Disclaimer: I don't own.
This is an idea I might epxand on in the future. Entry fma_fic_contest.
Squinting, Mustang watched General Armstrong intimidate her way through the merry crowd. House staff virtually dived out of her path, and ladies tutted in her wake. To his left, Havoc snickered and elbowed a largely disinterested Breda. Hawkeye cautioned her fellow lieutenant with a stern look, anchoring her hand on the corner of Mustang's chair to lean across him. Her left shoulder pressed against his right as she did so; firm and without apology. He still shuddered at the contact. Even after fifteen years, there was that. He moved to adjust his seat when he was pinioned by the cool eyes of the General. His damaged vision and the distance did nothing to dilute her glare. Mustang had known Armstrong long enough to skim the malice off the top of it, but still, ever since the Promised Day there was something dark in that gaze.
He mouthed a 'what?' in her direction and was ignored. He scowled.
"Sir?" Hawkeye asked, brown eyes searching.
"Did you say something?"
Mustang shook his head and reached for his wine.
Unsurprisingly, the dinner was a sensation, as was the number of officers who let their wine get the better of them. General Trollope only just managed to save himself complete humiliation by vomiting into his wife's purse, rather than Grumman's lap.
Breda chuckled and plucked a few more macaroons from the table, dropping them onto his plate to nestle beside an éclair and Madame Richmond's telephone number. The advance would have been something of a complement were the woman not currently trying to show Fuery how far she could fit a champagne bottle down her throat. Three cheers for the boy and his innocence.
He started at a tap on his shoulder, sure it was the waiter who'd been looking at him crookedly since he made his sixth trip to the dessert table.
"Hawkeye," he laughed, relieved.
The Lieutenant drew a breath to speak then paused, curious. "What? You weren't expecting Madame Richmond were you?"
"Ha! Not at least until Fuery's bedtime."
She smiled without teeth. "That's mean."
Breda shrugged and popped a macaroon into his mouth.
"You haven't let Mustang off his leash have you? You know how he gets around guests; that laugh, god..."
Hawkeye sighed, glancing back at the bright hall. "I haven't seen him for a while now. Havoc said he walked off with General Armstrong some time ago."
"Maybe check under the patio stones in that case? Or in a suitcase floating down the river?"
"Too far fetched or too likely?"
His answer was a suck on her teeth. She was thinking in that deep way that she often did; when she got that little line between her brows and bit on her cheek. Breda coughed and changed gears. He spoke quietly.
She narrowed her eyes, chewing on his question. After a moment, she nodded.
Breda puffed out his cheeks and for thought's sake, grabbed another macaroon.
"Well," he said finally with a thick swallow. "Let's go find the little rascal then. Race you."
Hawkeye smiled and gave his arm a squeeze. Goddamn if he didn't love that woman.
The air was chilly and the mist clung to Mustang's cheeks like a damp veil. He pulled his coat closer about him, but a biting cold remained. There was a telling brightness in Armstrong's eyes when she'd stormed off: anger... failure. She hurt. A secret grief, just as his was secret joy.
- How did you do it, Mustang?
He shook his head and studied the puckered skin of his hands.
- My men are perfect. Untouchable. They are perfect, Mustang.
Light washed the patio as the curtained door opened behind him, emitting warmth and sound and everything else he was entirely too shaken to face at present.
- My men... they would die for me. They died for me, Mustang. Their commander.
"Sir?" It was Hawkeye, and the just-lit smell of a cigarette was certainly Havoc.
- General, I'm so-
He touched his cheek were she'd struck him so hard his gums bled.
- What a world this is, where I am jealous of a swine like you.
A small hand curled around his arm. "Sir," Hawkeye whispered.
His glance caught the savage pink of her neck and he closed his eyes quickly. He suddenly had the sensation he was standing on a wave-washed beach, the ground shifting beneath him as sand was dragged back to the ocean.
Armstrong was right, as she always was: he was a lucky fool.
A tear broke and vanished into the garden below. Havoc had hobbled to him by now and clapped a hand to his shoulder, one thick thumb resting against his neck like an off-duty smoker on the side of a factory wall.
"Alright Mustang, you glum dog, this port isn't going to drink itself!" Breda bustled through the door with the others in tow.
And there it was: the wave that took him. He choked a sob into the fist curled at his mouth, fighting for control. It wasn't to be found though. It had fled with Armstrong and the ghosts of her men. Of her man.
"Close the door," Hawkeye said quietly. "Put that bench against it – there."
Shame exploded in Mustang from his toes to the tips of his ears, but it wasn't heeded. As he wrestled with his awful relief, his men – living and breathing - gathered about him. He shook his head and tried to chase them with a bothered hand, but they knew better. They had him, the little shits: choosing to obey him only when it suited them.
As they stood together, shoulder to shoulder in the chill night, Armstrong's words blasted him like a Northern gale.
- How did you do it, then, you bastard? That they chose to live for you?