Outside the window, large dark gray clouds reflected the orange and yellow hues of the city's lights on their underbellies. A chill ran down the spine of the gazer; she had been standing near the window for a good five minutes. I should have called him this morning to tell him to wear his winter coat. Lieutenant Hawkeye clasped her clipboard tighter. Behind her, the clicking of a typewriter stopped and the usual "zip" cued her.
"Lieutenant, I have the last of the reports re-typed. Make sure the Colonel has these signed and sent off to Intel tomorrow by 1400 hours."
"Thank you, Master Sergeant. I'll inform the Colonel in the morning." Hawkeye took the small stack of papers and clipped them to her board. As she locked them in her desk, Master Sergeant Fuery ran to the window.
"Lieutenant! Look! It's snowing!"
Hawkeye had to do a double take. They were the largest snowflakes she had ever seen. In the brief moments from leaving the window, to locking the papers up, there was a light dusting of the white fluff on the parade grounds and steps.
"Would you like for me to start a cab up for you, Lieutenant?" Fuery said as he turned his wonder-struck face to Hawkeye. She could clearly tell he wanted an excuse to get out and feel it for himself.
"Thank you, Sergeant Fuery. I'd appreciate it." Fuery was off at mach speed, his inner child yearning to be the first to leave footprints and test this snow's snowball capability. Do 'they' ever grow up? "No, 'they' don't." Hawkeye said aloud as she flicked off the light and closed the door.
Hawkeye made her way to the Classified Records room. She knew he'd be in there, snoozing away. As she went down a flight of stairs, more and more officers were gazing out of windows or complaining about the possibility of having to come into work tomorrow morning. One thing she saw, which all of these adults shared, was the desire to go back in time and set aside their responsibilities. A receptionist was telling several warrant officers about never seeing snow, a pair of sergeants were starting to enlist other officers for a snowball fight, and a group of colonels were planning to surprise their children with an army of snowmen. Happy memories of water's cold, delicate form. The Colonel and Lieutenant had very few, if any.
After one more flight, Hawkeye took a left and walked along a vacant hallway. She was just a few doors away from the Classified Records room when its door flew open. Flying out was a blurry-eyed, bed-headed Colonel Mustang. "Lieutenant!" he bellowed.Hawkeye stood at attention and saluted. "Sir, my apolo-"
Mustang cut her off and grabbed her arm. "No time for that, Lieutenant! We have to get to your cab. We have a rendezvous at 1900 hours."
Hawkeye was astonished by the speed and strength of the recently-awoken Colonel. For a moment she forgot she was being lead by an adult male, and instead thought this was Black Hayate in hot pursuit of a squirrel.
Mustang bullied through the tiny crowds of officers and flew down the headquarters' stairs; waiting at the bottom was a cab warmed up and ready to go. Master Sergeant Fuery was nowhere in sight, though squeals and hearty guffs could be heard in the distance.
"Get in, Lieutenant!" Hawkeye made for the driver's side.
"No! I'll drive!" the Colonel shouted at her hastily.
"No time! Hurry, hurry!"
Dammit sir, you don't have a license to drive! Hawkeye thought as she reluctantly got in the cab, barely having time to buckle in before Mustang threw the clutch into drive, peeled out around the manicured lawn, and drove onto the street. Her heart racing, she began to run possible scenarios as to why they would leave in such a careless manner. Could it be that he had lost track of time? It was not even a quarter past 1800 hours, where was the fire? What a god-awful pun. Hawkeye imagined as she closed her eyes and began to breathe.
"You understand I value honesty, loyalty, and discretion."
"Sir, I have never known you to value anything less."
They drove out past the industrial section of Central, heading to a set of low-lying hills. The snow was a light flurry of flakes that paled in comparison to the large tufts from earlier.
Silence hung between them, both lost in their own intense thoughts. Hawkeye took this moment to pull out her sidearm and ensure the safety was off and a full clip was loaded in.
"Not necessary, Lieutenant," Mustang told her. "It's a rendezvous, not hostile negotiations."
"Sir, should the situation become hostile, I need to be ready."
"Lieutenant," Mustang threw her his classic smarmy glance, "should there be any hostility, it would be on your part."
"Sir?" Why are you questioning him, Riza? Just put it away, just be alert.
"Just put it away, Lieutenant. All we will need is in the back seat." Hawkeye began to turn around in her seat.
"A-aha, Lieutenant! No peeking!" Mustang grinned a malicious smile, a glint of torture sparkled in his dark sable eyes.
Damn you, Mustang! Save your games for the floozies you see nightly. "Of course, Sir." Hawkeye looked forward and noticed that they were outside of the city and heading into some trees.
"Good girl." Mustang patted Hawkeye playfully on the head.
In the blink of an eye, Hawkeye had taken Mustang's right arm and had it twisted behind him.
"Owwwwww! It hurts, Lieutenant!" He chuckled. "Stop! Stop! You win, you win!"I was going easy on you, Mustang, she thought. Next time…next time…
Mustang regained control of the car and continued to laugh.
"Lieutenant, you could be demoted for this."
"My apologizes, sir. I'm not comfortable with being 'petted'." The word felt foul on her lips; she was NOT one of Mustang's well-reputed one-stands.
"I can tell. Though, I should thank you. I won't be able to sign the reports Sergeant Fuery just re-typed this evening - now they'll have to wait until I have a doctor look at my wrist."
Hawkeye threw Mustang what was possibly the dirtiest look she could give him. You wanted me to hurt you! Perhaps you want me to kill you?
"Ah, c'mon Hawkeye. You know me better than anyone else in our office. Do you think I'd let paperwork slide?"Do pigs have wings?
"Anyway…" Mustang returned his attention back to his driving. They were going considerably slower to allow for all of the bends and dips in the dirt road. There was hardly any snow under the canopy of the large fir trees; only the splatter of snowflakes on the windshield.
"Lieutenant, what time is it?"
"1845 hours, sir."
"Excellent, we'll be early. I hope they're ready."
Ahead of them, a large pool of light rose from the ground, and the trees thinned out as the road became less defined.
"Here's a good spot." Mustang parked the car on the edge of a large clearing, coated heavily with fresh snow and providing a view of a warmly-lit Central below. Mustang got out and opened the back door. He then grabbed a large wool blanket, picnic basket, and a small round box.
"This way, Lieutenant." Mustang traipsed out into the half-foot of snow.
Where the hell is his winter coat? Hawkeye thought. As she marched out behind him, she continually watched through the corners of her eyes for any movement. Mustang would never allow himself or any of his subordinates to walk blindly into any rendezvous or any location, outside of headquarters, without a thorough evaluation and plan of action. This was obviously an exception.
The horizon of the clearing started to level out and a small plume of smoke was rising from behind a perfectly rounded igloo. Hawkeye could stand it no longer. "Sir, with all due respect, WHAT IS GOING ON!?!"
Mustang stopped and faced her. "Lieutenant, does the element of surprise mean anything to you?"
"Yes, of course, sir. I just feel we're walking blindly into a trap."
"Hawkeye, you sound like Falman. Just… trust me a little longer. Please." Mustang's face was slack. He was neither pleading nor begging. Just being, well…patient.
No longer having a desire to argue, Hawkeye stomped up to Mustang. "Where is your winter coat, sir?"
"I have no need for it this evening. Should all go well with our meeting."
"Who are we meeting, sir?"
"Lieutenant, are you deaf?"
"Sir?" Hawkeye could read it in is eyes - he was tired of repeating himself. So, she gave in. "Yes, sir. I'm deaf."
"Hahahahahaha! That's what I admire about you, Hawkeye. You're too willing to please. C'mon, we're going to be late."
The pair walked up to the igloo. It was massive and by no means a traditional one. There had been some slight modifications done to it. The opening was large enough to walk through, if you bent forward. The fire was in an alcove to the back of the igloo and soft furs covered the ground. A table was pushed up to the left of the alcove, and placed on top were a bottle of chilled wine, handmade chocolates, and fresh-cut roses splayed out to tempt any living soul. To the right, a small bookshelf packed with volumes of poems, tomes of ancient philosophers' works and a few collections of plays. Hawkeye stared in disbelief over the decadence and craftsmanship of this hidden ice palace. In her wildest imagination, she would not have thought it possible that her commanding officer, and her father's former apprentice, to go to such great lengths to impress her.
"Hawkeye?" Mustang's voice sounded far away to Hawkeye, the tone was unlike any she had heard - the closest to it was the day Mustang left after her father's funeral. On that day, it was a soft, gentle voice, full of apprehension and fear.
"Are you alright?"
"Yes, sir. I'm fine."
"Hawkeye, we can throw formality out the window." Mustang laid out the wool blanket. Hawkeye recognized it - it was the last gift he had received from his mother.
"Would you like something to eat?"
Her throat was clotted with her tongue; forming the word "yes" had never been this difficult. "Uh…yes, sir - I mean, yes, Mustang." How long has it been since I've called you by that name? Eight, nine years?
"It's been nearly eleven years, hasn't it?" Mustang opened up the basket and set out a few plates, borrowed from the officers' lounge.
"I'm right, aren't I? Eleven years since you've addressed me as 'Mustang'. I may be wrong."
"No, you're…" Hawkeye could feel herself losing her tough militaristic exterior. Mustang had planned an evening of memories, from the crackling fire to the wool blanket, books and chocolates. He had gone out of his was to make this an evening about her, possibly an evening about the Mustang and Hawkeye they had once been.
"I hope you don't mind cold-cut sandwiches. I remembered to pack food right before I went to the Records room."
So he's possibly NOT the most stupid Colonel at Central? But why take food with…ohhh… Hawkeye mused to herself. It wasn't until Mustang caught it, that she felt it.
"Don't, 'huh?' me. You were smiling, and that is not the Riza Hawkeye that I know." He placed a sandwich on her plate and her blush deepened.When did he get this smarmy? And I wasn't smiling! I was…
"Hawkeye" His voice broke her away from her thoughts. "You sure you are hungry. Because if you're not, I'm starving and I want to crack open that wine."
"Oh, right." Without thinking, she swiped up the sandwich and bit into it. Not the most amazing sandwich, but something in the stomach is better than nothing. Hurry up with that wine, Mustang. I need to disguise this blush. Mustang handed her a glass and sat down next to her. Hawkeye's stomach began to crumple up; there was something different about the way he looked at her, his sharp, calculating eyes were rounder and more unfocused. Can ice and wine reverse eleven years of hard work, death, battles, and life-altering choices?
"If you would like…I, uh, I can…"
"I can arrange for someone to pick you up in the morning, if you would like for me to leave."What?!?!
"But, I thought that -"
"- that I would stay?" He swirled his wine and shifted his weight away from her. "No. I will not permit myself to cause you any injustice at work, should the events of tonight leave this igloo." He whispered, as he leaned in towards her. "Also, this evening is not about romance… but -" His words failed him for a moment, and Hawkeye took up the cue.
"It's about the time we were snowed in."
Mustang choked on a small sip of wine. "You remember that!?"
"I happen to have an excellent memory. Should I remind you that you did not wear your winter coat today?"
"That's funny. I was going to ask you where's yours?" No amount of wine could cover the amount of pink in Hawkeye's cheeks. In the bustle of getting to the office on time, she had not considered the possibility of herself needing a winter coat.
"I said it before, I'll say it again. You are too eager to please. On top of that, you exude all of the qualities I admire in my subordinates, for without those qualities… I cannot possibly be the Colonel I am right now." Hawkeye felt this was possibly the most intimate pep talk she had ever been given, but it made the impact it was supposed to.
"I cannot possibly be the person I am right now, if you have not been looking out for me since Day One." Cold, hunger, wine, or fear could not explain the small tears forming in Hawkeye's eyes.
"Mustang… I, I still don't understand, why are we in an igloo?"
"Falman's idea. It'll barely leave a trace once it melts."
"Why the chocolates and wine?"
"Fuery says it's Valentine's Day. And why all the questions? Do you not trust your valiant leader?"
Hawkeye cracked a meek grin as she dabbed at her eyes. I'm being an idiot. But do I "trust" you, Mustang? I've followed you this far, therefore I must. "Yes, Mustang. I trust you. You've got my 'back'."
Only the knowing look among close friends was Mustang's reply, and after that they spent the night hashing it out over theories about love, gods, and science... as though they were picking up the conversation they had left off during the snowstorm from their adolescence.