Disclaimer: I disclaim FMA and all affiliates as well as the lyrics to Aly & Aj's 'Protecting Me' used at the end of this chapter.
It was a cold evening and a gentle drizzle of rain was falling over the sleepy city of Central. It was only just past six, but from the darkness outside you might think it were several hours later and, despite the time, most people had already laid down to bed for the night or settled themselves in front of a warm fire with a good book.
Out in the frigid streets at this time, however, there was still one man- a Brigadier General working for the Amestris Armed Forces' Central Branch who had managed to crash his car into a tree off the side of the road the day before, when his First Lieutenant's dog had dived into his lap from the passenger seat, and who was now in the dismal position of having to walk home in the rain.
Roy Mustang hated the rain.
10 minutes took him, soaking from his long walk, to the front door of a Ms Gracia Hughes, wife of the deceased Brigadier General –former Lieutenant Colonel- Maes Hughes, who had long been a close friend of his. It was a large house which very frequently found itself heavily laden with guests- it wasn't that Ms Hughes and her daughter were lonely, only that they were hospitable to a fault.
As it was, when Roy knocked on the heavy wooden door of her home that night, four young women were chattering animatedly in the living room, while one slept upstairs with Gracia's daughter, having gone up there half an hour ago to tuck her into bed and fallen asleep herself.
"I'll get it!" said a loud voice that Roy immediately recognised as Miss Winry Rockbell, the daughter of two doctors who had been killed treating the many wounded and sickly during the Ishbal war.
"Good evening, Miss Rockbell," he said, taking his military cap off politely.
"'Ria, fetch us a blanket, won't you?" Winry yelled over her shoulder after surveying the dripping Brigadier General critically.
"Two seconds!!" came the voice of Second Lieutenant Maria Ross from the living room.
"I hope I'm not intruding," said Roy as Maria chucked a blanket through the door that joined the front entrance to the next room, and Winry wrapped it tightly around his shoulders.
"Nup- just stay here a minute," said Winry, dashing over to the living room door and poking her head through for a moment before nodding. "Okay, Shessy's decent- come on in."
Roy walked into the room and blinked in surprise as he saw Private Sheska standing, blushing, on a table, wearing a rose satin dress with a ruffled hem and being fussed over by Gracia who had a tape measure around her neck and fifty odd pins protruding from her mouth.
"I'm sorry to interrupt," he said, a little embarrassed at being caught intruding on such a private congregation.
Gracia spat a mouthful of pins into her cupped hands and shook her head, smiling. "No problem, Mr Mustang- how are you doing?"
"I'm fine, thank you."
"Are you looking for Riza?" asked Maria helpfully, "because she ditched with Elysia." When Roy only looked confused, she elaborated. "We're sorting out our dresses for the military academy reunion. Riza's up next but she fled under the guise of tucking Elysia in."
"Actually," said Roy, "I just came by on my way home to thank Ms Hughes again for the great party she threw last weekend."
"No problem at all," said Gracia, beaming, before sliding the pins back between her lips and returning to Sheska's dress.
"Well while you're here," said Winry, "could you go and find her for us? Elysia's room is first to the right at the top of the stairs."
Roy nodded obligingly and went to find her.
Elizabeth Hawkeye was a beautiful woman and, at that moment, as she lay next to Elysia with her long golden hair spreading across the pillow and her pale pink lips slightly parted, she looked positively angelic. Her outfit consisted of a pretty blue half-sleeved top and a black pencil skirt that reached down to cut off elegantly at her knees- it was simple enough, but still a much prettier sight than the shapeless military uniform he usually saw her wearing.
"Lieutenant Hawkeye," he prompted her softly, not wanting to awaken the sleeping child beside her. "Lieutenant Hawkeye?" He touched her shoulder gently- his fingers tingling slightly at the brief physical contact- and said her name again, a little louder. When Riza only screwed up her face just slightly in a sort of unconscious frustration, he bent down so that his breath tickled her ear and whispered "wake up, Riza" very softly.
He only said it quietly but it had the desired effect.
Riza bolted into a sitting position, her cheeks slightly pink. She looked around the mostly dark room in disorientation and then looked back at Roy, upon whom her gaze came to rest. "…Sir?"
"I was just stopping by but Miss Rockbell asked me to fetch you down," he explained, suddenly a little nervous.
"Tell her I'm dead," said Riza, flopping back down beside Elysia in a very un-Riza-like way.
"Afraid she'll dress you up like poor Sheska?"
"Sheska's dressed already? Goodness, it really is my turn next…"
"This is for the Military Academy reunion, right?"
"Uhm… yeah," said Riza, looking a little embarrassed as she sat up properly. "Gracia and Winry-chan are coming as our guests and, well, they wanted in on the fun of dressing us up." She shivered noticeably. "Oh, they've got me this hideous blue dress…"
"Relax, Lieutenant- I'm sure you'll light up the floor," said Roy, grinning as he straightened and extended a hand to pull her out of bed.
Riza blushed lightly and walked downstairs ahead of him.
"Finally!" Winry complained as she walked in. "What'd you do? Fall asleep up there?"
Riza was about to deny it, but Roy just grinned, "yeah, she did."
"Idiot," said Winry, shaking her head as she picked up what Roy thought was a very pretty sapphire dress and handed it to her, "now go and change so we can make the adjustments."
Surprisingly, Riza turned to Roy and appealed to him, "please help me- this is torture."
Roy grinned and shook his head, "not to me. Go ahead and change- I'd like to see."
Gracia and Maria glanced at each other and shook their heads, "no way!"
"You're a guy!" Gracia exclaimed. "You can't see until the night of the dance!"
"It's practically a rule!" Maria agreed and Winry backed them both up.
"That's a pity," said Roy. "But seeing you here is rather convenient in itself. You see, I've been meaning to ask you for a while now, Riza, and I think I may have a slightly larger chance of you accepting me if your friends are around to help me push you into it."
"May I have the pleasure of escorting you to the ball?"
Riza blushed lightly as Maria, Winry and Gracia started giggling out their fervent approval of the match and she nodded. "I'd like that, sir."
"I'll pick you up around 8, then?"
Riza nodded approvingly, "alright," she said. "It's a date." A few moments passed in silence (except for the other girls' giggling in the background) before Riza turned her back on Roy, a huge blush creeping up her cheeks, and left to change without a word.
In a desperate attempt to avoid the childish kissy faces Maria, Gracia and Winry were affording him, Roy fled soon after.
The night of the reunion came and, despite all of the bets the men had made on exactly how late he would arrive (including Falman, who had bet that he would forget where she lived and not turn up at all), he found his way to her small one-person apartment and managed to do it relatively on schedule.
Then again, Havoc had driven him there.
The other man and his date waiting in the car, Roy made his way up the three staircases that led to Riza's apartment. She opened the door on the first knock and he wondered if she had been waiting for him by the door prior to his arrival.
The sapphire dress from the day before looked a thousand times better on her than it had laying on the couch with the others. Her eyes were sparkling and her cheeks were marked by a faint tint of rouge that added just the right amount of colour to her pale complexion.
"You look beautiful," said Roy sincerely, presenting her with a small box containing a corsage, which she inspected sceptically.
"This isn't some high school dance, sir."
"Roy," he corrected her. "And, you know, I think it'll look lovely."
Riza didn't complain anymore and she let him pin it on her before smiling. "Let's go- we'll be late."
"Riza! You look so great!" Sheska exclaimed when they reached the car.
Riza looked pained, "only because Gracia spent three or four hours attempting to fix me up and then left and forbade me to move for the next few before Roy arrived."
"Same with me," Sheska agreed sympathetically. "But you do look amazing, and your corsage is so pretty! Did Colonel Mustang give it to you?"
Riza blushed a little and nodded.
"Yes, it is," Riza agreed and Roy seemed very happy with himself as he climbed into the front passenger seat, next to Havoc, who was driving.
'You both look like angels," Havoc told his girlfriend and his 'little sister' faithfully and they smiled at him from the back seat.
"Are we picking up Winry next?" asked Sheska, leaning over the gearshift into the front part of the car to talk to Havoc.
"Actually," said Havoc, grinning to himself. "I think Fullmetal's taking her."
Sheska squealed loudly and Riza chuckled a little to herself as a certain evening in her apartment with Edward Elric came to mind.
"You're in love with Winry-chan, aren't you?"
"That's so sweet! Finally!" Sheska giggled happily, eyes wide beneath the brown contacts she had replaced her glasses with for the night.
"Yes, finally," Riza agreed.
"Though you're one to talk," Havoc pointed out. "I was beginning to think that you and the Chief'd never get together."
Both Riza and Roy blushed profusely.
"We're not together, Havoc," Riza explained levelly. "We're going to the reunion as friends and friends only."
"Sure y'are, guys. Sure y'are."
Roy opened his mouth to protest his innocence but Riza leaned forward to rest a hand on his arm. "Just leave it," she decided with a shrug. "Let him think what he wants."
Roy just shrugged and turned to look out the window.
Sheska drew attention back to herself with a small giggle and she and Riza soon lapsed into a comfortable conversation in the back seat, while the men did the same in the front.
The reunion was held in the gymnasium which -being that of a military academy- was, needless to say, very large. Prior to the event, it had been decked out in streamers, banners and balloons that made it seem rather more like a child's birthday party than a high school's 10-year-reunion but it was just being in the familiar building that made a difference to the ex-students of the academy.
As soon as she walked onto campus Riza felt a sudden wave of nostalgia and was brought all the way back to her graduation ceremony –the last time she had ever been there- where she had been Valedictorian and she had walked off stage after her speech to find herself instantly enveloped by Roy's arms, being kissed by him.
Riza glanced over at her high school sweetheart with a secret sort of smile. Ishbal and the furthering of both of their military careers had always made the relationship seem impossible to them as they were now, but she fancied sometimes that the spark was still there and liked to think that it helped her to focus on her ultimate goal of protecting him at all costs.
Mind apparently centred around the same memory, Roy returned her smile and offered his arm to her before they walked in together.
"Lizzie!! Lizzie Hawkeye!!" cried the obnoxious voice of a girl Riza vaguely remembered loathing in her teenage years and a moment later she caught sight of a familiar face making its way through the crowd. "Lizzie! Remember me?"
"Jessica," said Riza, her smile stiff. "It's nice to see you again. What have you been doing since I saw you last?"
"Oh, I'm done with the military," the woman said, waving a hand vaguely. "I'm in the modelling business. What about you? …Oh. Stupid question."
Riza's left eyebrow twitched slightly but she kept smiling.
"Oh, goodness! Roy Mustang, is that you?!" Jessica exclaimed, apparently only just having noticed him on Riza's arm. "Don't tell me that you two are still dating after all of these years?"
"No, we're not," said Riza. "We just work together."
"Oh!" said Jessica, brightening. "In that case, would you like to dance, Roy? I absolutely adore this song!"
"Actually," said Roy, "Riza and I just arrived- I think we'll just go and see who else is here first."
"Later then!" Jessica called after him but he just pretended not to hear.
"You know I won't mind if you want to dance with other people, Roy," Riza told him once they were out of earshot. 'I'm a terrible dancer myself and it's not like we're actually dating."
"It would be rude," said Roy, shrugging as though it were obvious. "Besides, I'd much prefer your company than hers."
"That's not saying much," said Riza, blushing a little. "Come on, I think I see Gracia over there with Maria and –goodness- Denny. Do you think they came together? I hope so."
"Are you actually supporting a relationship that goes against military regulations?" asked Roy, raising an amused eyebrow.
Riza just shrugged, "it's not against the rules unless it interferes with their work- all the fraternization laws really state is that we –and by we, I mean, of course, we soldiers in general- can't display excessive affection while in uniform or on duty. And besides, she's obviously very much in love with him."
"Is that true?" asked Roy, blinking.
"That she's in love with him? Well, yes, from what I've-"
'No," he said. "I mean, is it true about the fraternization laws only coming into effect when we're in uniform."
"Hmm? Oh, yes. That's true- we looked at it in class one year, remember?"
Roy, who had spent most of his time in the military academy in the principal's office for defacing (or blowing up) school property, just shrugged.
"Well, yes. It is- I'm sure of it."
"That's interesting… I never knew that before…"
"Just what are you thinking, Roy?" asked Riza, noting the odd look on his face curiously.
"Nothing," said Roy, a light blush crawling up his neck. "Let's just go and see them, right?"
"Riza! Over here!" called out a blonde girl in a deep purple dress, who was clinging to the arm of Major Elric, waving frantically.
Riza turned and smiled, tapping Roy on the arm so that he could follow her gaze and do the same, though his smile became notably more forced as they neared the Fullmetal Alchemist.
"Why is he here?" he was muttering to himself. "He didn't even go to our academy!"
"He's a guest," Riza hissed back, but she was to receive no reply as they drew closer to the couple.
"Wow, Mustang," said Ed, sounding pretty smug. "What'd you do? Order her to come to the reunion with you? Because there's no way Lieutenant Hawkeye's stupid enough to fall under your spell."
Roy narrowed his eyes and if it weren't for Riza's hand on his arm, he might have punched him. "Actually," she said to him, "I came here of my own will."
Winry beamed, "So are you two having a good time?"
Roy and Riza nodded politely. "It's nice seeing the old place again," she commented vaguely.
"I bet it is," said Winry. "Happy memories?"
"Wonderful memories," said Riza and Roy agreed.
"Oh! If it isn't Mr Mustang and Miss Hawkeye! How are you both?!"
They turned around to yet another familiar face. "Principal Emrald, it's good to see you again!"
"But my goodness- the Prom King and Queen! Are you two still together?"
Riza blushed as Winry and Ed's mouths dropped open and she shook her head. "Not really," she said, then she smiled at Roy. "But we're still very close."
"That's fantastic," said the Principal, smiling. "Though it is a pity that such a beautiful couple should have broken up."
"It didn't make sense to continue the relationship after he left for war," said Riza. "But I came under his command again afterwards and we've stayed together ever since."
"Well, I hope you remain together for a very long time," she said. "Please excuse me while I go and mingle with the others. Have a nice night, you two!"
Riza resisted the strong urge to run away and forced herself to turn around and face Ed and Winry.
"You two were dating?!" Winry squealed, while Ed expressed his horror that Roy had ever been a 'King' of anything.
"We were a couple in high school," was all Riza would say, smiling to herself.
"Why'd ya choose Mustang?" asked Ed, disgusted.
Riza just shrugged, "I'll never know," she said. "We were young and in love- much like yourself and Winry-chan, right?"
Neither answered, both blushing furiously, and Riza smiled a little wider. "Uhh, Winry, I'm gonna get a drink," said Ed quickly. "Want one?"
"Sure," said Winry, looking down. "Just a soda, thanks."
"How about you, Riza?" asked Roy, watching him go. "I feel like bugging the Shrimp."
"Fine, I'll have a soda too," said Riza. "But please don't go overboard on Edward, okay? I'll hear about it if you do and I won't be happy."
"Yes, Mother," said Roy and he kissed her cheek quickly before leaving.
Riza just shook her head fondly and turned back to Winry, whose blush had died down and who was now grinning widely. "What?" she asked, catching the look the younger girl was affording her.
"You're still in love with Mr Mustang, aren't you?" she teased happily.
"Don't be ridiculous," said Riza stubbornly, smoothing out her dress and fiddling with the hem restlessly. "That was a very long time ago."
"But the spark's still there, isn't it?" asked Winry, looking over at Roy talking to Ed (who was fuming) by the refreshments table.
Following her gaze, Riza just sighed softly. "If it is for me, it's not for him," she replied under heaving prompting from Winry.
"I don't think so," said Winry sceptically. "But, you know, this is the perfect opportunity to set it straight- this ball. Talk to him, dance with him- let him know that the magic's still there. Promise?"
"I can't believe I'm taking relationship advice from a teenager…"
"I promise to try, Winry-chan," was all Riza would say.
"And if it's still there for him too?"
Riza blushed lightly, "then I'll… I suppose I'll…"
"Give it a chance?"
"Sure," said Riza, and she smiled. "I'll give it a chance."
"You girls ready to dance?" asked Ed as he and Roy returned with the drinks.
"I'm up for it!" said Winry immediately and then she turned a pointed look on Riza.
"Me too," she agreed dutifully and she placed her drink down beside Winry's on a nearby table. "Roy?"
"Of course," he replied and he took her arm again to lead her out onto the dance floor.
The loud hip hop music that had been belting out just a moment ago suddenly stopped and was replaced by a slower track- courtesy of a rather excited looking Principal Emrald, who was standing with Gracia Hughes over near the DJ's booth and waving happily in their direction.
Riza chose to ignore that and linked her arms around his neck silently, resting her head on his shoulder and burying her face into the hollow of his neck. Roy's arms came around her waist and they swayed slowly to the music, eyes drifting shut and breathing growing deeper and more at ease…
Riza's eyes snapped open as her sharp ears picked up on the familiar click of a gun's safety being disabled. It was nearby, or she wouldn't have heard it. She froze and scrutinized the crowd over Roy's shoulder, concentrating too hard to even register his concern at her sudden halt. She was worried. The room was filled with more than one hundred and fifty odd people- the majority of whom were legally permitted to hold and fire a gun, with the only ones not allowed being guests such as Gracia and Winry.
"What is it?" Roy whispered in her ear, his lip moving against her pallid skin.
Riza didn't reply, in that exact moment she had identified the source of the sound and whirled her and Roy around, exposing her own back to the speeding bullet as it left the barrel of the handgun with a loud bang. She fell forward and slammed into his chest, choking out a small cry as she did so.
The entire room seemed to freeze and by the time anyone had turned to search for the sniper, he or she was long gone.
Silence. Then Roy's horrified whisper of her name. "Riza."
At that, the entire room burst into a frenzy of screams and cries and those who knew the would-be couple well attempted to shove their way closer to the centre of the dance floor, where Roy was kneeling with her in his arms, at a loss to do anything but stare at her suddenly flushed face.
"Riza!!" Winry called, the first to break the small bubble the others had formed around them. "Riza!!"
"What the hell happened, Mustang?!" yelled Edward, following after.
"The shot was meant for me," Roy choked out, unable to tear his eyes away from Riza's face miserably.
"Well don't just sit there! Somebody call someone!!" Winry screeched.
"I already have," said a miscellaneous voice from the crowd and several others also testified to having previously called the emergency services.
"They'll be here in about 10 minutes," said another woman and Roy couldn't confirm so much as he direction the voice was coming from, let alone who it belonged to. He just clutched Riza's limp body closer to his chest and whispered sweet things to her- even going so far as to pray to an unknown God for her survival.
True to their word, the ambulance arrived almost exactly 10 minutes later to take her and, though they tried, they could not persuade Roy to let her go, eventually resorting to let him ride in the ambulance with her and hold her hand over the edge of the gurney.
In less than half an hour, what was supposed to have been the best night of his life, and the one in which he finally confessed his feelings to Riza, had become the worst. In less than half an hour, he had gone from the luckiest man on earth to possibly the very most miserable.
It had only taken half an hour for his entire life to be turned completely upside down.
You, You're always there for me Whenever, where ever baby
When I need you most
Day and night you're by my side
When I feel like crashing down
You seem to be around
There you are
You're not that far 'cause
You'll protect me
No matter what
Hold me tight with all your might
And you'll never let me go
Whenever, where ever baby
AN/ Please don't kill me, guys- I didn't INTEND for it to be angsty... One moment I was being all fluffy and cute and the next Riza had gotten herself shot in the back! I don't know how it happened, honest!! This was just gonna be a cute little oneshot, I swear! ...But you guys'll DEFINITELY murder me if I leave it there, huh?