Chapter 1: Was it Romance?

The sun was shining in Central. It was an ordinary, bright bustling day for most of its residents, but the military didn't exactly hold the same opinion. In fact, they were holed up behind the walls of their headquarters, bent double over paperwork and other documents on their desks.

"Status report on the Elric brothers, sir. Hang on..."

"Sir! Sir, this just came from the Fuhrer. They have to be signed and approved before Saturday."

"Fuery, he's already gone over that report! It's freaking outdated!"

"Shut up, Havoc."

"Who're you telling to shut up?"

"Oh, will both of you just shut up already?"

The black-haired man in military regalia leaned back against his chair after shutting up his colleagues, as though shrinking back from the workload presented before him. Several other people were standing before him, clutching papers, books and clipboards, at least those who weren't at their own tables. He fiddled with his gloved fingers, causing a few tiny sparks to erupt from the friction.

"Okay, just give me the report, Fuery. Havoc, don't you have your own work to do?" Roy stood up and stared at them, obviously very annoyed.

Kain Fuery quickly arranged the papers he was carrying. "Yes, sir. But Havoc doesn't do his work...he just looks over Ross and wonders if she could be worth hooking up with." He winced as he got a very painful jab from Havoc, who was glaring daggers at him. "But Lieutenant Ross is quite pretty, you know...and she's very nice, a lot less likely to turn you down like all the dozen girls you've tried hooking up with, like Armstrong's sister..."

"Just give him your report," snarled Jean Havoc, grinding his teeth into his cigarette. "I still have mine to pass, and it's much more important than some stupid document on the Elrics. Then we can go back to - "

Roy snatched their papers from their hands and slammed the additional work onto his desk. "We don't have time to discuss your hopeless love life, Havoc! It's just going to..." The colonel paused for a moment, stroking his chin with a gloved hand. "On second thought, maybe we do have a bit of time to spare...since when have you been interested in Maria Ross?"

Havoc glowered at him and grabbed a snickering Fuery, half-leading and half-dragging him away. As the door shut behind them, Roy Mustang sighed and sat back down, reaching out for the first report and picking up a pen. It was too much work...and he didn't like too much work, or possibly work in itself. He wanted to get up again and take a walk along with the other carefree non-military residents of Central, and take advantage of the beautiful weather which seemed to be mocking him and all his comrades.

The tip of his pen was just poised over a document he was about to sign when there was a knock on the door and a woman's voice called out, "Colonel Mustang?"

"Come in, Hawkeye," said Roy lazily.

First Lieutenant Riza Hawkeye stepped in, her blond hair in its usual bun and her two pistols in their usual holsters. A small black and white dog trotted around her ankles, following her dutifully. She raised an eyebrow at the drawn curtains and the single reading lamp on Roy's table.

"Your room is dark," she commented. "Maybe if I just open - "

"Don't," muttered her superior. "The weather's tempting me to step outside, and it's doing a good job. A better job than me on the paperwork, I might add. In fact, I sometimes wish there could be a robbery, a brawl, any petty crime that'll force us all off our seats and give us something real to do. We're not secretaries, Hawkeye."

Riza nodded as she walked towards him, and sank into a seat beside his table. Black Hayate wagged his tail as he sat down beside her. "I know how you feel, sir," she put in slowly as she dragged a chair so that she sat beside Roy's desk. "But nobody ever told you that the road to becoming Fuhrer was easy."

"Or fun," added Roy, burying his head in his hands after dropping his pen. "Don't you ever get bored?"

Black Hayate stood up on his hind legs suddenly, placing his front paws on Riza's lap. His mistress absently stroked him and replied, "Well, I wouldn't say bored. With this little critter around, my life's never too boring. But yes, sometimes I wish I could have just a little bit of action once in a while."

Roy nodded just as absently as Riza petted her dog. He looked at his comrade, whose other hand was toying with a stray lock of hair that dangled in her eyes. She looked quite...attractive, when she wasn't firing a round or two. He was sudddenly seized with a strange desire to reach out and brush that bit of hair from her face himself, for some reason or other. For several moments he found himself examining Lieutenant Hawkeye's face, which was currently a mixture of stability and relaxation, and those deep thoughts mirrored in those eyes...he could've sworn she was scrutinizing him too.

"Colonel?"

"Hmm?" Roy snapped back into reality and sat up straight, grabbing his pen.

"I think I should get to the point. You see, there are some papers that you shouldn't sign just yet..."

He groaned inwardly. It was back to work. But it didn't seem so bad when Riza was around to help...

---

"Let me get this straight...Havoc, Lieutenant Jean Havoc, just asked you out on a date."

"Yes."

"And you're going to have dinner...and then you'll be going to the theater tonight..."

"That's right, but how did you know?"

Riza rolled her eyes. "When you hang around Falman, Breda and Fuery for a long time at work, you start hearing things that you'd rather not hear, or you thought you'd never hear. I mean, you two are quite...different."

Lieutenant Maria Ross scratched her head. The two of them were walking through the halls of the headquarters the next day, wincing occasionally at the sudden bursts of sunlight that struggled through the windows while Black Hayate frolicked at their feet, chasing his tail. It was even brighter than yesterday...in fact, so bright that most people had probably decided to stay indoors and away from the blaze of the sun. Maria shielded her gaze from a ray of sunshine that pierced her sight and replied, "Good point. I mean, I myself admit that we're kind of different. But didn't they say opposites attract?"

Her comrade shrugged. "Possibly."

"Besides, I'm giving him a try. We've never really been close in terms of friendship, and they say that the secret to a good relationship is being friends first..."

Riza stopped in her tracks. The last few words hit her like a barrage of well-aimed bullets. She wondered if there was perhaps someone out there for her too, and not just Maria...someone she could put her trust in...

"...don't blame Fuery and company for snooping around, it's just natural for them to find out about Havoc's dates..."

...maybe she did need a man in her life...The fact that her fellow female officers in the military were almost always searching for available guys and getting into relationships was pretty much proof enough...

"...Are you all right? You might need a day off, you know. Protecting the Colonel in addition to your usual duties is indeed some hard work."

"It's what I do, and what I chose to do," said Riza without thinking. "I did not put myself in his service because I was forced to."

Maria stopped beside a door on their left side. "Well, I have to get going. Brosh and I have some business to take care of. Havoc's on duty with Falman and Armstrong, so I might not see him much till our date. Are you sure you're all right?"

"Yes," answered Riza stiffly. "I'll see you later...the Colonel expects me." She turned away and marched towards Roy's office, but something seemed to continually bug her. Was it their conversation? She wasn't exactly used to talking about personal things with other female personnel. Or maybe it was what was beneath their conversation...the concept of romance. What was it about romance that stirred girls and irked women? Since when did she start wondering about romance? And what if she experienced it herself?

Concentrate, she reminded herself sternly. You're on the job...on the job...

And suddenly the face of Roy Mustang burst before her...his attractively messy black hair, his arrogant, egotistical smirk with a dramatic pose to match...

"Lieutenant Hawkeye?"

She stepped back in surprise, nearly tripping over a playing Black Hayate. "Sir," she said, steadying herself before the colonel, who had just appeared from a different corridor. "Am I late?"

"You're just in time, as always," said Roy slowly. He scowled. "I still haven't finished all that stupid paperwork..."

"Perhaps you need some help," suggested Riza. "Maybe - "

"We're all busy, Hawkeye," he mumbled, snapping his fingers idly and lightly so that a small harmless spark escaped from his ignition gloves. "I can't just drag my men from what they're doing just so I can make all these deadlines. For one thing, it's unethical, and another thing, it could ruin my image."

Riza cocked her head in thought. "You have a point there, sir. But I could..."

Roy stared at her before she could even finish her sentence. "Not you, I can't possibly make you..."

"But I'm telling you, you don't have to make me," she countered.

"Well, since when have you been interested in the paperwork I so dearly want to burn to a crisp?" asked Roy skeptically. "Wouldn't you rather do some target practice?"

She crossed her arms and grinned. "I don't live on guns alone, sir. And you'd probably want those papers out of the way ASAP, right?"

There was no arguing with that statement, so Roy shrugged and replied, "Well, you asked for it...it's not a pretty sight, Hawkeye."

"I've seen worse sights in my life, sir," drawled Riza. "If completing your paperwork will bring you closer to becoming Fuhrer, then I would be more than happy to assist." The lieutenant bit her lip after she said the last statement. That didn't sound quite like her at all...but Roy didn't seem to notice, anyway.

"I owe you one for this," he said as they made their way towards the Flame Alchemist's office. "Even if everyone else was available, I think they'd probably think twice about helping me with this. I don't know what I'd do without you, Lieutenant Hawkeye."

Riza felt herself blush slightly at his declaration. "Well...sir, it's just my job, my duty. I am honor-bound to serve you." She looked at the pile of papers and documents and miscellaneous junk dumped on the desk, and shifted her gaze towards Roy, who was tackling a sheaf of outdated reports on Scar and the Elric brothers. She stifled a smile and averted her look when she felt him glance at her direction. Meanwhile, Black Hayate started chasing his tail again, running in circles in front of Riza and Roy. Both of them would chuckle slightly at the playful dog before returning to the task at hand.

As she grouped documents by date and topic, her mind started wandering again, and this time, it lingered on their conversation in the hallway. She had jumped into helping him without even thinking, and had felt her insides swell up with pride, like whenever he favored her. Maybe it really was in her duty to always stay by his side as he ascended the ranks, aiming to become the Fuhrer or die trying...

But was there something else beneath the honor and loyalty? Something like...romance? Maria Ross had told her that the secret to a good relationship was being friends first. And Riza had known Roy for quite a while now...it was as if they had known each other all their lives. Was it romance? She couldn't be sure, and she didn't want to rush into things...everything was too weird.

And then Roy raised his head from where he was bent over several files on state alchemists. He caught her eye and gave her a small grin.

Riza couldn't stifle the smile this time.