There's a rifle pointed in his face, and she doesn't think he likes it much; but he's not moving, only watching, hands stuffed into his pockets and his eyes never leaving the shaking, filthy Ishbalan insurgent who's screaming at him in a language Riza doesn't understand. Riza wants to scream at him too; to move, to draw a weapon, to do something.
He doesn't, and for a moment—out of sheer exasperation, because she's exhausted and parched and the sun is like a lit match on her skin—Riza is tempted to leave him to his own devices. Instead she draws her sidearm and steps up behind the insurgent, placing wind-heated steel against the back of his neck.
"Drop your weapon," she says, and finds that she means it. Strange that her first kill is likely to be defending a man she's never seen before, who might be frozen with panic or simply that cool and collected, or a traitor in Ishbal's pay for all she knows. All she knows is that this doesn't seem to be the day for him to die, and if Riza has learned nothing else in this scorching wasteland, she's learned to trust her instincts.
Dark eyes meet hers over the insurgent's shoulder, and she sees the watch chain at his belt too late, the moment before a fireball explodes in her face without so much as warming her skin.
"Thank you," he says. Riza holsters her gun and nods acknowledgement, and realizes only then that her hands are shaking.
He's sulking. He tries to pretend that he isn't, but he is. He's been sullen with Breda, Havoc, and even Maes, was gratuitously nasty to an injured 15-year-old boy, and now is sitting in his office staring wrathfully out at the rain instead of doing his work.
Riza doesn't care. She's furious. Everything he's worked for, everything he's sacrificed, all of his goals and the best chance of Amestris to be so very much more than it is—all of it nearly wiped out in one stupid, stupid display of macho ego. And for what? To prove what, and to whom? Is he really smarting that badly over Hakuro's sly intimations of incompetence disguised as demands to know where Scar is and why he hasn't been caught yet?
Badly enough to forget, of all inconceivable things, that his gloves are useless in the rain?
Riza is furious. So furious, in fact, that for once she doesn't care who knows it. Havoc and Breda have been cowering and silent all day, and she thinks Fuery might actually have managed to hide inside one of his filing cabinet drawers. She'll deal with them later. For now, she scoops up a pile of folders, goes into Roy's office, and shuts the door behind her.
"Permission to speak, sir," she says as she sets down the folders.
Roy rubs a hand over his eyes. "Hawkeye—"
"He would have killed you," she says bluntly. "You took an incredibly foolish risk, for nothing. If you were trying to prove your bravery, or your talent as an alchemist, you've proved those things over and over. There's no shame in knowing your weaknesses, Colonel—only in living and dying by your weaknesses instead of by your strengths."
For a minute he looks like he's going to argue, or to simply turn and sulk at the rain again. Finally, grudgingly, he says, "You're right. It was a stupid thing to do."
"It's done," Riza says. "Learn from it and move on."
He smiles wryly up at her. "Yes, Lieutenant," he says, mock-humbly.
Oh, no. He's not getting off the hook that easily. "See to it that you do learn from it," she says quietly. "Because next time, sir, I'm going to disable you in a way that will leave you with a reminder of what unrestrained ego buys you."
She leaves dead quiet behind her in the office, broken only by the sheepish, obedient scratch of Roy's pen.
The door closes behind her with a hollow clang, steel on steel. There's no surveillance in this room. There isn't even much light.
"Did you kill him?" she asks.
Ross' face crumples. "No," she answers. Riza, who doesn't care what Ross actually says, listens to how she says it. There's no indignation in Ross' voice, no fear or despair or even bewilderment; only grief, like a deep-running river.
Riza's hand slips away from the hilt of her gun.
It goes without saying that Riza dislikes Archer. Everyone dislikes Archer. It is an accepted truth the length and breadth of the military that Archer's own mother can't possibly have loved him, though public opinion of her is torn between sympathy for her lot and censure for her failure to fulfill her moral duty and drown Archer in the river at birth. Riza herself has tended slightly toward sympathy, until now.
"I'm sorry, sir. Colonel Mustang isn't in," she says, planted squarely in the doorway to Roy's temporary office.
Archer smirks, crowding her, expecting her to step back. "I'm sure the Colonel won't mind if I wait for him."
"My orders are not to allow anyone in in the Colonel's absence," Riza says stonily. "I'm sure you would appreciate having the same courtesy extended to you."
"Oh, but why would I object?" he asks disingenuously. "I don't have anything to hide."
Riza gives his comment the disdainful silence it deserves.
For a moment she thinks he's going to press the issue. He could, after all, give her a direct order—but that would make something official out of this, something serious, and she doesn't think Archer can afford that yet. So she stands her ground, watching him, until Archer steps away with a sullen glare.
"Let me give you a word of advice, Lieutenant," he says as he turns to leave, "I've found that good people can write their own tickets in any organization—to a certain point. A poor choice of alliances, for instance, can undo more good hard work than you can imagine. More than anything else you could do, really."
"I appreciate the advice, sir," Riza says, looking straight ahead. "Personally, I found during my time in Ishbal that nothing stops a career faster than a bullet between the eyes."
There's silence for a moment in the darkened hallway, and then his footsteps start up again, a little faster than before.
Riza doesn't make a habit of going to Roy Mustang's house on the weekends. Indeed, she doesn't make a habit of going to Roy's house at all, except once in a very great while for staff holiday parties that would be more inappropriate to avoid than to attend. Not because she's particularly worried about intruding at a less-than-optimal moment; Roy rarely brings women back to his own house, and they never, ever spend the night, after all. It's simply habit now, ingrained after too many long years when Roy walked too thin a line, when even the appearance of impropriety was dangerous.
She does, however, make exceptions. Such as when Roy slips his leash and leaves early on Friday, leaving behind paperwork due on Monday morning, and she doesn't find out until she comes in on Sunday to catch up on the filing.
There's no answer when she knocks, but she knows that he's there—after this long, she's developed a sort of sense for Roy's presence. Hesitantly, she tries the door. It swings open, drawing a frown from her—Roy isn't usually careless enough to leave it unlocked. But there's nothing about the house that warns her of danger, so she shifts the stack of paperwork higher on her hip and goes inside, calling Roy's name into the stillness.
He clearly hasn't been up yet. Despite a certain pang of dread—they never spend the night, she reminds herself—Hawkeye goes down the hall to his bedroom, guided unerringly by the memory of a tipsy Havoc piling coats and tinsel on the bed. For a moment she hesitates, and considers coming back later; but she has too much to do today and might not be able to come back. Mentally calling down a murrain on Roy and his procrastination habit, she knocks on the door, and hears something that could pass for "Come in" in mostly-asleep Roy-speak.
So she opens the door, and has the time it takes Roy to really wake to wish she hadn't.
Roy's women never spend the night. This has always been true. It's a rather ironic joke on the part of the universe that it's still true. The body Roy is wrapped around under the sheets is small and blond, yes, and the hair that spills over the pillows is almost as long as Riza's; but the automail arm slung over his chest is quite distinctive. In fact, Riza knows of only one exactly like it.
Ed shifts and mutters in his sleep, burrowing closer into Roy's arms. In the silence, Riza can even hear the faint whirr of ball-bearings as he moves. Roy, who has forgotten that she is there if he ever realized it to begin with, grabs for the blankets without opening his eyes and tugs them up farther, murmuring into Ed's hair as he coccoons the two of them in warmth before settling again with a sigh.
Some part of Riza is wondering if this will all disappear if she walks backward out into the hall, closes the door in exactly the opposite way from the way she opened it, closes her eyes and makes a wish. It seems so surreal, she thinks it might. A rather larger part of her is considering the interesting problem of how to avoid being sick all over the paperwork.
"Sir," she hears herself say. Quite steadily, in fact. Well done, Riza. "My apologies for waking you. I'll leave these—"
Roy jolts awake and bolt upright at the sound of her voice. Ed, dislodged, protests vociferously—until he catches sight of her as well, and falls silent. But where Roy's silence is, she suspects, mostly mortification, Ed's is wary, measuring, and when he sits up as well he shifts in front of Roy as if he were measuring the distance between Roy and a blade.
"—on the desk in your study and come back for them later," she finishes.
Roy runs a hand over his face the way she's seen him do a thousand times before he's quite awake. "Hawkeye," he says blankly.
"Sir," she says, and turns to leave.
"Wait, I'll be right there," Roy says behind her, making a valiant attempt to be all business when he's been awake for thirty seconds. Not looking back, Riza goes down the hall to the study, one step after another. Their voices follow her, too low for her to make out words, and when she sets the papers in the center of Roy's desk, she makes sure that they're perfectly straight and aligned with the blotter.
By the time she has everything sorted, Roy is leaning in the doorway, hastily dressed and rather mussed, blinking at her with an oddly plaintive expression, as if the universe has done something horribly unfair by requiring him to get out of bed. For just a moment, a sick wave of despair hits her, and she thinks, He doesn't know, how can he not know, how can he be so blind? But she knows the answer—he doesn't know because she's seen to it that he didn't know, because the time has never been right for him to know, and she understands now that it never will be.
"My apologies for waking you, sir," she says again. "I'll come back for these later."
Roy doesn't know. But Ed, she suspects, somehow does.
Ed is standing at the counter with his hands wrapped around a steaming mug—Roy's mug, the one with the hula-dancing fish on it that Havoc got for him from Aquroya as a joke. He's barefoot, hair still unbraided, wearing his leather pants and a white shirt of Roy's that hangs nearly down to his knees. He shoots her a look out of the corner of his eye as she walks into the kitchen—still evaluating, still challenging, as if Ed knows how to do anything else. Riza has been on the receiving end of something like that look before; Roy's women dislike her, as a rule. Never like this, though, never the same quick, sharp, utter focus that a good fighter gives a respected enemy in combat. She finds it obscurely comforting, that this is something Ed seems prepared to fight for with both guns blazing and no quarter asked or offered.
He would have been a worthy opponent, this incandescent man-child.
"Gonna say something about fraternization?" he asks quietly—a wide shot, unworthy of him. Maybe he meant to miss.
Riza ignores it. "Do you love him?"
An ugly flush spreads up Ed's neck to his face, and he looks away. "Why would I tell you something I hadn't even told him?" he snaps.
Riza looks carefully at him, her eyes running up and down his body with a sniper's precision. Most of him is hidden by the loose shirt, but Riza has a good memory. "At this angle," she tells him, "I could shoot off your testicles without hitting your bladder or your spinal cord. Depending on your stance, I might hit your femoral artery. But I think I could in fact shoot them off without doing you any other lasting damage."
Ed's staring at her, wide-eyed, blanching a little.
"If you hurt him, you will regret it every day, every minute, for the rest of your life," she says. "You're very young, Edward. Sixty or seventy years would be a very long time to live with the consequences of one mistake. Think about it."
Ed's jaw firms. "Okay," he says, still shaken but utterly uncowed. "I've thought about it."
Riza sighs. He is young, and Roy is a fool who can't stop himself from sticking his hand in the pretty flames. This is going to be one of those days when she misses Maes Hughes like a dull ache where a limb once was—though there's always the possibility that Maes would have encouraged Roy in this—this disaster simmering. It isn't as if Maes' judgment was infallibly reliable, after all.
"Please tell the Brigadier General that I'll be back for that paperwork in three hours," she says briskly. "I will expect him to have it ready for me by then."
Ed looks like he wants to make a wisecrack, something to lighten the mood and put them back on the footing they're accustomed to being on, but doesn't know how to go about it without making things worse. In the end, he simply says, "I'll tell him," and sets Roy's mug down in the sink.
Riza is back at the base, walking across the central square toward the office, when she realizes what that strange feeling in her chest is. It's the sudden absence of weight where for years she has, unacknowledged even to herself, carried the heavy burden of hope. It hurts, in the strange way in which even old wounds can be so jealously guarded that it almost hurts more to let them go than to carry them day after day; but it's a clean hurt, an uninfected wound, and she thinks that if she lets it, it will heal.
The wind is at her back; she tilts her face up to the sun, which is not the blazing sun of Ishbal, and she feels free.