An Unconventional Christmas
Disclaimer - I don't own Fullmetal Alchemist.
Author's Note - Okay, I know this is really belated, but I just had the random urge to write this pairing of my two favorite characters and this is the result ^.^ Consider it a New Year's gift, I guess ;P (And hello, Fullmetal fandom! :) I haven't written anything here yet, so I apologize in advance if I get anything wrong...)
01/25/10 - Beta edited.
Snow swirled endlessly downward through the darkening sky. Blanketed beneath heavy clouds, the city's lights glowed blearily through the gloom like so many flickering candles. Thick and heavy flakes clung to a window high from the ground, plastering the reflection of a man in blue uniform, hands folded beneath his chin as he studied the growing tempest outside.
Colonel Roy Mustang swiveled his chair away from the window, squinting slightly as he surveyed his brightly lit office. Across the room, Lieutenant Hawkeye flipped swiftly through the filing cabinet, rearranging and removing papers – the cabinets had regained some sort of clean order since she had laid hands on them. Leaning against the wall beside her was Second Lieutenant Havoc, languidly lighting a cigarette.
Mustang glanced up when Hawkeye strode to his desk, depositing a handful of papers. "I think these are the last of them, sir," she reported in her usual businesslike tone, then biting her lip to stop from smiling; Mustang groaned, eyeing the work with particular distaste.
He ran a hand through his dark hair, muttering, "It's Christmas Eve. Can't they cut us a bit of slack?"
Hawkeye inclined her head politely. "Sir, these are the papers you neglected to finish last week." She was trying but failing to hide her amusement.
"Fine," he sighed, reaching for his pen. "You're certain this is the last of it?"
"As soon as this is done, you're dismissed," he announced, glancing at his agents. "Go home. You both deserve the break."
"Thank you, sir," Hawkeye clipped, snapping a hand to her forehead in salute; then she headed back to sorting out the cabinets.
Now Mustang lowered his eyes to the paperwork, propping his head against his hand as he pulled the first sheaf closer to him. Personally, he didn't care much for the holiday; but the state alchemists had been particularly busy lately, and he was just as tired as his subordinates. He briefly scanned the first form before signing it with a lazy flick of his wrist. He turned to the next one, grimaced, and crumpled it into a ball before chucking it at the can across the room. The paper bounced off the rim of the garbage can and landed on the floor. Hawkeye shot him a reprimanding glare – which he pretended not to see – as he grumpily returned to his work.
Mustang raised his head again at a rather aggravating noise – Havoc absently tapped the edge of the cabinet, humming to himself. He recognized it distantly as some Christmas carol – Mustang didn't care enough to deduce which one. After a minute wasted glaring at the oblivious lieutenant, hoping he would take the hint, Mustang sighed and strived to focus.
His vision blurred and he blinked hard, squinting at the words. It was late; by now, most everyone except for them had to be home, enjoying a quiet reprieve. Goddamn it – we'd better be paid overtime for this. Growling, he signed another form.
Havoc had stopped tapping, and now finally decided to be helpful by shredding papers. He glanced over at his fellow agent as he grabbed another creased armful.
"Hey, Riza, are you doing anything for Christmas?"
Mustang glanced up.
Hawkeye pursed her lips, running a finger over newly arranged files even as she spoke. "Not really. I was planning on just having a quiet Christmas with Black Hayate."
Havoc nodded, taking a long drag on his cigarette. "Well, I scored a date for tomorrow night. Finally, I won't have to spend Christmas with my parents." He grinned wryly, leaning against the cabinets.
"What about you, Colonel?" Hawkeye asked quietly. She had adeptly noticed him listening; Mustang shifted his attention back to his papers.
"I'm going to sleep," he stated dismissively. The two lieutenants exchanged glances, Havoc amused, Hawkeye exasperated.
"You never do anything," Havoc commented. "Every year it's the same – cheer up, man, get yourself a girl or something."
Mustang finished his signature a bit viciously, nearly tearing the paper with his pen. He stood, pushing the completed stack away. "Done. I won't keep you two here any longer. Enjoy your Christmas."
The two straightened, saluting. Havoc then turned away, butting out his cigarette on the edge of the cabinet; Hawkeye approached his desk, silently gathering up the papers and straightening them.
In the doorway, Havoc turned back, coat in hand. "Merry Christmas," he said with a slight wave and a grin. Then he was gone.
Mustang sank back in his chair with a sigh, running his gloved hands over his face. Through his fingers he saw Hawkeye hastening to organize the last of the papers. The cabinet slid closed with a final loud clang.
"You, too," he murmured. "Go get some rest."
"And yourself, Colonel," she supplied with a slight bow. She headed for the coat rack.
At that moment a slight figure staggered through the doorway, a tottering pile of papers half-obscuring his vision.
"I'm sorry, Colonel," came a voice from behind the papers. "These just came in – the General wants them back as soon as possible."
Mustang was on his feet again, gaze dark, brow furrowed; he managed a nod, however, as the agent set down the papers with a thump on his desk. He stepped back, pushing his glasses up on his sweaty nose.
"Thank you, Master Sergeant Fuery."
Fuery bowed, heading for the exit uncertainly.
"Tell the General I'll have them on his desk tonight," Mustang finally sighed, regarding the extra work.
"Yes, sir!" He saluted.
"…Have a good Christmas," Mustang said.
"Merry Christmas to you too, sir." Fuery hastened out.
When he was gone, Mustang slumped at his desk, eyeing the task in front of him. He sighed, massaging his temples. Damn, so much for a good night's sleep…
"Sir?" It took him a moment to realize Hawkeye was still hovering in his office, watching him with concern.
He waved a hand, "I'll deal with it. Go home."
She hesitated a moment longer. "Sir, I can-"
"You do enough around here," he cut her off sharply. "I can't ask you to do anything more."
"Yes, sir," she acknowledged quietly, slipping out the door. She paused long enough to say, "Please take care of yourself this holiday, sir."
He only nodded; she closed the door softly behind her, and he was left alone with the tower of papers. Mustang shuffled through them without seeing them – reports on missions, the latest updates on the precarious situation in the east. He sighed, mentally steeling himself, and resolved to stop prolonging the task. He reached for his pen.
Five minutes in, he was already cross-eyed from staring at the small print. He growled, cursing softly under his breath against his superiors. He wearily judged the tall stack still waiting for him and spat out a few choice words.
He almost missed the creak of the door opening and in an instant straightened, donning a façade of focus. He eased slightly when he saw who now peered uncertainly at him, one hand on the doorframe.
"Lieutenant Hawkeye," he acknowledged, eyes narrowing. "I thought I told you to go home…?"
She strode swiftly across the chamber, face set, bracing her hands on the desk and staring him in the eye. "Colonel, I appreciate your offer but…you must think of yourself sometimes." Her tone had eased and she was now offering a small, sympathetic smile. "These papers will take you all night, won't they?"
Mustang stared at the mess on his desk and grudgingly nodded. He still refused to surrender to her, however, raising his head. "This is none of your responsibility, Lieutenant Hawkeye. I will spend all night here, if I must." Inwardly he cringed at the thought; but he had his pride, and he certainly wouldn't have her do his job for him.
Hawkeye shook her head, her smile broadening. "Oh, Colonel, you can be so stupid." And with that she perched in the seat in front of his desk, pulling some of the stack toward her. She eyed him warningly over the papers – "I won't do this for you, but I'll review these requests and see which ones are…unnecessary."
He stared at her. "Hawkeye…" Then he shook his head, lips quirking. "You're a godsend, you know that?"
She lowered her eyes, smiling slightly. "Well, someone has to look out for you." She slid two papers toward him, discarding another few.
Mustang watched her for a moment, reveling in the fact that he had somehow found such a loyal subordinate – he didn't deserve any of it, he found himself thinking. She would do anything for him; and what had he given her in return for her loyalty? He shook his head and returned to the paperwork.
Faster than he would have thought possible, they demolished the monstrous stack; Mustang signed the last sheet in a tired flourish and leaned back with a sigh.
"I'll leave this on the General's desk and be out of here," he murmured in relief, flexing his aching fingers. Hawkeye quietly rose, tidying the accepted pile and taking all the rejected papers to the recycling bin. After watching her movements for a moment Mustang jolted to his feet.
She glanced up at him, stray blond bangs falling across her eye – "Sir?"
"Would you mind," he cleared his throat, "if I walk you home?"
She straightened, blinking in surprise. "You don't have to do that, Colonel-"
He gestured to the black sky outside, snow still trickling along the windowpane. "It's the least I can do. I insist."
She bit her lip before nodding; she gathered both their coats as Mustang tucked the papers under his arm and headed for the General's office, Hawkeye trailing him.
As he half expected, the office was locked – it really was late. He settled for leaving the stack at the door, muttering a dark, "Merry Christmas." Hawkeye pretended not to hear, only smiling slightly.
Then the duo traveled down the darkened halls in silence, neither certain of what to say and both too tired to converse. Nevertheless, Mustang appreciated the silence; neither of them really had to say anything. After many years working together, they knew each other so well it was merely a comfort to be in the other's presence.
Reaching the front doors, Mustang pushed them open and was rewarded with a blast of cold wind in his face. He narrowed his eyes, stepping out into the dark night; wet droplets of snow pelted his face and he tugged his coat tighter around his neck.
"It's still storming, damn it," he muttered, holding the door open for Hawkeye. She said nothing but pulled up her fur-lined hood, falling into step with him.
The lights above the doors cast them into a warm pool of their glow; beyond that, shadows stretched in the darkness. Streetlights winked, lighting a trail along the winding road. Mustang squinted, stepping out of the light.
"Be careful," Hawkeye murmured, "the stairs will be slippery."
They were. Thick ice had gathered on the steps leading up to the building, and even their heavy boots had little grip. Mustang reached for the rail to steady himself, offering his other arm to Hawkeye. Her hand was warm clenching his elbow, and he was suddenly very focused on keeping as steady as possible.
He breathed easier once they were again on solid ground; Hawkeye released his arm with a small nod. Immediately Mustang regretted losing that warmth, but he restrained that unexpected emotion as they walked on. He glanced around the empty streets, the huge banks of snow rising like small mountains on either side of them, while their well-worn trail was relatively flat and marred only by the occasional patch of ice. With his sharpened eyes he wasn't observing the beauty of the night, however; he was searching out figures in the gloom, perilous terrain, anything that might harm the one walking cautiously at his side.
They lingered in the lighted path of the streetlights, moving from pool to pool of light while avoiding the deep grasping shadows. The streets were quiet, despite their edginess; it was now well past midnight and they were the sole ones braving the cold and wind.
Clouds lay thick in the sky, obscuring any glow of the moon. Nevertheless, when Mustang raised his head, the snow tumbling down around them resembled so many glistening white stars. The wind was crisp, but it was also fresh; snow sparkled in the splash of light, deep and untouched. He breathed deeply, turning to show Hawkeye the beauty of the scene.
That was when, unknowingly treading on a patch of black ice, her feet slid out from under her. Hawkeye let out a small shriek; she fell backward, her hood tumbling free and her amber eyes wide. Her hand feathered his arm as she grappled for a handhold and missed.
Mustang whirled, slowed by shock. "Hawkeye!"
She hit the ground and stilled, right leg twisted awkwardly beneath her. In an instant Mustang was on his knees beside her, frantically checking her over. He grasped her warm wrist, feeling the steady pulse beneath her skin.
Only unconscious. He breathed again. He didn't have the medical expertise to fully asses her condition; he squeezed her hand, the only reassurance he could give, before fumbling for his cell phone. As his heart pounded he dialed three numbers, and Mustang uttered a silent prayer.
Riza Hawkeye awoke in a painfully bright room. She squinted against the glare, turning her head to silently assess her surroundings. She was in a plain white bed – its crisp sheets crackling – inside a largely empty white chamber. Windows lined one side of the room, curtained with long beige drapes. A clock on the wall across from her read, two A.M.
Hawkeye groaned softly; her head pounded, and as she cautiously felt her skull a strip of bandages chafed against her fingers. She closed her eyes, gingerly prodding the lump at the base of her skull, and let out a faint hiss.
Her eyes opened to slits as she sensed someone was with her; then her eyes widened as she recognized Colonel Mustang, still in full uniform, leaning over her. There was a chair abandoned further away.
He touched her forehead gently – his fingers were surprisingly warm, and she noted with no lack of shock that he had foregone his gloves. "Are you feeling all right?" he asked brusquely.
She considered; "I'll survive," she stated finally, allowing a tiny smile. It vanished as she anxiously raised her head to survey him. "What happened?" He didn't look injured, himself; she was relieved at that.
He pulled over his chair and sat beside her. "You fell on the ice," he explained, "so I brought you here." He hesitated, "The doctors said you should be fine. You didn't get a concussion, only a broken ankle." She nodded, wincing; her right ankle did hurt quite a bit, too.
"Colonel, thank you," she murmured. She smiled wryly, "It's a good thing you decided to walk me home."
He tugged at his collar. "I wasn't able to do much for you-"
She laid a hand on his arm gently. "It was enough, sir. Thank you."
He cleared his throat, glancing away. "We're not at work any more, Hawkeye. Call me Roy, please."
She stared at him with some surprise, recovering with, "Only if you call me Riza."
He took a breath. "I…apologize, Riza. Staying in the hospital isn't exactly an enjoyable way to spend Christmas."
Hawkeye laughed softly. "It's not your fault. At least I have your company for a while."
He nodded tiredly, running a hand through his hair. "Well, at least I could do something for you."
Sympathetically she squeezed his arm. "I'll be fine here. You look exhausted, Roy; you should go home."
He followed her eyes to the clock and slowly shook his head. "I'll stay a while longer," he murmured. "There's nothing waiting for me at home."
She drew herself up. "As your lieutenant, it's my duty to look out for you – and I say you go home."
"And as your colonel, I refuse," he said flatly, smiling faintly at her efforts. "Can't I be the one to look after you for once?"
Her eyes widened at the suggestion, and she quickly looked away. Color warmed her cheeks and she mumbled, "Thanks. But you really don't have-"
"Yes, I do." His hand closed around hers, resting on his arm, and he squeezed it gently. "As repayment."
"Serving you is repayment enough," she responded automatically.
He stared at her a long moment, his stoic mask finally melting into something akin to fondness. "I don't deserve you, Riza. I don't deserve any of it."
"It doesn't matter," she murmured, offering a smile. "I still…" She stopped herself, heart pounding, realizing she had been about to say love you. She hastily corrected, "I still serve you, and I would give my life for you, sir."
He finally admitted, "I'm endlessly grateful to you. I don't think there's anything to equal all you've done for me, your loyalty. But if there's even the slightest thing to make you happier, only say it and I'll see it done. It's all I can offer," he tapered off finally, eyes drifting away as he absorbed the intensity of his own speech, surprised by his own vehement emotions.
Hawkeye, meanwhile, was silent; she allowed only a shard of her inner gratitude to surface in her smile and respectful nod. "Yes, sir."
Mustang said little after that; he was not one for speeches, and it seemed to have flustered him. Instead he sat back, surveying her over his clasped hands; his piercing stare made her a little nervous as well, but she strived to ignore it.
Mustang finally rose; she assumed he would take his leave now, and smiled gently. "Goodnight, Roy."
He stared down at her a moment before allowing a small smile of his own. "Get some sleep." He turned away, hands in pockets.
"…And merry Christmas, Riza."
The morning dawned brightly; Hawkeye was awake early, adapted to her usual military schedule. It took a moment for her to catch her bearings, and recall she was still in hospital. She glanced around the room, surprised to see Mustang still slumped in his chair by her bedside, snoring faintly. She frowned disapprovingly – how many times had she told him to go home? – but nevertheless had to privately admire him for staying at her side.
With nothing to occupy herself, she grew restless; but with her ankle swathed in bandages she couldn't even walk around the room by herself. Thus, she settled for adjusting her pillow and sitting up in bed, studying her commander.
Soon she was distracted by the door opening – and none other than Second Lieutenant Havoc sauntered into the room. He glanced around, noticed their colonel dozing off, and then smirking approached the bed.
"Jean!" Hawkeye said in a surprised whisper, straightening. "What are you doing here?"
"Mr. Sleepyhead here sent me a message last night. So, I decided to come and check up on you." Havoc perched beside her, rummaging in his coat – "Ah! This is for you." He flourished a small bundle of flowers. "Thought you might like some color."
"Thank you," she murmured, accepting them. They were indeed pretty, from the milky lily in the middle to the surrounding blues and reds. "But you really shouldn't have-"
"I'll let you in on a secret," he grinned, glancing over at their motionless commander. "It wasn't exactly my idea."
Hawkeye understood. "He shouldn't have," she murmured, shaking her head and setting the flowers in the empty vase by her bed.
"Hey," Havoc protested, "I was the one who had to pay for them…"
She ignored him. "Second Lieutenant, would you do me a favor…?" She held out her arm, grimacing, "Help me to the window, please. I can't walk."
He nodded, swiftly standing and sliding an arm around her; using him as leverage she managed to gain her feet, gingerly testing her right foot. She gasped as pain shot up her leg, leaning heavily against him - Havoc only tightened his grip.
"I've got you." Slowly he helped her hop across the room, only leaving her to fetch a chair when she had a firm grip on the sill. Hawkeye sank into it gratefully, giving him a nod of thanks. Then she pushed open the heavy curtains, breath catching when she saw the world below blanketed in fresh white snow. Last night's storm was only a memory; the blue sky was clear, the white carpet below a perfect winter wonderland. Tiny pinpricks bustling along were passersby; cars were nothing more than large multicolored ants scuttling along.
She was aware, eventually, of Mustang stirring behind them; she turned just as he stretched, blearily scanning the room.
"Riza…?" he mumbled, sighting her empty bed. He whirled around, eyes falling on her and Havoc by the window.
"What are you doing over there?" he demanded, eyes flashing. "You're in no shape to be wandering around!"
"Relax, sir," Hawkeye assured him. "I'm fine – I don't require your supervision at all times." She smiled wryly.
"And besides, she's got me," Havoc pointed out, absently flicking his lighter open and closed in his fist – he wasn't allowed to smoke within the hospital.
Mustang's shoulders eased as he sighed, slumping back in his chair. He grimaced, rubbing his neck; he hadn't slept too well, Hawkeye realized immediately, again wishing he had returned to the comforts of home. He didn't need to go through all this trouble just for her…
Soon a nurse bustled into the room, interrupting any chance of conversation with him. After a swift checkup she was deemed well enough to leave; at this, Hawkeye gave Mustang a knowing look, to which he only grumbled and looked away.
"What luck – guess you'll get your Christmas after all," Havoc smirked. Mustang took the flowers for her before Hawkeye, supported on either side by her comrades, limped out of the wing.
She didn't feel up to the stairs, so they waited for an elevator down to the main level of the hospital. Then emerging into the snowy entranceway Havoc bid them farewell – "I have some errands to run before my date tonight," he explained with his typical grin, searching in his pockets for a cigarette. His eyes drifted upward and he smirked before lighting it. "See you two later."
He wandered off, leaving Hawkeye hanging onto Mustang's arm and holding her coat tightly to her neck in the cold. She wondered about the direction of his gaze, and glanced upward as well.
A clump of mistletoe hung above their heads. She glanced quickly to the colonel, but he had already noticed as well; his gaze was unreadable as he met her eye.
"Um…" She fumbled, flustered by this sudden predicament. She cleared her throat and returned to her businesslike façade: "I don't believe in that sort of thing, colonel. Let's go."
He stopped her, tightening his hold on her arm. "Wait."
Then he pulled her up against him, and in her shock Hawkeye didn't resist; her amber eyes widened slightly as he lowered his head to hers. In a heartbeat he closed the distance between them, and his lips soundlessly brushed hers.
Hawkeye drew back sharply, face painted with shock. "Colonel!" she gasped.
Frowning slightly, Mustang faltered. "Is something wrong?"
Her heart fluttering in time with her spinning thoughts, she spluttered. "Colonel, you can't – it's not professional!" she burst out finally. Centering herself firmly on that idea, she regained her composure. "What would the military say if they knew you went around kissing your subordinates," she accused, raising her chin and planting her free hand on her hip.
His brow furrowed at this; then, to her surprise, he began to laugh. Mustang shook his head in amusement, taking up her chin in his broad hand.
"Oh, Riza, you think this is about work?" he chuckled. "I thought I told you before. We're not at the office anymore – we're just two people who happen to have met," he glanced upward with a faint smirk, "under the mistletoe."
She hesitated a moment longer; then Hawkeye surrendered a tiny smile.
"In that case, then, Roy, you may kiss me again. Properly."
He leaned forward before wavering indignantly, "What do you mean, pr-"
Mustang didn't get a chance to finish as Hawkeye silenced him with her lips.
When they resurfaced long moments later, neither was certain of what to say. Mustang pushed a hand through his hair, staring at her; under his piercing gaze Hawkeye glanced away.
"Well," he mumbled, "that was…"
"Yes," she agreed without meeting his eye. They lapsed into silence.
Eventually Hawkeye remembered where they were, and straightened. "Sir – if I may be so bold as to offer – would you like to come to my place?" She hastened to reason, "It's not much, but it might be better than spending Christmas alone…"
He nodded slightly, "That sounds excellent."
She reached again for his arm for support, but he offered his hand instead. She clasped it with some apprehension, but his cool stability and slight smile soon eased her nerves.
As they made their way down the steps she murmured, "If you don't mind, we should hurry back. There's someone waiting for me at home."
Mustang stopped, eyes narrowing. "Someone-?"
Hawkeye pressed her finger to his lips, giggling slightly at his look of suspicion. "Yes, remember? Black Hayate."
At the mention of the puppy, his shoulders relaxed and he turned away, saying with as much dignity as possible, "Of course."
Her laugh echoed in the clear air as they ventured down the snowy street together.