Disclaimer: If I owned FMA, Roy would have lost his shirt more than once.
An unknowable amount of time passed as Hawkeye laid still on the bed and Reese's calloused fingertip traced the intricate design on her bare back bit by bit. The surprisingly gentle touch paused for the scribble of a pen then began again in the study of the tattoo's intricate design, and the pattern repeated countless times. He focused on the recovered part first, but when she flinched under his touch, he avoided contact with that area. It was becoming inflamed fast. Her back felt hot and throbbed from the disruption of flesh. As soon as he finished with the injured area, he covered it with a cool, damp cloth and continued on to the rest. Almost an hour after the trauma of the transmutation, Hawkeye fell into a light, exhausted sleep while the alchemist finished his work.
Her lashes parted slowly, then blinked to clear her vision. Pulling on the ropes attached to her wrists and ankles, she found them still very much secure. She forced herself to relax with a heavy sigh of resignation and looked around. The drug seemed to have cleared out of her system for the most part.
"Just a little more patience, Lieutenant Hawkeye, and I'll be done here. I've copied everything to scale and this is the third time I've checked that everything is exact and precice."
She bit her lower lip lightly and stared at his knee and booted foot propped on the table. "Then what?"
"I'll close up shop here and drop you off at a pay phone. With a few cenz, don't worry. By the time someone comes to pick you up, I'll be long gone."
"And when they follow you?"
Reese set his pen down and straightened up beside her.
"It's time to lay down the game plan, then." He cleared his throat and reached for a glass of water that was sitting on top of the closed trunk.
Hawkeye swallowed through a dry throat and suddenly realized her own thirst.
He paused before it touched his lips. "Do you want a glass?"
"No," she answered coldly, not about to accept favors from the enemy as she was trained - or perhaps just to spite.
He nodded and sipped from the glass, then set it back half emptied. "Now, you and Colonel Mustang are aware that a great many people would like to get their hands on the power of flame alchemy. Most of those will not be as kind as I am and leave you alive - or recognizable. Just like the Colonel, they will want to erase any chance of someone else knowing the secret and becoming a rival. So, to protect myself, and only that, I had some copies of a little announcement prepared stating that the secret of flame alchemy is on Riza Hawkeye's back."
She clenched her fists. He continued in a hurry.
"They were not released! Not yet anyway. They will never be released unless I either disappear, die, or am arrested for any reason. They are with trusted associates and as long as no one makes a move against me, your secret is safe. Life for all of us will go on as before, and I will walk away peaceably as a flame alchemist. I will never reveal where I learned it."
"So I am your permanent hostage?" Came her biting retort. "I won't allow you to use me to control the Colonel. I'd rather leave the military or be hunted than let you control him."
"I am well aware of that, Lieutenant," he answered, resignation in his voice. "That is why I know better than to push it. I give you my word that I won't hold the sword over either of you about anything other than this. Just let me go my way and I will let you go yours, and we can pretend none of this ever happened. Think about it, Lieutenant. Talk it over with him. You two have worked too hard to throw it all away, I'm sure, especially if you went to such lengths to cover this up."
She mulled it over briefly. "Even if we did agree to it, he won't allow you to get away with anything after this. You'll be watched closely."
Reese picked up the pen and leaned over her back again. "I know, and I can live with that. I'm sure we'll part ways soon enough. I'm eager to get back to New Optain, anyway."
There was nothing else to do but lay there, so Hawkeye decided to help the Colonel and herself and question him now. "Why are you going to these lengths? Why not find out the secret for yourself?"
Reese smiled and chuckled softly, still looking from her back to the open book on his lap and back again. "Very well. I'll tell you. I'll tell you everything, something I've never done before."
The car rolled to a stop outside Hawkeye's apartment and Mustang jumped out the door before the car had the time to shift into park. Roy spotted his car in front of them, proof that she had arrived home. Havoc followed at a run to catch up. He kept his mouth shut for once when Mustang keyed open the lock using his own key ring, for which he was grateful. This was not the time to pull an excuse out of thin air for having a key to her apartment. He pushed open the door and looked around. Her coat and waist cape weren't put up and leaves were scattered all over her floor, more than could be excused by the dog door. Knowing her, cleaning up that mess would be one of the first things she would have done once coming home.
"She was here," he muttered to Havoc at his side, "but something must have happened as soon as she arrived."
"Any idea what, Chief?" he asked, keeping his voice equally as low. He pulled his firearm from the holster at his back but kept it pointed low.
"Not yet. She has no enemies." Mustang raised a gloved hand, ready to snap, and slowly walked through the house. Leaves crunched unavoidably beneath their feet, but something about the stillness of the place made them keep their voices down.
A scratching sound froze them both. It came from the bedroom.
They moved slower, Havoc's weapon trained at the ready ahead of him. Another series of scratches were followed by a soft thud. The men exchanged glances.
"Hawkeye? Is that you? Answer me, whoever you are!" Mustang ordered.
A slow, light tapping noise came nearer to them. Both men stopped and held their respective weapons ready to fire - or ignite.
At the corner of the bedroom door, a small black and white dog wobbled toward them on unsteady legs, then fell over with another thud.
Something's wrong - something's wrong - something's wrong - !
Mustang rushed through the doorway and looked around, stepping over the dog. Everything in that room was as immaculate as ever. He ran into the bathroom and found her hair clip on the floor and the rug askew. There was nothing else. Panic and rage filled him to overflowing. He spun and found himself face-to-face with Havoc, who took a nervous step back from him.
"Someone took her!" Mustang roared.
"The trouble started during the long siege at Ishbal. There was a lot of tension in the East that was felt even in my hometown near New Optain. It's a hamlet just east of that city, so small it doesn't even have a name on any maps. My father was an alchemist and a doctor who combined some aspects of Xing medicinal alchemy with western medicine. He was the only doctor in the town. I studied under him, but my specialty leaned more towards medicines and toxins than healing the body. For example, to heal the damage done by a snakebite, he healed the punctured and damaged flesh, and I rendered the poison absolutely harmless within the body. I had a natural talent towards pharmacology. We were saving up what we could from my father's practice to send me to college and earn a formal degree.
"I was sixteen. There was a plague that mysteriously appeared and devastated the village. It affected mostly the young, caused complete respiratory failure. It was all my father and I could do to keep up with it, but half the time we were forced to watch our patients, our neighbors, drown in their own beds. Working together, we found a way to heal the plague's damage and slow the virus' progress enough to give the patient time to recover. But it required the both of us: my medicines and my father's unique way of healing." He let out a long, drawn out sigh. "Then the military decided they needed him more than our village. We had just made some headway, dammit! If he left then, the plague would wipe out the town. He constantly refused. They wouldn't take no for an answer.
"One of my closest friends caught the plague and was deteriorating fast. His family came for us in a panic in the middle of the night to treat him again, and when we arrived we knew that if we didn't slow it successfully then, he would not make it to morning. And then the military stormed in, right there in the family's home."
He voice dropped to a growl, but he swallowed and tapped his pencil on the table until the story seemed to flow from him more calmly. He seemed relieved to get this off his chest despite the emotion in his voice that caused it to tremble from time to time.
"The family and I refused to let him be torn away from my friend's bedside, and the commanding officer demanded he leave with them immediately. There was a fight. Somehow, no one knows how, my father received a fatal blow to the head. I lost my friend, my father, and my tolerance for military rule that night.
"So, without my father's help, the plague eradicated over half my town. Even doing my best, there was little I could do. The fault laid with the military. So I decided to protect what was left of the town, including my mother, from any further threat. To do that, I had to join the military itself and work from the inside, as much as I loathed it. Knowing they appreciate alchemists that can be used as a weapon more than any other kind, I focused my studies on toxins and poisons, then took the state alchemist exam. I passed. I became the Toxic Alchemist and used the research money to get my doctorate.
"But it wasn't enough. I needed something that caused more damage to protect my town. Oh, I tried to lean fire alchemy myself. I have a lot of experience with air molecules. But when I changed the air into something flammable..." He chuckled and brushed the first two fingers of one hand over each brow. "All I ended up doing was losing my eyebrows and my favorite shirt. A child can make an out-of-control fireball. I needed control and direction. There was something important I was missing, something Roy Mustang has and will not share.
"And here we are. That's my story. I'm not looking for sympathy, but I hope you'll see that I'm not just a power hungry monster. All I want is to protect my home and what's left of my family, and I will not fail them. Desperate times require desperate measures, Lieutenant."
Hawkeye listened to it all without a word, committing it to memory. Even decent men and women can be driven to acts of violence when pushed far enough. That didn't mean she accepted the story. As soon as she was freed, she would check whatever was on record to validate his testimony.
"So you would go to any lengths to achieve your goals, make any sacrifices? Kill me, kill my dog-"
"I didn't kill the dog," he interrupted. "I just drugged him. He'll be up and about by now, absolutely fine. And I already said I didn't want to kill you. Let's just try not to escalate this, okay?" Reese closed the book and tucked the pen away. "We're done."
It took him a few minutes to have everything packed back into his trunk, and a few minutes more for him to haul it upstairs and secured in his car. When he stomped back down the creaking wood stairs and appeared at her side, he seemed to be in a much lighter mood.
"Now!" he said brightly, rubbing his hands together. "Time to get you in the car. I'm going to reactive the drug in your body for the duration of the trip to keep things peaceful. I'll deactivate it once you're in the booth." He pulled out a necklace from under his shirt and touched the hanging metal array. It lit up with the same silver glow as before, and he lightly touched her back with both hands.
Hawkeye silently fumed at the treatment and tensed at his touch, but it moved aside temporarily for astonishment as the same heavy feeling as before quickly washed over her. Unbidden, her body relaxed and she let out a held breath. The drugged haze wasn't as heavy as it was before, but it ensured she wouldn't be able to put up a struggle. Reese clasped the bra closed and pulled her shirt down, then untied her. Hawkeye groaned and rubbed at her face, trying and failing to rouse herself. Her sluggish mind didn't help matters.
Reese grasped her arm firmly and helped her to her feet, holding her steady as she staggered a few steps. She felt she should try and take control of the situation, but she moved as if she were heavily drunken and with the conditions he set, there didn't seem to be any point. Even if he were arrested, that would only be the start of their real trouble. So for now she allowed herself to be led up the stairs, through the house, and into the car.
She spent the duration of the ride slumped against the car door and stared out the window with eyes at half mast. The morning sun seemed much brighter than usual and there wasn't a cloud in the sky. Yesterday's wind left the sky a bright and clear blue.
He took a direct route to a pay phone he probably planned to use ahead of time and stopped in front of it. He walked around to her side and opened her door slowly, giving her time to adjust and sit up, then helped Hawkeye out. He supported her the few steps across the sidewalk into the open booth and he eased her down to a sitting position on the floor. A hand slipped into his pants pocket and pulled out a few cenz which he left on top of the phone itself. Finally, he touched the metal charm around his neck to activate the array, then touched her head with both hands. Almost immediately her mind began to clear. She blinked a few times and shook her head, reaching up to press her palm to her temple.
"Please remember our arrangement, Lieutenant Hawkeye. I meant everything I said. I'm sorry to have inconvenienced you. I'll see you in a few weeks, I have some leave to put to use."
She looked up in time to see him wave and flash a smirking smile, then turn away. Seconds later his car roared away from the curb and disappeared from view.
The woozy feeling dissipated quickly. Within a couple minutes she could pull herself up in the booth and, leaning against the side for support, Hawkeye clumsily grabbed a cenz and lifted the receiver off the hook. "Central Headquarters, Lieutenant Colonel Mustang's office," she mumbled. "Tell them to connect despite the outside line; it's Lieutenant Hawkeye, an emergency call."
The ride back to Headquarters was silent. Havoc didn't need to be told to drive back as quickly as possible. His hands gripped the wheel tight enough to stretch the knuckles white the entire way back.
Meanwhile, a Mustang leaned against the window and pressed a fist to his lips. He'd made a call back to HQ from her apartment to put out an APB for Hawkeye and send an investigation team out there, but what could he do beyond that but wait for the kidnapper to contact them with demands? And he had to be at his desk for that. Whoever did this would pay dearly. He glanced at the stack of files sitting on the seat between them and laid his hand over it. At least he had something to put his mind to when he got back.
"Clear my schedule for the day," Mustang barked as soon as he stepped into the office. Havoc caught the door a second before he had a chance to slam it shut and closed it with care. He exchanged tense glances with the others in the room.
"We didn't find her, but we did find signs that-" Havoc glanced at his superior. "- That someone took her, probably drugged her. Her dog was definitely drugged, which I would take to mean that someone waited for her to come after work."
Everyone kept a close yet discrete eye on the Colonel as he slammed a stack of files onto his desk. What would he do now that someone had done the unthinkable and taken his right hand woman from him?
"I'm sorry, sir," Fuery said, his voice soft. "I volunteer to take care of Lieutenant Hawkeye's duties until she's found, and I'll clear your schedule for you."
He got a short nod for an answer. Mustang was already at his desk and glared at his phone. Dared it to ring and dared some ignorant fool to make demands in exchange for his Lieutenant. Whoever it was must not know he was playing with fire.
It rang. He snatched it up before the bell finished the first chime.
"Mustang." Hard, clipped.
Silence. He dropped his head with a huff. "Fine. I'm glad you got there, but stay off this line unless it's an emergency or you have actual, helpful news, got it?" He hung up without waiting for an answer and buried his face in his hands.
He lowered his hands with a sigh and turned to Havoc pulling a chewed up cigarette from his mouth.
"We'll find her and get the sunovabitch that took her, alright? This is Hawkeye we're talking about. She's tough. She can make it through anything. We already know the kidnapper wanted her alive, or he wouldn't have used drugs."
Mustang pinched the bridge of his nose and closed his eyes. "Yeah. Yeah, I know. You're right. I just... can't stand the thought of her-"
"Don't." Havoc cut in. "Don't imagine her like that. Whatever we can imagine is probably wrong, anyway. Think about something else."
After a while, Mustang nodded marginally, let his hand fall to the top of the stack and pulled it over. She'd want him to watch his back, so he would. At least he was on the "R" s. Next name... Reese, Bryant. He opened the folder.
The phone rang a few times throughout the day. Mustang kept them short, but some continued to call. General Grumman, in particular, continued to call every hour for updates on Lieutenant Hawkeye. Knowing his relation to her, he wasn't very surprised, but annoyed all the same at any distraction from his task. He promised the General that he would be the first to know if he had any news, and the vigil continued. No one joked around or spoke casually. A grim, strained attitude hung over the office and it worsened as the hours wore on. No one dared take their lunch break and all breaks were skipped lest someone miss any news on Hawkeye.
The phone rang. It was about time for the General to call again so he answered it with a polite but short, "Colonel Mustang here."
His eyes went wide and he jerked upright in his seat. "Then put her through!" he shouted. "Put her through now!" Seconds later, "Hawkeye? Is that you?" A pause, then he collapsed onto the desk, the phone pressed hard to his ear. He remained still for nearly a minute. All activity in the office came to a halt, the rapt attention of all six men pulled to that phone. "Where?" He pulled out a sheet of paper and scribbled furiously. "I'll be there in ten minutes. We'll take you to the hospital." He stood, but took no more than two steps around his desk before pulling up to an abrupt halt, his brow furrowed deeply. "What? Why?" he demanded. More tense silence and Mustang pulled his hand over his eyes. He hissed a curse. "Alright, I know what to do. I'll be there in ten." He slammed the phone down and grabbed his coat on the way out the door.
"Wait, sir-!" All five men were on their feet.
Mustang leaned back into the office while he pulled on his coat.
"Tell the General! She's alive and I'm taking her to a doctor!"
And he was gone.
AN: I'm not the happiest with this chapter, but here it is anyway. This chapter is here due to your reviews and favorites. Many thanks to you, especially if you leave a review! I love you the most.