Title: Chlorine and Mothballs
Author: Sage SK (with contributions from Kristen Sharpe)
Date Started: May 2, 2010
Date Finished: May 18, 2010
Warnings: Mild K+ at the thought of Roy Mustang running around with nothing but a trashcan lid.
Comments: This is all Kris' fault. She made a joke, I laughed and laughed, then we role-played it and... my Roy creativity demon now refuses to speak to me. Many thanks to Kris for the beta-read and edits, and for the overall help with this nonsense.
Disclaimer: If I owned any of the characters the amazing Hiromu Arakawa created, they'd be picked on a lot worse than this. ;)
"Did I ever tell you guys the story I heard from Lt. Colonel Hughes about our esteemed Colonel and the trashcan lid?"
The day had started off as any other, except for the pile of paperwork that had been waiting for the ever so loyal subordinates of Colonel Roy Mustang. The process promised to be long and undoubtedly tedious. They'd groaned in unison, fully aware that the paperwork was proof of the Colonel slacking off. As each took a pile and sat down, there was a collective feeling of disappointment.
That is, until one of them had broken the silence.
Jean Havoc eyed Heymans Breda curiously.
"Trashcan lid?" he echoed.
"He was wearing it," Breda returned, pausing to scribble something down on the sheet of paper he was reading. "And, nothing else."
By then, all eyes had turned to him, the task of completing the mountain of paperwork now forgotten.
"When was this?" Vato Falman asked.
"Sometime before the war."
"When he first enlisted?" queried Kain Fuery.
"Alcohol was involved."
"Why am I not surprised." Havoc took a long drag out of the cigarette he'd lit. "So what's the story?"
"Pff. Whatever. Look at you. You can't even walk in a straight line."
Major Roy Mustang steadied himself, waving off First Lieutenant Maes Hughes' remark as they slowly walked down the street.
"M'fine," he returned. "I didn't drink that much."
"You've always been a light weight."
Roy snorted. "Either way, I can walk, run, swim... you name it. I'm fine."
The evening had begun with Hughes' treating of the newly christened Flame Alchemist to a round of drinks to celebrate. Roy had begrudgingly accepted, partially because his best friend had been supportive since day one of his decision to join the State Alchemist program. On the other hand, it meant that he'd had to spend a good majority of the evening listening to Hughes gushing about his girlfriend and how wonderful she was, complete with pictures. When he was sure he'd had enough, Roy made the announcement that he needed fresh air, a cue given to Hughes to help him walk off the alcohol as they returned to the barracks.
As Hughes listened to Roy's boastful declaration, he noticed that they were just walking past the Armstrong mansion. And, beyond the gate and spectacular garden, he spied the pool house.
"Swim, huh? What was that about how brave you were and all that?"
"I *am* brave," the young major shot back. "What's your point?"
"Bet you can't swim in a straight line in the Armstrong pool."
Roy stopped in his tracks, making sure he'd heard right. "What?"
"Prove it to me right now." Hughes motioned across the yard towards the pool house. "Prove to me that you can swim in a straight line *and* you'll do it in the Armstrong pool."
Roy followed his gaze, then gave out a half laugh. "I could, but I'm not crazy."
"Admit it - you're shaking in your boots. Just imagine the kind of security they probably have. Guards, dogs..." Hughes grinned. "You're scared."
"I'd more than likely be confronted by one of the younger Armstrongs, and assaulted with either alchemy or some absurd fighting style..." Roy clapped a hand against his chest and did his best impersonation of the Strong Arm Alchemist. "...'passed down the Armstrong line for generations.' Worse, if I'm caught, I'll be lectured on the noble history of the Armstrong family which, mind you, is a fate worse than death."
"In other words, you're scared."
"I'm *not* scared! I'm just not suicidal! What's more, if I did do it, you'd probably take pictures!"
"Camera's at home."
"I have far better things to be doing."
"We're out of booze."
In a heartbeat, the raven-haired alchemist turned around. "Back to the bar, then." He didn't get far when Hughes grabbed the back of his jacket.
"This is at least half the size of the parade grounds!"
Roy's voice echoed across what seemed like an endless stretch of water. Scaling the fence surrounding the Armstrong mansion hadn't been too difficult, and Hughes' mention of dogs and guards had been an exaggeration. After all, considering this was the Armstrong family, security really was a pointless investment.
"It is not," Hughes countered. "I'd say it's around a third. Don't tell me you're out of shape." He ignored the dirty glare being tossed at him. "So? Get to it, brave boy. You do this, next round of beer's on me."
"Not just that. I do this, you don't show me pictures of your girlfriend for at least a week."
"I can't promise that."
With a heavy sigh, Roy began to strip off his clothes, much to the surprise of a now sobering Hughes.
"Uh... what're you doing?"
"I'm not about to swim with my clothes on and then walk around soaking wet, am I?" Roy hastily shoved his clothes at Hughes, now more than ready to get this whole thing over with.
Hughes was both surprised and mildly amused at the same time. He really hadn't expected the dare to go this far. "Right, ri-GAH!" He turned his eyes in time as a pair of boxer shorts were placed on top of the bundle he was holding. "Warn a man! I need to know to avert my eyes!"
Yet another dirty glare was thrown his way before Roy dove into the pool.
"Remember!" Hughes called. "One lap!"
The water had a sobering effect as Roy began to swim and, with each stroke, he mentally called Hughes every name he could think of. By the time he'd reached the end of his lap, he felt a lot more awake. His arms also ached, which was a sure sign that the pool was a lot bigger than he expected. In a sense, the coolness of the water was welcoming. If only it were under different circumstances. But, the task was completed.
"There!" He declared as he slapped a hand on the concrete. "One lap. You owe..."
He then realized that he didn't remember Hughes wearing slippers. For that matter, Hughes' legs weren't that shapely. With a sharp intake of breath, Roy saw that he was staring at the back of none other than Brigadier General Olivier Armstrong. Frantic, he looked for a hiding spot. Since the clear water wouldn't be any help, he found no choice but to squeeze himself into the narrow gutter just under the lip of the pool. Keeping an eye out from the tiny space, he tried his hardest not to move, or even breathe.
How long had she'd been standing there, he wondered? And, where was Hughes?
He thanked the heavens that she'd been standing at the entrance of the pool house, or else she would have heard him. But now came the other problem. How on earth was he going to sneak past her? And, how was he going to do it when he was as naked as the day he'd been born?
'Don't see me,' he prayed. 'Don't see me. Good grief, was she carrying a sword?'
"The things idiots will do." He could now hear her standing right at the edge of the pool where he was hiding. So long as she didn't walk around the pool, he'd be okay. But, if she did, he had to be ready to run for his life as fast as his legs could carry him, with or without clothes. "I suppose I should rouse the cooks," the woman continued loudly. "It seems we may be having some fresh meat to spit roast."
'Idle threat, Roy,' he told himself calmly. 'Don't listen to it. No one seriously...' Another thought entered his now scared mind. 'SHE'S THE NORTH FACE OF BRIGGS! THE ICE QUEEN! They say she's tied men out in the snow to freeze overnight. YES, SHE WOULD!'
He nearly gasped out loud as the glint of a blade abruptly slashed inches away from his face, and he stared open-mouthed as a hapless frog stared back at him, victim of the brigadier general's sword.
"Hmph," he heard. Then, footsteps and finally a glass door slamming shut. Cautiously, he made his way out of his hiding spot and peered out, relieved to find no one there.
He immediately took that back. Where was Hughes? Vainly, Roy called out his name as quietly as he could. He was sure it wouldn't be long until someone saw him. The young major honestly couldn't think of a more embarrassing way to die, and he needed clothes. Right. Now. Roy quickly considered his options as he hid in a nearby bush.
There was only one way he could think of. The back of Armstrong mansion faced a vast wooded area. If he went in the right direction, chances were that he could make it to his alchemy teacher's house. The Hawkeye home was probably less than a mile from where he was. Using every other bush he could find as cover, he took off in a sprint.
The clock tower nearby had struck midnight by the time Roy tore through the woods and onto his teacher's property. At least he was out of danger... for now. Catching his breath as he dove into yet another bush, he thought of a way to walk up to the house and ask for clothes.
Ideas came and went, none of them that didn't involve just striding up to the door and knocking. He needed something to cover himself with before he could do that. Catching the glint of metal nearby, he saw a few trashcans lined up against the house. Oh, perfect.
He had barely picked off a trashcan lid when the abrupt sound of a gunshot rang in the air. Then, without warning, the trashcans were riddled with bullets. Choking back a scream, he ran back to his hiding place, trashcan lid in hand.
Realization struck once again. Who else would have an aim that flawless?
"Not even in the military and she could've already killed me..." Taking advantage of the fact that the gunfire had stopped, he screamed out. "Miss Riza! It's...!" He reflexively covered his head as more shots rang out, and with each pause that he could only guess was her adjusting her aim, he managed to convey the message quite clearly. "It's Roy! And, I NEED CLOTHES!"
The final statement was screamed out to the sound of crickets. In his fear, Roy hadn't noticed that she'd stopped firing. He quickly reminded himself of his manners and softly added, "...please?"
It was only minutes later that Riza Hawkeye walked outside once she was sure it was him. "Mr. Mustang?"
With a sigh, Roy stood up from his hiding place, trashcan lid held against him. "I realize this looks bad," he started. He caught the look on her face, one that said there was no point in lying. He cleared his throat, trying to sound as formal as he could. "I engaged in an ill-advised dare with First Lieutenant Hughes. As you can see, it did not end well and I found myself somewhat... lacking in clothes."
Riza's serious expression never changed, although he could have sworn that the corners of her mouth were twitching upwards. "Where is First Lieutenant Hughes now?" she asked, as she turned her head and gave him a robe she'd carried out with her.
"I have no idea," returned Roy, wrapping the robe tightly around himself. "Quivering in fear for his life if he knows what's good for him. I was hoping I could borrow some of your father's clothes?"
Riza nodded. "Of course."
The hasty knock on the Hawkeye door had Roy guessing who it was at that time of night. With a snarl, he swung the door open before Riza could get it. "HUGHES!"
Hughes blinked at the outburst that welcomed him, then paused to sniff the air. "You smell like chlorine and mothballs," he returned, eying the shirt and pants Roy had borrowed from his teacher. "But, you're alive! What a relief!"
As Hughes enveloped him in a tight hug, arms pinned to his sides, Roy debated what he could do alchemically with chlorine and mothballs. The end result promised to be excruciating.
"I tried to warn you when I saw her coming. Didn't you hear my owl hooting?"
"How on earth was I supposed to hear you inside the pool house?" Roy barked back. "And, for that matter, how would I know that was you?"
"Well, I couldn't let her know I was there! She had a sword, Roy!"
Riza, who heard the entire exchange, had now turned her head to a side, and a series of muffled snickers as well as a choked laugh came out unexpectedly. Roy found himself wilting in embarrassment.
"How about we head home and forget it happened, huh?"
With a glare, Roy grabbed his clothes out of Hughes' waiting arms and quietly agreed to the suggestion. "I don't want to hear about your girlfriend, your mother or your mother's cat for the next *year*."
"What about my mother's dog?"
Roy's glare eventually became a murderous look, which softened as he turned to Riza and bowed to her respectfully. "Thank you."
"You're welcome, Mr. Mustang." Riza returned the bow, her face back to a serious expression.
"Well, that was an interesting night."
"You better be sleeping with an eye open for the next few weeks." Roy's feet ached with every step as they slowly walked back. He'd be spending the night nursing all the cuts.
"C'mon, Roy... Give me a break."
"Don't tempt me to break anything."
Hughes had to chuckle now. "Yes, yes." He then smiled. "Although, did you notice something about tonight? Particularly back there?" He thumbed back to the Hawkeye house.
"Aside from the bullets flying over my head?" Roy returned dryly.
"Well, that, and... she was laughing."
Roy stopped, turning to look back at the house. It was true. Riza *had* been laughing tonight. In fact, it was probably the first time he'd heard her laugh in a long time.
"She hardly ever cracks a smile, you know. I'd say you just made her night."
Embarrassing as it was, Roy couldn't help but smile. It *was* nice to hear her laugh.
By the time Breda had finished his story, the paperwork had remained untouched. His companions all now sported different expressions, some shocked, others downright amused.
"Wow...," was the only thing Havoc could manage. It was without a doubt one of the most absurd and embarrassing stories they'd heard about the Colonel to date. And, it was pretty obvious that said story couldn't be repeated. Unless, of course, Lt. Colonel Hughes had told someone else that wasn't among Mustang's circle of most trusted men.
The abrupt sound of the door opening and closing caught their attention, and the soldiers turned in time to see a flash of red and black leaving the office. Wide-eyed, they all exchanged the same look, preparing to fabricate a story to save themselves when the Colonel found out.
"So how did it go?" Roy looked up from his desk to reach for the report Edward Elric held out to him.
For his part, Ed sported a grin that threatened to consume his entire face. Mustang could only take it to mean that he had found out something useful.
"Swimmingly," Edward returned, the grin not fading.
"You found something out?"
"All the bare facts."
"Any dead ends?"
"Some, but I put a lid on most of the trash."
Roy eyed him suspiciously. Fullmetal was looking way too happy for his own good. And, he wondered how much damage it involved.
"I already gave the full report to Lt. Hawkeye."
The colonel nodded. "Good. You can go, then. Give my regards to Alphonse."
"Sure thing." Ed turned to go. "Oh, by the way, I've seen the Armstrong pool. You and Hughes were WAY off. It's about an eighth of the parade grounds, which just makes it clear you were out of shape." With that, he was gone.
It hadn't been ten minutes since Edward left when the door to the office was flung open. Roy stood there, seething, not expecting an answer from the now empty corridor.
"WHO. TOLD. HIM."