Chapter 1: a tremor took hold
The day had not started the way that Riza would have liked.
It had started with a shower that had turned instantly freezing the second she'd put shampoo on her hair. Her undignified, startled yelp had caused Black Hayate to bark and scratch worriedly at the bathroom door until she came out, wrapped in a towel and shivering from the cold water.
That was only the beginning.
Working late for the last week meant that she'd managed to run out of food without realising it, which wasn't that big a deal because she could just get something for breakfast in the mess hall once she got to work. A trivial annoyance, nothing more. Or it would have been if her car had started.
She turned the key once, twice, and a third time, while the engine sputtered but refused to start. The car had been old when she'd bought it, just two weeks after she'd started working for the Colonel, and it was a surprise to everyone that it had even managed to last this long. Riza rested her head against the steering wheel and let out a deep breath, which somehow managed to convey all her annoyance and frustration at the situation, although it didn't help her feel any better.
By the time she arrived at Eastern HQ, she'd missed any chance of breakfast (she'd live, it wasn't the first time she'd skipped a meal), and was (quite unlike her) late for work. She took the steps up to the office two at a time, and arrived with slightly flushed cheeks, and only a little out of breath.
"Good morning, Lieutenant." Roy looked mildly concerned. "Everything alright?"
"Yes, sir. Just a little car trouble." She explained, and glared at Havoc when he snorted in amusement. He promptly went back to focusing on whatever work he was doing. She hoped it was something productive.
"I thought I told you to get rid of that death trap."
"You did, sir, but I haven't really had the time to go car shopping." She unlocked her desk drawer and pulled out the paperwork she'd been working on yesterday. It didn't need to be filed until tomorrow, but she'd rather get it done before the deadline. Unlike others in the office.
"It's been two years." Roy pointed out.
"A very busy two years," Riza glanced up from the paperwork. "I'll make up the time this evening, sir. Don't you have work to be doing?"
"Yes, but you're not working through the weekend, you'll spend the time replacing that… thing you call a car."
Riza didn't think it was possible for the day to get worse than the morning, but somehow it did. Coffee was spilled over paperwork, files were misplaced, and then found (after a lengthy discussion about whose fault it was in the first place - a discussion that had reached a stalemate of glares across the office), leads on cases went nowhere, and by the time everyone else was done for the day, she was still sitting at her desk, hunched over, and trying to finish a report.
"I think that's enough for today." Roy pointed out. "Come on, I'll drive you home."
Riza considered arguing, a retort about actually finishing the paperwork was on the tip of her tongue, but the look of concern on his face cut her off. She nodded, and dropped her pen onto the desk. She felt tired, the tiny little frustrations of the day had worked away at her, leaving her feeling annoyed and short tempered. The big things were sometimes easier to handle.
"Thank you, sir." She locked away the paperwork and had her coat back on in record time.
"And I'll pick you up in the morning, so you don't need to worry about that."
Riza nodded, and let him drive her home.
Hopefully tomorrow would be better.
Chapter 2: victims of their own device
At some point this idea must've seemed perfectly reasonable to not only her, but to her superior, and more importantly, to his superiors.
They'd been tracing a weapons smuggling ring for the past month, inching closer and closer to the person at the top. They'd hit multiple frustrating dead ends, until they'd come across one that looked like it might pay off. It wasn't a trail back to a person, but to a place, a suburban district of a small city towards the north.
It had been decided that the softly, softly approach would be the best option. Going in undercover in order to gather intel before making a move. After all, they weren't sure exactly who it was that they were after, just that they happened to live in this one particular neighbourhood, and they didn't want to spook him (or her) by going in guns blazing.
They'd talked about different ways to get in, the possibility of being military recruiters (too obvious), handymen (with the exception of Fuery, who had some electrical knowhow, none of them would be able to pass as handyanything), and had even thrown around the idea of infiltrating the local schools and businesses, but there was no guarantee that it would work.
Of course there was no guarantee that this would work either.
This being herself and Colonel Mustang pretending to be newlyweds, recently moved to the area.
"The house does look nice." Riza commented from the passenger seat. They were parked in the driveway of a quaint, suburban house, which had even come with a white picket fence. It was the sort of place you'd see at the pictures, an example of an idealic home.
Honestly, she'd have prefered something a little less… perfect looking, but the Riza (short for Theresa in this case) that she was pretending to be had always wanted a lovely little house like this.
"I didn't think you wanted a white picket fence." Roy leaned over and rummaged around in the glove compartment for something.
"No, but there are worse places to spend a week." She could think of several. "What are you looking for?"
"Oh, these." He pulled out a small ring box, and Riza tried to ignore the way her heart skipped a beat at the sight of him holding it out to her. He flicked it open and nestled inside were three rings. "We need to look the part, after all."
The engagement ring was pretty, but too large and impractical for her personal tastes. It was the matching simple gold bands that had caught her attention. She tried not to think about it too much as they both slipped the bands onto their ring finger, making them fictitiously married.
"Ready, Mrs Martin?" He asked.
"As I'll ever be."
She exited the car and retrieved Hayate from the backseat. He wagged his tail happily as soon as he was out of the car, and proceeded to sniff around the front garden. "Oh, darling!" Riza called out, her voice softer, her smile bigger, and she pretended she didn't notice the way his eyes widened slightly.
"I'm just going to take Hayate out for a walk around the neighbourhood, he's just been cooped up for the entire drive. You don't mind, do you?" More accurately, she wanted to case the neighbourhood, and maybe part of her wanted to put some distance between her and Roy.
"But, sweetheart ," He teased. "I wanted to carry you over the threshold."
Oh, now he was just being ridiculous.
She laughed, "Maybe another time, honey."
Riza retrieved Hayate's lead from her purse and clipped it to his collar before she took a gentle stroll around the neighbourhood. The further she got from the house, and Roy, the clearer she could think about the mission. It was clear, after only a few minutes of them being married, that the problem wouldn't be finding the smuggler, it would be keeping the boundaries of their relationship in place.
The day went quietly. Riza stashed guns in unexpected places, such as the grandfather clock in the dining room, and under the sink in the kitchen.
She tried not to watch Roy too closely.
The neighbours came home, and she noted down the times in a notebook;
House 3 - 18:02
House 6 - 18:37
And so the first day went.
The bedroom was dark, and they had been lying there for what felt like hours. Roy shifted, and fidgeted, while Riza tried lying still in the hope that sleep would come. Some nights it didn't, but not for this reason. For being so close to him, to be able to move millimeters and brush her fingers against his skin. It was so tempting, she had to fight to keep herself from doing it, and had to keep reminding herself why she couldn't.
There was the goal. For Roy to reach the top and change everything rotten about this country. He couldn't do that if he got caught with his subordinate.
Touching him could ruin everything they wanted, because she knew if she started that she'd never be able to stop.
Riza squeezed her eyes shut and hoped sleep would take her soon.
Somehow in the night, they'd shifted so that their limbs were partially entwined. She blinked awake slowly, smiling at the sight of him, his hair messier than usual, sticking up at all sorts of angles. He looked carefree, and frankly down right adorable. It was a nice sight to wake up to.
She watched him carefully, loathe to wake him up, or move out of his sleep created embrace. They shouldn't do this, she shouldn't allow it, but he was still asleep and she could wrap this moment up and keep it to herself.
In a different world, she'd wake him with kisses and laughter. She'd weakly protest that they'd be late for work as he tried to convince her to stay in bed for just a little while longer. In a different world, where they'd never gone to Ishval, where she hadn't shared her father's research with him, where they could be young and in love.
It wasn't that world though. It was this one. The one they had made for themselves with a series of ill thought out decisions and horrific circumstances.
She slowly untangled herself from him, and slipped out of bed.
"Riza….?" He asked, voice thick with sleep.
"It's time to get up. I'll hit the shower and then make breakfast." She said, but didn't turn around to face him. "We should try to talk to the neighbours today. See if we can get a feel for them."
"Sounds like a good idea." Roy said, and then he sounded concerned; "Everything okay?"
She glanced over her shoulder, "Yeah. I just didn't sleep well. You hog the covers."
"I do not!" He sounded indignant and so put out, that she had to laugh. A short laugh, more of an exhale than anything else, but it did the job and he stopped looking so concerned. "Did I?"
Riza just smirked in response before she headed to the bathroom.
A lot of undercover work is waiting, watching, and a heavy dose of luck, and Roy had managed to stumble onto the latter. He'd charmed the neighbour; her name was June, into inviting them to her dinner party that evening. According to him, she'd been delighted to invite the new neighbours. Riza was just glad that they were getting somewhere.
She'd worn a dark red, sleeveless, high backed dress, that came down to just above her knees. The skirt was flared enough so that she could move quickly if she needed to, and it covered her back, which were her only practical concerns about the outfit.
"Oh wow." Roy breathed.
Riza spun around; she'd been getting ready in the bedroom, while he changed in the bathroom, and she hadn't heard him come in.
"Sorry, you just look so beautiful." He said. "It took my breath away."
She could feel her cheeks burning, but rolled her eyes regardless. "Oh god, are you going to be like this all night?" She asked, exasperated.
She crossed the small distance between them and helped him with his tie, as he smirked at her. "Would you prefer I act more like Hughes and just go on about how wonderful my darling wife is?" He teased.
Her hands tightened around the tie, and her deft and practiced hands became a lot less gentle. "Well, darling , we are married, and isn't that how married people act?" She asked. "You can sing my virtues, and I'll roll my eyes and claim you've had too much wine."
"Honestly? Hughes and Gracia are the only happily married couple that I know," Roy admitted. "Maybe we should act a little like them."
"We're supposed to be getting information out of these people, not giving them an emotional case of diabetes." Riza pointed out. She'd finished his tie, and brushed nonexistent lint from his shoulders. He always did dress up very well, she had to admit.
"The Hughes route a bit too much?" His hands slipped to her waist, and she looked up at him with a warning in her eyes.
"A bit." She agreed. "How about we just be ourselves, or a close enough copy. Just act as if you would if we were married."
It was probably the wrong thing to say. She'd been trying to keep the walls up between them, not bring them crashing down. If they were married, she'd be kissing him right now, and he looked like he wanted nothing more than to do exactly that.
"Riza…" His voice was quiet, and it sent shivers up her spine.
"Yes?" She could close her eyes now, lean a little bit towards him, her hands were still on his shoulders, and his were at her waist and all it would take is those two things and she'd have what she wanted.
But it would ruin everything.
She looked down, and took a step backwards. It broke the spell, and his hands dropped from her waist, although the ghost of his touch remained.
"We should go." She said, and when she looked at him, she locked her emotions away and hope he couldn't read her like he normally could, that she'd hidden the want, the desire, and the hurt away.
"Um. Yes. We should."
Riza had never been to a dinner party. The closest she'd ever come was the occasional Saturday night at Rebecca's, where they ate Xingese food and complained about work, and men. Well. Mostly Rebecca complained, and Riza listened. This was not like that at all.
It didn't take long to realise that she had very little in common with the women, who lost interest once they realised she wasn't willing to be baited by their catty comments. She glanced at Roy, and caught his eye briefly as he chatted about who only knows what with one of the husbands.
Riza walked through the rooms of the house, looking at the photographs on the wall. An old farmhouse, children in school uniforms that were too big for them, birthdays and other celebrations. They all looked like they were taken in a different house, smaller rooms maybe? And certainly different decor, it was old fashioned and reminded her of her father's house, where they could never afford to redecorate so everything looked dated.
"Theresa, is everything okay?" June asked. She was a pleasant woman, a little older than herself and eager to please everyone. She didn't strike Riza as smart, but as just… nice. If that could be used to describe a person.
"Oh yes, sorry, I just needed…"
"To get away from them ? I understand." June smiled. "They can be awful, but William likes their husbands so I feel obligated. You know how it is with husbands friends."
Riza thought of Hughes and Gracia, who weren't trouble to be around at all. "It can be difficult." She lied smoothly. "You have a lovely home, June." She changed the subject seamlessly.
"Oh, thank you. We only moved here a month ago, before that we lived out in the country in my parents old home. We never had much money, you see, but when William got a promotion at work, we were able to move. The kids miss their old home, but the schools here are better." June explained, she was proud of her husband's achievements, but Riza's alarm bells were ringing. It was likely it was nothing, a false start in their investigation, but it was a lead.
"You're very lucky," Riza smiled as she spoke. "I'm sorry, I'm keeping you from your guests, and I must make sure Roy isn't boring everyone with his stories."
"So you think it's William?" Roy asked.
Riza had explained what June had told her once they were back at their temporary home. They were sitting in the bedroom, Roy on the bed, and Riza sat at the dressing table and brushed her hair, watching him in the mirror.
"I think it's possible. Or at least worth investigating, I can call it in and ask Breda to check his employment records." She watched Roy nod, and flop down onto the bed, and she had to hide a smile. "If you're tired, you should get ready for bed."
"I'm fine." He waved her concern away.
"Oh yes, of course." She continued to watch him in the mirror, and let him lie there until she'd brushed out her hair. "Well, regardless, I'm going to get ready for bed."
Riza walked past him on the way out of the room, but he reached out and grabbed her wrist. "What-"
"I kept thinking, earlier, about what you said."
"Which part?" She kept her voice calm, even though his fingers wrapped around her wrist felt like fire against her skin. They rarely touched, nothing more than a hand on the shoulder, nothing that would seem unprofessional.
"The part about how we should act as if we were married." He stared up at the ceiling. He didn't want to see her reaction, and Riza bit the inside of her cheek to stop herself from sighing. Oh Roy, ever the romantic. "And I kept thinking about what that would be like. Not this sham, but if it was real. If you were what I could come home to every night, and wake up with in the morning, if it was you -"
"That's enough, Colonel." Riza said, gently. Her entire body ached with sadness, and unfulfilled desires. Not just for him, but for a future they'd never have. "You know we can't. You know why we can't."
He let go of her wrist and nodded, "I just sometimes wish…"
"I know, sir, I do."
What Riza wanted to do was hold him, and kiss him, and promise him that one day they could have everything they wanted, but instead she left the room and locked herself in the bathroom. Her eyes stung with tears, and she showered under scorching hot water until she couldn't feel them, or the touch of his hand on her wrist.
By the time she went back to the bedroom, the lights were off and he had faced away from her, and was pretending to be asleep. She changed in the darkness, her back to him, and then slid into bed beside him.
Riza didn't sleep much that night, and she suspected that he didn't either.
The unmistakable scent of baking, tinged with lemon and sugar, had filled the house.
Roy had done his best to avoid her all morning, something that Riza had initially been thankful for - the guilt, embarrassment and mixed emotions that caused him to withdraw were not, after all, one sided. Now, however, it was early afternoon and she was fed up of it.
Honestly, it wasn't just Roy avoiding her that she was fed up. She was fed up this mission, fed up of the fake marriage that reminded her of everything she couldn't have, fed up of the sickly sweet cookie cutter neighbourhood, and she just wanted to finish the job, fill in the paperwork and go home.
Riza boiled the kettle before adding the finishing touches to the lemon drizzle cakes. She set a cup of coffee on the kitchen table, and a generous slice of cake on a plate next to it. It was a peace offering, of sorts, a way to try to soothe his bruised ego and tell him that she wasn't angry or upset with him.
The other cake got boxed up.
There was a note by the coffee cup, telling him where she'd be, but she didn't anticipate any trouble. William - their suspect - wasn't home, and Riza couldn't sit around in the house any longer. Not to mention, it was polite to thank someone for having them over.
That was why she was next door, eating lemon drizzle cake and drinking tea, when everything came to an anticlimactic end.
They'd been half way through their second cup of tea, June had been telling her all about William's job at the weapons manufacture in the nearest city, when the doorbell rung. Riza was surprised - obviously so - when Havoc and Breda were shown through to the living room.
William had been caught in the middle of a smuggling bust.
All their planning, all of their heartache, and it all just seemed so unnecessary.
Once they were in the car, on their way back to East City, their way back to normalcy - whatever that actually meant for them - and far away from the few days in suburbia they'd just endured, Riza finally felt like she could relax.
"Sir, don't take this the wrong way, but next time you have to be married to someone, can it be Havoc?"
"You didn't enjoy our time together, Lieutenant?"
"I think I would've prefered watching you two play house more." She answered, deftly avoiding the question.
The Colonel let the silence hang in the air for a while, an easier silence than they'd had recently.
"It wasn't our finest moment, was it?" He asked.
"No, I think we have too much going on for that to have been easy." Riza admitted. "But we got the results we needed."
"With the case , sir, yes." Riza said. "As for everything else. We'll revisit it once you reach your goal. We can't do it before then, we don't want to jeopardize everything we're both fighting for, do we?"
He was silent, and Riza gripped the steering wheel tightly until he spoke; "No, I suppose not. Thank you for keeping me in line, Lieutenant."
Her hands relaxed.
Chapter 3: the investiture
Riza had worn her full dress uniform more times in the month since the Promised Day, than she had in her entire military career preceding it, which explained why she could now put the slightly more complicated uniform on without a problem, while waiting for her morning coffee to kick in.
If only Colonel Mustang could manage the same thing, she wouldn't have to turn up at his house an hour before either of them were due in the office. Each time they'd had to wear this uniform, instead of their usual one, he'd done it wrong. They were just small things, but she swore that he was doing it on purpose.
This morning, however, she wasn't going to give him the chance to be anything other than perfectly put together. It was an important day, and she didn't want to have to waste energy on fixing his ridiculous uniform mistake.
It didn't take him long to answer the door. When he did, sis dark hair was already slicked back, but he was only half dressed, wearing the crisp white shirt, and sharply pressed trousers. Riza noticed that he smelled faintly of laundry detergent and soap. She also forgot how to speak for a split second.
"Lieutenant, isn't it a bit early?" He asked, but stepped aside to let her in.
"Um." She paused briefly as she entered his house, and closed the door behind her. "I thought you might need help getting ready, considering how many times I've had to correct your uniform recently."
The colonel didn't argue, just smirked and cocked his head, "Nice legs, lieutenant."
"One day you're going to say that in front of the wrong person and end up in front of a tribunal for sexual harassment, you know?" She pointed out wryly. "And when they ask me how many times you make inappropriate comments about me, I'll have to tell them 'every single time he's ever seen me in a skirt, sir'. It won't be pretty."
"I would never say anything like that in front of the wrong people." He looked like he was about to pout at the suggestion, and Riza had to stop herself from laughing. "There's no one here, is there?"
"No. It's just us." Just the two of them, inches apart in his hallway, and Riza was very aware of it. "Why don't you finish getting dressed correctly while I make some coffee?"
She knew her way around his house like it was her own, even with most of his belongings still in boxes from the move. It had only been a month, but she'd spent many late nights here going over their plans for the future. For Ishval. For the Eastern Command that he was about to be placed in charge of. They'd agreed that nothing they could do would ever erase the blood on their hands, but that doing something for the Ishvalan people, and for everyone in the East who had suffered in that war, was better than doing nothing.
She was halfway through her coffee by the time he came into the living room, and she looked him over with a critical eye.
"So, how do I look?"
Honestly, he looked good. The uniform fit him well, and for once nothing was out of place, but that didn't stop her from going over to him and brushing imaginary lint from his jacket. It was an excuse to touch him, and she was close enough to feel the heat pouring off of him. Close enough to kiss him, if she wanted to.
"I'm impressed," She said, her voice was softer than she'd intended, and she cleared her throat. "It turns out you can dress yourself without me."
He chuckled, and reached into his pocket, "I got you something." And before she could protest, he placed the small jewelry box in her hand. "Congratulations on your promotion."
"It's not official yet." Riza protested weakly. Inside the box were a pair of gold pearl stud earrings. They were beautiful. "I - sir - I can't accept this. It's too much."
"No, Lieutenant. It's nowhere near what you deserve." He said, seriously. "But it's a start."
Riza looked him in the eye, eyes that a month ago hadn't been able to see, and were now watching her with an intensity that made her heart skip. She could tell he was thinking about that day , his eyes kept flicking down to her neck, and the willingness to argue left her completely.
"It that case, thank you. They're beautiful." She put them in her jacket pocket before she kissed his cheek. Well. That had been the intention, but the Colonel turned his head and met her lips with his. The kiss was over before it began, but it had sent electricity down to the tips of her toes.
The Colonel looked like he was going to apologise, but she didn't give him the chance to utter a single word. She pressed her lips to his, and if there was any intent to be gentle, or timid, they fled from the second their lips touched. The kiss was ferocious, pent up lust and longing, desires that they'd ignored, and the fear of losing each other that had dogged their movements since the Promised Day, it all came pouring out in that one kiss. It was teeth and tongue, and fire shooting through her veins. Their hands clutched at their uniforms, unsure if they should be pushing their clothes off their bodies, or pulling each other closer.
By the time their lips parted, her knees were weak and she was lightheaded. It had been years since a kiss had done that. "Oh…" She breathed.
"Yeah." He brushed his nose against her cheek, and she laughed.
Actually, it more like an overwhelmed giggle, and she pressed her face against his shoulder to try to calm down. "Riza…?"
It had been so long since he'd used her name, and she couldn't stop herself from smiling. "Yes, sir?"
"I hope you know that I'm going to kiss you again."
"I can't wait." She said truthfully. "But, sir, we need to get to work. Today's important, the Fuhrer will be arriving in a couple of hours and the ceremony is this afternoon."
He reluctantly let her slip out of his arms. "Tonight?"
"We have celebration drinks. Havoc's going to be there, we can't miss it," Riza pointed out. "There's after, or there's tomorrow. I'm not going anywhere."
Chapter 4: The Crumbling of Order
This is a direct continuation from The Investiture, as the idea just wouldn't leave me alone. Hope you enjoy it!
"Riza, is this a skirt, or a belt?!" Rebecca sounded incredulous, and held up the offending item of clothing up for inspection.
Yes, Riza had to admit it was a little on the short side, but it wasn't exactly the shortest skirt available. It had been an impulse purchase once plans for this evening had been finalised, and she still wasn't sure if she was going to wear it, or just stick it in the back of her closet with the other clothes she never wore.
"Pretty sure it's too big for a belt." She said. "Becca, why are you going through my closet?"
"I'm picking out your outfit."
Riza was beginning to regret her agreement for them to get ready together. The celebration drinks had been planned since the promotions were announced, and Rebecca had grabbed her soon afterwards and insisted that they do the girly thing and get ready together before going out. She'd insisted loudly, and at length, until Riza had given in. That's why they were sitting in Riza's bedroom, sipping glasses wine and going through her closet.
"I can dress myself, you know." She pointed out. "Been doing it for a while now."
"Yeah, but you always go with the safe option." Rebecca held up a red blouse and inspected it. Something about it obviously pleased her, and she put it on the bed next to the skirt.
"I'm going out with people from work, not to pick up some poor hapless guy in a bar."
"I bet you could pick up the entire bar in this skirt." Rebecca said.
"I don't want to 'pick up' the entire bar." Riza rolled her eyes. "I just want to have-"
"Riza, are you about to admit that you want to have a night of fun ? I need to call Havoc to tell him." Rebecca teased.
"That's just because you want to talk to Havoc," Riza pointed out, cooly. "And no, not fun. It's just probably going to be the last night off any of us have in a while, and it'd be nice to spend it with someone other than Hayate."
"I don't want to talk to him!" Rebecca insisted, much to Riza's amusement as she then sniggered. "And stop that!"
"Stop what? I think it's nice that you like him," Riza said. "He can be an idiot sometimes, but he's one of the good ones, Becca. And he likes you. He's always disappointed when one of us take him to physio instead of you."
Rebecca eyed her best friend skeptically, but Riza just sipped her glass of wine. Thankfully, they'd moved away from the subject of her clothes and onto the much safer subject of Rebecca's love life. "I know he's not the nice, rich, man from central that you were hoping for, but one out of three isn't terrible." Riza said.
"Is he really disappointed when it's not me?" Rebecca asked. Her voice was quieter, smaller, than Riza thought it would be.
"Yes, he is." She reassured her. "I don't think he shows it around the other guys, but he's always talking about you, and when you're not there he pouts a little. Honestly, if he wasn't ga ga over you, I'd have a lot less patience for it."
Riza didn't think she'd ever seen Rebecca go so red in her life, or be so lost for words. She usually had a retort on the tip of her tongue, even if most of them were poorly thought out and sometimes insulting. To see her lost for words in the face of Havoc being sickeningly adorable about her managed to be both incredibly strange, and adorable. Honestly, she was happy for them both, they deserved some happiness after everything that had happened.
"Oh." Rebecca said, while looking stunned.
"You didn't know?" Riza asked.
"No. We've been keeping things casual." Rebecca explained. "We don't really talk much."
"I do not need to know that." Riza pulled a face. Happy for them was one thing, but she really didn't need - or want - the sordid details. Some things should just remain private, especially when they involved her best friend and one of her co-workers.
"What? It's not like I don't want to talk to him, we just tend to get distracted. You know what it's like." Rebecca paused, and cocked her head as if she was examining Riza. "Or maybe you don't."
"Oh no, I know what that's like." Riza said without thinking. She'd spent the whole day trying not to think of the toe curling, knee buckling, spine tingling kiss from that morning. It had been particularly difficult to ignore it as the Colonel (or General, as he was now) had spent most of the day staring at her as if he wanted nothing more than to devour her.
It's why she hadn't offered any resistance when he'd pulled her into an empty stairwell, pushed her against the wall, and thoroughly kissed her. Oh yes, Riza knew exactly what it was like to be distracted away from something as important as talking .
"Ri- are you blushing?" Rebecca asked, almost too gleefully. "Okay, there's a story here. What happened?"
Riza flopped onto her back, and stared at the ceiling. There was no way that she could look Rebecca in the face if this was going to be the line of questioning. "Nothing I want to talk about."
"Did you and Mustang finally bang or something?"
"Oh my god, Rebecca!" She reached behind her, grabbed her pillow and threw it at Rebecca, and was annoyed when Rebecca caught it. It was supposed to hit her in the head.
"Ohmygod, you did!" Rebecca squealed. Riza wasn't sure if it was in excitement or surprise, and she wasn't about to ask.
"No, Becca, we did not 'bang'." Riza covered her face with her hands. She hadn't drunk enough wine to deal with this conversation.
"But something happened, right? You wouldn't be acting like this if it didn't." She accused. "C'mon, I tell you all about my love life. And I'm not going to rat you out or anything if something did happen."
"I know you wouldn't," Riza assured her. Rebecca was a lot of things, loud, and fun in a way that Riza had struggled with even before Ishval, and had found utterly impossible afterwards. She was also fiercely loyal, and protective in a way that Riza thought a sister would've been if she'd had any. There was no way Rebecca would tell anyone anything, if Riza asked her not to.
"Okay, sooo?" Rebecca prompted.
"So we kissed. That's all." As if it was that simple. Just a kiss with her superior officer. Just a kiss that could jeopardize everything they were working towards. Just a kiss when they both wanted so much more .
"That's it?" Rebecca sounded almost disappointed, but when Riza sat up and looked at her, she looked concerned.
"What?" Riza asked. "Yes, that's it."
"You've been pining over this man for years, and 'that's all'." Rebecca pointed out.
"I have not been pining." Riza interjected.
"Yes, you have. Don't argue with me." Rebecca said. "So, you kissed and nothing else?"
"This happened today, I wasn't about to fuck him in a supply cupboard." Riza said dryly.
"Wait. This happened today , and tonight we're all going out drinking?" Rebecca asked.
"Yes." Riza confirmed.
"Okay, trust me, you're wearing the skirt-that-isn't-a-belt." Rebecca grinned wickedly. "Trust me."
Riza weighed up her options quickly, she could argue it out with Rebecca and turn up to the bar in something a little more respectable, or she could give in and avoid the argument, and maybe torture the General a little. Afterall, he had been messing up his uniform on purpose for weeks now, and a little payback would be good for him. It could be good for both of them.
"Okay, fine." Riza said. "You win. Now get out so I can change."
Chapter 5: days of wine and impropriety
This is a direct follow on to The Crumbling of Order.
Riza tugged on her skirt self consciously. It wasn't as short as Rebecca had tried to imply (it did cover everything, and wasn't actually anywhere close to being a belt), but it was shorter than she remembered it being when she'd tried it on in the store, and it was definitely shorter than anything else she owned.
"Stop that." Rebecca said.
"You look great. Stop it."
"How did you talk me into wearing this again?" Riza asked, but stilled her hands and folded her arms in front of her chest. There was a chill in the air outside the bar, and her impractical jacket offered little protection against the elements. If the boys weren't here in five minutes, she was just going to go inside and get warm.
"There was wine," Rebecca reminded her, and checked her watch. "And you want to torture General Matchstick."
"Don't call him that." Riza admonished her automatically, but didn't argue with her reasons. There had been wine, but not enough to convince her to wear something this short. Like so many other things in her life, this bad decision was completely wrapped up in Roy Mustang. Riza inwardly cringed at how pathetic and ridiculous it was, but managed to keep her emotions to herself. She wasn't that drunk yet.
"Fine, you wanted to torture General Mustang ," Rebecca said, petulantly. "Better?"
"Much." Riza grinned.
"Where are those boys anyway?" Rebecca asked, having checked her watch for the second time in what had to be less than a minute.
"Eager to see Havoc?" Riza teased.
"Shut up," Rebecca said, and pulled a face. "But yes. UGH, how did I manage to fall for such an idiot?"
Riza shrugged; "He's tall?"
"He is," Rebecca agreed. "And he has amazing arms. Just. Wow."
Riza was, thankfully, saved from the possibility that Rebecca might start singing the praises of any other part of Havoc (there were some things she was happier not knowing about her brother-in-arms) by a couple of cabs pulling up to the curb, and the boys spilled out of them. Breda and Fuery carried on their conversation about what sounded like the current advances in technology, Havoc went straight to Rebecca's side and started to tell her how beautiful she looked, and the General…
The General was staring at her. Trailing up her legs, and it was like Riza could see all the deliciously dirty things he wanted to do to her dancing like fire in his dark eyes. Like so much of their silent communication, she hoped that no one else could read him the way she could. She felt herself growing warm under his gaze, and she was glad that it was dark out and that hopefully no one could see her blushing.
"Hey, General, her face is up here." The intoxicating spell of the two of them standing on the pavement, staring at each other, was broken by Rebecca, who was now gesturing wildly at Riza's face.
"Becca…" Riza said, before burying her face in her hands.
"I am aware of that, Lieutenant Catalina." The General said.
"Are you? Because a second ago it looked like you thought it was a little lower down."
Riza pointedly ignored the both of them as they started bickering, and headed into the bar. It was still relatively quiet for a Friday night, but the night was still young and Riza knew it wouldn't be long before they'd have to wait for what felt like an age before they could get to the bar. It had been one of their old haunts before they'd left for Central, and after moving back East they'd fallen back into old habits. Riza headed to the bar, while Breda and Fuery went to claim their usual booth at the back.
"That skirt is probably the best thing you've ever worn." The General said, as he leaned against the bar next to her. She quickly looked around, trying to make sure that there was no one around that could possibly be listening in, but they were alone, as Havoc and Rebecca had headed to join the others at the table.
"You've said similar things about a number of my outfits over the years, sir." Riza said. There had been a number of undercover outfits she'd had to endure over the years, a few of which she suspected he'd enjoyed far more than she had.
"True, but this…" He indicated her entire outfit with a wave of his hand. "I've never been happier to have my eyesight back."
Riza knew she was blushing again, she could feel her skin getting warmer, and she couldn't help but smile. "You say that a lot sir." She pointed out.
"Only to you." His fingers lightly caressed the back of her hand. It was a small gesture, but they couldn't afford anything more than that. She couldn't kiss him like she wanted to, or lean against him, or run her fingers through his hair to mess it up. At least not here in front of everyone.
Riza waited until the barman went to make her drink, and then she leaned in a little closer than was strictly necessary, almost pushing the boundary of appropriate; "Well, if you think you're happy now, just wait until you see what I'm wearing under it."
His eyes went wide, and she tried to look as innocent as possible while she paid for her drink and headed over to the table.
"Hey Riza, he's staring again." Rebecca commented.
"Oh, I know." Riza said, and took a seat next to her best friend.
"Do I even want to know what you two were talking about over there?" Rebecca asked.
"Nothing important," Riza lied. "You just know what he's like with girls in short skirts."
"Remind me to never get on your bad side." Havoc interjected. "I don't think I want you - either of you, baby - to torture me with items of clothing."
"Oh, I've got much better ways to torture you." Rebecca said, a little too sweetly, and Havoc went pale at the mere prospect.
The night continued, they laughed together, drank together, and argued about the finer points of chess (well, that was mostly Breda and the General). Hours passed, and they slowly trickled out of the now busy bar and into the night. Rebecca and Havoc snuck away first, after spending a great deal of time making eyes at one another and occasionally kissing when they thought no one was paying attention. Fuery was next, and then Breda, until both the General and Riza were left alone.
"Will you be alright getting back home?" He asked, his hand was on her knee, mindlessly tracing patterns that sent shivers across her skin.
"I'll be fine," She said. He looked crestfallen, and moved his hand away. "But I wouldn't mind the company."
"Yes. I think you've been tortured long enough." Riza said. "Not to mention, I want to see what else those hands can do."
The General finished his drink in one gulp, almost making Riza laugh at his eagerness. She just left hers half finished on the table.
Chapter 6: Alone As You Choose To Be
This story has some references to stalker like behaviour. If that's not your thing, then please skip. If you want to message me on tumblr (@lightsaberss) to find out any details before reading then please do!
It was early morning, and the majority of the day staff at Eastern Command had yet to arrive. The halls were relatively silent, and Riza's footsteps echoed as she walked the familiar route down to the mail room. There was the possibility that the mail hadn't been sorted yet, but she needed something to occupy her time with before the Colonel arrived, and opening the mail had seemed appropriately mindless for the time of day, as well as being moderately productive.
The Staff Sergeant didn't look surprised to see her, maybe it wasn't that unusual for her to be in at this time, and that's wasn't a thought that brought her happiness considering the reason why she was there in the first place. Her nightmares came and went, and some nights they were just frustrating interruptions to an otherwise peaceful sleep, and there were nights like last night when they chased away sleep completely, leaving her shaken and unwilling to close her eyes again in case they returned.
"Mail for Colonel Mustang's office, please." She requested, and then signed and dated the form in exchange for the small bundle of mail.
Most of it was internal; memos sent to every department, reports they'd requested for various reasons, and other miscellaneous bits that she'd open, read, and then file away in the various relevant places. There were only three bits of external mail; a large manilla envelope that had been strangely addressed to both her and the Colonel, a box that sounded like it contained radio repair parts for Fuery, and what felt like a book for Falman.
Riza waited until she was in the office, and at her desk, before she started opening the mail. She'd just finished all the internal post when the rest of the team started coming in to work. She greeted each of them as they arrived, and none of them were surprised that she was already there and had already started working. She handed Fuery and Falman their packages as they came in, and called Breda 'an absolute life saver' when he arrived with everyone's regular coffee order from the shop down the street.
The Colonel arrived last, and it earned him a reproachful look from Riza, which caused the rest of the team to attempt to look busy. Riza grabbed the envelope, as well as the diary and the relevant items that she needed to bring to his attention, and followed him into his adjacent office. She closed the door behind her with a click, and the Colonel flung himself down into his chair.
"Rough night?" She asked, curiously.
"It's fine, what's the plan for the day?" He said, and waved the question away. Riza knew him better than to pry, she knew that meant yes , but that he didn't want to talk about it. At least not yet, or maybe just not with her. If it went on for a few days, and she had suffered through enough of his (and her own) bad dreams and insomnia to know that it could last a while, she'd prod Hughes into talking him out of it. For now though, she'd let him get away with it.
"We got this in the mail," Riza said, and handed the envelope over to him before she perched on the edge of his desk and opened the diary to today's date. She wasn't looking at him as he opened the mail, trying to decipher Havoc's untidy scrawl - when will those boys stop making appointments without her approval? - she was about to go and explain to the Second Lieutenant that there was an appointment procedure for a reason, when Roy's sudden intake of breath caused her to freeze and look at him.
He wasn't looking at her, but at the contents of the envelope. Photographs had spilled over his desk, and they were all of him. Taken unknowingly as he went about his life, pictures of him going to and from work, of him at home eating dinner, reading books, working out, and as Riza flicked through them, even a picture of him sleeping.
"I'm calling the team in." Riza said decisively, and went to the door.
"Wait." Riza's hand was almost on the door handle, but she let it drop to her side.
"Sir. With all due respect, if whoever this is can photograph you, they can shoot you. I can't investigate this and watch your back at the same time." She said, and only turned to face him after she spoke. "They don't need to see the photo's, Colonel, but we need them to find whoever this is."
The Colonel nodded, and Riza opened the door, and summoned the team in with a swift inclination of her head. She waited until they'd made themselves comfortable and then glanced at the Colonel for his approval to continue. It took him a beat longer than it would have if it was her in those photos, which was a thought Riza was happy to compartmentalise away and ignore.
"The Colonel's received a threat this morning, more than likely work related, but it's credible and needs to be investigated." Riza summed up. She hesitated before going further, and the Colonel, who normally gave the orders, jumped in.
"The area opposite my house needs investigating. Someone might have been seen loitering with a camera -"
"Wait, the threat involved photos? Should we be talking to Hughes?" Havoc joked, but quickly shut up after a glare from her.
"Yes, they sent photos, and as Hawkeye so succinctly pointed out; if they can take a photo, they can shoot me." Mustang said. "We also need to pull some old files, anyone that might hold a particular grudge against me. I'll write up a list."
Riza had stuck to him all day. She'd acted like his constant shadow, a familiar pair of eyes watching his back. She'd stood between him and the windows as they walked through the corridors of Eastern Command, placing herself between the unseen danger and him. They'd talked about using a safe house, but decided on a double bluff just in case he was being watched at work. It would be easy enough to pull off, although it did mean he would have to stay at her place for the unforeseeable future.
Even though it was her idea, and there were a lot of reasons why it made sense for him to be here, it wasn't something she was thrilled about. It wasn't having the Colonel there that was the real problem, she'd spent years as a teenager with him living under her father's roof, and there had been a number of undercover missions where they'd stayed in close quarters together. While having him close by presented it's own set of personal problems, she didn't mind that it was him . It was just that she was tired and wanted nothing more than to relax. There was no way she could do that now.
Riza entered her apartment in the dark, and quickly went from room to room, and closed all the blinds before she reached for any of the light switches. If they were being watched, if someone had followed them instead of the other car, then they wouldn't be able to see in. At the very least, their privacy was as ensured as she could make it.
If she's been alone, she'd flop onto the sofa, let Black Hayate lie on her stomach and try to fall asleep. Let the comforting warmth of another being lull her into comfort, and hopefully a dreamless sleep. But she wasn't alone, and the Colonel looked just as exhausted as she felt, not to mention that he was her responsibility.
"Hungry?" Riza asked as she unbuttoned her uniform jacket and discarded it over the back of her sofa. Her boots had been left by the front door, but she was still wearing her guns. The lingering need to protect him, even in the safety of her home, kept them on her body and within easy reach. The guns in her apartment were rarely left loaded for safety's sake, but for tonight she'd make an exception.
"Depends on what you're going to cook." Mustang's jacket joined hers, and Riza was struck by how domestic this would've looked to an outsider. Both of them walking around her apartment in their socks, only half dressed in their uniform after a long day. She was glad she'd closed the blinds, and that no one else could see this. That it was a moment just for them.
"Chicken and some vegetables. I leave the fancy cuisine to you going out with your fancy ladies." Riza teased.
"They're not that fancy, and my favourite, Elizabeth, has been busy. Something to do with the boss at that boutique she works at." So he wasn't too tired - or too stressed by this morning's delivery - to tease her back, that was good.
"I'm sure he's terrible." Riza deadpanned. "Come on, you can peel the potatoes."
They worked in companionable silence to make their meal. It wasn't the first time they'd cooked together, there had been nights during their childhood where they'd worked side by side to feed themselves, but it had been years since then.
"What is it?" He asked. It sometimes surprised her, how attuned they could be to one another, how sometimes it felt like he could just tell when her thoughts had wandered.
"I was just thinking about when we were younger." Riza said. It wasn't a subject that they talked about often. Sometimes late at night when they were the only two left in the office, or if she'd a particularly bad night relating to her father. It was mostly talked about in vague comments, like a shorthand conversation that only the two of them understood.
"Remember that time I tried to bake cookies to welcome you back from school?"
"How could I forget? You almost burned the kitchen down." Riza smiled at the memory.
"I did not!" Mustang insisted.
"Fine," Riza agreed. "But the smell of burned cookies lingered for days."
"It's a good thing we're not baking cookies then, isn't it?"
"My poor kitchen would never survive it." Riza said.
It was late by the time they'd finished eating, sat close together on her small battered sofa. Close enough that their knees touched, and elbows caught each others when they were paying more attention to their food than their proximity to one another. It was late, and Riza wanted to sleep, but she couldn't. His life was potentially in her hands tonight, and she wouldn't let him down.
"Sir, you should get some sleep. Take my bed, I'll stay up and keep watch." Riza said, and slipped her guns from her holsters and placed them on the coffee table with a dull thud.
"I'm not kicking you out of your bed, Lieutenant."
"You're correct, sir. I'm giving it to you." Riza pointed out, with business like practicality. "You look tired. Get some rest, if nothing's happened in the next four hours then we can swap."
Honestly, Riza had no intention of waking him up. Even if he was handling the situation well, he looked like he hadn't slept at all the night before, and she wasn't about to interrupt his sleep tonight if she didn't have to.
"Leave the light on in here and come to bed too." Mustang said. Her eyes widened slightly at the implications, and she could feel her skin heating up.
"Sir, I don't think that's appropriate." It wouldn't be the first time they'd shared a bed. There had been missions where they bedded down together, so exhausted that they could feel it in their bones. Missions where they did it out of necessity. They'd never done it out of choice before, and while the thought of him in her bed was intoxicating (for all the wrong reasons), Riza was afraid that this would cross a line. That it would inch them closer to breaking those fraternization laws that stopped her from kissing him, from touching him, and from pulling him into her bed.
Riza didn't want to break those rules, because there would be no coming back from it. They were already too close for some people, getting closer would just make it worse for him, harder for him to achieve everything they wanted to.
"It's just a bed, Lieutenant." He assured her. "I promise to stay on my side. Plus, you look as tired as I feel."
"Last night wasn't…" Riza trailed off. She didn't need to explain it to him, and she was tired. Not exhausted in her bones tired, but sleep would be welcome.
"Hayate can keep watch, I'm sure he'll bark up a storm if someone tries to break in," The Colonel pointed out. "Come on."
Riza nodded and followed him into the bedroom in silence. They undressed awkwardly, backs turned to each other although, at least in her case, it was nothing the other hadn't seen before. She dumped her uniform into the hamper after changing into a worn tank top and shorts. Her tattoo peeked above the neckline, but here, with him, it didn't bother her.
They slid into bed in silence. She could feel the heat radiating off of him, and it took all of her restraint not to shift closer to him. Not to touch his bare skin. Not to press her lips against the curve of his neck. Not to run her hands down his bare chest, towards his shorts. It took all of her restraint to turn her back to him. She could feel his eyes on her, could feel his hand hovering inches above her, and she wasn't sure if she wanted him to pull away - it would be safer - or to touch her and break away their self imposed barrier.
"Goodnight, Riza." He whispered in the darkness, and she felt him move to lie with her back to hers.
"Goodnight, Roy." She whispered softly.
Chapter 7: The Meaning of Death
I wrote this in a bit of a hurry after randomly getting the idea for it. It's something that I will return to and turn it into a longer, multi-chapter fic at some point once I have a proper plot set out. For now though, it's just this one shot. Let me know what you think, and if it's worth exploring more of this AU.
This is an AU where Riza is presumed dead after the Promised Day, but two years later things change.
The rain was cold and relentless, and she was running.
Her mind was blank, and she was running as if she knew the streets. Running as fast as she could, running so fast that her chest hurt and her legs ached. She didn't stop. Couldn't stop. Not until there was silence behind her, and she could still hear footsteps and shouts, so she had to keep going. Had to keep running. She'd run until she bled, until the floor was smeared with vomit, if she had to. She wasn't going back. She'd die first.
No. She wouldn't. Something nagged her, she wasn't allowed to die. She'd clung to that thought through beatings, bright lights, injections, through pain and distress. She didn't know what it meant anymore, but she knew it was something she wasn't allowed to do. So she kept running.
Captain Jean Havoc could think of a million things he'd rather be doing than going to pick up Brigadier General Roy 'I've fallen into a whiskey bottle and I can't get out. Again' Mustang, but somebody had to. Breda had drawn the short straw last time, and Fuery was on a date with a nerdy chick from accounts, so while he had better things to do, it was him or no one. Well, maybe Becca, but that normally lead to bitter screaming matches in the middle of the street, and Havoc wanted that even less .
He couldn't blame the man, not really. They'd gotten their bodies back in working order, they'd saved the country, and Ishval was being rebuilt back to it's former glory, but the cost had been high, and they all felt it like a bitter ache in their chests. The General though, he'd been a broken man ever since they'd been given the news. Sure, he worked hard, but Havoc couldn't remember the last time he'd seen the man crack a smile when he wasn't Acting The Part, or whatever it was she'd called it.
The she in question; Riza Hawkeye, had died two years ago, and nothing had been the same since.
Havoc was lost in thoughts, about Riza, the General, Rebecca, and their grief, when a terrified and bloodied woman run into traffic, causing him to slam on the breaks. Hard.
She stared at him. He stared back.
Long blonde hair was plastered to her face, and her clothes (they looked like surgical scrubs, Havoc thought) were soaked through to the point where they were clinging to her body. There were bruises on her face and arms, and she was splattered in blood, but there was no mistaking those impossibly wide brown eyes.
Riza Hawkeye. The woman who had died on the Promised Day, was alive, and staring at him.
"What the fuck?" He muttered, before opening the car door, and stepping out into the cold rain. How long had she been out in this? She must be freezing.
"Riza?!" He asked.
"Who?" She asked. "Please, I need help. There's… I can't explain, but please?"
There were so many things wrong with this scenario, and if it got him killed then he hoped Rebecca wouldn't hold it against him. He couldn't leave her here though, not when every sense was screaming at him that this was his friend - his sister in arms. Even if it was something else, they'd need to get to the bottom of it.
"Get in." Havoc said, and got back in behind the wheel as she jumped into the passenger seat.
"Drive." She ordered, and okay, the evidence that this was Riza just kept adding up. She used the same tone when giving orders, that's for sure. Still, he did what she asked, and he drove.
The tall man was silent, and for some reason it bothered her. Like he should be chatting, or at least asking her questions. It wasn't normal for women to run out into traffic like that, was it? But something kept him silent, kept his thoughts from becoming questions that she didn't even want to answer, and it was annoying. Still, she was grateful that he was driving her away, and he'd even put the heating on when she'd started to shiver.
"Thank you." She said, eventually. After the silence became too much, and looked far too relieved that she'd started to speak. This was his car, he could've started the damn conversation if he wanted to.
"No problem." He said. "So. What happened?"
Blood. Screaming. Fire. She didn't know what she'd done, not well enough to explain it to a stranger that didn't sound crazy.
"I escaped." She said, as if that was an explanation, which she knew it wasn't.
"Well. No offence, but I can see that." He said. "Fuck, Hawkeye, we thought you were dead, and then you just run out into traffic like that. What the fuck is going on?"
Hawkeye? And what had he called her before, was it Riza ? It felt alien, but she mouthed the names to try to get a taste for them, to see if saying them felt familiar, but it didn't. It felt hollow and strange, like the name of a person she'd never met before.
"I don't know…" She said. She didn't know him, she didn't know who this Riza Hawkeye person was. All she knew was the bright lights, and the pain that had been her constant companion for what felt like her life. "I don't know anything."
"Right. Okay. Right." He said. "We're going to get this sorted."
"We?" She asked. "And why? And who is this Riza person? And who are you?"
"That's a lot of questions," He said. "Right. Fine, it's fair, this whole situation is fucking weird anyway-"
Well. She couldn't argue with that.
"Okay, I'm Jean Havoc. Riza Hawkeye - who looked exactly like you - was my colleague." He - Jean - said.
"Yeah." He said. "We were in the military - well, I still am - but she died a couple of years ago. Which is why you looking like her is pretty fucking weird -"
"I'm not dead." She said, quietly.
She wasn't dead. She'd clung to life, sometimes with the tips of her fingernails digging into it, holding onto it out of desperation, and she couldn't remember why she'd been so desperate to keep living, other than she didn't want to die.
"I'm not allowed to die." She said, her voice still quiet.
Jean slammed on the breaks, and stared at her in surprise. "What did you say?"
"I - why did you stop?"
"What did you just say?" He repeated.
"I'm not allowed to die." She said, her voice stronger this time and she stared at him defiantly, as if he was one of the people from the lab. One of the people that wouldn't break her - but had they broken her? Had she just forgotten?
"This is so fucked." Was all he had to say, and he started driving again.
He didn't answer anymore of her questions.
Rebecca Catalina was actually used to being dragged out of bed in the early hours of the morning by Jean Havoc, but those phone calls were normally a lot more What Are You Wearing? And a lot less Come To This Safe House And Bring Extra Clothes And A First Aid Kit And Don't Tell Mustang But Oh Shit Someone Needs To Pick Him Up. If this turned out to be some sort of weird sex thing, she was so going to punch him.
Grabbing the duffle bag from the back seat, she made her way to the front door and knocked. The rain still hadn't let up, and she pouted as her curly hair started to get wet. She was holding the bag over her head when Jean opened it, and whatever snarky comment was about to come out of her mouth without thinking died right there on her tongue.
"What is it?" She asked, softly. He never looked this worried, that was normally more Breda's thing. At least it had been since… but she didn't want to think about it. "Is it the General, has he done something stupid?"
"It's not Mustang." He pulled her into one of the rooms off the hallway and closed the door. Okay. Weird.
"So what is it? Did Breda get the idiot home safe?" Rebecca asked.
"Yeah." He said. "Look. This is going to sound crazy, and believe me, I know , but I was driving to pick him up from Madame Christmas's and this woman ran out in front of me and I swear it's Riza."
Rebecca felt like her mind had stopped. The duffle bag fell from her hand onto the floor with a thud and she stared at it. Was that why he needed the clothes? The first aid kit? Was that why they were here? Was Riza here?
"That's… where is she?" Rebecca asked. "I want to see her, Jean."
"Upstairs. She wanted a shower, and she was pretty bloodied up. She didn't tell me what happened but…" Jean shrugged. "Look, Becca, she doesn't remember anything. Not her name, not me, and I mentioned you and… nothing."
The amount of terrible things that could've happened to cause that would've been overwhelming if Rebecca let herself think of them, but she blocked them out and blinked back the tears that were stinging her eyes. She couldn't fall apart. She wouldn't fall apart. If it was her, Riza would keep it together.
"Is that why you called me instead of him?" She accused.
"No. Well. Partly." Jean admitted. "I just think right now she needs someone to patch her up and… be a friend. The General drunk off his ass isn't who we need right now."
Rebecca nodded in agreement, a drunk Mustang was the last thing any of them needed. She picked up the duffle bag and walked up the stairs and knocked on the bathroom door.
It was Riza, sitting on the edge of the tub and wrapped in a towel. A little skinnier, a little more bruised, and some of those scars hadn't been there before, but it was Riza. Rebecca had to physically restrain herself from launching herself at her best friend. Instead she just tried to smile as warmly as possible, and hoped it wasn't coming across like a crazy maniac smile.
"Do you remember me?" Rebecca closed the door behind her with a click and got out the first aid kit.
"No. Sorry. I don't remember Jean either." Okay, Riza calling him anything other than Havoc, that was going to take some getting used to.
"I'm Rebecca, we went to the Academy together." She explained. As if that scratched the surface of their friendship together, the late nights complaining about men, the shopping trips, the bottles of wine and Xingese food they'd consumed by the bucket. "We were friends."
"Oh." Riza said.
"Hey, don't feel bad about it." Rebecca said, and she took Riza's hands in hers. Her fingers her calloused and her knuckles were bruised. Had she fought her way out of somewhere? "Do you remember anything?"
Rebecca rubbed antiseptic lotion over the grazes, and gently inspected her friend's arms, legs and feet for any other cuts. Where she found them, she cleaned them gently, and she listened as Riza started to speak.
"An old house. A man locked behind a door. A boy with black hair. A library. Needles. Sand. Fire. Guns. A dog. A storm. A metal man. And I'm not allowed to die." She listed quietly. Rebecca stared at the floor for a moment, trying to piece it together and also trying not to burst into tears.
"That's something." Rebecca said. "Or at least it's a start. We can help you put it together and get your memories back."
Riza nodded, and pulled the towel around herself tighter. "I was held in a lab." She offered. "I could probably find it again."
Rebecca stared at her, she hadn't even thought about going after the bastards that did this. She'd been thinking about getting her friend back, not sending the fuckers to hell for turning her best friend into a person that looked at her like a stranger. "Good." Rebecca said. "We'll find them, and make them pay for this. But first, let's check your back for injuries."
The fact that Riza had a tattoo on her back wasn't a surprise, Rebecca had seen hints of it over the years, and she'd stopped buying the whole 'scars from Ishval' excuse for avoiding backless dresses about six months after she came back. This, however, was not what Rebecca was expecting. The blood red ink, and burn scars, there was a story here that Riza couldn't tell her, a part of her life permanently etched onto her skin that she had forgotten.
Mustang probably knew about it. She'd seen that symbol on his gloves enough times to know what it meant.
"Do you know what it means?" Riza asked. "The tattoo. I saw it in the mirror but I don't remember. Obviously."
"You never told me about it. It was something private," Rebecca answered honestly. "But Mustang might know."
"General Whatever. He was your superior and you guys had a weird history." Rebecca said.
"Right." Riza frowned. "Can I get dressed now?"
"Oh, uh, sure." Rebecca said, and dragged her eyes away from the flame alchemy array on Riza's back. "There are clothes in the duffle bag. Come downstairs when you're ready and we'll have food."
Rebecca left the room feeling more confused than she had when she went in. It looked like Riza, sounded like her, but she never thought she'd live in a world where Riza Hawkeye didn't know who General Mustang was. She'd never been his biggest fan, but that - more than anything else - proved to her how serious this was.
Riza might be back, but without her memories who was she? And where had she been?