A/N: to those of you who've reviewed this story since its early chapters:
THANK YOU! This story would be incomplete, literally, without you.
btw: what's your favorite chapter?
The engine shifted through its two gears loudly, its utter noisiness and stress a clear reflection of its driver's.
"Shoot," she muttered as she backpedaled on the brakes, screeching to a full twenty miles per hour. Riza felt the oddest sense of nostalgia, remembering the days of her childhood when she'd ride a horse in a similar fashion.
She'd had no more control then than she did now.
The clutch groaned audibly as she struggled to get the silly invention in gear.
"Hawkeye, back off the gas a bit." Roy's usually calm tenor was slightly alarmed, possibly disturbed as he closely monitored his lieutenant's attempt at driving. Every time she'd try to shift gears, she drove the stick too hard, and the engine stalled. Riza would try again, but she would go faster each time. The engine was reaching its limit and Mustang did NOT want to be sued for damages.
"I'm trying, sir, but it's not working." She spoke through her clenched teeth, her eyebrows pulled into a frustrated glare as again she strove with the transmission.
All this because Roy had to decide he was sick of being his own chauffeur. How wonderful it would be if Hawkeye could drive him around everywhere. Then he wouldn't have to do anything! Anything at all!
How wonderful it would be to be skipping out on this drivers ed.
The engine started to groan louder as the speedometer pushed the first drive further than it should. For some reason, the groans did not fully cover Riza's growl.
"Hawkeye, don't you know how to drive a tank?" He asked with some incredulity as he shrank further into the sink.
"Yes, sir, but this…thing…is. Not. A. Tank."
Then Riza pressed the gas too hard, and again, the engine stalled. She muttered some words against the wind, and turned the ignition.
Again; the engine turned over.
Her amber eyes widened. Roy looked around.
They were in the middle of nowhere.
No—worse. They were in the middle of the Eastern Desert.
Fuery juggled two pairs of pliers, wiping his fogged glasses on one muck-covered sleeve and still coming out the better for it.
East City's long weeks of deluge had been, of course, followed by weeks of drought. The ground had hardened and cracked; streams were starting to run low. While a month ago, outages across headquarters had been caused by never-ending thunderstorms, now the newbie found himself battling the waves of heat that overcooked the cooling systems of so many vital systems.
Air conditioning, for example.
Perhaps if you haven't spent a week in a small, cramped office room with five other people, four of them male, and a dog, you cannot sympathize with the young officer. But if you have, and you vividly remember it, then you no doubt can.
So Fuery was fixing the cooling system.
Hayate wasn't really helping, barking as he was. Kain didn't know what was up with the mutt; he usually enjoyed being in military company, even without his master. Today, though, the dog would not stop howling eastward. It was kind of distracting.
Now, how did that course teach it again? Red wire connects to the cooling terminal; it can be found at the bottom right of the terminal…or was it left?
Hadn't Mustang and Hawkeye gone eastward on their 'drive'?
No, no—it was in the middle, towards the right. Red wire, green outlet.
How long had they been gone now?
Uh, uh, uh, Fuery. Stay on the subject: next, pour the coolant down the access tap.
Just how much gas could that little car hold, anyways?
Fuery knew the answer: not much.
Without stopping to vent the excess oils or finish connections, Fuery grabbed Hayate and ran back to the base at top speed.
"They should be coming."
"Any moment now."
"They know we're gone, right?"
"Are you even listening?"
"Is that all you're going to say?"
"You know this is all your fault."
"Are they here yet?"
Roy scowled and stopped pacing, shooting a glare at his suddenly disrespectful subordinate. Riza was strewn against the seat backs, still sitting in the car's cab. Her neck craned back, laying her head against the top of the driver's side. The heat was starting to make her hair loose itself from her tight barrette's iron grasp.
As bad as the situation was, some part of Mustang was rather giddy that Riza had taken the military over-suit off. He preferred brown, anyways.
Riza's fingers pinched the bridge of her nose, a sure sign of a migraine. Roy had been pacing in circles, his fingers snapping nervously, gloveless. She'd taken them from him after he'd almost set the broken-down car alight. But the noise got a bit repetitive after a time, and it was started to chafe her nerves.
"You'll use up your internal water faster if you keep pacing, sir."
"Uh-huh…They're coming, aren't they?"
Panting, Fuery darted up the long flight of entrance stairs. He reached the top, forgot a step, tripped dizzily, and passed out on the sidewalk, Hayate pinned under his arm.
"Hawkeye, what time is it?"
"I don't know, sir."
"When will they get here?"
"I don't know, sir."
"They have noticed we're missing, haven't they?"
"I don't know, sir."
Night was falling, and most of the day had gone in this fashion. Roy would ask a question; Riza would answer in about three words.
"No, sir. Whatever it is, no sir." She loved Roy, but sometimes…how could a grown man be so whiny?
Roy fell silent, his face pulling into a proud form of pout. "You're mad at me?"
Riza sat up, her first movement in hours. She squinted out into the dusky midnight, trying to make out Mustang's expression. "No, R—Mustang, I'm not mad. I'm annoyed, and maybe a bit frustrated. After all, I'm part of the reason that we're stuck here."
Roy nodded, not quite appeased. "But, I'm also part of the reason we're here."
"You are the commander," Riza pointed out.
He smirked, nodding again. "Yes, I am."
Riza half-smiled, leaning back into the fake leather of the car bench. She fought back a shiver; without any protection, the desert temperature could drop like a stone.
"Hawkeye…" he began; she sighed.
"I thought we already went through this, sir."
"We did, but there's a speck moving toward us."
"Actually, it's more of a moving dot."
"It's a dot with headlights."
It took a minute for that to register with the heat-exhausted pair.
They leapt to their feet, and, without a second though, hugged each other.
Then they came to their senses, realized that their subordinates had seen that, then awkwardly distanced themselves from each other, coughing.
"Never do that again, sir."
Rather rigidly, the two stood at attention and waited for their rescue party to rescue them.
"So…tell us, how did you know to find us, Fuery?" Riza asked. An hour later, after a warm cup of tea and avowing never again to take drivers ed with Roy, she was feeling more communicative.
"Oh…" Here, Fuery shot Hayate a knowing look, "I have my ways."
A/N: on that note...
THANK YOU SO MUCH TO EVERYONE WHO HAS EVER REVIEWED THIS STORY!