The transition is surprisingly easy but still Roy has trouble associating the young girl he knew once, the soldier with the hard, broken stare, and this new creature that is neither one nor the other, this woman who now waits in front of his desk, poised like she is about to salute, waiting for him to finish and hand in the day's paperwork. They have fallen into a routine so quickly, in a couple of months, that it feels like they have danced to these steps forever; she mock-chastises him if he comes into the office late or he slacks off, she tuts if he says something less than flattering about the high ranks (Roy thinks she is just paranoid), but she is also the one who shares quiet coffees with him if it's too early for him to be articulate, or quiet coffees when he is too tired to talk, and she is the one who tells him to go home when he is working extra hours and the one who hands him his coat at the end of the day and waits for him even into the night (You don't have to wait around, he has told her but a new habit of hers is her tendency to simply ignore him).
Roy has been so busy learning how to be a boss in peacetime that by the time Hawkeye has comfortably slipped into the category of indispensable Roy openly admits he finds it hard to contemplate his life without her.
There are other things, too, new habits, alarming signals that Roy pushes away, stubbornly fights against for a long time.
It's not that he didn't notice she was beautiful before.
She was beautiful when she was Riza, plainly, simply Riza, his teacher's daughter, a soft, refreshing presence around the corners of Roy's life but he didn't think too much of it, she was too young and he was too busy, far too busy and life had a way of getting in the way.
He had thought about it in Ishval, he admits, confused and embarrassed to admit it, he thought about it a couple of times, in the abstract way, in the way that those days were dark with the colour of clay and ashes and he craved for contact, and her gaze, when it wasn't vacant and unforgiving, meant that he had let her down and Roy had wanted to reach out, he didn't care how.
(the notion had crossed his mind, too, as the tip of his fingers made contact with the skin on her back and burnt her; he had felt it, for the briefest moment, and felt sick about it, afterwards)
But this is different.
And it becomes different every day. He begins to forget the little girl, begins to forget the sniper, begins to forget the curve of her back. They are still there, the knowledge and the years, but rather like the layers of earth make the ground above them possible, everything piles up to what's surface and what's now and that's the way new grass grows.
He knows what's happening – he is rather smart and aware and he suspects what it means, when he begins to notice he's glad to see her in the morning, that's he's actually excited to get to the office and see her face, how her presence makes him happier than anyone else's and that's such a simple and self-evident truth. The more times it passes (the better he gets at being a boss and she at being Hawkeye) the more he looks forward to seeing her in the mornings, and there's scientific truth for it, if this could be simplified by that, the steady and dangerous progression of Roy's affection for her.
So it shouldn't surprise when this happens, and it doesn't surprise him, not the fact of it, but the intensity of it does.
He is the first one in the office that morning (it happens, despite Hawkeye's fondness for denying it does) and she arrives later than Roy has ever known her to yet.
`I apologize, the alarm clock didn't ring,´ she says, her tone extremely polite, too much, like she is angry with him for being late herself.
Roy flashes her a magnanimous smile, a cheap shot, a smile that says something like "Got you!" or "So you are not so perfect after all".
He notices her breathing is a bit more laboured than usual, like she has been going up the stairs two steps at the time; she looks a bit flushed, no doubt she actually hurried here, which is silly, Roy thinks, it's only three minutes to nine and he bets the rest are still changing into their uniforms and enjoying the last moments of free morning before work.
That's when he notices that yes, she must have overslept, because her short hair still looks damp from the shower.
It's just now, when Roy sees strands of her blonde hair darkened and stuck to her nape that it happens, it hits him. This indescribable need, if that's even the word, a sort of urge that comes upon him or rather comes crashing down, how for a moment he feels like he is going to die if he doesn't go to her and lock the door to the office and push her against the nearest wall and kiss her with all teeth and tongue and no air; he would grab her by the back of her neck, pressed his palm against the lines drawn by her wet hair until his own skin is scorched with that memory forever. He wouldn't care if people outside the office could hear them, he would only care about making her moan and Hawkeye would grab the collar of his uniform and pull him closer even though there would be no closer than this and each would tear at the other's clothes, fumbling with buttons and belts and then-
It takes Roy some time until he can consciously stop this line of thought. Which not a line of thought at all. There's no thinking involved. He feels as if the images are coming from his own skin rather than his brain cells, as if they were oozing by the sudden heat on his arms and face and hands and stomach and knees. He thinks fuck, fuck, fuck, both as an interjection and as a verb, unfortunately. The moment doesn't surprise him, the intensity does. He has been expecting this, without letting himself know that he was doing it.
`What?´ Hawkeye asks.
Roy is afraid he must have been staring at her in an odd way all this time.
`Nothing, I was-´ His mouth feels dry, pasty, and it's like each syllable requires an extra strength he doesn't have right now. `I was thinking there's not much to do until the others arrive. I'm going to get a cup of coffee.´
He hopes she doesn't want to accompany him this time.
Hawkeye tilts her head to one side, glances quickly at the desk.
`Another?´ She asks.
`Yes, another,´ Roy struggles for an answer. `I didn't sleep that well.´
This way Roy prepares himself for a lifetime of white lies as he faces the fact that he can't just greet his subordinate (not a subordinate, that would be the least of his problems, but Hawkeye) and say to her "oh, look your hair is wet so I have this wish to fuck you senseless over my desk but don't think I don't respect you, it's because I respect you that I want to fuck you senseless over the desk", that's not a conversation he could have, so he makes excuses for the first time.
She has always been beautiful but later thinking about it – he doesn't want to think about it too much, in part because he feels like he is being rude to Hawkeye just by the mere idea of it – he realizes it's not Riza, the pretty girl, or Hawkeye the worn out young soldier, that he had wanted to push against the office wall. It was the woman who waits for him to hand in his paperwork, and the woman who shares his coffee breaks and his silences and his dreams and his worries, and the woman who's often the last person he sees before going home alone and who is the person he looks forward to see the most, every day when he wakes up.
If people would ask her if this has always been like this, Hawkeye would probably just smile and shake her head ever so slightly. And she would probably be telling the truth. She didn't have a crush on Roy Mustang when he was her father's student – at least not consciously, she didn't have the experience or the words to understand; although, if she is being really honest, there was probably something to it, even back there, when she was fifteen and Roy Mustang was something bright in her life, an open window and Roy would always be a way for her to look at the sky. Even through the worst of all (even during the war, even when the sight of him was all too painful), that never changed.
So there is some history, some foundations, some previous attachment, but not like this.
The fact that she hasn't thought about it in that light for such a long time says more about her own nature than the nature of her feelings for him. Hawkeye doesn't overthink things like that: Roy is Roy. He is not a guy. He defies classification so why would whatever is between them be classified according to usual standards? She accepted this situation implicitly, didn't want to question it.
They are sitting with a light lunch at an odd hour; the cafeteria is almost empty except from a couple of girls from Archives chatting in the corner by the big window. It's before twelve and the sun is warm and lazy at their feet. The others had work to do and there's only Fuery, Roy and Hawkeye at the table – Roy and Fuery are discussing lively about something Hawkeye is not paying attention to but when she does Roy is telling a bad joke and Fuery screws his face for a moment before breaking into laughter and Roy laughs too, throwing his head a bit back and it's one of those tiny, unimportant moments in which Hawkeye (hand to cover her mouth, maybe a smile) just stares at him and thinks, I love this man and it seems like such an unextraordinary thing to think, almost natural and that's starting to worry her.
When Roy is finishing laughing and his mouth sets into a smile but the corners of his mouth still look wonderfully tense, the happy wrinkles around them, Hawkeye just wants to lean over the table and kiss him, not just kiss him but run her tongue along his lips and into his mouth and press it against his teeth and to the roof of his mouth and it frightens her, how easily she went from A to B, in less than a second, how quickly her thoughts went from "I love this man" to wanting to climb the cafeteria table so she can just throw herself on top of him.
She doesn't do that, though. She doesn't climb the table and throw herself on top of Roy like she really wants; how she wants to take his hand into hers and press it against her chest so that she can feel the shape of his (familiar, remembered) fingers against her breast and feel the frustration of the uniform between skin and skin.
Instead of doing that Hawkeye leans back in her chair and takes another sip of water and grins at Roy and Fuery, looking perfectly still and calm and dignified and nobody would suspect in the least that she has just been entertaining very graphic thoughts (there was something about sitting on Roy's lap and unbuckling his belt with excruciating calm but she guessed, at that point, that the rest of the people in the cafeteria would complain at the spectacle) about her superior.
It's because they have been out celebrating and he has been drinking a bit – not too much, but a bit, enough – and he needs her to drive him home. It was Falman's birthday and Havoc and Breda had bought him a chocolate cake the size of a small continent and they had organized him a blind date with the girl from the newsstand near his house and yes, nobody would set someone on a blind date on their birthday except Havoc and Breda would, and in any case Falman doesn't even like chocolate that much.
He likes when she drives him; he feels in safe hands, and he knows she likes it too, it makes her feel in control, and Roy somehow feels like they've been left alone in the world, when they are driving together and he can just pretend the road goes on and on and they can just disappear.
It's one of those days.
He puts his cheek against the window glass and watches the little city lights go by. And by the time they have arrived at his door Hawkeye has already caught up with his mood.
`What's wrong?´ She asks him, dragging on the words like a complain.
`Nothing,´ he replies without looking at her. `I get sad when I drink.´
Hawkeye smiles (he sort of almost sees it in the window-pane reflection).
`I know that.´
`You know that,´ he repeats. `You know everything.´
`What do you mean?´ She asks and her voice sounds thinner than usual.
That's when Roy finally turns and meets her gaze.
Sometimes he wonders if there's a pact between them that was never worded and which conditions are a mystery but they both signed it anyway; like Roy can feel her setting the same limits for herself that he does for himself. Because sometimes he is sure he doesn't imagine it, he catches Hawkeye looking at him and it's almost easy to read, like a mirror image, and Roy is pretty sure she loves him, pretty sure, even, she is in love with him, but sometimes he takes comfort imagining she wants him just as much.
Like now. He meets her eyes and it's moments like this that he sees it, her eyes are open wider than usual and the angle of her shoulders, like she is tearing herself away from him without motion. He recognizes it because he has been living with it for years – it never stops, not for one minute, this wanting Hawkeye, but since there's nothing he can do about it (not yet) and there are limits, the unworded, undefined boundaries between them, so he just pushes it into background noise most of the time, unless one particular image jumps at him and he can't help it, or until he is safe (in his house, in his bed, under his sheets, when he showers in the morning), he can indulge then. Desire is background noise most of the time because that kind of passion, in their circumstances (in the implicit, perfectly demarcated this time, pact of "there are things we have to do first" between them) it could destroy lives.
Most days the cost of his sanity is believing this is not as true for her but now he holds her gaze for a moment too long and he sees it, like a hiding haunted animal, or the blurred bits at the edges of the vision, he sees that she wants him to kiss her right now, cross to her seat and just kiss her, or grab her by the arm and haul her against his body.
They don't do that. They don't fuck in the car. Roy has a pretty detailed image in his mind of what it would be like, what he wants, what he imagines Hawkeye wants as well. He would make fists into the lapels of her coat and drag her to his side, kiss her deep and awkwardly while she maneuvers against the sideboard, hands pressed up Roy's chest. She would sit on him and use his shoulders for balance, the sides of her boots scratching against his knee and Roy would twist his fingers into her hair and push her head back a bit, for a heartbeat, so that she could see the look in his eyes and he could draw a long breath before kissing her again; they would kiss for ages, for just a couple of minutes and he would stroke the line of her waist across layers of clothing and she would run her hands up and down his chest until, in a hurry, she would place them on his crotch, extracting a sharp, broken whimper from the back of his throat – there would be not time or space to settle down, no time or space for something else so Hawkeye would just massage him through the fabric of his trousers and after so few moments (and so many years of background noise and morning showers and safety and unwritten laws) she would be able to tell when Roy is about to come, she would be able to read it easily, like everything else about him, and Roy would come with one low gasp, it would be Riza or Hawkeye in one breath, he would say her name, he is sure of it, if only he could decide which one.
But they don't fuck in the car.
Roy looks away before Hawkeye has time to ask him if he is okay once more.
`Maybe I just ate too much chocolate,´ he says in a too-cheerful voice.
He smiles at her, and Hawkeye smiles back, but Roy already has his hand on the handle of the door and a "good night" at the tip of his tongue.
It's because she feels lonely that she allows the risk of having Roy walk her back to her house.
She has only been working for the Fuhrer for a couple of days but it already feels like a lifetime, like Roy has grown old since the last time she saw him. And it's not like Bradley has explicitly prohibited Hawkeye from seeing him but she feels that, in these peculiar situation, it is a risk indeed, the way they walk side by side through deserted streets – it is very late, they have both been working late, even if Hawkeye thinks Roy is not exactly 100% fit for duty and he should be saving strength for the upcoming, inevitable battle – with heavy steps and heavy hearts and their hands in their pockets.
`At least this way we are not being spied on,´ Roy tells her, picking up on her worries.
`I think they just assume we are on a date,´ he replies with a skin-deep smile.
For Hawkeye even that is a relief right now, bleak as the times seem, Roy walking her to her doorstep is a small consolation, the habitual comfort of never regretting a moment he's been with her, never wishing he wasn't.
`Yes,´ she agrees.
`It's what everybody thinks, anyway,´ Roy adds with a hint of challenge in his voice, riling her to say something.
They have always tiptoed around the issue even when they have joked about it, for any number of reasons.
`Yes?´ His voice is small, hopeful.
`We're here,´ she tells him, and it takes Roy a moment to realize she is glancing at the door of her house.
Roy gives her a soft smile, all warm and no angles, like an old sweater wonderfully two sizes too big. Hawkeye thinks the door to her house is far too humble to be having an emotional breakdown in front of it. Maybe it's just the long days and the promise of danger that keeps following around her but keeping a distance, like a hunter, whenever she is in the same room as Bradley, how she doesn't feel safe in the city anymore and she starts doing something Roy has been doing for months, missing East City; she thinks, mostly, it's how she keeps coming back to the image of Roy in his office surrounded by to-be-packed away boxes of his former subordinates, Roy in an empty office, everything taken away from him and how Hawkeye just wants to give something back, right now.
She looks down, heat spreading through her cheeks like she is about to cry – but she won't cry.
`All right?´ Roy places a worried hand on the small of her back and leaves it there, heavy and hot.
Hawkeye feels selfish but for a couple of moments she stands there and pretends, tells herself, she is going to invite him up. And Roy will know what that means and he won't mistake it for anything else between them.
It is easy for her to know how it would go down, to the very last detail – maybe because she knows Roy so well, and he knows her so well, and no uncertainty ever slips through. She sees it like it's actually happening (like she doesn't know it won't happen): and it goes like this, she asks him to come inside and Roy makes a surprised expression, thin but completely genuine, and checks once, twice, if she really wants him to, if she really means that. She says yes and they don't speak anymore until they are inside, they don't say a word as Hawkeye takes a little longer than usual to find her keys and unlock the door and through it all Roy keeps one hand on her back and caresses her, up and down, gently, like saying it's all right to be nervous and it's all right to change your mind and that's what he is saying because Hawkeye has learned to read the touch of his fingertips like braille in reverse.
It continues like this: They get inside and Hawkeye throws the keys over the kitchen table and offers Roy a drink; he gets a glass of water because his mouth has gone dry and he admits it, shots Hawkeye a glance that tells her that she has something to do with that. They stare at each other for a long, long time, and if words are exchanged they are mostly small ones, they have no need for them, except if they choose to use private jokes and coded language or shorthand to set down the moment, to punctuate the glances and the spaces between breaths. He might try out her name, he might say Riza and make it sound like a question and Hawkeye might frown like she is not sure she likes it and they might share a smile, or a chuckle about it. But maybe they don't say anything, just look at each other for a long, long time until Roy's face falls a little and he gives the whole situation a shy grin and gestures towards Hawkeye, come here he gestures but they meet halfway. They kiss with passion and patience in equal measure and though Roy pushes her against the kitchen counter he does it carefully, barely touching his chest against her breasts, his hips brushing hers. Hawkeye runs her tongue along the roof of his mouth, slowly, slowly and then she grabs his hand and she turns in her step, pushing him away for a moment, the line of her shoulder resting – like puzzle pieces waiting to fit – comfortable against the hollow of his. She squeezes his hand and now she is the one saying come here with her thumb tracing an invisible line on his palm. She walks into the bedroom and he follows her.
It ends like this: They have wanted to be patient but they are not – as soon as Roy has Hawkeye pinned down against the mattress something about the way they kiss changes, like suddenly they have no time or suddenly they are reminded of the time they have wasted already or because two days not working with him have felt like a lifetime of missing him to Hawkeye or because Roy worries she is in danger and that he's put her in that danger and his body unconsciously reacts to it, tries to make up for it, becomes pure yearning and nerve ends and knots of muscle waiting to connect, hungry, all his fears and desire matched by Hawkeye's, now tearing at his hair with one hand until Roy growls and the room is in darkness but he can see her smile, the most possessive thing he's ever seen, it should make him feel proud. They don't fumble with their clothes, they remove only the essential like there is not time for more, no time in the world at all, and Roy puts his hand between their bodies and it's easy, she is so wet, Hawkeye almost feels surprised at how comfortable that makes her feel, that he knows how much she wants him, and how badly she wants him to know it, too. The back of his neck is hot against her palm and she pulls him down and kisses the beginning of a smirk out of him. They had meant to do this slowly but that's in the past, so that Hawkeye rushes him biting his lower lip and trusts him to know just what that means – he does; Hawkeye shivers when he takes out his fingers and she groans when he enters her, he holds her head in his arms and kisses her temple, Hawkeye hiding into the crook of his arm, brushing her lips to the fabric of his shirt. Yes? he whispers into his ear. Hawkeye grabs his head and runs her fingers down his cheeks smeared of sweat, pressing her thumbs along the line of his jaw. She buck up into each thrust and though they don't build up a rhythm – there's not enough time – the gesture clearly says yes.
They are outside her door and she doesn't invite him up, of course.
His hand is still on the small of her back and Hawkeye feels a kind of static electricity from the touch, even through the thick uniform and coat, she feels like she is drawing in the energy around them and concentrating it on that spot, that connection. The world shrinks down to where they are touching, and it has always been so.
`I'm fine,´ she tells him and in the grand scheme of things she is not, they are not, the world is not fine and they are the ones to try and set it right. But at this moment it's all right, even if they don't come inside and the scenario in Hawkeye's head doesn't turn reality. It's all right if they have to carry the yearning a bit longer.
Roy nods like he gets it, like he knows what she is thinking about. She wouldn't put is past him – she wouldn't mind, either, in fact she likes the idea of him knowing exactly what she was thinking.
`Good night then, I guess,´ he says, a little sad but hiding it very well.
He takes a step down.
`Sir?´ Hawkeye calls out.
Roy turns around, brightness in his eyes.
`Hurry up,´ she says in a formal tone. `Hurry up and fix this and get everybody back together. Get me back.´
Roy stares at her, one lifted eyebrow and lips pressed into a weak line.
Then he changes into a smirk (Hawkeye feels a pang of desire from the memory of something that never happened, that should be happening now).
`Aw,´ he raises one finger. `You miss me that much?´
Hawkeye shakes her head, covers her mouth with her hand – Roy can see her attempt at holding back the laughter.
`Good night, sir.´
Roy wants to believe – if he is to keep his favourable image of his own manliness intact – that the only reason why, when he sees Hawkeye again, he doesn't shove her against the nearest vertical surface and makes love to her here and now, is because he has lost too much blood.
And maybe that would have been easier, because it takes him an equal amount of strength to hold back at this moment. The rush of blood that means to be seeing her alive and safe (to be seeing her with his own two eyes, he notes with never-ending relief) that should have shot to his head it's pooling between his legs instead and it's not the moment, of course, it's so not the fucking moment, but Roy is so aware of this raw need to touch her, and hold her and just make sure she is really here (he is really here and he's not having some pre-death hallucination) on an epidermical level, that instead the moment becomes restrained, his arms limp and knotted when Hawkeye grabs his elbow, as if she too needed to make sure he is really there. He cups her face for a moment without embarrassment, or care for their surroundings or matters of protocol, propriety, one finger under her chin – she is bruised and worn out and her eyes are bloodshot as if she hadn't slept for days or as if she had been crying for hours.
He brushes her hair off her eyes; Hawkeye looks unprotected, her expression open for once.
They stare at each other in wonder, oblivious to the rush of people and cars around them, like they can hardly believe their luck.
He looks over his shoulder at the hole in the ground, the smoke rising from it and from the buildings nearby, the rubble piles at his feel and everywhere within his vision.
`Everybody is all right?´ Roy thinks, he should have already asked.
Hawkeye nods, `Yes. They are fine. Some injures but nothing too bad.´
`Breda and the others?´
`I don't know the details yet, we've been trying to establish communication, but I think it's okay.´
`We have to make sure.´
She gives him a look.
She takes his hands and makes him turn his palms upwards so she can see the damage done. They are scarred – the little girl Mei stopped the bleeding while they were down there but the wound is still tender and he feels pain in every inch of skin. When Hawkeye presses her fingertips against the scar it hurts but it's mixed with a feeling of odd arousal and relief at just being around her.
He takes a step back to look at her. Her clothes are blood-stained and rumpled, torn in a couple of places, her hair is a mess and her face is covered in scratches and dirt, she is staring right back at Roy and he thinks she looks fucking beautiful now.
`Sir, we need to get you to the hospital.´
Roy smiles and puts two fingers against the spot where her neck meets her shoulder, examining the bruising underneath the wound.
`Lieutenant, we need to get you to the hospital.´ He adds: `We'll go together. We can be roommates. I could sneak into your bed at night when the nurses aren't looking. You know you're supposed to be naked under those hospital gowns?´
He blurts everything out and he makes a mental note of, from now on, blurting everything out, telling her everything, all the things that weren't allowed to be said, or weren't advisable or wise to say before this moment.
Hawkeye's eyes are very wide, as if suddenly he's grown an extra head. It makes him smile even more openly. She steps up to him and seizes him in one look and reaches her hands to his head, she holds him by the temples, checking his skull.
`You're not making any sense. I think you have a contusion.´
`I am making a lot of sense.´
He grabs her by the wrists, holding her arms up as they stare eye to eye. Roy swallows hard and Hawkeye tilts her head to one side, studying his expression. He is tired beyond belief but the simple rush of her pulse under the tip of his fingers is enough to hold him upright.
Roy leans in like he is about to kiss her – and he wants to, god he wants to – but he just pushes their foreheads together and draws a breath the length of years. He closes his eyes, just stands like this, he thinks he could pass out happily like this, their noses bumping and their breathing coming together, synchronized until their bodies follow one another as they inhale and exhale. He doesn't let go off her arms.
Ages later he opens his eyes again, his body now completely used to the rhythm of Hawkeye's breathing, his, theirs. The world is a bit brighter and it stings at the edges of his vision. It's dead night but it's a bright world.
`Where's everybody else?´ He asks, loosening his grip on her forearms but not yielding it just yet.
`Safe,´ she says quickly. `Armstrong is accompanying the Elrics to the hospital. The rest are reconvening at the radio. Debriefs need to-´
`Yes, yes,´ Roy nods, brushing his head into the hollow of her neck.
He slips his arm around her shoulder and lets some of his weight rest on her back. He holds her close, closer than mere support would warrant. Even now, with his vision blurred by tiredness and every bone in his body aching, he still can't help but want her. He smells blood and ash and battle and pain in her hair, her clothes, and he wants her. It's a particular kind, this uncoiling of want and need in the pitch of his stomach – it has to do with scenario, this we-almost-died sort of desire, like the only way to check they are both alive is to bury himself in her body and never come back up for oxygen.
`Yes?´ She puts her hand on the small of his back and Roy lets himself shivering from the touch, happily, freely.
`Listen,´ he looks down, concentrating on the thudding sound of their feet as they drag themselves to the nearest official vehicle. `I want you to know that if I don't kiss you right now is because I'm about to pass out from blood loss here.´
She doesn't say anything at first, which is not exactly encouraging. She is looking at her feet as well.
`Hold on a bit longer, sir,´ she says in a flat tone but she pulls him closer and then slides one hand under his coat and places her palm against his breastbone.
It feels like a good enough reply for his never-uttered question.
It's time for fantasies to become real, they have proved that this far. Just a bit longer now.