Set early manga, spoilers for Ishval arc
Despite the earmuffs made specifically to block the sound of gunfire that came from both sides of her, the sound still echoed in her ears. She didn't see why they had to wear them. It only left unseasoned soldiers unprepared for the noise of battle.
Even from her position as a sniper crouched in a lofty tower, she'd heard the racket of battle, of death, of massacre.
Her bullet tore through the shoulder of the paper target, not quite a deadly blow, but one that could maim and definitely disarm an adversary.
She lowered her arms and shook her head against the images of Ishval that flashed through her mind. Her back itched at the way her shirt moved across it and she clenched her teeth in irritation. She hadn't expected it to take so long to heal, and she was glad, not for the first time, that he hadn't burned her entire back.
A shadow fell across the wall of the booth and she turned around, clicking on the safety of her gun, and lowering the ear muffs until they rested around her neck.
The man in black saluted and she returned the salute after holstering the pistol.
"General Grumman has a matter he'd like to discuss with you, Lieutenant Hawkeye," the man reported.
"Thank you, you may go, I'll only be a moment," she dismissed him, still not used to having authority over others.
"Sorry, Lieutenant, but he wanted me to take you there as soon as I found you," he explained. "I've already signed you out of the shooting range."
She briefly wondered if she'd done something wrong in the whole week she'd been at Eastern, but disregarded the thought before it caused any worry. Nodding, she took her uniform jacket from the peg it hung on and replaced it with the ear muffs.
Pulling her jacket on, she followed him as he led her out of the indoor range. Irritation prickled in her mind at the itching sensation that exploded across her back as she slid her arms into the sleeves.
They passed by an office marked 'Colonel Mustang' and she stared at the door for a moment.
"This is an awful roundabout way," she remarked, quite sure they didn't have to pass by his office to get to Grumman's.
"I haven't been here long, used to be stationed in the west," he apologized.
She didn't quite believe him, but didn't mention her doubt. She hadn't expected to be so lucky after the war. She'd thought she would have had to put in more than one request to be stationed in the same place as him. That was until her orders had arrived a week before her leave ended. At first, she'd wondered if he'd pulled strings, but when she wasn't assigned to work under him she knew it had to be coincidence.
"Just right through that door, have a seat at the desk and he'll join you in a moment," a new voice said, bringing her out of her thoughts. The M.P. had already left her, and she found herself in the office that led to Grumman's. The only one to acknowledge her was the Captain who pointed to the door at the end of the office.
She nodded her thanks and made her way into Grumman's personal office.
Before she even got a few steps in, the door clicked shut behind her, and she turned expecting to find the General, but the room was still empty.
After a few moments, she sat down in one of the blue armchairs.
She would never admit it, but as the minutes ticked away she was growing a bit nervous.
Her eyes flitted from one odd knick-knack to the other: a small checkered case that sat at the corner of his desk, a picture frame adorned with painted pasta of all different shapes, the photo inside of a much younger version of the general she awaited with a little brunette girl in his arms, a fake purple parrot perched in a birdcage resting atop a book case, a little potted plant that, if she remembered correctly, was called a bonsai tree.
Footsteps sounded in the other room as a shadow fell across the grey carpet and she twisted around in her chair, but the shadow left by the blue shape moved past the beveled glass window and the footsteps faded—just and officer walking across the office.
She sighed. If he was going to take so long, why had he left a M.P. in charge of making sure she followed the summons with the utmost urgency? She rubbed her hands on her blue uniform pants—her hands were still caked with gunpowder and the mingled scents of burnt paper and sulfur radiated from them.
The lingering scent still reminded her of those dark faces she'd seen through the scope of her rifle, dark faces that didn't even get the courtesy of seeing their reaper.
She rubbed her hands on the woolen pants again, over and over until the flesh of her palms was an irritated pink.
The door creaked open and she jumped up from her seat to attention. "Ah, so you were at the range," Grumman remarked as he walked around his desk to the vacant chair.
"Yes, Sir," she replied as she saluted.
He returned the salute as he lowered himself into his chair. "At ease."
She relaxed her posture and clasped her hands behind her back.
Grinning, Grumman waved her down. "Have a seat, will you," he ordered more than requested, and she did so.
He pulled a beige folder from a drawer and unceremoniously dropped it on his desk.
She watched in silence while he thumbed through the folder's contents. As he closed the folder, she caught a glimpse of the photograph they'd taken of her before she'd been sent to Ishval.
"You requested to be a part of Colonel Mustang's team upon arriving here," he observed.
He waved a hand, prompting her to elaborate.
"He's a capable, intelligent, hard-working, fair man, and he doesn't hold a bias against women—"
"Should I be looking into the work ethics of the rest of my subordinates?"
"No, Sir, that's not what I meant," she answered hastily.
"Oh? Would you care to clarify for me?" he asked as he rested his elbows on his desk and propped his chin on his hands.
"I worked with him during the war."
"Ah, that's right, the Hero of Ishval was watched over by the Hawk's Eye," he interrupted her.
"Just a play on my name, Sir."
"But a fitting one," he mused as he watched her eyes darken with the mention of her part in the war. He didn't like getting information in such a roundabout way, but his chances of learning about the girl before now had been robbed of him all those years ago when Berthold had neglected to mention her existence, and he needed to test the water first, remind her of her choices before he went on. "Would you prefer granddaughter?"
Her amber eyes flashed with disgust and her hand twitched towards the guns hidden beneath the blue jacket in their holsters, but she pulled at the bottom of her jacket to straighten it. The movement of the heavy wool relieved the persistent itch on her shoulder for a moment.
"With all due respect, Sir, I'm not the type to play those games," she hissed.
Grumman threw his head back and laughed at her assumption.
She raised an eyebrow at his mirth.
Light glinted off his round glasses as he shook his head and got control over his laughter, and if not for that control he was sure he would have collapsed at the way her eyes tracked his movements as he walked around to the front of his desk and picked up the little travel sized chess set sitting the corner of the desk closest to her.
She had to make a conscious effort not to tighten her grip on the arms of the chair as he sat on the now vacant corner of his desk.
Ignoring her, he fumbled around inside the box, the ceramic pieces clinking when they met, and extracted a small stack of little slips of paper and envelopes.
With his prize in hand, the smile left his eyes. After a quick glance at the topmost slip, he offered them to her.
She eyed him and hesitantly reached out to take the papers.
Her eyes went wide with disbelief as soon as she could make out the age-darkened photo that sat on top of the pile.
This was the first time she'd ever seen anyone aside from her father in a photo with her mother. The man who stood behind her mother and father with a broad grin on his face and arms stretched out around their shoulders was clearly the General, not quite as young as in the photo on his desk, but nowhere near as grey as the man sitting before her.
"Grandfather," she whispered, as if testing the word in her mouth and the stiff tension in the office melted away.
His lips curved upwards in a smile which rivaled the one in the photo. He looked from her to the rest of the papers in her hand.
She shuffled through them: a marriage registration form all filled out save for signatures, a photo of her mother in a white gown and her belly swollen with life –
Riza looked away from the photo to Grumman and found his smile had unexpectedly transformed into a frown.
Shuffling the photo to the back of the pile, her eyes swept over a death certificate for Grumman, Baby Boy, hospital discharge papers filled out in her father's rushed hand, envelopes marked return to sender, and a newspaper clipping announcing her mother's death at 32.
When she raised her gaze to him, Grumman's eyes were glassy with sorrow.
He sucked in a ragged breath and busied himself with cleaning his glasses as he spoke. "Berthold Hawkeye seemed like a good enough man—he loved Elizabeth, and she loved him.
"She was barely six months along on they day they were supposed to have the wedding ceremony, but something happened…I've never seen so much blood outside of battle…" His breath caught, the emotion from that long-since-passed moment gathering and tightening his throat.
A quite sigh escaped her lips. She'd never known.
"She asked me to get her some clothes so she could get out of the hospital gowns, and they were gone when I returned. All they left behind was the death certificate and a simple note saying that the only way she could recover was to go somewhere she wouldn't be reminded of what she'd lost."
"And you left them alone?"
"No, what father would?" he snapped, forgetting for a moment that he had left it open to question with his pause. "Every time I caught up to them, they uprooted again. It was the fifth time I found myself knocking on a new door that it all stopped. She'd been the one to get the door, and her amber eyes filled with so much pain that I was immobilized. She pleaded with me to leave her alone, to stop making her remember, and seeing the tears spill down her cheeks convinced me to. She'd looked so happy when she'd first opened that door…"
Setting the stack of mementos on his desk, she found herself studying the carpet. He was describing a side of her mother she'd never seen. Part of her didn't want to believe him—her mother had been strong.
"I didn't find myself back at that door until ten years later when the newspaper with her obituary found its way into my mailbox. He was such a coward, couldn't even bring himself to make a phone call to let me know.
"It was pure chance that I arrived on the day of her funeral."
Riza shook her head, she didn't remember seeing him there, but then again, her father had sent her away with a neighbor because he couldn't handle her sobbing.
"He didn't tell me about you. I didn't know until I started to hear news of the ace sniper the academy was sending to the warfront early because of her skill. Once I got confirmation of your name being Hawkeye, I did some digging around."
She looked up at him. "You're the reason I was stationed here?" she stated more than asked as the pieces fell together.
He nodded. "I needed to see you…you look so much like her," he told her.
"Father said that, too," she replied repressing a tremor at the anger and hurt that always haunted her father's eyes when he told her.
Grumman leaned forward. "You don't have to stay in the military," he began, his eyes searching hers as he went on, "I can support you until you find another job," he offered.
She frowned up at her grandfather. "I can't do that, Sir," she told him, her voice hard.
"Well then, Lieutenant," he started, the formalities back in place, "I suppose have one more matter that needs your attention."
Her mouth opened and closed, trying to work out an apology, a thank you for his offer, but his back was to her and he was digging through her file.
When he turned back around, a small envelope with the dragon seal on it was clamped between his fingers.
He offered it to her, but didn't let go when she grasped it. "I'm glad to have a granddaughter who is so confident in her decisions. Though, it might not work out for the best if our relation is discovered," he cautioned. "Now, on to the official reason for our meeting." He glanced down at the cream colored envelope. "Mustang is expecting the newest addition to his team before the hour is over." He released the envelope as he got to his feet.
She nodded, her eyes glancing to the clock to find eleven minutes remaining in the hour.
"That'll be all for now, Lieutenant."
Rising from the chair, she offered him a salute.
Her eyes lingered on stack of papers on the edge of his desk. She bit her lip, and mentally berated herself for being so nervous. "Sir, may I?" she asked, reaching for the photo of her mother, father, and him.
"You should take them both, I've plenty at home."
"Thank you," she said ducking her head in a grateful bow as she extracted the photos from the rest of the papers.
Grumman watched her with a fond smile on his face as she gave him one last look over her shoulder before leaving his office.
With the envelope in hand and pictures secure in her pocket, she made her way to the office she'd stared at not even an hour ago.
She couldn't say whether she was more surprised or relieved to find the office empty save for the alchemist when she pushed open the door.
He glanced up from a stack of papers, the look on his face almost as shocked as the day he'd recognized her during the war.
Her back itched with the memory as she made her way to his desk. He dropped his pen and folded his hands together as he watched her.
The woolen jacket, once again, gave temporary relief to the itch as it moved across her back when she raised her hand in salute.
"Riza Hawkeye, Sir." Thoughts on how odd it felt to introduce herself as if they'd only known each other in passing ran through her head as she handed him the envelope grandfather had given her.
He opened it and skimmed through the assignment orders.
"Despite what you went through at Ishval, you still chose this path?" he asked, his voice demanding and cold.
"Yes, Sir. I chose this path myself, and put my arms through the sleeves of this uniform on my own free will," she affirmed, her voice steady and decided.
Mustang nodded. "And your area of expertise?"
"Guns," she answered, the weight of the weapons growing suddenly heavy at her sides.
Her back itched, and oh how she wished she could drop all formalities and reach behind her to scratch at it, but she wouldn't, she couldn't, not in front of him, instead she relaxed her hands at her side and said, "I like guns."