He was annoyed, extremely annoyed. Due to the recent budget cut, he had to take the underground, squeezing himself into the cramming space. Then, he smelled something reeking, like rotten flesh, even worse. It had been just a few years he last smelled any decompose, and he still abhorred it, rather than getting used to it. He looked around, then to his left, and found a stout man, with dirty white apron, sticking to him. "Was it blood?" He thought.
"What are you staring at?" The man asked angrily. "Have you not seen a butcher before?"
"My apology, sir. I mean no offence," he said, presenting his best gentleman attitude.
The butcher seemed appeased by the apology. As he had been taught, courtesy was always the best compromise. Correction, best compromise to the reeking butcher, not to his sense of smell. There, migraine struck him for the entire ten minutes ride.
That was the last time he ever rode on the underground.
Watching the silver pocket watch, he still had another five minutes before he was late to work. As much as he would like to have the leisure to enjoy the fresh breeze that brushed by his face, time did not permit. He quickly strode off and headed to the headquarters. At the main entrance, he was greeted with yet another obstacle.
"Yo, Roy! Long time no see! Ew! What's that smell?" The man with glasses joined in.
"Not now Maes!" He gritted his teeth, trying to suppress his anger.
"What's the hot temper for? I have not even showed you my pictures."
"I know that you are going to. But now is definitely not a good time. Wait at my office."
Hughes stopped following and asked, "Can I tell Lieutenant Hawkeye that you've just arrived?"
"No! Just wait at my office!"
Time was getting short, but with the smell still attached to him, he could hardly focus on anything. Hawkeye must have been searching for him frantically but he must take a shower. Explanation later, he thought, and took a turn to the men's locker room. Suddenly, he jolted backed and hid himself behind the wall. Speaking of the devil…
"Good morning, Lieutenant!" Two privates saluted.
"Good morning, have you seen Colonel Mustang?" a military officer asked.
"No, sir." Replied the soldiers timidly.
"Thank you." There, she walked off and passed the hallway, which Mustang could take a glimpse at her.
Ah, her blond hair, long and loose. Working with her that long, he had not seen it before. As she walked, briskly but steadily, her hair waved like a feather carried by wind. It was spellbinding, looking at her and her grace. She was simply—
He heard his mind talked out loud, but later realized that it was not from his mouth. His head emerged at the hallway and noticed both privates were still there. Staring at them disapprovingly, he anticipated what the privates would comment on her.
"She is, isn't she?" One of the privates said.
"But who is she?"
"Are you asking for real? She is First Lieutenant Riza Hawkeye, one of the State's best snipers."
"So the rumor is true?" The younger private asked, seemingly surprised. "We have the beautiful sharpshooter that everyone talks about, here, at Eastern Headquarters?"
"Shh… Not so loud. Colonel Mustang will burn you to ashes, even if you are lucky enough to escape her bullets. The lieutenant is stern and would never tolerate insubordination."
Mustang frowned. He agreed that he had lost his temper and snapped sometimes while the lieutenant… she was very disciplined, which kept his team well-organized, but she would never reprimand anyone without good reason. He praised her too, mostly at work, and she seemed to accept it fine, as any lady would react normally.
"Even so, I wish I could work with her."
"Sorry, junior. Everyone knows that the lieutenant only follows Colonel Mustang and him alone. We, can only watch her at distance, as the rest do."
"Colonel Mustang must be the luckiest man on earth."
Mustang smiled and whistled his way to the locker room.
Where was the colonel anyway? She had been looking for him for the past thirty minutes and still had no sign of him. She almost asked everyone she saw for the colonel's presence. Times were most people who she had asked looked evasive or to be highly alert of every word that she said, as if she was interrogating them. Were it not the unscheduled meeting began in less than ten minutes, she would not had taken that measure. Calming her agitation, she went back to the colonel's office, hopefully he was there. As she turned the knob and thrust the door in, she found a familiar figure sitting on the couch.
"Hi, Lieutenant Hawkeye!"
With her hand still holding on the knob, she stared at the officer for a moment, sighed, and closed back the door.
"That is rude, lieutenant!" Hughes pouted at the door.
Right after she closed the door in disappointment, a voice reached her.
"Looking for me, lieutenant?"
"Colonel Mustang!" As if completely charged, she was revitalized with energy. "You have an urgent meeting that you need to attend now."
"I see. Shall we go then?"
"Yes sir!" She then followed the colonel to the meeting room. Walking with him side by side, she wondered why she could not find him before. "Where have you been?"
Mustang took a deep breath before replied, "I had to take a shower."
There was no further question. She did not have to know the detail because for whatever reason he had, she trusted him as much as he trusted her.
It looked like the Eastern Headquarters had new attraction, which he did not notice until the encounter with the privates near the locker room. From the privates' conversation, it seemed that those popular small talks had been muffled from his ears. How demeaning! Being one of the top dogs, he should have gathered all the intelligence, most importantly, to all the happening in his own house.
It had been decided. He began to pay more attention to his surrounding, primarily when having the lieutenant's company. He was unsure if he liked what he had observed. The truth was, he never expected such glamour before, at least not from him. With more than eighty percent of the military personnel being males, he was very confident that those admiring fixations and open jaws were not directed to him, but his subordinate who stayed by his side all the time.
They were everywhere; his office, the hallway, the shooting range. It was most overwhelming at the mess hall, with all the people gathering for lunch. Was there a spell? With that question in mind, he looked at his aide, who was sitting opposite to him enjoying her meal. She was sparkling, indeed. Not Armstrongs' trademark sparkles, but sparkles of a woman. The perfect silhouette of her face, her soft lips, her long eye-lashes, her neat eye brows, and her silky hair… When had she turned into such beauty? No. She was always very much of a lady, but the one in front of him, was gorgeous.
Mustang rubbed his eyes, realizing that he too fell into her spell. How could he let himself distracted? Moreover, during work?
"Are you all right, colonel?" He found her asking in concern.
"Yes, I am. Slightly distracted."
"You mean by who?" He thought. Nevertheless, he found himself better response, "Nothing particularly. You know? Paperwork?"
"You are never worried about the paperwork, colonel. The rest of us do."
"This will be the last time. Help me get through it and I promise to do it myself next time."
"I had been told the same since the last few years."
"Really, lieutenant! Just this once. Please…"
Watching him pleading for help had softened her heart. No wonder Roy Mustang always attained anything he wished. "Last time, sir. I do not want to make anymore excuse for you."
"Thank you, lieutenant. Next lunch on me." Mustang answered happily.
Silence crept in between them. Mustang took a few bites on his lunch. He was still puzzled by the woman… To be correct, the stares and gawps. That kind of attraction would ultimately affect the whole Eastern Headquarters functioning. As a commanding officer, it was his responsibility to maintain the order and to prevent the phenomenon to further escalating.
"Lieutenant, have you noticed anything unusual lately? Any uneasy feelings?"
"No, sir. Why do you ask?"
"Just out of curiosity."
"I don't see where that curiosity of yours comes from."
There came his chance. "Pay more attention to your surroundings, lieutenant. You'll understand what I mean."
Qualm in her stomach, she turned to her back and looked around. Everything was normal to her, except for the part where everyone was evading her eyes and scrambled back to their respective activities.
"You find that quite normal to you?" asked Mustang.
"No, sir. Not at all." Hawkeye looked down to her meal, a glimpse of discouragement shown on her face. "Am I being difficult, colonel?"
"What? No! Why would you think that?" Mustang was very surprised to his adjutant's question.
"Then why is everyone avoiding me?"
No, it was not her personality to blame, but her appearance. Mustang was amused that the smart lieutenant had not noticed that but mistaken it as her fault. It was an opportunity for him to manipulate the situation, not through telling her the truth, but to use the flow to his advantage.
"You are too kind, lieutenant. You may think that you should treat everyone as you normally would but in the military, there are only superiors and subordinates. Act professionally. Tell them what you want and make them deliver it to you. They are not your friends, but comrades who will assist you whenever you need."
Hawkeye listened to Mustang word by word and it was enlightening. Her face turned solemn. "Thank you for your advice, colonel. I know what to do."
"Good morning, colonel, lieutenant!" The soldiers greeted their passing-by superiors.
Finally, a change to the environment. There was no staring and no mind wandering when the lieutenant was around. Everyone turned back to professional soldiers, to Mustang's delight. He looked to his right, where the lieutenant was, walking with him side by side. Her neutral complexion gave him a chill.
"Looks like you had gained their respect," Mustang commented.
"Yes. Thanks to you, colonel," answered Hawkeye, smiling.
"Anything for you, lieutenant."
Days later, Mustang found the attraction had not gone away at all. It merely turned into another form of admiration. Instead of seeing people staring at the lieutenant, they were talking about her.
"Lieutenant Hawkeye was so kind! She found me struggling with all the paper piles and so ordered me to organize them at once. A lot of work, but it's easy to find anything now."
"I was so scared whenever she was watching at the shooting range. But that's how I learn to aim."
Blah, blah, blah… Mustang refused to listen to those comments anymore. Lieutenant this, lieutenant that. He came to the brink of losing his mind. A new plan was needed to stop the spotlight on his adjutant. He tapped his hands on his writing table restlessly, trying to think of an idea. Staring at the table, he found the calendar, on the month of December.
"Oh Roy, there you are!" Hughes barged into the office. "Where are you going?"
"I'm taking a break!" Mustang said, taking his coat off the hanger.
"What? Are you still planning on sabotaging Lieutenant Hawkeye?"
"I'm not sabotaging anyone."
"Liar. Why can't you be honest to yourself? Come on! She's an attractive woman and you want to keep her to yourself."
"Nothing like what you've said, Maes. Stop following me!" Mustang exited the office and closed the door.
He had been lingering in front of the jewelry shop for more than ten minutes. He still could not decide what to buy. Something was not right. Necklace, bracelet, and ring, nothing seemed to suit what he wanted. A shop assistant noticed his distress and came out to help.
"Is there anything I can help you with, sir?" The lady asked politely.
"I…" He looked around and then to the back, hesitating. Then, he saw a stall nearby, selling small ornaments. "No thanks," he briefly declined and jogged to the stall.
The stall was small, but it was selling almost any accessories; hats, ties, bracelets, necklaces, rings, hair bands, earrings… Then, something caught his eyes. It did not stand out like the rest of the ornaments. It was bland but decent. Mustang gave the stall owner money and rushed back to the headquarters.
"Ready to go, lieutenant?" asked Mustang, rushing to the door.
"Right away, colonel." Hawkeye walked to retrieve her coat.
"Ah! My silver watch!" He exclaimed, as he searched through his pocket. "It must be on my table."
"I'll go get it." As Hawkeye walked to Mustang's desk, she did not find a silver watch. It was clear, except that there was a wooden hair clip tied with a red ribbon.
"Happy birthday, Hawkeye." She heard him said. Then, the lieutenant took the hair clip in her hand, and beamed radiantly to Mustang. "Thank you, colonel."
He would never forget her expression that day; the most joyful smile he had seen.
Since that day, Lieutenant Riza Hawkeye seldom took off the hair clip, no matter where she went. To Mustang's dismay, the Eastern Headquarters still had its focus on the lieutenant… As people talked about her, there were three words — beautiful, kind, and cool.
"Hey Roy! How's your plan going?"
"I won't do anything anymore." Mustang said, scribbling through the paperwork.
"Why so busy? I thought the lieutenant has been helping you with your paperwork."
"She declined, telling me to act like a superior and treat her as a comrade who assists me instead of uses her as a friend."
"Sounds familiar. I'm glad that you have her as assistant. You keep on busy. I'll show you Elysia's photo next time." There, Maes dashed off.
"Maes! Come back and help me!" Mustang yelled, "...if you are my friend!" He trailed off. His friend was long gone. With anger topped his head, he grunted, "I should have bought her jewelry!"
It was too late for a change. Thanks to the Flame Alchemist, Colonel Roy Mustang, Lieutenant Riza Hawkeye had transformed into the well-known 'The Hawk's Eye'.
Not to mention that she was also the new heroine of Mustang's team.