The Fool’s Mate

The night before battle is always eerily quiet, like the surrounding terrain is trying to holds its breath in anticipation of violence. There may be the resonant voices of rowdy, drunken soldiers making their merry way back to their tents. Dark eyes narrow in concentration; they won't be merry for long. Perhaps the army still makes young people believe that journeying to another country is an adventure... but after a while, the smell of burning flesh will stick to your skin and your clothes no matter how many times you scrub, and the terrified screams would echo in your ears even in sleep.

Roy Mustang knew this. He was an educated man with a position high in the Military when put in contrast to his age, and he knew what war was like for those who didn't expect the brunt of the violence to fall upon their shoulders. The entire war was a lie, but they were sent. It was only his first night here and he was already dreading the sunrise.

"It's your move, Sir."

The voice of the young blonde woman sitting opposite him broke him from his thoughts, and he gave her a slightly sheepish grin before his fingers settled on a rook and he moved, swiftly taking one of her remaining pawns. She blinked slowly, and moved her one remaining knight.

Second Lieutenant Riza Hawkeye, he mused. She was placed under his command; as his sniper backup should his flames fail to annihilate all Ishvarites in the area. She was an interesting woman, to say the least; quite unlike many of the women he had met prior to this and he was rather self-satisfied in saying that he'd met a fair number... perhaps it was because he was so used to being pampered by women that he had been quite disappointed at the Lieutenant's cynical reaction to his immediate attempts to charm her. Roy hadn't really intended to allure her so much as he intended to stroke his own ego with the staple reaction of smiles and flushed cheeks, but unfortunately, she was sharper than he had first assumed.

"I do hope that you're as competent with your alchemy as you are with your flirting, Sir."

Despite the slightly rocky start (at which another one of his subordinates named Havoc laughed madly), she didn't seem to hold any particular grudge against him and during dinner they had even managed to develop some allusions of comfortable conversation. Hawkeye was very much like he would have assumed her to be; slightly rough around the edges but rarely impolite, certainly not afraid to speak her mind and with quite the sarcastic streak. Admittedly, he'd never assumed her as a self-confessed lover of dogs and slight romanticist; she certainly was a mixed bag.

"If you don't mind me saying Sir, you seem quite vacant."

"Ah, sorry Lieutenant," he grins briefly as he moves his queen. "Check."

She moved the small white playing piece calmly away from its danger. "Unfortunately, I'm not much of a chess player; I didn't manage to inherit my grandfather's talent."

"I'm glad that you agreed to play," Roy asserts, and moves his dark bishop. "Check once again."

His female companion gives a slightly exasperated sigh and he grins, although he's not sure if its self-satisfaction or amusement on her behalf. She moves the king again, to its last optional safe square and murmurs, "I'll admit this is not how I envisioned my first night on the battlefield."

"War, like chess, is a game of strategy. You lose everything if you lose your wit and cunning," he pauses, smile slightly forced now, and once again moves his queen. "Check-mate."

Hawkeye sighs, and flicks the little white piece over with her index finger. "I concur. However, I hope you display this sort of strategy on the battlefield. Don't lose your wit."

Mustang pauses in his packing up of the chess set, and he's sure he can see the briefest start of a smile upon her lips. He blinks and it's gone, but she stands and waits until he's finished packing the chess set up, and he feels a belated grin curve his mouth.

"Indeed, Hawkeye; just promise you'll keep walking straight along the thin line between sanity and madness."

"I intend to, Sir," she replied and he can still feel her eyes upon him. "I want to help."

And perhaps that was the start of it all.