When Riza Hawkeye returned from Ishval, she did not know where to go. Her childhood home had been repossessed. She couldn't go back to her room in the military academy; she had already graduated, with honors. She was scheduled to report to Central in three weeks, but she was an officer, now, and she didn't qualify for housing in the barracks.
She stepped off of the train with her backpack and uniform still stained with blood and still littered with sand. She walked aimlessly alongside the road until she found a hotel with an ornate fountain that flowed in the front, and a lobby with a simulated pond that boasted a small family of ducks.
"Good afternoon, madame. Do you have a reservation?" The impeccably dressed hotel clerk smiled pleasantly.
"Ah, no. Do you have any rooms available?"
"I believe we do, yes. Just a single room? One bed?"
"Excellent, yes, we do. How many nights would you like to reserve?" The clerk noted her hesitation and gently added, "The rate is 1,000 cenz."
Riza remembered a time when that kind of money was nothing but pocket change. "Just one should be fine."
He handed her the room key and she gave him a portion of money the military had awarded her upon completion of duty; she'd felt almost wealthy again when she'd been granted approximately a year's worth of pay she'd been unable to access while shooting civilians in the sand.
She showered only after she had searched the entire room, gun drawn, and she still couldn't relax under the hot spray. Every shuffle of feet outside her door would cause her to leap out of the shower and aim her gun at shadows...at least until doing so caused her to slam against the tile floor and slide against the door.
"Ow..." Riza shook her head. If she'd been holding her gun at the time, then she might have shot herself, or someone else through the walls. She pressed her palms against her eyes. "This is crazy."
A tightness filled her chest, and she thought she might cry, but she didn't. She probably couldn't, anymore. When she stood, bracing herself with one arm against the vanity, and gazed at herself in the mirror, her eyes looked as cold and lifeless as they had for nearly a year, now. "And now I'm talking to myself."
She pushed away from the mirror and turned the water off. It had turned cold, and she wondered how long she'd stared at herself in the mirror.
She slid into bed naked, and drifted to sleep immediately. She hadn't been able to sleep on the train, and she certainly hadn't been able to sleep in Ishval.
She woke with a start in the middle of the night. She reached for her gun, but it was still in the bathroom. Her heart thudded against her chest in absolute terror - the bathroom was at least ten feet away, and she had nothing to shield herself with...she'd be dead before...
Riza forced herself to breathe, and turned on the light.
She was fine. She'd be fine.
No one was trying to kill her anymore.
She walked to the bathroom, retrieved her gun, and pulled the comforter down to the floor.
The bed was too soft. It made her back ache.
She stared blankly at the ceiling until morning.
Central City was even larger than she expected, and the crowds made her nervous, but she forced herself to walk outside and buy some groceries for her new apartment, because otherwise she was afraid she would never leave the safety of her new home. She'd yet to purchase any furniture, not even a bed, and she reveled in the openness. There was nowhere anyone could hide, and once she'd performed her security check and locked the doors, she could relax in her comforter in the corner of the living room and read as many novels as she liked.
She hadn't spoken to anyone in a week, and she found she did not miss speaking.
Riza froze in terror for a moment before she recognized the voice. It was that man she'd seen beside Roy when she'd shot that burned Ishvalan boy...when she'd considered, however briefly, killing her father's most talented student. "Hello, Captain Hughes."
The man grinned. "It's Major, now; I got a promotion. Evidently I am command-track material, which is slightly terrifying. And our pyromaniac friend is already a Lieutenant Colonel, can you believe it? Which is, of course, infinitely more disturbing. He's at HQ now, poring over personnel files, getting ready to pick his team. Never pegged him for a workaholic. Hey, you had lunch yet? Now, don't take it like I'm hitting on you, please, because I am a happily engaged man."
Riza blinked. His tirade of words poured over her and she tried to absorb everything, but her mind was so disjointed from the long period of non communication all she could do was shake her head.
"Nonsense." He offered his arm and she took it, dumbly. "My Gracia knows that I would never cheat on her, so there's no reason to be afraid. That one waitress overstepped herself, that's all, and Gracia was having a horrible day because her mother..."
Riza tuned out his chatter and watched the crowds move past. Everyone walked so quickly here, in comparison to the eastern part of the country, and no one waved to each other...well, no one waved polite gestures at each other, in any case. She remembered when her mother used to bring her to town, how they stopped to chat with everyone on the way to the shops, and how her father had chided her for it when they arrived home as the sun set. "Do you have to visit with everyone?" He would ask, but he would do so gently...Riza remembered her father, when he was gentle, before he hid himself in his study with only his books for company.
Is that what I'm doing? She wondered. Except with romance novels instead of alchemical texts. How...ordinary. If I'm going to hide in my apartment, I should at least come up with something worthwhile to do in my self-imposed exile. Maybe I could write. she decided. I could write the most powerful romance novel ever, and tattoo it on my child's back.
She stifled a bitter laugh, and Hughes seemingly took it in stride, assuming she was chuckling at one of his stories about his enchanting fiancé.
"So," he asked once they had ordered food, "what have you been doing on your days off?"
She tried to concentrate on what he was saying, but found herself wondering what the hell she had ordered, and then why the hell she couldn't remember anything anymore. He repeated himself, with a slight frown, and she sighed. "I found a place to live."
"Is it nice?"
"Yes, it's perfect."
"I hope they don't re-station you."
Riza shrugged. "I'll find somewhere else, then. I don't really like this city."
"It's a little difficult to get used to, if you were born somewhere small, but I like it. It's...honest, I guess. People don't fake being happy to see each other here, like they do other places."
She remembered her mother again. "Where I come from, people don't fake that sort of thing."
"That must be nice."
"It's hard, being back, isn't it?" Hughes mused. "I thought I would be so happy to get back to Gracia, and I am, but...it's an adjustment."
Riza looked at him, intrigued. "You're a good friend of Roy's?"
"His best friend," Hughes beamed, "since before academy. I must admit, I am curious as to how you know each other."
"I don't really know him that well," she admitted. "He was my father's student, and I was often away at school when he came for lessons. When my father died, he helped me make arrangements."
"He spoke about you, afterwards, but never by name," Hughes intimated. "He was amazed at how strong you were. He said he'd never met another person so tough."
"Most girls like to be thought of as pretty," she smiled faintly.
"He said you weren't most girls," Hughes said. "He's coming out tonight with me and a few guys. You should come."
Riza shook her head. "No, I'm...not good company right now."
The waiter slid the dishes in front of them with panache, and Riza tilted her head at the pasta. She didn't have much of an appetite, anymore.
"No one's good company. Roy mostly just drinks until I have to carry him home, to tell the truth." Hughes looked at her, but the sunlight reflecting off his glasses made his expression difficult to read. "I'd appreciate the help."
She just shook her head again.
It was impossible to say no to Maes Hughes, she discovered. She'd declined his offer several times that evening, and she still found herself being escorted to the bar in her civvies (when was the last time she'd worn a skirt and make-up?) to the table where the man she'd gone to war for was sitting with a glass of whiskey on the rocks.
"Mr. Mustang," she greeted quietly.
He stared at her blankly, then shook his head. "Miss Hawkeye."
Hughes clapped Roy on the back. "Well, you two get reacquainted, I'm going to get some drinks from the bar. Anything for the lady?"
"Vodka tonic, please."
"How have you been?" Roy asked. "Is your back better?"
"It's completely healed, now."
"Good." Roy drained his drink and waved at Hughes to fetch him another. "I'm sorry, you look very nice."
"You do, too." She sighed. She felt a sinking feeling in her chest just talking to him. His expression used to be so open to her, even in Ishval...and now she might as well have been a stranger. "It's so odd to think that despite everything we don't really know each other at all."
"Don't we?" Roy twirled his empty glass around his hands. "I'd like to think you know me well enough to call me when you got into town, instead of hiding yourself away in your apartment."
"You've been keeping tabs on me?"
"I promised I'd take care of you."
"Not that you'd stalk me."
Roy gestured with his thumb. "I wasn't the one doing the stalking. It pays to have a friend in Intelligence."
"Especially when yours is so low," she said hotly, but they both knew she didn't really mean it.
Roy Mustang might be an arrogant bastard, but he was far from stupid. Her father had taken him on as a student because he could perform complex equations in his head effortlessly, and he was the only man who had ever beaten her father at chess. "He's a genius," her father had told her as he needled the intricate array on her back. "A human calculator, and his research notes are meticulous. I think he might be the one..."
Hughes returned with the drinks and Roy immediately began working on his. Riza took a liberal gulp of her own drink, because being sober had suddenly become quite a burden. "I hear you've been stalking me."
"Ah, under the command of my superior officer, my dear Hawkeye. I sincerely apologize."
She took another drink.
Hughes had to leave because of a flower arrangement emergency.
At least that's what Riza thought. She was fairly drunk.
She didn't know quite how they managed to pay their tab, but then she figured if Roy could maneuver molecules in his head, he could probably work out a bar tab when he was toasted. They leaned on each other as they walked out the door, but she didn't know where they were headed.
"Where are we going?" she asked thickly.
He shrugged. "Where do you live?"
She shrugged. "I don't remember."
Roy stopped walking to give her a look, but she slapped him in the chest. "Don't look at me like that! I just moved in. You're the stalker, you should know this."
"We'll just go to my place, then."
"I think it's that way," she pointed, but he shook his head.
They stumbled along in silence while they walked to his house, and Riza watched the crowds with less wariness than before. "There are so many people out in the middle of the night, here."
"Yeah, it's hard to get used to, huh?" He pulled his arm from hers to steady himself as he unlocked the door. "I felt the same way when I came to your village. Mine was so small we didn't even have cars."
Riza giggled. "You were such a farm boy back then."
"Yeah. I think I still am."
He opened the door and she nearly fell inside before he could catch her. "Easy there." He shut the door with effort. "I've got to stop drinking so much."
"It makes it easier, though," she said.
He pulled her along to the couch. "Yeah, I guess."
"I haven't even bought furniture yet."
"I know. Hughes said you've just been in your apartment all week."
"I was scared to come out. I was just like my father, hiding away from the world because it hurt me."
Roy rubbed his face. "You are nothing like him. You came out, right? You're so brave."
"I have nightmares every night, like a child."
"I do, too."
She leaned against him, relishing his warmth. "But you didn't hide away."
"I wanted to, but I've kinda set a goal for myself," he rubbed her back slowly. "You are absolutely beautiful, you know that?"
"What kind of goal?"
"Thought I'd overthrow the government and replace it with a democracy."
"You never start small, do you?"
He kissed her neck. "Nope."
"Roy," she tasted his name on her lips, and felt his breath hitch against the shell of her ear.
"Say that again," he murmured, and resumed his exploration of her ear.
"Roy," she sighed. "Should we be doing this?"
"No, Riza," he kissed her softly on the lips, letting his tongue gently trace the contour of her bottom lip. "But I want to. I've missed you."
They kissed some more, drunkenly, and all Riza could feel was Roy's body against hers. The room felt like it was spinning, but she wasn't sure if it was the alcohol or Roy that was making her dizzy. When he began to unbutton her shirt, she stopped him. She wanted to feel something, anything, but all she felt was numb and empty and...
"I...I don't think..." she choked out softly.
He stopped. He gently touched the area he'd burned, and then dropped his hands to his sides, fisted. "I'm so sorry."
"No, no, it's not." He looked at her, and she still couldn't tell what the hell he was thinking. "I killed hundreds of thousands of people with this, and it's not okay. I just wanted to learn how to make it rain during the dry season, to help out around my father's farm, and then I wound up in Ishval where it never rains, and you know, the first time I blew a city up I was so preoccupied with balancing equations that I never even stopped to wonder the names of the dead?"
"I was supposed to come back from the war, and find you waiting for me, and we'd move to my father's village and take over the farm and you were not supposed to follow me!" He laid down on the couch with a thud and fisted his hands in his dark hair.
She laid down with him, and he wrapped one arm around her waist. "If I hadn't followed you, then you'd be dead." He looked at her like maybe that's what he would have preferred, but he didn't say anything. She continued. "So what do we do now?"
"I'm thinking about having you transferred under my direct command," he said, his voice tickling her neck.
"Then I probably shouldn't be laying on top of you."
"Can we lay on the floor?" She asked after a few moments. "I can't...the couch is too soft. Just a blanket on the floor?"
"...sure," he agreed slowly.
He went to grab a comforter from his bed, and she inspected the entire house with his spare firearm until she was satisfied there were no ghosts hiding in the darkness. Roy laid the blanket down on the floor next to the couch, and she set his gun on the coffee table. He set his gloves next to the firearm, and pulled her against him on the floor.
"I'm sorry," he said again.
She didn't think he was apologizing to her. The words repeated themselves in her head as a mantra, I'm sorry I'm sorry I'm so sorry please I'm sorry, but she never fell asleep and she never felt forgiven.