I do not own the copyright to Fullmetal Alchemist.
Spoilers for Episode 48 (Brotherhood anime) and Chapter 87 (manga) to end of series. Inspiration from Chapter 62 of the manga.
The Hostess Bar
"No, Lieutenant, you may not decline the invitation," said Mustang.
"But Colonel," Hawkeye protested, "It's a hostess bar! I have no business going there. Can't you just give my regards to Madam Christmas—"
"No," he repeated, leaning back in his chair, eyes glittering with amusement. "It's the grand re-opening of a bar you helped blow up. It would be rude if you didn't come. And we can't leave you behind—the whole team's going."
The rest of the team are men, she thought sourly. Men paying pretty girls to pretend to fawn over them—it sounded depressing for everyone involved. And what was she supposed to get out of it? She stood in front of his desk, arms folded, not even trying to contain her irritation.
They were in the Mustang unit's office in Central City military command. Although much of the building had been destroyed in the Promised Day battle two months earlier, and was under extensive reconstruction, their office was in the east wing, which had luckily remained intact. It was midday on Friday, and sunlight streamed through the windows.
"We haven't gone out as a team in awhile. We need something to do," he continued. It was true that they were bored. In the chaos following the Promised Day, with much of the command structure wiped out in a bloody attempted coup, the military's mission was limited to the most basic tasks of reconstruction and recovery. Once things were sorted out, their unit was due to be transferred back to East City, with promotions for all of them. But in the meantime their duties had dwindled to almost nothing.
"Come on, Hawkeye, loosen up," teased Lieutenant Havoc from his desk in the middle of the office, grinning. "Maybe the girls can give you some pointers."
"And maybe you can finally buy yourself a girlfriend, Havoc," she smiled sweetly over her shoulder. She heard snickers from the other subordinates.
"That will do, both of you," the Colonel snapped. "Lieutenant Hawkeye, you're coming. Even if it's just for one drink. No arguments."
She sighed. His mind was made up, and she could tell that arguing further would get her nowhere. "Fine," she said flatly, and turned back toward her own desk. Havoc was still grinning at her, while the remaining three subordinates focused politely on their paperwork, trying to hide their smiles. The men had been positively giddy since the Colonel had announced the invitation. She ignored them all.
"Besides," Mustang called after her, "Madam will be happy to see you again. She seemed really impressed by you when she met you."
Hawkeye shuddered inwardly. Her encounter with the Colonel's foster mother was one she was not eager to repeat.
It had been two months ago, on the night before the Promised Day. Hawkeye, Lieutenant Breda, and Sergeant Major Fuery had gone to the bar to place explosive charges, which would be used later as a diversion for the military agents tailing Colonel Mustang. They were all in a grim mood; the stakes were very high, and none of them knew if they would live through the next day.
Entering the dimly-lit bar, Hawkeye had introduced the team to Madam Christmas, bowing humbly and offering thanks for allowing them to destroy her building. Madam—a large, gruff, intimidating-looking woman puffing on a cigarette—rolled her eyes. "You don't need to be so formal, kid. Just do what's got to be done."
Madam pointed toward the door leading to the basement. "You boys go get started," she ordered. "Lieutenant, you come with me first." She turned and walked toward the bar.
So this was the woman who had raised Roy Mustang, Hawkeye thought as she trailed after the older woman. Not at all what she'd pictured. She could see why he was comfortable in a military environment.
Madam was behind the bar, pouring two glasses of whiskey. "Thank you, but I really can't. I'm on duty," the lieutenant protested. The older woman chuckled. "Live a little, kiddo. You can have one drink before battle." She slid a glass in front of Hawkeye, who reluctantly sat down on a barstool and took a drink to be polite. It tasted horrible; she rarely drank anything stronger than wine.
"So I finally get to meet the famous Elizabeth-chan," Madam said.
"I'm sorry?" said Hawkeye. Elizabeth was her given name, but she always went by Riza. She had used Elizabeth as a code name on a few missions, but…
"Oh, Roy-kun talks about you all the time. He's crazy about you, you know."
Hawkeye nearly choked on her whiskey. "Umm, could you be thinking of some other Elizabeth?" she asked.
Madam looked her up and down and gave a throaty laugh. "Not a chance," she said. She came around to Hawkeye's side of the bar, and put her arm around the younger woman's shoulder. "I'm going to give you a piece of advice, sweetie. That boy of mine is going to settle down someday, and when he does, he's yours for the asking. You remember that."
Hawkeye wanted to sink into the floor. You are clearly a crazy woman, she thought. And if you aren't…you're telling me this now? The rest of her whiskey went down very quickly.
She cleared her throat awkwardly. "Uh, thank you, Madam, for the advice. And the drink. But I really should get back to work."
"Sure thing, kiddo." Madam thumped Hawkeye on the back so hard that she jumped. The older woman let out another husky laugh. "Good luck on your mission tomorrow. I'll be cheering you kids on from south of the border."
With relief, Hawkeye joined Breda and Fuery in the basement, where they were at work setting the charges. "What was that all about?" asked Breda. "Nothing," she replied tersely. One look at her expression kept her teammates from asking any more questions.
She had never told anyone about that conversation. If anything Madam Christmas said was true, the Colonel gave no hint—and Hawkeye had been watching very carefully over the past two months.
The sun was setting, and Hawkeye was staring resignedly out of the backseat window as they drove to the bar. They had come straight from the office, still in their uniforms. Havoc, riding in the front seat, and Lieutenant Falman, sitting in the back with Hawkeye, talked and joked cheerfully with the Colonel while he drove. Since the whole team wouldn't fit in Mustang's car, Breda and Fuery had taken the streetcar, and were waiting in front of the neat two-story brick building as the car pulled up.
The team made their way through the glass front door into the bar, which was as dimly-lit as its predecessor. Hawkeye could hear strains of music from a hidden phonograph. The bar occupied a large storefront, and a dozen—no, maybe fifteen—young women sat perched on barstools, couches, and chairs scattered around the room. A chorus of "Roy! Roy-kun's here!" filled the room as they stood and began to crowd around the guests.
Madam appeared, ducking out of what appeared to be a small office located behind the bar, and greeted them. "Sorry I won't be around to visit with you kids," she said. This was a private party, a week ahead of the public re-opening, and she expected to be on the phone wrangling with suppliers for the next few hours. (Hawkeye considered this to be the sole bright spot of the evening.) "Drink up—Roy-kun's paying tonight," Madam added with a husky laugh, before retreating back into her office.
The hostesses squealed and cooed over the guests as the Colonel introduced them. Although he had introduced her as "Lieutenant Riza Hawkeye," the women immediately took to calling her "Elizabeth-chan" and gushed about how nice it was to finally meet her. Amid the babble of conversation, Mustang appeared not to notice.
Hawkeye planned to ask him some pointed questions later. But first, escape. After a few minutes, she managed to slip away from the crowd, taking up a post in the darkest corner of the bar she could find. The hostesses, focused on the male guests, paid her no further attention.
She watched the proceedings with detached fascination. The women were all beautiful, of course; dressed in elaborate cocktail dresses, with hair, makeup, and jewelry flawlessly arranged. The uniformed men soaking up their attention were doing their best to act witty and sophisticated, the effort sabotaged by their dopey grins. Hawkeye, who fit into neither of these roles, had no part to play here.
The Colonel, meanwhile, was working his way around the room, flirting with the hostesses and making sure everyone had drinks. He looked completely at ease. Of course, he had been raised in this environment, and was literally at home here.
She was suddenly self-conscious of her boxy uniform, her lack of makeup, her hair clipped messily atop her head. Hawkeye, who could hit any target with a rifle bullet from 300 yards away, who had defended her comrades in countless battles, didn't need to be jealous of these silly little girls. But…it wasn't just that they were beautiful and impeccably dressed. It was the confident way they carried themselves, the ease with which they captured and kept the men's attention. Hiding in her shadowy corner, she envied that.
She could imagine how she must look to her teammates. Poor uptight Hawkeye. Can't hold a candle to these real women. It was just as well that they had almost certainly forgotten she was there.
"Are you going to stand in the corner and frown all night, Lieutenant?" Mustang had appeared behind her shoulder. So she had merited a bit of his attention after all.
"Still trying to figure out why I'm here," she said coolly. She turned to face him. "And…why are they all calling me Elizabeth-chan, Colonel?"
"Hmm? That's your name." He wore an innocent smile that assured her he was withholding information.
"No one calls me that. And they're all acting like they know me!"
"Oh, that's just what hostesses do. You wouldn't know that, of course." He patted her shoulder. "Relax, Lieutenant. Go get yourself a drink. Don't be shy." He walked away, retreating to the arms and squeals of the nearest group of hostesses.
She glowered after him, wondering if the military would prosecute her for shooting her commanding officer when there were such clear extenuating circumstances.
Fine, she thought. I will have that drink, Colonel. But I'm going to make it count.
Hawkeye took a deep breath, squared her shoulders, and strode over to the bar, where a handful of hostesses waited to serve drinks. "I'll have a whiskey on the rocks," she said, then added in a voice loud enough for all her teammates to hear. "And what does a lady have to do to get a hostess of her own?"
All the conversation stopped. She was suddenly the center of attention. After an awkward pause, a black-haired woman in a sliver dress gamely rushed to her side. "Ooh, Elizabeth-chan, I'm Christina! Let me pour you a drink!" she squealed. When that was done, she draped herself onto a barstool next to Hawkeye and began stroking her hair. "Your hair is so pretty! How do you get it this soft?"
Grinning as she drank her whiskey, Hawkeye was not about to give her teammates the satisfaction of turning around to see their reaction. She knew that if she did, she would see them staring at her with their mouths open in shock. And she was certain that they would continue watching all evening. Maybe this would be fun after all.
Three hours and many glasses of whiskey later, the hostess' inane chatter had finally died down, and she had stopped hanging on Hawkeye's shoulder long enough to help the other staff close up the bar. Hawkeye rested with her elbows on the bar, chin in hand, staring in fascination at the ice melting in her glass.
A dark shape loomed over her shoulder. It was Mustang, his arms folded, glowering at her. "Lieutenant Hawkeye, you are drunk."
She didn't bother raising her head. "Colonel Mustang, you are correct."
That made him laugh, and he gave up pretending to be stern. "I think the Lieutenant might need some help getting to the car," he called over his shoulder. A few moments later she felt herself being hoisted up by Mustang and Havoc, who guided her toward the front door behind the rest of her teammates. "I can walk!" Hawkeye protested. They let go of her arms, but Mustang kept a light hold on one elbow, which was helpful, since she was not as steady on her feet as she had hoped.
Madam Christmas had reemerged from her office, and was waiting by the door to say goodnight. The soldiers thanked her for her hospitality, bowing respectfully as she rolled her eyes. "I'm just glad you kids had a good time. All of you," she nodded meaningfully at Hawkeye. She clapped a hand on the younger woman's shoulder. "Are you following that advice I gave you, Elizabeth-chan?"
"Yes ma'am, I am taking it to heart," Hawkeye declared, and gave the older woman a salute. Madam let out one of her throaty laughs.
"What was that about?" demanded Mustang as they walked out. "Hmm? Oh, nothing for you to worry about," she said innocently. His look of frustration was immensely satisfying.
At Mustang's car, a problem was discovered: There were six of them, which meant they couldn't all fit for the ride home. He had been assuming that Hawkeye would leave early, leaving just the five men, who would have barely fit as it was. The male subordinates had also had quite a bit to drink. "Hawkeye can sit on my lap!" whooped Havoc, while the other men laughed, and chimed in, "No, pick me, Lieutenant!" She giggled, propping herself against the car to keep her balance.
"Fuery!" barked the Colonel. "Front seat with Lieutenant Hawkeye." Sergeant Major Fuery looked like a happy man indeed.
The ride home was raucous, mainly due to Havoc, who kept asking Hawkeye innuendo-laden questions about her hostess. "You two were getting along quite well, weren't you, Lieutenant?" Hawkeye played along. "Christina was a nice girl. Very attentive," which provoked whooping and catcalls from the back seat until Mustang ordered them to quiet down. This was repeated a number of times, but things got progressively quieter as each of the men was dropped off at home.
Fuery and Falman were the last to be dropped off, waving goodnight as they entered their dormitory. That left only Mustang and Hawkeye. "So, Lieutenant," Mustang said as they drove off. "You looked like you were having a good time. What did you and Christina talk about all night?"
"Oh you know, small talk," she waved vaguely. "Well, first I asked her why they all call me Elizabeth-chan, and what, exactly, you've been telling them about me." He coughed. "But she wouldn't tell me. She said it was a matter of hostess-client confidentiality, which I found very disappointing. So then we rated the physical merits of all the men on the team—"
"What was that?"
"And we talked about some movies we'd both seen. Then I told her some stories from missions we've been on, and she listened politely, but I don't think she was all that interested."
"What was that, before?"
"Sorry, can't tell you. Hostess-client confidentiality. Then we talked about places to go shopping, and compared hair and makeup tips, although I can't remember any of them at the moment." She rubbed her forehead, still dizzy from the alcohol. "And I think that was it."
He was laughing as he turned the steering wheel. "Sounds like you had a full evening," he said. After a moment, he added, "I'm surprised you kept that up as long as you did. They get a little annoying after awhile, don't they?"
She looked over at him in surprise. "You mean hostesses? You think so?"
He shrugged. "Sure. They're fun in small doses, but after awhile it gets to be a bit much." He smiled faintly, his eyes fixed on the road. "Anyway, I was glad you came."
He seemed sincere. Perhaps she would reconsider shooting him. They rode in silence for a few minutes, while Hawkeye wished her head would stop spinning.
"So," Mustang asked after awhile, "what was that advice Madam Christmas gave you?"
She laughed. "I'm not telling you that."
They had reached her apartment building. He parked the car, then came around to open her door and help her out. She was still swaying quite a bit, so he took her elbow and steadied her as they walked to her front door. When she had trouble maneuvering her key, he unlocked and opened the door for her.
"Would you like to come in for tea, Colonel?" she asked, leaning against the doorframe.
He smiled, and sighed. "Lieutenant, I would like nothing better. But in your condition…you really just need to go to bed."
She wondered if she looked disappointed as they said goodnight. He certainly did.
Late the next morning, Breda stepped out of the local market with a sandwich in one hand and a newspaper under the other arm, blinking against the sunlight. He'd awoken with a splitting headache, but last night had been worth it, he thought with a chuckle.
He walked back toward home down Central City's main street. There were few cars on the road this time of day, and the shops and cafés were lightly populated. As he neared one café, he was surprised to see Colonel Mustang sitting at one of the outdoor tables.
Breda noted that the Colonel was sharing the table with a blonde woman wearing dark sunglasses. A date, at this hour? Then he spotted the black and white dog lying at the woman's feet. Wait, was that Lieutenant Hawkeye?
He got a friendly wave from the Colonel as he approached their table, and a less energetic one from Hawkeye. How odd to see them having breakfast! Speculation about those two ran rampant among the rest of the team, of course, but since they were sitting here out in the open, Breda concluded that there must be an innocent explanation.
Emerging from under the table, Hayate barked a greeting and wagged his tail. Breda gave him a pat on the head.
"Hey, Breda," the Colonel said. "I figured I'd better check up on the Lieutenant this morning, and found her in this pitiful state," he chuckled.
Hawkeye did not look amused; in fact, she looked terrible. She was slouched in her chair, clutching a mug of tea with both hands. Her plate of pancakes had barely been touched. "He dragged me out here as punishment for my bad behavior," she grumbled.
"Hey now," Mustang protested. "I was nice enough to take you out for breakfast!"
"Take me with you, Breda."
Breda laughed. "Sorry, Lieutenant, I'm afraid you're on your own. Good luck!" She sighed deeply as he said goodbye and continued on his way. But, he noted, she didn't really look like she minded her predicament.
He overheard a bit of their conversation as he walked away.
"So, Lieutenant…about that advice Madam Christmas gave you—" the Colonel began.
"I'm still not telling you," she said, mumbling as she took a bite of her pancakes.