Primus: Fortitude

part 1 of The Virtues Arc

The man who in view of gain thinks of righteousness; who in the view of danger is prepared to give up his life; and who does not forget an old agreement however far back it extends--such a man may be reckoned a complete man.—Confucius: The Confucian Analects

Lieutenant Riza Hawkeye could not be said to be a model patient—at least, not unless weaponry was involved at the time. Even with one arm heavily bandaged and in a sling, her other hand was busily occupied with flipping through a thick stack of folders as she sorted through the three-days'-worth of paperwork that had accumulated on her superior's desk during her forced sick-leave.

She hated being idle; it ranked far above the petty pain of a mere gunshot-wound in her personal list of annoyances. But worse than idleness, she hated being weak. Losing control was a weakness, damaged shoulder or not; and God help anybody who said the words 'unfit for duty' in her presence...

Her commanding officer paused in the doorway as he came in, damp coat half off and gloves in his pocket. "You could have taken the rest of the week off, you know," he suggested, his tone dry but casual as he moved over to hang the dripping garment. The rain beat hard on the windows, pounding like rag-wrapped fists; it had been raining for a solid week now, one of the first truly soggy stretches of the year.

Light brown eyes raised slightly from where Roy Mustang's Second occupied his chair (something that she was not officially supposed to ever do, just as officially her colonel never said a word about it. It was a comfortable chair and after all, the Flame Alchemist only believed in calculable risks.) "Thank you, sir, but your files have a tendency to get out of hand if I'm not around to shovel off your desk when needed." Her own tone beat that of her superior officer's for dryness and left it behind in the dust, coughing, and Mustang's mouth quirked slightly in acknowledgement.

"Mm. Well, far be it from me to halt you in your, err, shoveling..." Nonchalantly the Colonel turned away; it could have been an ordinary morning. "I believe I have a meeting with General Fargo in twenty minutes; I'll be needing the binders on the Southern rail-lines—"

"Right here, sir."

"—of course. And after that, there's the planning session with the combat training coordination committee—"

"The yellow file," said Hawkeye helpfully, as calm-faced as ever; she passed it over. Her free hand continued to work, shuffling files and paperwork, creating order (or a semblance of order) from chaos. "I think you should have everything you need there."

"Ah. And after that..." The Flame Alchemist paused in the act of taking the folder; he did not bother to flip through it—it wasn't necessary, and besides, Hawkeye was known for being able to shoot well with either hand.

Anything else, of course, would have been a weakness.

"'After that' would be an interview with the Finance Board regarding Edward-kun's latest mission and the rebuilding costs." Mustang's Second slid an envelope that bulged alarmingly with what looked like an entire budget's-worth of bills out from a drawer; with an exaggerated sigh the Colonel took the offending and tucked it into a pocket. "And then perhaps you'll be wanting lunch in your office while you work on the—"

"—I suppose that stepping out for a bite is out of the question, isn't it?" murmured the officer hopefully.

Hawkeye chose to ignore the murmur; hope shuffled away, trying hard for nonchalance. "—details of Lieutenant Colonel Hughes' surveillance reports, correct?" She stood up briskly, vacating the chair which she had not officially been sitting in. "I should have a revised schedule for the rest of your afternoon by the time you're done with General Fargo's meeting."

"Fine, fine." The Flame Alchemist settled himself wearily into his chair; in the room beyond his office, a faint muttering could be heard through the open door in what might have been Havoc's voice, but it was a little too distant to be audible. "Reports, committees, reports, meetings—" He scowled horribly down at the neat piles and carefully-ordered papers that now replaced the sprawling, homogenous mass that his desk had been gradually turning into over the past three days. "I suppose it's too much to ask for an hour or so to handle my own work in the privacy of my own office?" drawled Mustang. "Rank hath it's privileges, or so I've heard..."

A slow look from his Second was carefully ignored, as was his question; but the corner of Riza Hawkeye's mouth twitched slightly. "Hmph. Fine." Mustang sat down heavily. He waved at the doorway, already obviously thinking about the coming meeting. "Oh, and this afternoon I'll be needing that compilation on those West Sector chimeric experiments, the ones I was inquiring about last week... Take care of it, would you? In triplicate, if you please, and by two p.m." His expression grew absorbed as he perused the paperwork before him. "Close the door behind you, would you, Hawkeye?"

Abruptly dismissed, the blonde officer stood a little awkwardly, her white sling jarringly visible against the blue of her uniform. "Sir." As the door clicked quietly into place, Roy Mustang glanced up briefly; his face shadowed with something sharp and a little painful, something unaccustomed to public display. The expression hung there for a moment like a ghost, haunting as well as haunted; then it slipped away as his eyes swept across the ordered stacks on his desk.

That was not the handiwork of anyone he needed to worry about.

Worry melted a little into a smile (just a little, but enough) and he turned back to his reports.

"I can't BELIEVE that man," muttered Havoc in the outer room, scowling at his superior officer's closed door past his ever-present cigarette; he wadded up the piece of paper he was holding and bounced it savagely off the rim of the nearest wastepaper-basket. "You took a goddamn bullet for him and he can't even say thanks—? What's wrong with the guy, anyway? Son of a—"

"Uh-uh," warned Major Hughes, settling one hip on the corner of a desk. "Watch the mouth, Havoc—"

The other man growled, settling defiantly back in his chair with a squeak of springs. He rarely got worked up enough to be really angry, but this was an exception. "Oh, bite me, Hughes. You know what happened better than anybody, you were there. Somebody who knew enough to wait for a rainy day took a pot-shot from a rooftop at him and that bas—okay, okay, fine—the Colonel got shoved down by Hawkeye and she took the shot for him."

Hughes shrugged. "We've all been under fire at one time or another. He'd take a shot for us—"

The other man rolled his eyes. "Yeah, yeah, I know, I know; that's not the point. We'd all play block-the-bullet if we had to; it's just that..." The cigarette switched to the other corner of Havoc's lips as he chewed the tip furiously. "What does he do when she comes back to work after a day in the hospital and two days home recovering? He gives her a shitload of work! Doesn't the man know how to even say the words 'Thank you'?"

The office's inhabitants avoided looking at Hawkeye as she sat carefully down at her desk, one hand automatically rising to adjust her sling. "You must not have been listening, Havoc," she remarked mildly, the very faintest trace of a smile curling up comfortably behind her eyes, secure and serene. "He said them quite clearly."


Hawkeye shrugged slightly with one shoulder, already beginning to flip through the day's list of events prior to rewriting her superior officer's afternoon schedule. As her fingers flicked the pages automatically, her thoughts were filled with the dreariness of the past few days' inactivity and uselessness when there had been nothing to do but sit idle in a bed and watch the rain fall. Minutes, hours, days: wasted time that could have been spent setting things to rights and using her particular talents to help order and arrange, classify and sort and control...

Riza Hawkeye hated to lose control. And there was more than one way in the world to be strong.

"Quite clearly," she repeated; the smile reached her lips (but only slightly; control, after all.) Across the room, Hughes grinned to himself. He had known Hawkeye for quite some time by now, and it didn't take much insight to know what she was thinking when she looked like that. He gave Havoc a warning glance that made the man shut his mouth abruptly on whatever he had been about to say.

Still smiling (just a little, but enough), Riza Hawkeye went on with reorganizing her superior officer's life for him, one hour at a time. There was work to be done.