Sorry this one is a bit short, and I'm sorry it took a bit longer to get out to you! I'll update soon!
Riza woke before the sun fully cleared the horizon. The first twenty minutes she spent trying to force herself back to sleep, to escape the bleak reality for a few more hours but it was all in vain. Being as quiet as possible so as not to wake Rebecca, she slid out from under her blankets and changed out of the skirt and blouse into a pair of brown trousers and a long-sleeved grey chemise. After fastening her belt, she slipped her feet into her boots and grabbed her cargo jacket, ducking out of the room silently.
Her stomach felt heavy and the thought of food made her feel sick, so she decided to skip breakfast. As she was rounding the corner to head for the halls that led to the dungeon, however, a hand caught in the crease of her elbow and pulled her to a stop.
"Where do you think you're going?" Havoc asked jovially, smiling down at her as she turned to face him.
She became annoyed, even if she did dread revealing herself to Roy. It had to be done sooner or later. "Where do you think?"
Havoc laughed and held up his arms as if to defend himself. "Right, right. Look, Hawkeye, I checked on him when I got up this morning and Buccaneer says that he's still out cold. Miles wouldn't even let me clear the staircase. There was a lot of morphine in that shot; don't waste your time going down there just now, okay?"
She studied his face and noted that his smile looked off, but she wasn't going to think too deeply about it. It barely even registered in her mind. "Thank you for checking," she said slowly, part of her feeling relieved that he wasn't awake yet and another part disappointed.
"Of course," he said happily, coiling an arm around her shoulders. "Let's grab breakfast."
"I'm not hungry."
He gave her a disapproving look. "You haven't eaten anything in like a day. You gotta at least try. If you really feel that sick, let's at least get some coffee."
Coffee, she decided, didn't sound too bad. "Alright," she sighed. With one more glance over her shoulder at the hallway, she allowed Havoc to steer her down to the mess hall, which was pretty quiet at this hour of the morning. People wouldn't start getting up and doing their chores for at least another hour.
Once down there, Riza grabbed a bowl of oatmeal and a cup of coffee, Havoc piling his plate with eggs and meager strips of bacon. They found a seat next to Heymans Breda, who was sitting alone at a table with a mess of files spread out in front of him. He barely even looked up to acknowledge them as he munched on his toast and flipped through an overly stuffed manila folder. Riza felt a bit uneasy seeing their biggest researcher in the Eastern compound so bogged down with information; it was another testament to her inkling that Grumman had something big up his sleeve.
"Morning, Breda," Havoc grinned as he plopped down on the chair next to the burly man. "Whatcha doin?"
Breda snorted and reached for his coffee, his eyes never leaving the page he was on. "Don't be such a moron." Riza quietly took her place next to Havoc and Breda must have sensed the movement, because he looked up, startled. "Hawkeye!" he yelped. "How'd it go?"
She raised an eyebrow at him, knowing full well what he was talking about. "How did you even know?"
He shrugged. "I ain't working in our investigation and research department for nothing."
Havoc answered for her. "Everything went off without a hitch. He's all squared away, nothing for you to worry your handsome face over, Breda."
"Shut up, Havoc, I wasn't asking you."
Riza sighed and stirred her spoon through the lumpy mass of her oatmeal. After everything that had happened last night, things felt too. . .loose. As if last night had never even happened at all. Given, only a handful of people in the Resistance knew about the kidnapping, but she would have expected rumors to fly after the show Olivier's brigade put on last night to 'welcome home' Riza and her friends.
In fact, it was near seven in the morning and there was next to no one eating breakfast, aside from the small group in the corner on the other side of the room, people who looked to be from Armstrong's. Where was everybody else?
An uneasy feeling settled in her stomach and the warmth that rose from the oatmeal no longer promised comfort but sickness. When she thought about it, hardly anyone had been around last night when she arrived with Mustang in tow, and the lack of bodies in the mess hall completely unnerved her. That was it, wasn't it? It wasn't that people were mysteriously off base. They'd. . .
Had Grumman sent them away?
The Commander wouldn't be returning until tomorrow, and yet for the first time in her life, that wasn't soon enough. She had questions and she needed answers now. It was true that the Eastern sector of the Resistance had a measly population compared to that of the West, and South, especially to that of Central, but that didn't mean that the East wasn't important. They'd just kidnapped one of Ishval's war heroes, hadn't they? The East had always been a hot bed of activity in the Resistance; that was why Riza was stationed here. She was the quickest and most efficient - not to mention the most successful - sniper in the Resistance.
If Grumman had sent away a majority of the members that worked here, then what did that mean? What was he planning?
In a sudden movement that made both Havoc and Breda jump, Riza shot out of her seat and abandoned her tray of food where it was, heading briskly for the stairs that would lead to the first floor. She had to see if her suspicions were correct; she'd been so caught up in perfecting the strategy for capturing Mustang these past several days, holed up in an office with Rebecca and Havoc. . .was it possible that she had missed something so painfully obvious?
"Where are you going, Hawkeye?" Havoc asked, his chair squeaking as he stood.
She didn't turn back. "I don't need a babysitter," she said matter-of-factly. "Enjoy your breakfast."
It surprised her that he actually listened. "Okay, but don't bother about going to the dungeon, yeah?"
She waved her hand in response, a quick swirl of guilt churning in her stomach. Eventually, she would be making her way down there, but that wasn't at the forefront of her mind at this moment. There was something even more dire that she had to check, and dread filled her for what she suspected she'd find.
Jogging up the stairs, Riza headed straight for the dormitory halls, and took a deep breath as she started down the first corridor of rooms. One by one, she reached for the handles and pushed the doors of the rooms in, feeling sick as they would swing open instead of resisting due to a lock, as she would see the bare mattresses, the absence of life itself gone from the areas she had thought people occupied until a few moments ago.
When she had reached the last room at the last hallway, she barged in ungracefully, catching Rebecca in the habit of running her fingers through her hair. Though a soldier, she was caught quite off guard by Riza's intrusion and jumped before whirling on her friend.
"Yeesh, Riza, are you tryin' to scare me half to death?" she said, placing a hand over her heart.
The look on Riza's face must have been sober and worried enough to make Rebecca tense visibly.
"Have you noticed that nearly everyone has been evacuated from the base?" Riza asked in a dry voice, trying to keep the alarm out of her eyes.
Rebecca stared at her for a moment before tying her wild hair back into a pony tail. "I guess it has seemed pretty quiet around here lately. How do you know people aren't just out doing recon work and stuff?"
"I checked the rooms," Riza buffered instantly, going to sit on the mess of sheets of Rebecca's bed. "There are only about twenty rooms that I couldn't get open."
Her friend looked at her with a growing sense of trepidation. "You mean to tell me that out of nearly three hundred men and women assigned to the Eastern compound, there are only forty of us here right now?"
Riza nodded, furrowing her eyebrows in thought as she tried to race through who she had seen. Olivier's men and Armstrong herself would be here still as they were assigned to Roy's security detail. Breda had been in the mess hall, so Riza could only assume that Fuery was still around here somewhere. Havoc and Falman shared a room so that must have meant they were both still around. The other sixteen unaccounted members must have included people like the kitchen staff and those who were out on patrol or on cleaning around the deserted base.
"What the hell?" Rebecca whispered, coming to sit next to Riza. "How did I not notice this?"
Riza leaned forward with her mouth and chin clasped in both hands, elbows resting on her knees. "We've been extremely busy these last couple of days. Think about it. You, Havoc and I were busy plotting the kidnapping. Olivier and her men were probably busy receiving orders from direct command. The research team look like they've been bogged down with hundreds of files." She looked sharply at Rebecca. "We were distracted, and so of course we didn't notice."
"So why is everyone else gone?"
Riza caught her chin in her hand and glared at the floor, thinking deeply. "I don't know yet. Grumman is obviously behind this, but. . ." she sighed. "I have no idea why." She didn't have enough energy to be angry; instead she felt the unease tremble in her hands.
"He said he was coming back tomorrow, right?" Rebecca pressed speculatively.
Riza snorted. "You think his word is something we should believe in after this?"
"I don't know."
It was a pitiful, terrifying thing. When they couldn't even rely on their commander. If only Riza could extract herself from this whole thing; she'd leave the country. Take off with Rebecca and Havoc. Maybe she'd even take. . . .
Her heart clenched painfully in her chest as she thought about him. She had betrayed him and he would never forgive her and that hurt. He had been her friend, had made her feel something other than this desolation and anger that seemed to cloud her every day life. What had she done for him? He'd smiled at her. Been happy, at least, and she'd turned around on him and turned him in. Her shoulders curled in and she lowered to rest her forehead against her knees as she hugged her midriff, the ache washing through her relentlessly.
"Riza, are you okay?"
She hated herself. "I'm fine." A deep breath. "Can I be alone for a while?"
There was a pause and then, "Sure." Rebecca rubbed her shoulder and moments later Riza heard the click of the door swinging closed.
The air seemed to get stuck in her throat and she tried to force herself to separate herself from the emotions that assaulted her but her wall had been weakened so often lately that she couldn't find the strength to throw it back up. It disturbed her because she knew who had taken the walls down. God, how he had changed her in such a short amount of time. To repay him by taking away the life he knew was cruel.
"I saved his life," she whispered into her knees, clutching at her middle so hard that her fingers began to leave bruises in her sides. One life saved, but at what cost? Surely he was safe with Olivier's men watching over him, but there were only so many of them. Mustang was a hot commodity these days; if the rumors had spread about him, didn't that mean more people would come after him?
Her eyes shot open and she was staring into the fabric of her pants as a thought occurred to her. Was that one of the reasons everyone was moved off base? Because of Mustang? But she thought Grumman couldn't care less what happened to him. Had she been wrong? She herself said she couldn't take his word for it.
She gritted her teeth together. Havoc had said that Mustang wasn't awake yet but. . .he'd been so weird about it. Even if he wasn't awake, even if he was going to hate her, she wanted to be there. She had saved his life, so what was she doing here wallowing in despair for? She would put her walls back up, stronger than before, and she would protect him, otherwise all her efforts would be in vain. It wasn't worth that.
It was doubtless that Mustang knew something about his military and that could aid the movement of the Resistance. If I could just get the information out of him; maybe if I could just make him see reason. . .maybe he would cooperate. People wouldn't hate him, wouldn't want him dead. He'd be an asset, as I promised. Not a liability.
She was never going to get anything accomplished if she sat in here alone. Mustang was her responsibility. It was only logical that she take charge of that now. Maybe, talking to him, she would be able to figure out some of the oddities that she couldn't place.
After a few more moments to collect herself, she sat up and steeled herself for the conversation to come. Her face became expressionless, the pain in her heart turning to ice, numbing her. Her emotions would not control her; she would be guided only by reason and logic. It was the only way she could ensure that things would not become overly complicated - to keep her feelings out of it.
With resolve, she rose from the bed and marched out of the room. There was no one else around to see her slip down the hallway that lead to the dungeon and so the only sound she could hear were her footsteps echoing as she descended.
The light at the bottom of the stairwell was even more dim than she had remembered it from last night. Two men were lounging on the old sofa against the wall, their weapons casually thrown across their laps. Their eyes were locked on me immediately and hers on them. She couldn't decide if she was upset that they weren't guarding the door more heavily, or relieved that they didn't feel he was such a threat.
"What do you want?" one of them asked briskly.
She crossed her arms over her chest and leaned back on her left leg. "That is a stupid question," she replied blatantly. "Open the door."
The second man rose, slinging his gun over his shoulder. "Under orders from Armstrong not to open it under any circumstances, Hawkeye."
This was not what she needed right now. "I'm the exception. My authority over Mustang precedes everyone else. I brought him here and so he is my responsibility. Now open the door."
"Look, Hawkeye, if you want to get in the room, you're gonna have to clear it with Armstrong," he replied with a heavy sigh. She could tell that he was reluctant to turn her away, probably because the tone of her voice told both of them that she was going to raise hell if she didn't get what she wanted in this moment. No one liked to be on Riza Hawkeye's bad side, except maybe for Grumman, who seemed to take pleasure in her anger.
She opened her mouth to argue when a pair of steel toed boots clapped mutedly against the concrete floor. The three of them glanced up to see Olivier Armstrong standing there with her hair pulled back from her face, both of her brilliant sapphire eyes drilling into them, even through the darkness.
"What are you doing down here, Hawkeye?" she barked.
Riza's hackles were up immediately. "I think the more accurate question is why am I not allowed to see him."
Olivier took three strides forward and then stopped, her expression looking as if it was cut from glass. "That was never explicitly stated," she remarked coldly. "In the future, I suggest you hold your tongue against a superior or they may not be so lenient."
Armstrong nodded curtly at the cell door. "Let her in."
Riza did a good job of hiding her surprise, and an even better job at pretending not to notice the unrecognizable flash of emotion in Olivier's eyes. Was that regret? Whatever it was, it was an emotion that Armstrong did not often wear.
"Take as long as you want. Heaven knows you are the only person who will be able to reach out to him. Knock on the door when you are done."
One of the guards nodded and pulled out the key from his belt, opening the door. Riza muttered a thank you to make up for her earlier bitterness and strode into the open space of the dungeon. It was even darker inside here than it was outside and goosebumps ran up her arms from the chill that bit at the air. The large candles near Mustang's mattress gave off enough light that she could see the soft outline of the blanket and the paleness of his complexion.
The door shut behind her, darkening the room even more, making the shadows from the light more sharply contrasting. Riza sank to her knees a few feet away from him, unsure of what she was going to say, feeling how her tongue was nothing but knots, her stomach nothing but an endless, sickening vat of guilt.
She was so caught up in the sudden whirl of emotion at seeing him again that she didn't register the glint of candlelight against two charcoal eyes staring back at her.