Annoying Author's Note: Hey all! I'm not dead (yet). I was hoping to update Neutral Ground today as well, so look out for that, though don't hold your breath. Quick explanation of why I wrote this, in case anyone's intrested: Those of you who read those FullMetal Alchemist written novels should be saying to youselves, "That first paragraph she wrote sounds mighty familuar..." Yeah, that's because I didn't write it myself, really. I took it from The Abducted Alchemist, page 35, paragraph 3. It was written by Makoto Inoue and translated into English by Alexander O. Smith.
This wouldn't be the first time I've read an anime favorite of mine in an actual novel form, and quite frankly I love em. I like to see how the series differs from Anime to Manga to the Written Word. But what I've noticed is that often the novels seem to take the series and water it down to almost complete fluff; I'm assuming so that they can sell it to really young kids. Which just bothered me for the FMA series. So I decided to take a section from one of these books and try to show how in their world everything wasn't always so fluffy. Or something like that...
Well, I guess that's it for now. ON WITH THE FIC!

The Things They Talk About
By Child of the Dragon

With her long blond hair tightly bound behind her head, her already sharp features stood out even more. She was the epitome of cool composure. In her function as Roy's right-hand woman, no one had ever seen Hawkeye betray the slightest hint of emotion, whether anger or happiness. Still, most everyone agreed that deep down she was really good at heart and that alone saved her from being widely disliked by the men working under her. It did not save her, however, from the occasional joke about scary Lieutenant Hawkeye.

That was putting it in the nicest way possible.

"I can't quite say I'm pleased with the work, or lack there of, that you men have been doing," Riza said in a level tone. "These reports should have been taken care of three hours ago; this puts us way behind schedule."

"Yes sir," the three underlings dully replied to her. She knew they had checked out from actually listening to her words a while ago. If she'd had time she would've stuck around to give them a more through talking to, but as it was she was already going to have to hurry to get the paperwork just recently handed to her over to Roy if any more progress was to be made on it.

"Make sure your work is more diligent next time," she warned them as she turned to leave. "That will be all for tonight gentlemen." She had enough time to watch the soldiers relax their postures out of the corner of her eye before leaving the room.

The door had barely closed behind her when the highest ranked of the three spoke out loudly, "Man what a BITCH!!" Lightly the muttered sounds of laughing agreement followed. "Like we're the only ones around here not goofing off from time to time? Is she even aware of what that damn colonel is doing half the time when he isn't dumping the work on us that he should've taken care of himself?"

"Sleeping around with anyone but her," another voice replied.

"Like anyone would even consider sleeping with her," the voice of the third man spoke up. "She's just so creepy. A man would have to be drunk as hell to even look at her in that light."

Chuckled laughter came after that. Outside, Riza leaned with her back against the closed door. She willed her feet to move her away but they stayed put for a reason she couldn't explain. She knew she didn't have to listen to those words, she knew she should just ignore them and carry on like they were never spoken, she knew that nothing they said was true. She knew, she knew, she knew. But when every thing she told herself was stripped away, when her defenses were down and her guard to the rest of the world was at ease, every word that anyone spoke about her like that stung. Just like it would've stung any of the men that she worked with. The words they spoke were colder then the steel of blades in the assumption that just because she didn't cry as often as some women might, that she wasn't capable of feeling anything at all.

A truly horrendous lie.

Of course she felt things, of course she had emotion. Just like everyone around her she could become angry, or laugh at a joke, or even be moved to tears. She only didn't because she didn't want the usual image of the overly emotional woman bearing over her all the time. She bound her feelings and bottled them inside for the better good of her work and to better serve those above her. It would do Colonel Roy Mustang absolutely no good if for one week every month she was an unpredictable emotional time bomb just waiting to go off at whoever or whatever happened to push the wrong button at the wrong time. Not to mention her own career would be severally hindered. How would the state profit if they kept having to replace anyone she'd taken down in a fit of emotional distress, and how she could even function properly under emotional distress enough to protect the lives of innocents when on the field and in the line of fire? Every month, even if she had to grit her teeth in pain and bear it, she got up and did her job. Because that's what her job was about and that's almost exactly what she loved about it.

Unlike most women, she knew she had risen to a place of high honor. Few made it as far as she did and most of those that did get this far, or father sometimes, just had unusually larger breasts then she. Hawkeye didn't let it go to her head though because she wasn't stupid enough not to realize that she was only ever promoted with Roy, but she still knew the work she did was good and that's what carried her even when all she got from her higher ups was a pat on the head and a simple letter that, no matter how many fancy words were put on it, just boiled down to "Good job. Make sure you keep no top of Colonel Mustang's case about his own work."

She knew the truth.

More laughter. To anyone else just passing by it might have sounded fairly innocent, like boys laughing at a friend they'd just pulled a harmless prank on for which the youngster in question couldn't help but laugh along with them. Yet the object at which they were laughing saw nothing funny in their words and now her body was trembling under the crushing weight of what they said. She felt the faint want of going back in the room, to confront what they were saying about her and maybe scare some sense into them, but what ultimately made her turn and start dragging her broken form away was just that; the fact that barging into a room and with a steeled expression setting free a shot or two from her gun that by no means would harm any of the men, just grazing them enough to shake them up a little, was exactly the kind of thing most people made fun of her for and that in this case it was exact what she didn't want to do: let her emotions get the better of her. 'I have more important things to worry about right now,' she told herself. The words were hollow inside her head as she walked down the halls.

She knew the truth despite the whispered, rumored lies.

Roy Mustang was joyously walking down one of the halls of the Eastern City Headquarters, enjoying a moment of procrastinating on his work and the quietness of the base at the end of the day when most everyone had gone home for the evening. He just wanted to stretch his legs some. Sitting at a desk all day, even if the chair was as comfortable as the one he owned, couldn't be good for his back; not to mention it started to feel weird with all the blood coagulation in his buttocks. Really, he should have been working and if a certain lieutenant under his command had known he was out goofing off, then there'd be hell fire to pay but for the moment he was breathing in the sweet smell of freedom as he worked out the kinks in his legs, back and neck in the little down time that he had. If Hawkeye got to his office before he got back there was always the bathroom excuse; she couldn't really expect him to work proficiently if his bladder was a bother to him, right? Right.

And when he turned a corner and came nearly face to face with the blond lieutenant, almost half a building away from his office and certainly out of potty excuse range, he froze with a look of absolute terror engraved on his face. Judging by the dark look on Hawkeye's face at the moment he gauged there was a bullet in her gun with his name on it and if it was to pierce any part of him, well then, better the padded flesh of his tush then the hard bridge of bone between his eyes. Roy turned tail and bolted, careening down the hallways in a fashion that made him look like a drunken sailor; longs days at war had taught him it was harder to hit a crazily moving target even for a skilled marksmen such as Riza herself, and he'd rather look like an idiot for a moment then get an eye gouged out and look like an idiot the rest of his life.

Lieutenant Hawkeye had clearly seen Roy. And it was hard to ignore someone running down an empty hall looking like they were trying to get to a bathroom before they peed on anybody. But that's not what bothered her, it was the look on his face.

A look like he was truly scared of her.

She watched without following as Roy skidded to such a sudden stop that he actually fell over and without missing a beat bounced back to his feet and hurtled around a corner. After a moment or two his head peeked from around the corner at a height that would've made Ed look like a giant if Roy had to see the boy from that angle and then disappear just as fast again when he saw she was still there. The clack of his running footsteps bounded down the second hallway and away into the other half of the semi-empty building until she couldn't hear them anymore.

That look of absolute terror.

It was only a short ways away to the nearest restroom. Hawkeye found her feet take her there without even giving them the okay to do so, her hands locking the door behind her before coming up to hold her bent head. Was she honestly that terrifying? That even Roy, a man who held power over her, was scared to face her for something as trivial as wandering around when he had work to do? Sure she'd scold him, yes she'd nitpick and nag and overall mother him like a hen, but didn't he at least understand that she did it for him?

Sit up at your desk Colonel.

You shouldn't openly say things like that Colonel.

Do these things right Colonel and you won't have to do them again.

Sometimes, much like she heard others say horrid things about her when they thought she wasn't around listening, she'd caught the sound of Roy's voice saying something nice about her.

Don't worry, he'd once said, Lieutenant Hawkeye may seem tough, but underneath all that, she's got a gentle heart. A gentle heart. And now it was breaking.

Meanwhile, Roy had reached his office unscratched. About to go into cardiac arrest and keel over on the floor he was panting so hard, but otherwise okay. With knees giving out beneath him, he sunk into his desk chair and shakily brought some paperwork over to make himself look busy for when Lieutenant Hawkeye came barging in his office. At first he was too nervous to think straight, but as the minutes wore on and no sign of Riza was seen he slowly began to relax. He figured the best thing he could do was to actually get some work done before she walked in on him to find he'd bolted and still was procrastinating for the evening.

It was a while longer before Lieutenant Hawkeye finally knocked on his door. Roy's muscles tensed and he kept his head lowered as he got a grip on his complexion before letting her in. Her form made a soft, slow entrance, walking forward to his desk and laying on it a few files he'd sent her for hours ago. "The reports you wanted, sir," she muttered softly. "Sorry it has taken so long to get them, sir." He reached out and slid the files toward himself, still half expecting to get reprimanded for his little display in the hallways. He watched the look on her face, for any sign of emotion that would revile what she was thinking or how she felt toward him that moment...expressionless, as always. Composed, collected, under control, but something...

Something was off.

Something was wrong. He knew it. And he knew that she knew it as well. But did she know that he knew something was wrong and that she knew it to? 'Agghhh, head games; no time for them now,' Roy thought. 'But how do I get from this woman want I want without getting fired from my job? Ahh, now there's a puzzle.' Indeed, how did one pry information from a source when the only way one was familiar in dealing with such people was only by taking them to a nice restaurant to chat? Dating co-workers was a generally frowned upon thing after all. There was work to be done in the Military, and you could pursue your own personal vendettas in what little off time you might have off. The clock on the far wall read 11PM. Much to late for dinner and a movie.

"Sir? May I be excused now? Or do you have something else that you need?"

The soft voice got Roy to look up again; he hadn't quite realized his mind had wondered off. That was a good thing about being higher ranked then Hawkeye at the moment. She technically needed his permission to leave the room; if he wanted to talk to her about something, even if he wasn't sure how to bring it up, it gave him some time without having to call her back in. He was going to just have her return to her work, but then changed his mind. "I am a little hungry," he started, "and I think the mess hall would be quite lonely this time of night." Screw the laws of Central Command. He'd probably be rewriting half a dozen or more of them when he was up there anyway.

"I'm afraid I won't be such good company tonight sir, I'm not very hungry," she replied. Put off a bit by her blunt refusal, Roy was so much more used to women jumping at the chance to go out with him, and in the light of them both technically knowing what he was trying to do, he half shamefully lowered his eyes to the files she had given him.

And found an interesting mark resting in one of the corners.

A water mark, like a single drop of water had fallen there. And stain it with just a hint of brown color. Lieutenant Hawkeye wore light makeup, among which she generally applied a brownish mascara. Just enough to add a sense of femininity to her look without seeming to whore herself out, Roy had always liked that look on her. Looking back up he found what was off.

The make-up had been washed away.

And the single water mark on the file was all the evidence as to why; because she had been crying. Realization striking him, Roy immediately knew he had to find out why. Anything that was enough to make her break down like that, even if for just a few moments, had to be known because it was obvious something important to her or she wouldn't have cared.

"What is the matter Lieutenant?" he bluntly asked. If she wouldn't sit down and speak with him over a nice meal then he would just have to be blunt with her.

"What do you mean?" Riza replied.

"I mean, this," he said holding up the file and pointing at the tear mark, "among other things. Why have you been crying?"

"With all due respect, Colonel Sir, I hardly think my personal life is any of your business."

Roy leaned his elbow on his desk, propping his chin against the palm of his upturned hand. There she went again with her expressionless armor that no one could seem to penetrate. How was he to infiltrate her mind and find out what the matter truly was? "At ease, Lieutenant; please sit down," he implored more then told. She dully complied and sat down on one of the couches Roy had in his office.

"It's nothing, you know," Riza spoke before he could take the lead. She knew her higher up played all kinds of head games and twisted logic on those he wanted information from. She didn't need to be psychiatrically evaluated like that, nor did she want to be. " offhand comment I let get to me. It won't happen again."

Roy straightened in his seat. He hadn't heard many, probably because the nastier ones had involved him in some way, shape, or form, but he still knew what the rumor mill churned out. It was never pretty, no matter who was the talk of the town for the day. "People say stupid things," he started.

"I know sir," Riza instantly replied.

"I wasn't finished," Roy told her, for once actually putting into play the fact that he could make her do what he wanted whether she wanted to do it or not because of rank. The order was clear enough, just listen. "People say stupid things and, regardless of what anyone may think, it only becomes true if you let it. They should have enough sense to know that some 'offhanded comment' is hurtful, but unfortunately not everyone has such common sense these days. People will talk; they talk about me too. Sometimes it can be funny, and other times it can be mean and cruel and horrid.

"You know the truth about yourself Lieutenant Hawkeye, and as long as you answer to me you don't have to explain yourself if you don't want to. And you certainly don't have to prove anything to anyone of a lower caste then you. It is important to me that, while under my command and care, you feel safe and welcomed here; there's absolutely no reason you shouldn't. A skilled officer, a brilliant gunsman, honest, loyal, respectable...Lieutenant, out of all my officers I don't think I could stand to lose someone as valuable as you."

Riza listened to the words, hollow in her mind. They were just what she told herself every other time some 'offhanded comment,' as she had so lightly put it, had come her way. Inside her minds eye she still saw that look of absolute terror on Roy's face. It was like he expected her to mercilessly kill him. "Colonel Mustang..." her voice lightly drifted. "Colonel Mustang, do you think I'm...hard to relate to, let's say?"

"Hard to relate to?" Roy repeated. "Well, I don't see why. You are in fact human, just like everyone else. I would imagine you face many of the same tribulations anyone else in your position might face. And I know that these 'offhanded comments' people sometimes make about you are quiet upsetting..." Roy stopped what he was saying and leaned forward over his desk. Riza had turned away from him and buried her face in her hands. "Lieutenant Hawkeye?" he asked with a hint of concern. When she didn't give him a reply he got up and came around from the desk to sit beside her. "Riza...?"

A connection had been made, and no more words needed to be said. Roy realized what the matter was when she was crying in his arms, that it wasn't just what people could say to her, it was the way they could treat her as well. Words were just words and, even if the initial bite of them stung, with enough time an immunity could be built up until a phrase that once made someone weep wouldn't get them to bat an eyelid anymore. But actions spoke so much louder then words and that, at the end of each day, things done for or against us by those around us is what stuck by us. Even Riza, Scary Lieutenant Hawkeye who never openly shed a tear or openly laughed at a joke or openly expressed a raging surge of anger, was only human, with human emotions and human feelings and a human heart that could be broken.

And it could be mended again by those closest to her when they apologized for accidental wrongs done against her.