Secret Ingredient

Disclaimer: I do not own either series. I do not own the manga rights. I do not own any of the characters. I do not even own the chicken soup recipe, although the secret ingredient was my idea. That is all…


The two stifled sneezes coming from First Lieutenant Hawkeye seemed to go unnoticed by the hard nosed commanding officer in the room. Fuery and Havoc glared at Colonel Roy Mustang, but said nothing. It wasn't their place to inquire after a ranking officer's health, and besides which, they knew Riza well enough to know that she would not thank them for saying anything about an affliction she obviously wanted to keep from Mustang.

Roy spent more time leafing through his black book than he normally did, but Hawkeye also noticed that his paperwork wasn't being left to the very last minute, either. After an hour of being hard at work, Roy got to his feet. "I'm going to my office to make some phone calls. All of you stay here and do your work. I'll be back."

Riza took the pointed meaning and kept her seat in the common workroom, not really caring to follow Mustang at this time anyway, if she was to be perfectly, selfishly honest with herself. Her head ached and she was so tired. But certainly not sick enough to stay home. She did have a job to do, after all.

After several minutes of listening to Hawkeye sniffle and stifle every sneeze that came her way, Jean Havoc and Kain Fuery exchanged looks and got to their feet, heading toward Mustang's office. They weren't sure if he'd welcome the intrusion, but they needed to talk to him. Havoc raised a tentative fist to knock on the door, then looked down at his cohort. "You knock."

"No way, this was your idea, you knock."

"You thought of it the same time I did. You do it."

Play you for it?" Fuery rested a fist on the palm of his hand. "One game, winner takes all. One, two three, shoot!" Furey's rock beat Havoc's scissors and no amount of pleading with his eyes would allow Havoc a do over. "You lost fair and square. You knock."

With a heavy sigh, Havoc rapped smartly on the door of his C.O. "Yes, what do you want?"

"Sir?" The door was pushed open revealing a very stern looking Colonel on the other side. "We, ah, we wanted to talk to you."

"I told you to stay and do your work. What could have possibly compelled you to ignore a direct order like that? It had better be good."

"Sir, permission to speak freely?" Havoc stood at ridged attention until an obviously harassed Mustang waved at him and nodded impatiently. "It could not have escaped your notice that Hawkeye isn't herself today."

Seeming to be interested at last, Roy set down his pen and looked at Havoc, then at Fuery, who was by his side nodding. "No, it didn't escape me. Why?"

"You didn't say anything about it and she's obviously not feeling well."

"No, I didn't say anything about it." He got to his feet and looked out the window, watching the rain fall. "I have my reasons."

*God, sometimes I think that Fullmetal is right about him being a bastard.* Fuery thought to himself, still watching the Colonel wordlessly.

"Sir please, she's…" Havoc was cut off as soon as Roy realized that simply telling him that he had his reasons wasn't going to be good enough, as far as their sister in arms was concerned.

"I like to credit MOST of my subordinates with a small bit of sense, Havoc. Lieutenant Hawkeye has called in before when she was too ill to come to work, I trust her to do so again should the need arise. I don't intend to insult her intelligence by pretending that I know more about her body and how it's feeling that she does herself." Mustang turned on a heel and looked at both men. "That being said, the day will go on as usual. I will not have the two of you hinting, either broadly or covertly, that Hawkeye is unfit to do her duty. It's her decision. Something as minor as a cold is far from fatal." Turning back to the window, Roy squared his shoulders. "You are dismissed."

Havoc put a cigarette in his mouth and looked down at the man by his side. "Colonel Bastard indeed, right Fury?"

"Took the words right out of my mouth." Shoving his glasses firmly up the bridge of his nose, Fury eyed the cigarette hanging from his friend's lips. "You think you should be doing that right now? I don't know how well Hawkeye'll handle smoking today."

"Oh, yeah didn't think about that. I guess I'll be going outside for breaks today, huh?"

"So, what you're saying is, you're not gonna get any work done today, then?"

"Small price to pay for Hawkeye's health. Besides, the boss actually seems to be doing his share of the paperwork for now. I plan on taking advantage of that." Havoc frowned to himself, wondering if Mustang's sudden work ethic had anything to do with his body guard's health. "You comin' out with me?"

"No way, I have work I need to do. Besides, if Hawkeye catches you taking too many breaks… well, I'm pretty sure a cold isn't going to impede her aim too much at all."

Suit yourself. I'll be back." Havoc parted ways with his friend and co-conspirator waving shortly over his shoulder.

As it was, Fuery really didn't need to have worried himself about Riza being in a foul temper when he got back. She didn't seem to be paying attention to either man at all. She sniffled, stifled three sneezes then dabbed at her nose, trying to ignore the pain in her head and her sinuses.

Furey was saved sitting there in awkward silence, wondering if he should disobey another order and ask after Hawkeye's health when a secretary walked with purpose up to the table and touched Riza's arm. "Excuse me, Lieutenant? A call that was supposed to go to the Colonel's office directly was sent here by mistake. Major Hughes in Central has asked that he call him back. He said that he got the information the Colonel was looking for."

Sighing to herself, Riza got to her feet and nodded. "Thank you, I'll see that he gets the message." *So much for sitting in one spot and not moving for awhile.* She thought to herself ruefully as she walked down the hallway to Mustang's office.

A light knock at the door interrupted Mustang's work. Unlike Havoc and Fuery, Hawkeye didn't wait for a by-your-leave before entering. "Sir, you had a phone call." Riza turned her back and dabbed at her nose before continuing. "Major Hughes said you told him to call you."

"Of course. You are dismissed Hawkeye. I'm afraid it's something rather personal I need to talk to the Major about. Thank you." He warily picked up his phone, rightfully expecting a deluge of reports on Hughes' daughter's cuteness and how very wonderful Gracia was before Roy was able to get a word in edge-wise. "Yes Hughes, I'm sure it's amazing. No, no I can't say that I've ever heard of a two year old saying that word before. Uh-huh that's wonderful." He rolled his eyes, cutting off his friend. "Okay, Hughes, let's get down to business. Did you get Gracia to write down that recipe for me?" He rubbed at the bridge of his nose and picked up a pen. "Yeah, I'm listening. Wait, the last ingredient is what now? What does that even mean? How the HELL am I supposed to add THAT to soup? God, you're impossible, you know that? Thank you Hughes. What? Yeah, I feel fine, it's just I remembered that time I had the flu and Gracia made it for me is all. It helped a lot. Never mind who it's for. Thank you again." Roy hung up the phone and skimmed down the sheet, his eyes falling on the last, and apparently most important thing. He shook his head and got to his feet. "Hawkeye, I need to talk to you."

Riza had been waiting outside the door, figuring that he would need to talk to her after he was finished talking to Hughes. He always did after all. She joined him in his office, folding her hands behind her back, her handkerchief balled in her fist loosely. "Yes sir?"

"You have a couple days off, am I right?"

"Yes sir, I have the next two days off." She met his gaze evenly, a small thrum of dread stirring inside of her. Of course if Mustang chose to revoke her leave that was his prerogative and she would not ask questions. Still, whatever Hughes said to him must have been important, and if he was in danger, she wanted to know all the details. How else could she properly protect him?

"I see, good. As your C.O. I believe I'm entitled to know what your plans are for those days off." He straightened a few things on his desk that really didn't need straightening and glanced down at the note under his hands.

A puzzled frown crossed her face but it didn't even occur to Hawkeye to tell him that, C.O. or not, what she intended to do with her days off were no one's business but her own. "Well Sir, I was going to go grocery shopping tomorrow. Other than that I had no plans." She braced herself for the inevitable order to shop on her own time, she was needed here until further notice. But her nose took the brief pause as a sign to rebel instead and she turned away very quickly, not quite able to catch her sneezes in her handkerchief in time. The last sneeze was more forceful and less able to be suppressed than the ones before, and she had to actively resist the urge to blow her nose in front of Roy. "Excuse me…" She blotted the offending appendage, knowing that ignoring what she had just done would be foolish.

Roy waved her off and turned back to the task at hand. "I see. So you will go right home after work today then?" While it was officially a question, there was an air of command about it as well.

"Yes, the shops will all be closed by the time I'm able to make it home tonight."

Mustang rose to his feet and walked to the widow, watching the rain fall in insistent sheets. He wondering if it would let up even a little bit overnight. "I'm leaving early tonight, Lieutenant. I have a hot date." He turned around quickly before she could protest that he should be doing his work, rather than chasing women. "You are dismissed. Thank you and enjoy your days off."

The urge to glare at him was almost overwhelming, but she managed to remain very professional. Was Hughes privately setting up dates for him now? Perhaps he knew someone close by who he thought might make Roy a good wife, and was telling him all about it. That would make sense, after all. She shrugged it off as best as she could, reasoning to herself that his personal life was no more her business than hers was Roy's. However, when said personal life interfered with the professional… Still, he was the commanding officer and he had to have a good reason for keeping her in the dark.

Resolve or not, it took all of Riza's considerable control not to be rude when Roy left his office ten minutes later, whistling cheerfully. "I'm off now. Hold my calls, will you? There is nothing so pressing that I need to be disturbed tonight. Have a good weekend, Hawkeye."

"Yes, thank…" She interrupted her self to sneeze again, then turned back to Mustang. "Thank you Sir." Roy took no notice as she fished out a fresh handkerchief and wiped her nose on it, although it was overly starched and uncomfortable.

As Riza had predicted, it was almost eight PM by the time she was able to deem her work done to her personal satisfaction, and the shops were all closed down. Not that going shopping in the rain with an ever worsening head cold was at the top of her to-do list, at any rate. All she wanted to do on her days off was sleep and be miserable in peace. However, seeing how very empty her apartment was, staying home would be out of the question.

Her mental grocery list kept growing the longer she walked back home. She had nothing that could even pass for cold medicine, little to no food and she had just used her last tea bag that morning. The last thought actually depressed her to the point of stopping in the middle of the walkway, her umbrella sagging in her hand in defeat. Her body was chilled to the bone and she ached in places she always thought were too toned to ache. Sniffling and squaring her shoulders, Riza headed for home more quickly. Sulking in the road would do her no good, and at least her apartment was warm.

With hands so chilled they shook, Riza managed to fish out her key-ring and unlock her door, making a beeline to a hot bath then some old, comfortable clothes. Her blonde hair was pulled up in a sloppy bun and pinned to the top of her head, and she had just managed to settle herself down on her sofa with a good book when a loud knock sounded on the door.

Cursing to herself, she got to her feet and peered out the narrow window, then frowned curiously. "Colonel?" She opened the door and her gaze drifted down to the large shopping bags in his hands, then to a rucksack at his feet. "What are you doing here?"

"You mind if I come in? I had it from a couple of very reliable sources that you weren't feeling very well today." Without her leave, Roy walked passed her, unloading his bags on the table.

"What happened to your hot date?" Try as she might, Riza was too sick and miserable to keep all traces of bitterness from her voice.

The dark eyes that met hers were uncharacteristically gentle as Mustang lifted an unpracticed hand and awkwardly pressed it to her forehead. "Well, maybe hot was an exaggeration, but she's pretty warm."

"Sir?" Hawkeye's expression was confused and her cheeks were more flushed than they been a minute ago.

"You watch my back all the time, let me return the favor this once, will you?"

Looking around him, Riza's eyes fell on cold medicine, new, soft handkerchiefs, tea *thank god* oranges that must have cost him a fortune considering the season and various other food items. He'd bought at least enough food to get her through a week without having to shop, if not longer. She shook her head. "You really didn't have to go to all this…" She stifled several sneezed into her shoulder, then continued. "This trouble…"

"If you say so but it wasn't any trouble, trust me. You really need to stop stifling those, by the way, you're going to hurt yourself." Roy's back was turned to her once again and he was pulling something large and metal from his rucksack. He failed to notice a slip of paper that had fluttered to the floor in his hurry to put the pot on the stove. "Sorry this is cold. I really did come over as soon as I could, but not soon enough. Do you mind if I use your stove?" As per usual, Roy didn't wait for a real answer before turning the burner on a stirring up the soup.

Riza looked at the pot curiously then smiled. Even with a blocked up nose, she knew Gracia's famous chicken soup when she saw it. "How…?"

"Hughes gave me the recipe. I'm sorry if it's not exactly like hers though."

She smiled to herself and sank down on a chair closest to the stove to watch Roy, picking up the paper idly. Without even thinking, her eyes ran over the list, which seemed to be a word perfect soup recipe written out in Roy's less than careful scrawl. A scrawl which had taken Riza years of study to learn to read.

2 1/2 cups wide egg noodles

1 teaspoon vegetable oil

12 cups chicken broth

1 1/2 tablespoons salt

1 teaspoon poultry seasoning

1 cup chopped celery

1 cup chopped onion

1/3 cup cornstarch

1/4 cup water

3 cups diced, cooked chicken meat

Secret, most important ingredient

A healthy dose of TLC. Do NOT skimp!

Riza swallowed, chalking the hard lump in her throat as an effect of her cold, and nothing more. "I'm sure it will come out just perfect, Sir."