her bullets would serve her just fine alone- but she didn't argue. Havoc was a smart man, and great with a gun to boot.
An hour later, she found herself sitting in the corner of a seedy bar on the Wrong End of Central, listening for gossip. Havoc was elsewhere - where, exactly, she wasn't certain, but he was doing the same thing she was - collecting information. As she pretended to take a sip of the bad beer she had purchased, she overheard snippets of conversation from the next table. Something about Scar, and his call for potential... followers? To meet him in a place called the Cave.
Riza frowned. Scar? Followers? From her previous experience with Scar, he had never seemed the type to ask for help, or for acceptance. But maybe he had changed his mind, and decided greater force as necessary this time. Riza set down her beer and stood, before sauntering the short way to the other table. She was glad she had changed from her clothes to some rather more appropriate (though inappropriate in any other situation) clothes. A tank, a skirt, and a jacket, with some worn ankle boots, all hastily purchased in a secondhand clothing shop. And she had worn her hair down, and was wearing a pair of sunglasses she always wore when in places like these. She placed her hands on the table, and leaned just a little bit.
"I heard you talking about Scar," She said. They exchanged glances, as though wondering whether she was a friend or an enemy. "I'm interested in what he has to say - do you know where the Cave is?" The biggest one - obviously the leader - stood, after looking her up and down. She couldn't tell whether he was sizing her up or just taking a look, but she must have passed the test, whatever it was.
"If you're really interested, follow me," He said, "The meeting starts soon," Riza nodded, and followed him out of the tavern. Too bad there was no time to find Havoc, but he could take care of himself, and so could she. Besides, she was only going to listen to see what he was up to, and then slip out when she got the chance.
If I don't get the chance...well, there was always the handgun attached to the inside of her coat. She could have it out in less than a second. It wasn't as comfortable as the leg-holster she favored, but with this skirt, there was no way of hiding a gun. She was lucky it was still loose enough to run in, if it came to that.
He led her out into the streets, and down an alley. It looked to be a dead end, and she tensed up a little, looking in the shadows for possible cronies, there to help him if he thought she'd heard too much. But he only led her to a door at the end of the alley. The door led downwards, through a maze of tunnels and stairs. Riza did her best to remember which ways to turn to leave, but there were so many.
Finally, one last turn brought them to what appeared to be a large underground ampetheatre. Large, but not gigantic - it wasn't large enough for masses and masses of people. As it was there was a group of people clustered around the stage. The man led Riza to the side, next to a set of stairs that would lead upwards to the stage.
"It's about to start," He said, pointing up towards the stage, before merging with the rest of the crowd. They all seemed to be of the lower-class, shady sort, although to be fair, some looked like they were just down on their luck, rather than unpleasant. Suddenly, the room dimmed, as several lanterns lining the sides of the room were put out. Only the stage remained glowing. A man strode out, and raised his arms high. The audience cheered. Riza frowned slightly.
He was smaller than she remembered him being. And though the tattoo on his arm was there, it looked different, somehow... She worked her way closer to the front of the stage and peered up, confirming her suspicions.
This man was not Scar at all.
A/N part deaux: Well, rather a short chapter this time, but it just sort of felt like it wanted to end there. So you see, I am alive if sort of ... absent. Now that I'm writing it again, I'll try to update soon! Also yah, is sucky and the last half is totally rushed. I know this. But the next one will be better.