Chapter 1: The Bonds of Childhood
The first time Riza Hawkeye met Roy Mustang, she thought him boorish and obnoxious. But their bond slowly develops through the sharing of books.
Southeastern Amestris, 1900
Riza Hawkeye was eleven years old when Roy Mustang came to study Alchemy with her father in early February of 1900. Berthold Hawkeye was a strict man. He cared mostly for his Alchemy, though he had no interest in teaching it to his daughter. Riza’s relationship with her father was strained at best, and growing up in the city of Tobha didn’t afford her much knowledge of the outside world, but her Father insisted she have access to her books, and be able to learn whatever she wanted. She had the access to any and all the books she desired.
Roy Mustang was fourteen, and already cocksure about his abilities. He came from Central City, and was exactly what you would expect of a city boy. He knew very little about the ways of the world. Riza disliked him almost on sight. He acted like he owned the world, and perhaps in his eyes, he did. He had grown up relatively privileged, having things presented to him on a silver platter, opportunities and chances she could only dream of.
She spoke to him only when required, choosing to spend most of her time in her room, reading her own books, the ones her father provided for her. Once or twice, Roy Mustang tried to initiate conversations with her, but she stubbornly ignored him. She had more important things to focus on. It became clear fairly quickly that she had no interest in him.
It was one particularly day when Roy Mustang sat with her at the dinner table that he finally got her to say something to her. He had been teasing her about her book, and she had quickly grown tired of his behavior. She growled softly. “What is it about you?!”
“I just think, since we’re stuck here together, we should at least be on friendly terms with each other. We’ve been stuck together for nearly two months now. Would being cordial kill you?”
“I’m not trying to… to not be cordial, Mister Mustang. But you’re my father’s student. You’re not my friend. I’m just trying to read my book.”
“I’m just saying, it wouldn’t hurt you to be a little nicer to me. I want to be your friend, Miss Hawkeye.”
Riza shot him a pointed glare. She had no interest in making friends with him. She had her own things to worry about. She turned her gaze back to his book. All she wanted to do was keep learning from her books, since her father didn’t want her going to the school in town. She carefully set her book in front of her book so that she wouldn’t have to see his stupid, smug face.
“It’s not like you seem to have many friends, that is. I figure, since I’m the person here who’s closest to you in age, you might be interested in… talking once in a while.” He chuckled. “After all, it’s not like your father has forbidden you from talking to me, has he?”
“I… It doesn’t matter! I don’t need friends. I have my books. I have my father. What more do I need?”
“Companions. It’s not healthy to go through life with no one to rely on.”
Riza rolled her eyes, ducking her head below the edge of the book. Roy Mustang didn’t know anything. He didn’t understand how it was for her. She had her father, and her books. She didn’t need anything else beyond that. She was happy with what she had, and that was all she needed. He was just a stupid boy.
Roy Mustang was nothing if not persistent. He was interested in all the knowledge he could get his hands on. He would read through all of his Alchemical texts, all of his scientific theorems and studies, regularly. His study was the one thing he was most excited about. When he ran out of his own books, he would go beg his mentor’s daughter for something, anything for him to look at. Riza always seemed vehemently against giving him any of her books. No matter how much Roy begged and pleaded, she refused to budge.
“They’re my books, that Father got for me. If you’re that bored, go into town and buy some yourself. I don’t want you ruining them.”
“You’ve seen the way I treat your Father’s books, haven’t you, Miss Hawkeye? Why would you think I would do anything to yours if I haven’t done anything to his?”
“Cause you’re a boy. Boys always do bad things to books. You’re just scared of my Father.” She raised her eyebrows, daring him to challenge her.
He raised his hand, closing his eyes solemnly. “I swear on my life as a citizen of Amestris that I would rather die than harm your books. May lightning strike me down if I return them in less than pristine condition.”
Riza hesitated, considering. Finally, “Y-you can only borrow one at a time, okay? And… And you can’t read them outside.”
“Of course, Miss Hawkeye. Whatever would ease your mind.”
She was slow as she went to retrieve one of her books. “Inside the house. And when you’re done I’ll let you borrow another one.” She held onto it a moment longer, before releasing it into his hands. He smiled, his lips quirking upward in that cocky grin he wore so well.
“Thank you very much, Miss Hawkeye. I appreciate the gesture.”
Riza watched him walk off with her precious book. She couldn’t help the pang in her heart as he disappeared into his room. She really had no idea what he would do with it. But at least he had promised to treat them well. She could only hope she kept his promise.
Two days later, at breakfast, Roy Mustang set her book down on the table next to her. Riza looked up, surprised. “Didn’t you like it?”
“Of course I did. That’s why I’m giving it back. So I can borrow another one.”
“But… There’s no way you finished it already. It took me like… a whole week to read it the first time.”
“I am older than you. Besides, this is nowhere near as complicated as Alchemy texts. It was easy to read.”
“Are you calling me stupid? Cause I’m not stupid!”
His laugh disarmed her. She glared at him, trying to keep her face stern. If this was how he was going to react, maybe he didn’t need to borrow her books after all. She carefully moved her bowl and spoon to the sink, before picking her book up and heading upstairs to her room. She could hear him running up the stairs, his feet clomping on the wood.
“W-wait I was just kidding! I-I don’t think you’re stupid…”
“I-it’s not nice to make fun of people, Mister Mustang.” There was an air of finality to her voice as she slammed her door shut. She sank down against the wood, clutching her book tightly to her chest. Who was he to tell her that her books were too easy to read? Just because they weren’t alchemy books, just because her father didn’t want her learning his secrets… It didn’t mean she was stupid. She just liked her books. They were nice, and the stories they contained were exciting and interesting. Thrilling, even. Adventurers exploring lost ruins deep in the desert, pirates in the far-off oceans beyond Aerugo… She had no trouble reading them. She just read slowly, enjoying them. Maybe that was something Roy Mustang was incapable of. He was a boy after all. Boys didn’t understand things the way girls did.
A week later, Roy Mustang got a letter from Central, begging him to come visit. Her father was busy, so Riza had to walk with him all the way into town so he could find someone to take him to the closest city with a train station. Tobha was a small town after all. The nearest train station was all the way in Meox. From there he would take a train to East City, and then transfer to one bound for Central. Riza couldn’t say she was sad to see him go. Maybe he wouldn’t come back. Then her father would have more time for her again. Ever since Roy Mustang had come to stay with them, it felt like her father had slowly began to cut himself off from her.
She watched as the cart he was in slowly vanished into the distance. She waited until he was out of sight, and then began the walk back to her house on the edge of town. She moved carefully on the well-trod dirt roads that lead out of the thriving city center. It was the middle of the day, and there was no one around to bother her. It felt like she had the whole world to herself.
Above her, the sky was a light blue, dotted here and there with puffy white clouds. She smiled up at the open expanse, feeling a gentle breeze run through the hair which barely grazed her shoulders. Everything seemed better now that stupid Roy Mustang was gone. Perhaps she would ask her father for a new book, or make something exciting for dinner. It was incredibly freeing to not have the constraints of having to make enough for three people, of being told she couldn’t spend her free time in her father’s office watching him work because he was “teaching” and she was a “distraction.” No. Everything would be perfectly fine now. She would be fine.
Roy Mustang returned to Tobha after a week and a half. Riza begrudgingly went to collect him from the town center, and was surprised to see him carrying a bag. He smiled brightly. “Miss Hawkeye!”
She watched him warily. He kept the bag close to himself, concealing the contents with the energy of someone who had a secret. Riza couldn’t help it. She was curious. “What’s in the bag?”
“You’ll see when we get back to the house. It’s a surprise. You wouldn’t want to spoil it, would you?”
“I guess not,” Riza muttered. She was still a bit sullen as they walked back to the house. Roy was in exceedingly good spirits. He began to whistle as they walked, the notes carrying over the gentle southern breeze. Even Riza couldn’t stay upset for long, and soon she was skipping down the path next to Roy.
“I missed it here, while I was gone,” he said, as the large, dilapidated house came into view. “It’s so much nicer here than it is in Central. Everything is so busy. But here? There’s nothing quite like it.”
“I wish it was a bit more exciting,” Riza replied. “Nothing ever happens in Tobha.”
“That’s not true. Your father’s Alchemical Research is quite advanced. He could probably become a State Alchemist if he tried to take the qualifying exam. Then you could move somewhere more exciting, and your life would be so much easier --”
“My father doesn’t want to be a State Alchemist. He doesn’t believe in the Military, and their ‘Alchemists be thou for the people’ motto. He says they don’t really want to share Alchemy with those who need it.”
“Well, maybe they don’t. But the research grants alone could at least fix up your house.”
“Those grants are for research . Fixing a house isn’t research.” She rolled her eyes exasperatedly. He couldn’t understand anything. He was a stupid boy, after all.
“Fixing a house means creating better lab space for research,” he replied, still chuckling at her innocence.
“That’s a stupid reason to fix a house,” she muttered, kicking at the ankle-high grass lining the road.
“I mean, you might think that. But I bet it would help your father a lot. Think about how much easier it would be if your house wasn’t constantly falling apart?”
“But it’s not falling apart! It’s still got a roof and the floors are sturdy and the windows all work!” She glared at him again. Her house might not be the nicest, and she knew it was probably nothing like where he lived in Central, but it was her home. She had grown up in the house. It was a safe place, comforting.
“It could definitely use a new coat of paint, and maybe some other repairs. But that’s not the point. Alchemy is a tool, and the Military wants to use that tool for the benefit of others.”
Riza was quiet as she pushed open the gate, entering the yard. The grass in the yard was not as nice as the grass outside. It was a little higher, but still nice, still comfortable. “I’m sure my father will be happy that you’re back. He’s been lamenting the loss of his student.”
“Well, I’m glad to be back. It was a nightmare in Central. Everything was busy. It’ll be nice to have a little more relaxation now.”
“You know he’s only going to make you work harder on your Alchemy now,” Riza muttered. “I don’t know why you think it’s gonna be relaxing now.”
“Well. It beats working for my Aunt at her bar. At least Alchemy is mostly reading instead of cleaning and pouring drinks.”
Riza shrugged, opening the door and stepping inside. It was a little dusty. Riza had been busy the last few days, unable to get to her usual cleaning tasks. She had taken to sneaking the Alchemy texts off of her father’s shelves, looking at the pictures inside them. She didn’t understand most of the words, the chemistry and math a bit too complicated for her eleven-year-old mind, but the pictures were interesting. She liked learning what the they meant, reading through the library of sigils, and trying to decipher the different arrays.
He followed her inside, sitting down at the table and putting his bag down. “Alright, are you ready for the surprise?”
Riza looked at him. “The surprise?”
He gestured to the bag. “Your surprise. I thought you’d like something from Central, but I’m still not sure too much what you like, so I went with something safe.”
She blinked, looking warily at the bag. “Why’d you even get me something?”
“I thought you’d like it. Go on. Open it. I want to see what you think.”
She moved closer to the table, and Roy pushed the bag toward her, eagerly awaiting her reaction. She undid the flap on the bag, slowly opening it. Inside were several brand new books, their covers glossy and crisp, like a display from the store.
“What are these?”
“They’re… They’re books. New ones. I… I thought you’d like them. Are they… Did I make a bad choice?”
Riza’s hands went over the covers. “Why did you buy these? They… They must have been expensive.”
“I… I thought you would like them. They’re nicer than the second-hand ones your father keeps buying you.”
“The books my father buys me are plenty nice.” She wouldn’t stop running her fingers over the glossy covers. They felt almost unreal, sitting here on the table in the empty kitchen of her desolate house.
Roy smiled. “I’m glad you like them. They’re like the book you loaned me. I asked the bookseller for help making choices. If you don’t like them… Well, they’re yours to do with what you want.”
Riza nodded, her face carefully blank. She didn’t want to cry in front of him, especially not for something as stupid as a few books, even though they were beautiful. “Thank you, Mister Mustang,” she murmured, staring at the covers. She picked one up, walking to the living room and sitting down on the couch. She opened it carefully, running her hands over the pages. They were still a little stiff, extremely brand new. She held her breath, afraid of damaging them.
“I’m glad they’re good choices. I hope you enjoy them.” He stayed at the table, watching her slowly read the first book. For a while, the only sound in the room was her shallow breathing and the turning of pages. Time seemed frozen as she paged through the books. She was entranced with them. It was perfect.
From that moment on, every time Roy Mustang had to go back to Central for family issues, and no matter how long his visit, he would always bring at least one or two new books back for Riza. The two of them would read together, Roy studying his Alchemical texts, and Riza reading the novels and stories Roy brought back for her from Central. Occasionally, she would ask him about what he was looking at in his books, or for help deciphering a word in the ones he brought her. He was always quick to answer, to guide her, treating her like a little sister.
As spring turned into summer, and Riza went from eleven years old to twelve years old, she and Roy started to become friends. Riza was still wary of him and his intentions, but Roy was a perfect gentleman. He would accompany Riza into town once a week to get the groceries, and would insist on carrying all of them. He defended her against the boys in town who would bully her whenever she wanted to go read near the fountain in town. He acted like a big brother, and Riza had to admit, it felt nice to have a friend, even if he was a boy.
Her father even seemed a bit more open and companionable, spending meals with them instead of holed up in his office. Things were looking up. When summer ended, and the weather began to cool ever so slightly, Roy celebrated his fifteenth birthday. It was very quiet, just a little cake and a few presents. Roy was delving deeper into the mysteries of Alchemy, learning the more “esoteric rhetoric” (she wasn’t sure what it meant, but that was what Roy said) associated with the skill. He stopped spending as much time with Riza, though he would still do his best to make time for her, assisting her in her reading comprehension.
It didn’t ever quite get cold enough in the South for snow in the winter, even though Tobha was farther North than some Southern cities, but Riza still enjoyed the cooler air, and the chance to use more of her blankets at night. In the middle of the night, she could often hear sounds coming from Roy’s room. The murmur of his voice as he talked through the complex theoretical postulates, the quiet thud of heavy Alchemical texts being dropped onto his desk, and the occasional shout of frustration as something didn’t quite work out right.
Riza flourished in her own studies, continuing to read every book she could get her hand on. When Roy was stuck doing Alchemy, Riza was reading histories and novels, studying mathematics and science. Everything but the Alchemy her father didn’t want her to learn. She was, perhaps, somewhat glad that her father refused to let her attend the school in Tobha. Her father’s tutelage was far more in depth and covered everything she wanted to know, at her pace. Her books became more and more complex, far above the children in town. She was able to hold educated, detailed discussions with Roy Mustang and her father. Things seemed almost too good to be true.
In February of 1901, an Amestrian Soldier shot and killed an Ishvallan child, sparking the beginning of a long, terrible, bloody conflict.
Comments and feedback always welcome!
Chapter 2: The Beginnings of War
The Ishvallan Civil War brings conflict to the Hawkeye household, and cements the bond of a father and daughter.
Southeastern Amestris, 1901-1904
In early February of 1901, a year after Roy Mustang first arrived in the small southern city of Tobha, he once again travelled back to Central City for a family event. Things were quiet in Tobha. Everything seemed perfectly normal.
The day Roy Mustang returned from Central was not a normal day.
All throughout the town there were quiet murmurs, grown men whispering conspiratorially, moving themselves out of earshot of the children around them. Riza was incredibly confused, but went to pick up Roy from the city center just like she alway did. Roy Mustang looked serious, his joyful smile no longer resting on his face.
“Is something wrong?” she asked as they walked back to her house, her new book already cradled in her hands.
“N-no.” He cleared his throat. “No, my… my sisters just needed some help. Everything is… Fine now.”
Riza blinked a few times, but didn’t say anything. It seemed strange, the terse, vague way Roy was speaking, but he obviously was upset. She wasn’t planning on pushing him. She began to prattle on about what had changed since he left for Central again. There wasn’t much.
When they arrived back at the house, Roy went straight toward her father’s study. Riza tried to follow him, but the door closed before she could. She stood outside, waiting for him to return, but all she could hear was the vague murmuring of a conversation. She wanted to be included, but it was obvious that something had happened, something they thought she wasn’t to know.
When Roy Mustang finally came out, Riza was still standing in the hallway, waiting for him. “What was that all about?”
“I… Just wanted to ask your father if I could resume my studies tomorrow. I’m tired from the journey.”
“You’ve never been tired before.”
Roy Mustang was quiet. He didn’t say anything, just walked off to his room. Riza watched sadly. What had happened to change everything? Riza walked to her own room, right next door. She wanted to know. What weren’t they telling her?
Now it was Riza’s turn to be persistent. Any time she had Roy alone, she would ask him why he seemed so serious. What could possibly have changed in the real world to make him act like this? Each time she was brushed off, her concerns ignored and set aside. She began to notice him spending more and more time holed up in her father’s study, even when it wasn’t time for his lessons. There was the near-constant sound of fighting, Roy’s voice still in the awkward phase of cracks and breaks that all young men go through, her father’s voice gravelly and deep. She could never hear the contents of their arguments, but she heard the shouting.
Even in town, she noticed more and more, the shady glances people shot at their neighbors. Anyone who didn’t look like a full-fledged Amestrian received near-open hostility. The boys who used to tease her for her books and her intellect had stopped paying her any attention when she entered the town square, focusing instead on the few townsfolk who were of a distinctly different heritage.
Riza Hawkeye did not know many Ishvallans. They lived mostly in the desert to the east, in their sacred homeland. The ones who had moved were still faithful and devoted, and the few interactions she had had with them were pleasant enough. It seemed however, that something had happened between the nation of Amestris and its annexed state. The tensions which had always been there seemed only to increase as the days went by.
“It’s wrong for them to be treated this way. Ishvallans are Amestrian Citizens too.” Riza was adamant about it. She gestured wildly with her spoon, still covered in the remnants of the stew they were eating for dinner.
“Eat, Riza. Your concern is valid, but there’s nothing you can do. Leave the matter to those in charge.”
“You don’t understand, Father. They’re being harrassed. They haven’t done anything! It’s just wrong! Why would people be so terrible?”
“Eat .” Berthold Hawkeye’s voice, so grave and deep, spoke with a finality that could not be denied. Riza sank down in her chair, turning her eyes to the bowl in front of her. She couldn’t argue with her father.
Roy Mustang was quiet, eating his own stew, and staring at the alchemical texts he had arrayed around his bowl. There were four books spread around him, and he would scan the pages in a circular pattern, reading one after the other, before repeating it on the next page. Riza wished she could have his focus, his drive. He was focused single mindedly on the task in front of him: mastering Alchemy.
It was nearly two months after the beginning of the Civil War that Riza discovered what happened. She hadn’t meant to get caught eavesdropping outside her father’s study. But the door opened inward as Roy Mustang had been about to storm out again, only for Riza to lose her balance and tumble head-first into the study.
“Riza! What are you doing?!” Her father was angry, his face going red, his whole body creaking forward, standing from his desk.
“I-I wasn’t-- I just wanted-- No one is t-telling me a-anything--”
“She deserves to know, Teacher. She’ll only find out from someone else if you keep her in the dark. You can’t shelter her forever.”
Riza had pushed herself back into a sitting position, looking between the two of them, waiting for one of them to say something. Roy Mustang stared Berthold Hawkeye down.
“Fine. Tell her if you want. What do I care.” Riza watched her father sink back into his chair, his joints creaking with the wood.
“Tell me what?” Riza asked softly. Roy shook his head.
“Let’s… Go outside. It will be easier for you to hear it that way, I think,” Roy murmured, holding a hand out to her so that she could stand up. She took it, letting him lead her out to the empty plot of dirt that had once been her mother’s flower garden.
“What happened?” She asked again, her voice steadier, firmer.
Roy took a deep breath, sighing a few times. When he finally spoke, he was staring up at the sky instead of at her. “Two months ago, while I was in Central… Something terrible happened. An Amestrian Soldier shot and killed an Ishvallan child, in cold blood.” Riza gasped, but he continued. “It’s… It sparked an uprising in the South. There’s been fighting since. It’s… It’s not pretty. The Military has been sent in to try and quell the squabbles, but… There’s hostilities between the two groups now.”
Roy nodded. “I… There’s a call now, more than ever, for State Alchemists. I… Your father and I have been fighting about it because he doesn’t want me using his techniques for something so… ‘Vulgar and despicable’ or something like that. But… I want to help people.”
“Th-there are other ways. You don’t have to join the military. It’s not… It’s not going to fix anything. The Military only makes things worse.”
“I’m… I’m still too young to enlist or start at the academy. And I want to help your father complete his research. I… It probably won’t go on forever.” Roy tried to reassure her. “Really, Riza. It’s not something you have to worry about. Everything will be fine.”
Riza nodded, blinked. “A-alright.” She walked back toward the house, still trembling from the revelation she had just received. Roy followed her, resting his hand on her shoulder.
“It’s going to be okay. I promise. Just… Don’t think about it. It’ll be over soon.” He continued to murmur quietly. Riza could only nod, her whole body moving like a possessed doll. She made it to the couch before her legs gave out and she collapsed. Roy sat beside her, pulling her into a tight hug, stroking her hair as tears began to spill out of her eyes. Riza was too young, too innocent to be dealing with the horrible events that were happening in the country now.
“I-I’m sorry,” she hiccuped, her whole body shaking as she cried.
“Don’t apologize,” Roy replied, still stroking her hair. “It’s okay to cry. It’s an upsetting event. I’m sorry I had to tell you. But you would have just found out from someone in town, and that would have been even worse.”
Riza nodded again, her tears staining his shirt now. She was terrified, and she felt sick to her stomach. Someone, an Amestrian citizen, had killed a child, and started a war. How was that something that could ever be made okay?
By Riza’s thirteenth birthday, things had only gotten worse. The older boys in town had begun to enlist in the academy, going to learn how to fight the “enemy.” They seemed so proud and happy with their uniforms, parading the military blue throughout the small town of Tobha. Riza hated how happy they seemed about it.
“It isn’t right !” she protested, as Roy walked her back home after they got the groceries for the week. “They’re citizens just like we are!”
Roy sighed again. “I… I’m sure there won’t be any real need for it. They’ll probably end up fighting against Creta in the west. O-or further South, where the fighting is happening with Aerugo. The Ishval Conflict won’t last long.”
“You say that. Every day you say that. It’s been… It’s been six months already. Why isn’t it done yet?”
“Wars… Wars take time.”
“Wars are stupid.”
Roy didn’t protest. He just nodded. “That they are, Riza. That they are.”
The seasons passed, birthdays and holidays eclipsed by the constant news of violence in the East. Everyday, reports came in with news of the terror Ishvallan insurgents were wreaking upon their nation. They were targeting troops and supply lines, even going so far as to begin attacking small settlements in the East.
Riza never took the news well, choosing to hide in her room and lose herself in her books. Roy's trips to Central became more and more frequent and began lasting longer. He would only say it was for family reasons. Even when he was studying, he was more and more distracted. Riza tried to talk with him, tried to convince him to go with her on mundane errands, but he dismissed her.
One day, Roy didn’t come home from his visit. Riza waited in the town square all day for any sign of his cart. It was only when her father came looking for her as the sun began to set that Riza gave up on seeing him.
“Why didn’t he come?” Riza asked, her eyes misty with unshed tears.
“He called this afternoon. Said something came up. He’ll be home later. Come along, Riza. It’s late.”
“But… but he promised he’d be back today… He promised me…”
Berthold Hawkeye wrapped his arms around his daughter’s shoulders, ushering her back toward their house. Riza dragged her feet, wiping miserably at her eyes. How could he leave without telling her? How could he just… not mention it?
She went out every day for the next week, hoping everyday she would see him come back to their little village, back to her home.
The next time Riza Hawkeye saw Roy Mustang, he was dressed in the same blue uniforms she had seen on all the other boys in town.
“M-mister Mustang?” Her voice wavered.
“I need to talk to your father, Riza.” His voice was cold, emotionless. He had changed in the last few years. He had grown, filled out. The uniform only made it more apparent. He was no longer the boy her father had taught, but a man.
“B-but, Mister Mustang… I… I don’t understand. What… why are you w-wearing that?”
“I need to talk to your father.”
“It… It’s a joke, right?”
He looked down at her. “I need to speak to my teacher, Riza. It’s best if you don’t try to interrupt.”
Riza tried to grab his hand, tried everything she could to stop him as he marched down the road toward her house. She begged him to reconsider, pleaded for him to abandon this foolishness. Roy Mustang was persistent. He was seventeen, and would turn eighteen soon after his classes began. He was old enough to enroll in the academy, and he was going to fight and there was nothing Riza could do about it, but watch her best friend, her only friend, go off to fight in a war that wasn’t even worth fighting.
The shouting match was something Riza did her best to block out. She hid in her room, buried under her blankets, her pillow covering her head. Despite her best efforts, she could still hear the words her father used as he insulted and belittled Roy:
“Dog of the Military!”
She could picture him, standing there, his back stiff, his whole body firm in the face of her father’s verbal assault. Roy was no longer welcome in this house. He was no longer a student of Alchemy, at least not under Berthold Hawkeye. He should head back to Central before he had to leave for the academy. She heard his angry footsteps in the hall, heard them stomp down the stairs, and then the slam of the wooden door against the wall. Roy Mustang was gone.
Riza Hawkeye cried herself to sleep for the first time since her mother died.
By the start of summer in 1903, Riza’s father had completed his studies in Flame Alchemy. For a while, he seemed most concerned with how to store his notes. Riza was fifteen, and well into her sullen teenage years. Ever since Roy had been barred from the house, she had seen no reason to continue trusting her father. He was just as vicious as the rest of the men she had encountered. Roy Mustang was different, a unique, hidden gem amongst humanity’s dregs.
Riza herself had taken to studying her father’s notes in more detail. The completion of his research had changed him. It seemed as though the spark had gone out of him. At the same time, he seemed much older than he should have been. Riza saw nothing in his notes that made any indication of why.
She began to read through them more thoroughly. Oftentimes, Berthold would find her curled up asleep on the couch, one or more of the heavy tomes on her lap and the small table. He would take them back to his study, only for them to go missing the next day. Riza was a bright girl, and now that she was older, she was beginning to truly understand.
In the end, it was Riza who came up with the most expedient way of storing his notes.
“You tattoo them on my back. That way I’ll be the only one who can judge if someone is worthy enough to learn the secrets.”
“And why should I entrust my life’s work to a bratty teenager?”
“Because I’m now the only one left who understands the cost it took to achieve all of it. Do you really want all your hard work to go to waste?”
“Who says my work will go to waste? I could take on another apprentice.”
“You said yourself, Mister Mustang was the only one who ever showed the type of promise you required for someone to learn your Alchemy. I know you won’t teach it to me, even though it doesn’t appear nearly as hard as you make it out to be. And since you have no interest in letting the State have your work, this is the best bet.”
Berthold Hawkeye sat back in his chair, contemplating. Riza stood, her back straight. She knew what she was doing. She knew how to convince him. She had made her points, and there was no way he would say no now.
“Alright. Are you sure you can handle it?”
Riza nodded once. She was strong. She was brave. Whatever pain there was, she would endure it.
“Very well then. I’ll entrust the secrets of Flame Alchemy to you, and you can, in turn, give them to whoever you deem worthy.”
Riza closed her eyes as she laid on her stomach, her father hovering over her. She didn’t want to think about what was about to happen. She didn’t want to think about how much pain it was going to be. She bit her lip, hands clenching at her sides.
“You need to relax, Riza. Otherwise, the design will be wrong.” Her father’s hand moved to her hair, stroking it gently, trying to calm her.
“I-I’m sorry,” she murmured. She tried to get herself to relax.
“Perhaps it would be better if I gave you a sedative…”
“No! I… I can do it. I can take this burden.”
Berthold Hawkeye laughed softly. “I know, my daughter. You’re so very strong. Deep breaths now.”
The hum of the needle filled her ears, and then the pain began. Riza bit her lip so hard she could taste her blood, coppery and rich on her tongue. It didn’t matter how much it hurt. Riza kept her eyes open, forced herself to stay conscious through all of it. She didn’t cry out, keeping her mouth shut. No matter the pain, she would endure it. It was her duty.
Riza was bedridden for a few days after her father applied the notes. It hurt, and there was so much it took up her entire back, a masterpiece in its own right. His Magnum Opus. Given her new position as keeper of the notes, her father finally relented and allowed Riza access to any of his Alchemy books she wished. She stuck to the basics, throwing herself into the research just as Roy Mustang once had. His name was all but forbidden in her home now, but she still thought fondly of the gangly boy who had once tried to teach her the strange and magical science that was Alchemy. How odd it was that, now that she could pursue it without fear of repercussions, she no longer had quite the interest in it. Often, she would look up from reading some new idea, eager to discuss it, only to find the room empty. She would sigh, and turn back to the book. Everything was falling apart, the world growing harsher each day.
Now that her father’s work was completed, she noted a change in him. He seemed less vivacious, like he had nothing else to live for. It was concerning to say the least. Riza couldn’t help worrying, but each time she tried to bring it up, he would brush her off. It felt a bit too familiar, having her worries dismissed like she was an ignorant child, innocent of the way the world worked. She had seen how the world worked. She knew things now.
The months passed, and she chose to lose herself more and more in the books, all of the books she could get her hands on. Knowledge was the key to all power, her father said, and she would choose the path of least violence so that she could make the world a better place. But there was one thing she knew for certain.
Berthold Hawkeye’s health was failing.
Comments and feedback always welcome!
Chapter 3: The Death of Berthold Hawkeye
Title says it all.
Southeastern Amestris, 1905
With her father’s permission to pursue her studies, Riza Hawkeye flourished. Although her father’s Alchemy still seemed to elude her, lingering just at the edge of her mind, there were plenty of other things she could study; math, biology, chemistry, literature, and anything else she could get her hands on. Instead of spending her time in her home library, reading her father’s books, she would go to the second-hand bookstore in town. She had made a deal with the proprietor, Mr. Howard, allowing her to sit quietly in the back of the shop, devouring any book she chose. In return, she would stock the books that came in, and assist with cleaning the shop.
Between studying and caring for her aging father, Riza had very little time to do anything else. She worked as hard as she could to distract herself from the encroaching pressure. The Ishvallan Civil War had spread across the East, and was moving ever closer to Tobha. She was more worried about what would happen to her home if the fighting continued to spread as wildly as it had. Berthold Hawkeye was mostly bedridden now, leaving Riza to manage the household. She wasn’t sure what she would do if they had to evacuate. With a sigh, she put the book she had been paging through back on the shelf, and left to go and get the day’s groceries.
Bag in hand, she stepped back into the street, still distracted by the day’s worries and her new studies. So distracted, in fact, that at first she didn’t recognize the man who stepped into her path. He was wearing the formal military uniform, a fancy bar of ribbons pinned to his breast. He grabbed her free arm, stopping her in her tracks.
“Pardon me, Sir, but do I know you?” She blinked at his forwardness, adopting a slightly cold tone. She had no interest in soldiers, no interest in dealing with the men who took pride in slaughtering innocents. Amestris’ history was full of violent conflicts, the military involved in all of them.
“Riza… Riza, don’t you remember me?” He stared at her, pleading with her with his eyes.
“I’m sorry, Sir. I don’t believe we’ve met.” She took a step back, taking in the man before her. He seemed oddly familiar, like the ghost of a memory from her childhood.
“Riza Hawkeye, daughter of Berthold Hawkeye… You cut your hair.”
Riza’s hand went to the fringe hugging her skull. It had been easier, with her father’s health worsening every day, to keep it short, cropped to the nape of her neck. One less hassle to deal with.
“We grew up together.”
She blinked a few more times, trying to place the face, the voice. It was right there at the back of her mind, and then suddenly, it occurred to her.
The young man nodded, looking at her strangely. “You…” He cleared his throat. “You’ve grown up, Riza.”
She bit her lip, suddenly turning away and walking down the road out of town. How dare he show up here without so much as a letter to say he was coming back? “My father says I’m not supposed to talk to soldiers, and especially not traitors who chose to join the military.”
“Can he really destroy our friendship that easily? I know it’s been hard the last few years, Riza… But, please don’t cut me off like this? I… I’ve missed you. Remember? We were best friends, once. Closer than siblings.”
“I should be getting home. Father needs me back, sooner rather than later.” She began to walk off, and Roy followed her quickly. Riza sighed softly, biting her lip. She couldn’t stop him from following her. But still, there was no way her father would be happy about it. It would ruin the few, brief strides they were making toward his recovery. She just wouldn’t let him into the house.
It didn’t matter how much her heart had missed him since he had been exiled. It didn’t matter how much she had struggled without being able to discuss her ideas and thoughts with him. If he had only tried to finish his studies first, things would have turned out differently. They could have studied together, could have mastered her father’s Alchemy together . She wouldn’t have to bear the mark of his madness alone. She hefted the groceries a little higher in her arm, sighing as she continued down the dirt road. Already, the houses and shops of the town proper were behind her. She walked through the fields wishing this day hadn’t had Roy Mustang showing up unannounced. All she wanted was one day of peace, one day where she didn’t have the Ishvallan Civil War hanging over her head. A day where she could sit and read and learn.
When she reached the gate, Roy dashed ahead, holding it open for her. She stared him down. “I don’t need any help. I’ve been doing this for two years now.” She saw him wince slightly at her tone. “I’m capable of opening the door on my own.”
“I was only trying to help since your hands are full. Would you rather I not?”
“My father won’t be pleased to see you here. You should go. He’s ill.” Roy seemed surprised at that. Riza was quiet. Of course he would be. He had been off at the military academy learning who knows what about fighting and warfare. In that time, Riza had become nursemaid as well as daughter.
“How long has he been ill?”
“Long enough that you showing up unannounced on our doorstep won’t help him get any better. Please. You should go.”
“Riza. Riza, please. I can help, you know I can. I just need another chance, something to prove to him I’m worthy of the Secrets. You can help me with that, can’t you?”
She shook her head. “You should go back to town, Mister Mustang. I don’t need my father any more riled up than he already is.” She turned toward the door, walking resolutely. She would be strong, just like her father knew she was, just like she knew she was.
He followed her, but she shut the door before he could enter. She flipped the latch, hoping it would convince him to seek lodging elsewhere. He wasn’t welcome here anymore. Her father had made that perfectly clear. She leaned against the heavy wood, her heart hammering in her chest.
She began to put the groceries away, letting the repetitive task soothe her. Forget about what had happened in town, focus on the task at hand. See if father was feeling well enough for something other than soup tonight. She had gotten things to make something a bit heartier, but if he wasn’t up to it, she would save them for the next day. Carefully, she went upstairs, being cautious to avoid the windows, and by extension, Roy Mustang.
She knocked on the door of her father’s room. “Are you awake, Father?” Her voice was soft in the hallway, muted with the sound of her nerves.
“Come in, Riza.”
She pushed the door open, the creak echoing in the emptiness of the house. She walked to his bed, smiling at him. He seemed to be doing better. “How are you feeling?”
“Much the same. My head seems clearer today.” Riza glanced at her father’s eyes, cleared of the fog that obscured them for the past several months.
Riza smiled. “I’m glad. There’s… Well, a bunch of the boys arrived back in town today, from the Academy. I saw them as I was leaving the grocer’s.”
“Well, they should get out before they’re sent to the heart of the fighting. Perhaps that’s why they returned home.”
“I doubt it, Father. You know that things are getting worse. The fighting has spread far beyond the borders of the Ishvallan Holy Land. The country is beginning to fall apart.” She helped her father sit up.
“Yes, well. If they were smart, they wouldn’t let themselves go into that hellish fight. They should run away.”
“Yes, Father.” They sat quietly for a moment, before Riza took a deep breath. “Father… Roy Mustang is outside.”
There was a moment of silence, Riza’s eyes on the floor, Berthold Hawkeye’s eyes on her crimson cheeks, red with nerves and embarrassment.
“I thought I was clear when I sent him away that I had no interest in seeing his face here again. Send him away.”
“I tried, father. I told him that. I tried to send him away, but he’s… Well, he’s very stubborn, father. I don’t think he’ll leave until he sees you again.”
“Well then, he can wait outside all night for all I care.”
Riza nodded. “Yes Father. Of course. Would you like something a bit more filling than stew tonight?”
“Yes, I think I would. You’re a very good girl, Riza. Such a dutiful daughter.”
Riza smiled again, standing and going to make dinner. She reached the kitchen, only to hear a knock at the door, rapid and repetitive. Riza sighed. She had been clear when she told Roy that he wasn’t allowed in the house anymore. Still, the knocking continued. She groaned, and went to open it. She held it close, allowing just enough room for her face to poke through the crack.
“What do you want?”
“I just want to speak with your father. Please, Riza.”
“Just… Just five minutes. I promise, after that, if he says no, then that’s it. I’ll leave, and you won’t see me again. Alright?”
“No!” She tried to push the door shut, but he jammed his foot in between the frame and the door. He winced slightly as the hard wood crushed his foot, but didn’t relent.
“I need to speak with him, Riza. Let me in.” She could hear the change in his voice, the sudden softness, the desperation.
“He’s very ill. I can’t let you see him right now. Come back some other time.”
“You know as well as I do he’s not getting any better, Riza. He was sick even before I left. So let me in. I need to speak with him.”
Riza leaned against the door, trying to keep him out, but he was physically stronger. He pushed the door open, shunting her to the side as he strode into the kitchen. Riza tried to grab his arm but he yanked it from her grasp. He passed her, heading up the stairs to Berthold Hawkeye’s private quarters. She watched in confusion as he left her behind. She leaned against the wall, her whole body trembling slightly. This was not the Roy Mustang she had grown up with. This was not her childhood best friend. This was a soldier, focused only on his mission. What was going on?
She stayed there waiting for him to return, trying to not let his attitude overwhelm her. He had pushed past her, ignored her. He claimed to be her friend, and yet he treated her like this? How could he say those words to her? How could he tell her that her father wouldn’t get better? The whole reason he had come back was to learn the secrets of Flame Alchemy. Of course her father would get better. He had to.
It took a moment, but then she heard the screams. She moved quickly, unsure of what she would see, and yet her body felt like it was moving through water, trapped by her shock. She walked toward her father’s room. The door was ajar, and Roy Mustang was there, on the floor next to her father’s bed.
Berthold Hawkeye’s eyes were glassy.
There was blood. So much blood. Roy was screaming something, over and over and over. She couldn’t make out the words. She covered her mouth with a hand, using the other to clutch at the door frame.
It was hours before Riza fully understood what had happened. Her father was dead. Gone. She was alone now, an orphan. She blinked to herself on the couch, trying to understand.
Her father was dead. Roy Mustang had watched him die, had been the last one to see her father alive, the last one to hear his voice. It made her oddly jealous.
It was her father who had died, not his. Why had he been the last one there? Why had she missed his dying breaths, his last words?
“Riza? Are you alright?”
She looked up at his face, eyes full of compassion and pity. It made her sick.
“Get out of my house.”
“Riza… You shouldn’t be alone right now. It… It isn’t healthy for you.”
She glared at him, her eyes hard. “Get. Out.” She didn’t want to see him. It was his fault, all his fault. Not her father. Not his illness. It had to have been something Roy Mustang did.
“I’m not going to leave you alone. You can be as mad at me as you want. But I’m staying right here.” He sat next to her. She flinched away from him. He had changed out of his uniform, covered in blood as it was. Now he was just in regular, civilian clothes. He looked so much like her friend. But he wasn’t. He couldn’t be. This Roy Mustang was a murderer.
“Get out. Go away. I don’t… I don’t want you here.” She could feel tears in her eyes now. How strange it was. She hadn’t cried in so long. Yet here she was, sobbing like a baby. He pulled her into a tight hug, letting her kick and scream and thrash and hit and cry. She fought him until everything was gone but sadness.
His hands stroked her short hair. He whispered softly, though she couldn’t hear the words. He refused to let her go, cradling her like she was a doll, or a child, not a girl of sixteen years. She didn’t need his comfort. And yet, here she was, a pathetic, useless child, alone in the world, unable to take care of herself.
He scooped her into his arms when the sky outside was pitch black. She squirmed slightly, but he was stronger than she remembered. He carried her to her room, setting her on the bed. He was about to leave when she gripped his sleeve, forcing him to remain.
“I thought you didn’t want me here.”
“I… I don’t.” Her grip didn’t slacken.
“All right.” He pulled his arm away, taking the chair from her desk and dragging it to her bedside. “Then I’ll be here until you’re ready to talk about it. We can… We’ll need to make arrangements sooner or later.”
“I don’t want to talk about it. I… I want to sleep.”
“Then sleep, Riza. I’ll be here.”
The world was quiet as she closed her eyes, letting her grief overwhelm her.
He was still sitting there when she woke up. His eyes were closed, his head resting on his shoulder. She smiled softly. He could have left when she’d fallen asleep, but he was still there.
Riza Hawkeye laid back in bed, closing her eyes. It was still early. She could try to sleep a little longer. There wasn’t anything stopping her. When had her last solid night of sleep been?
She put her hand to her cheek, surprised when her fingers came away wet. She had cried for very few things in her life. Her mother’s death was one. She had been seven then, and unable to truly understand what had happened, but the way her father had said she wasn’t coming back…
She had cried when Roy Mustang had left. He had been her one constant friend for years, and losing him had damaged her in ways she didn’t think she would ever understand. It had hardened her, changed her.
And now she cried for her father. It seemed strange. The one person she had never thought she would grieve, and yet, tears were rolling down her cheeks unbidden.
“Riza?” She blinked, looking up at him. His eyes were still heavy with sleep. “Are you alright?” She didn’t know why he was suddenly awake, why he would be asking her that. It was dark, her room wrapped in shadow. He couldn’t see the tears on her cheeks.
“I… I will be. Go back to sleep.” Her voice was soft, and Roy simply nodded, letting his eyes fall shut. She closed her eyes as well.
Sleep. What a frivolous luxury.
It was a few days before they could hold the funeral. It was only her and Roy at the graveside. He had insisted on having the local priest come and preside, though Riza knew her father would not have wanted that. He had become too focused on Alchemy, and had long since forsaken religion. “No interest in a God I cannot prove,” he’d always said. No use for a force he could not understand. Alchemy was what drove him to madness, what caused his sickness. Alchemy was his religion, and the only one who could claim to follow it was Roy, barely a man, and not one who could not offer the comforting words of last rites.
They buried him in a plain wooden box, in a grave next to her mother’s. Her parents’ relationship had always been a bit tense, but she knew they would have wanted to be together. Despite their differences, they loved each other very much. Words washed over her ears, a dim hum in the darkness of her mind. She watched the proceedings with disinterest, her quiet detachment the only thing stopping her from crying again. When the priest left, they were alone, the only two who had come to commemorate Berthold Hawkeye’s existence. Riza noticed a few people walk by the graveyard, could see them quietly murmuring to themselves behind hands. No one mourned Berthold Hawkeye but his daughter and his former apprentice.
They stood there for a while, staring at his grave in silence. She was wearing the nicest clothes she owned, a black skirt, black blouse, and a high necked, dark navy blazer. The breeze tickled her short hair. Roy had cleaned his uniform. He looked decent enough. Riza had calmed down over the last few days, letting her grief go as she focused on the more important matters at hand. Roy had been there to support her, had been there to help her make the difficult decisions. He had made sure she ate, made sure she slept. Kept as close to her routine as they could.
“I’m sorry, Mr. Mustang, for having to rely on you to help me with the arrangements for my father’s funeral.”
“It was nothing. He was my mentor. I would do anything for him.” He paused, and she could feel him looking at her. “Do you have any other family?”
“My mother died a long time ago. Both my mother and father were estranged from their families. They never told me anything about relatives.”
“What will you do now?”
That was a question that plagued her. What would she do now? “I haven’t decided yet. Fortunately, my father made sure I received a good education, so I’m sure I’ll find some way to get by on my own.”
“Alright.” He reached into his pocket, pulling out a small piece of paper with an address. “But if you ever need any help, anything at all… Don’t hesitate to contact me at Military HQ.” She accepted it gratefully, but didn’t speak for a while. “I’ll probably be in the military for the rest of my life.”
“The rest of your life?” He nodded once, but it was short, and then they both turned their attention back to the grave. The plain lettering was underwhelming, but exactly the kind of thing Berthold Hawkeye would have wanted. He was not a man of extravagance.
“Let me guess, you also don’t approve of me becoming a soldier. Your father told me soldiers are left to die like trash on the side of the road. That may be but I know it’s the only way to make a difference, and I know I’ll never be happy if I don’t try to make this country a better place. That’s why I studied Alchemy. But in the end, your father didn’t teach me his secrets.” She stared at him as he made the bold declaration. He seemed to notice her attention and ducked his head, embarrassed. “Man, that must have sounded pretty childish, huh?”
She shook her head, smiling kindly at him. “Not at all. There’s nothing childish about caring.” She smiled, turning her attention back to the grave as she spoke again. “My father didn’t take his secrets to the grave. He told me that he hid them in a code indecipherable to the average Alchemist.”
“So he wrote down his secrets after all--”
“No.” She chuckled softly. “No on paper, anyways. He said he couldn’t risk the destruction of his life’s work, or risk it falling into the wrong hands.”
“I’d like to believe that you’re serious about this, that you really do care.” She paused and then spoke softly. “Can I trust you, Roy? With my father’s research?”
He gasped. She wasn’t looking at him, couldn’t take his piercing gaze. She needed to know if he was serious about it. If it wasn’t really his belief, then there was nothing she could do about it. She wouldn’t give it to someone who wasn’t worthy. Yet, despite her father’s distrust of Roy for joining the military, Riza knew better. He might have done some terrible things. He might be a murderer. And yet… And yet. He was a good man, someone worth fighting for, worth dying for. After all he had done for her in the last few weeks? How could she not trust him?
“Yes. You can.”
Riza Hawkeye and Roy Mustang travelled back to her childhood home. Things had changed between them.
A big shout-out to the lovely ladies of the Advanced Writing Workshop, who helped me polish this chapter when I wasn't satisfied with it! I hope you guys like the finished product. Feel free to leave a comment and let me know what you think!
Chapter 4: The Secrets to Flame Alchemy
After her Father's funeral, Riza offers the secrets of Flame Alchemy to Roy, but he does not react as Riza anticipated.
A huge shout-out to Pigeonfluff, my amazing Beta and supportive partner, for helping me make this chapter as wonderful as it is!
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
Southeastern Amestris, 1905
Riza was quiet when they arrived back at the house. They stood in the living room for a time, unable to proceed to the next step. She knew how tense she appeared, knew how it would look to Roy.
“We… We don’t have to do it tonight, Riza. If you’re not ready, if you need more time--”
“The sooner we start, the better. There’s… It’s a lot for you to take in.”
“Alright then. Lead the way, Riza.”
She took a few deep breaths, before walking toward the stairs. She could feel him behind her. The only sounds were the creak of the floorboards and their quiet breaths in the stale air. She inhaled deeply as she waited outside the door of her father’s study. The scent of old books filled her nostrils, accented by dust. There was no going back from this. Knowledge learned could not be unlearned, and this knowledge would bind him to her, forever.
He stood behind her as she pushed open the heavy door. Once inside, she paused, looking at him. He seemed to understand, and sat in the chairs against the wall, the ones they had often stayed in as students, learning from their master as he instructed them in the ways of science, mathematics, anything he so desired for them to learn. “Wait there for a moment?” she asked, her voice just barely above a whisper.
He nodded, taking a seat and crossing his legs at the knee. His eyes were piercing, waiting. Riza walked away from him, going to watch the sunset through the curtained window. If she didn’t look at him, she could do this. She was quiet. Slowly, she raised her hands to her chest, beginning to undo the few buttons holding her blazer closed. Her fingers trembled as she removed it from her shoulders, letting it fall with a soft whump to the floor.
“Riza, you don’t--”
“My father entrusted his research to me. It was my decision how it should be protected. This is my burden to bear, the only way we knew it could be protected from those who would use it for wrongdoing.” Her hands were still trembling as she began to reach for the buttons of her blouse. “Please don’t stop me. I’ll… Lose my nerve a-and won’t be able to continue.”
When he didn’t protest again, she continued to undo the buttons, her fingers stumbling over the simple task of threading them through their holes. Already, she knew he could see the top of it poking up from beneath the collar, the reddish ink a striking contrast to her pale skin. When at last the last button came free, she slipped the blouse off, letting it join her blazer. All that was left was her bra, and that was easy enough to dispose of, joining the ever-growing pile of fabric.
“This is my father’s research,” she said, her voice surprisingly steady. Her arms came up to cross in front of her chest, as if shielding herself from an unwanted gaze.
She felt the air in the room move, sensed him standing behind her. “He used you as a canvas?”
“I asked him to make me its guardian.”
A low growl moved through him, settling deep in Riza’s stomach. He was… angry? Not the reaction she had expected from him. It was her body, hers to do with as she pleased, wasn’t it? Why was he upset? Had he wanted a say in this? After he abandoned her?
“He used you, Riza. He played you like a fiddle, manipulated you. How could you think--”
“It’s my life, Mister Mustang. Please don’t make me regret this decision.” Her voice had sharpened, a glint of steel hiding behind an innocent veneer. As if sensing the warning, Roy Mustang backed away a step, taking in the whole of the array.
“Put your shirt back on, Riza.” She chanced a glance at him, brow furrowed at the way he was turned from her.
“I thought… Is this not what you wanted?”
“Tomorrow. I’ll… I’ll look at it tomorrow.”
Riza wanted to protest, but he was out of the room before she could find the words. The door slammed shut against the frame with a heavy finality. What had she done wrong?
She found him the next morning, passed out on the couch, a brown glass bottle in hand. Liquor. She sighed, slowly loosening his grip and taking the bottle away, hoping it would rouse him. He stayed right where he was, however, so Riza was left on her own. She started by cleaning the house, making sure everything was spotless. Everything… except her Father’s room. She couldn’t bring herself to go in there yet. When that was done, she began to cook, making a meal for herself, and some extra for Roy. After that, there was only one thing to do. She went to find one of her books, and lose herself in the fantasy.
He finally began to stir after noon. Riza had settled herself on her father’s favorite armchair, legs drawn up beneath her, book resting on her lap. She glanced up at his face, but didn’t speak.
“Riza…” His eyes were unfocused, his words muffled by the pain of sleep still. She nodded, but still didn’t speak. “What… Happened to me?”
“You… You were drinking. After the funeral. After… Well, it doesn’t matter.” She looked quickly back at her book. Perhaps that was a part of it, she realized. She was a girl, a young woman. Had he expected her to seek comfort in his arms, or perhaps his bed? Was he… disappointed in her?
He groaned, resting an arm over his face. “Damn your father. He’s a sick bastard, he is.”
“He was a good man. He… He raised me.”
“He used you, is what he did. Manipulated you, molded you until you were nothing but a snivelling coward, too afraid to speak up for yourself, too constrained by his arbitrary rules to give yourself any hope of a better life.”
“I… D-don’t speak to me that way,” she replied, biting her lip to keep the tears from her eyes.
“Am I wrong?” Her silence seemed to be the only answer he needed, and he chuckled. “I’m only sorry I didn’t take you with me when I had the chance.”
“I… My father was not a bad man, Roy Mustang. He was a brilliant Alchemist. His research was his pride in life. I… I was the one who asked him to use me. It was my idea--”
“Was it? Was it really? Did you even know what you were getting yourself into? God, Riza. Sometimes you’re such an immature child !”
She flinched at his tone, the harsh words reminding her far too much of the shouting matches her father had once had with his prized student. To have that anger directed at her stung. She pulled her legs closer, curling up on herself.
“Do you know what he told me? With his dying breaths?” She shook her head. “He told me to ‘take care’ of you. That you had his notes. I didn’t think this was what he meant.” He scoffed. “You were never a real person to him, Riza. You were a toy, a possession.”
“St-stop it…” she whimpered, tears beading in her eyes. She wouldn’t cry. Not now. Not here.
“You know it, too. The way he treated you. He used you. You weren’t his daughter. You were nothing to him.”
“D-don’t say that!” her voice was slowly increasing in pitch. Her father loved her. It wasn’t like that. Roy Mustang didn’t know anything.
“He used you. He used you and you didn’t do anything about it. You let him. He treated you like trash, and you followed his every order like a pathetic, weak-minded, child. You let him… You let him put that monstrosity on your back. If it had been anything else… Riza, your father was a monster.”
“D-don’t say that d-don’t say that…” she clenched her fists, her eyes watering. She was pathetic. Weak. Crying in front of this stupid boy, who said such mean things about her father. He wasn’t her friend. “P-please Roy… Tell me… Tell me what you want then? I-if I am just a weak ch-child… Wh-what am I supposed to do?”
“What do I want? Are you asking me to… fix this? Riza, do you not understand? You are a human being. A life. You have a say in things. And you’re honestly telling me it was your idea to put that… that thing on your back? No, he gave you the idea, waited for you to say it, but it was always his end result. And you can’t even figure out what to do with it.”
“Wh-what can I do? Y-you need the notes. You need his research. I’m the only one who has it. Please… Don’t… Don’t make me carry it alone.” She knew she was crying, knew she looked like a mess, like the child he seemed to see her as. “Is it… Is it that I didn’t come to you? After his death? That I… Haven’t…” She fidgeted with the hem of her shirt. The words were on the tip of her tongue, but she couldn’t speak. “Is it that you think I’m not good enough?”
When she glanced up, he was staring at her, his eyes wide in confusion. “Not good enough for what, Riza?”
“For… You… you obviously want something from me, something that isn’t my father’s research. So what is it?” She couldn’t look at him.
“God, Riza…” His voice was quiet now, calmer, but shaky. His brow furrowed, eyebrows raised in confusion or shock or some sick mix of the two. She felt even more naked in front of him now than she had before, as his eyes traced her body for the briefest seconds before he looked away, face red and eyes closed. “No I… You’re a kid. I wouldn’t… I couldn’t do that to you.”
“Th-then what? What is it you want?”
“I want you to think for yourself. Where’s the girl who didn’t want to let me borrow her books because she was afraid I’d ruin them? Where’s the girl who tried to run off and join the protests in South City even though her father threatened to ground her for such ‘disobedience and recklessness’? I want that Riza Hawkeye back. Not… Not this weeping mess in front of me.” He sat up, and stared at her.
“I… I still am Riza Hawkeye. I… J-just because things happened… I-it doesn’t change who I am as a person, Roy Mustang.”
He sighed. “I’m… I’m going out. I’ll be back later, and we can… Try this again.”
Riza didn’t protest as he stumbled toward the front door. He groaned as the light hit his eyes, but then he walked outside, leaving her alone in the house that reminded her too much of death.
She spent the afternoon in her father’s bedroom, finally bracing herself to face the mess he’d left her. She would have to sooner or later. Roy… Flame Alchemy… Her father’s legacy… The thoughts swirled in her head like the suds and grime in her washbucket. She lost track of the time she spent, not bothering to watch the sun move through the sky. The blood had soaked into the rug, making it a lost cause, but she could still try and get some of it up out of the floor boards. She was still scrubbing on her hands and knees when Roy finally came back, seemingly sobered up.
“I’m cleaning. It’s soothing. Or are you going to tell me I only think that way because of my father?” She couldn’t help the bitter edge of her tone, or the way her hands moved a bit more viciously over the floor.
“I wanted to say I’m sorry. I… I shouldn’t have said those things the way I did, especially not after you just lost him.”
“It’s… It’s already passed. It doesn’t matter anymore.”
He knelt down next to her, reaching out to stroke her hair, her shoulder. She flinched away from him, and she saw the hurt in his eyes.
“I’m sorry, Riza. I know… I know he was important to you. And I know that he thought you were important too.”
“He was all I had left. He was my family.” She couldn’t look at him. She didn’t want to think about the way he had treated her. Could she entrust him with her father’s research now, after their argument?
“I… I want you to believe me, Riza. I know it’s hard to think about this. But… I’d like to see your father’s notes again. But maybe this time, we can do it somewhere you’ll be more comfortable, somewhere I can have a bit more time to examine it, and maybe copy it down.”
“Your room, the couch downstairs… Anywhere you can lie down. I want you comfortable too. And if you’re comfortable, I can copy it all down and we don’t have to do this again.”
Riza was hesitant at first. “A-alright. M-my room then?”
He nodded. “Lead the way, and let me know when you’re ready for me to come in.”
The hallway seemed extra long as Riza walked to her room, like walking to an execution. Roy’s steps were measured, patient. She pushed the door of her room open, slipping inside and disrobing once again. She laid face down on her bed, tilting her head so she could call Roy into the room.
He entered it slowly, moving with a measured grace. His breathing was even, and it soothed Riza’s nervous heartbeat. She relaxed into her bed, closing her eyes.
“Can I touch it, Riza?”
“Y-yes…” Her answer was breathy, nervous and desperate.
“Just relax. I promise I won’t do anything. I just want to get a good look at it. I promise. Do you trust me, Riza? If you don’t, we can stop right now. I want you comfortable.”
“I-I trust you. I’m fine. Please…”
“Alright.” He stepped back from her bed, and she looked up, curious. He pulled the chair from her desk up to her bed, then sat down, and pulled out a sketchbook. “Just relax,” he murmured softly. “I’ll go as fast as I can, and you’ll never have to do this again, alright?”
Riza nodded, letting her eyes fall shut. She had nothing to do but wait now, and she was all too good at being patient. The sound of a pencil scratching on paper reached her ears, pulling her back to a simpler time, when she had been allowed to sit in her father’s study all day and listen to him work on his research, his papers. Even the gentle touch of Roy Mustang’s fingers on her back didn’t startle her. She let it relax her more, the feeling of his fingers slowly tracing the designs that were painted there. Occasionally, he would mutter something to himself, but Riza could barely hear him. Her eyes drooped, her breathing evened out, and she fell asleep.
She dreamed of her parents, and of the happier days of her childhood.
Her room was quiet when she woke. Her back was covered by her heaviest blanket, and her head rested on her pillow. The chair had been returned to its place by the desk. Her room was empty, the light from her windows pitch black. It was night. Roy had gone off. She slowly stretched, and redressed, before going to find him.
He was in the kitchen, working on making a late dinner. She stood hesitantly by the door, waiting for him to acknowledge her. She didn’t want to startle him. He seemed lost in thought. She knew it was hard to take in. She had… It was her decision, her duty, to take her father’s notes onto her person. Why couldn’t Roy understand that? He had a duty to his family, he should understand better than anyone.
“Are you just going to lurk in the hallway all evening?”
She started. “I… You looked like you didn’t want to be disturbed.”
“You aren’t a disturbance, Riza,” his voice was softer now.
“I… Will you… Need to see Father’s research again?”
“No, I have what I need. I can figure it out from what I copied down.”
“A-alright.” She fidgeted in the doorway. This was new territory, something unexplored. In some strange way, it felt almost like one of her books, a fantasy come to life. She wasn’t sure she liked it. Riza felt different, not like the heroines of her stories. She was… Confused. When she had shared the research, it had been oddly intimate. He had seen parts of her that no one else had. And yet he was acting like nothing had happened.
“Thank you, for trusting me.”
“Of course. You’re… My friend.”
“I… I’ll be leaving soon, going back to Central to get my State Alchemist License. You could… You could come with me.”
“I… I need to stay here. There are still things I need to settle, and I… Can’t leave yet.”
He nodded solemnly. “Alright. You… You can contact me, right? You still have the card?”
“Alright. Then… Let’s eat.”
They ate quietly, neither one speaking, neither one looking at the other. The whole world felt different now. One way or another, they were committed to this pact now.
No matter what had happened, their fates were entwined.
Thanks again for reading! I hope you all enjoyed this chapter. Feel free to let me know what you think in the comments!
Chapter 5: New Life Choices
Riza choses her path after her Father's death, and makes a new friend.
Amestris Military Academy, 1906
It took a few months for Riza to settle her father’s affairs, but after that, it had just taken covering the furniture of Hawkeye Manor, and finding someone to look after it while she was away. The cart ride from sleepy Tobha to Meox went quickly, and East City was only a short train ride away. This was it, the beginning of a new adventure.
Stepping off the train in East City was overwhelming. She was immediately swept up in in the bustle of the city. She had never seen this many people before, not even during town festivals. She let the crowd pull her out of the station into East City proper.
It was huge. She shouldered her bag a little higher on her back as she continued through the streets, headed for East City Command. Technically, she was still a minor, and she required explicit permission from the General in charge of the East City Academy Campus. She marched up the stairs of the imposing building, determination lining her face.
“I’m here to see Brigadier General Fessler,” she said, once she’d reached the receptionist’s desk. She tried to stand proud, though she could feel her nerves finally getting the better of her.
“Do you have an appointment, Miss?”
“It should be under Hawkeye. Riza Hawkeye. I’m here to enroll in the academy.”
“Ah yes, Hawkeye.” The receptionist thumbed through a few files, and then gestured for Riza to follow her.
The General’s office was fairly plain, generic adornments decorating the wall. Riza was quiet as she stood, waiting. He was on the phone with someone. When he finally finished, he looked up.
“And who are you?”
“Riza Hawkeye, Sir. I’ve come to enroll in the Academy.”
“Get out of my office.”
Riza blinked a few times. “I’m… Sorry, Sir?”
“I said get out of my office. A girl like you won’t last two weeks in the Academy, and I won’t have your name as a disgrace on my record. Do you understand?”
“Sir, with all due respect--”
“No. That’s the end of it.”
Riza’s hand clenched into a fist. She was not going to be looked down upon for being a woman, and she wasn’t going to let him get in her way. “Sir. All I need is for you to sign the damn form.”
“I said get out. There’s nothing to be done. I won’t allow a weak little girl like you to join the academy.”
“I’m not a weak little girl. I can do this. I can fight. I promise. Just give me a chance to show you what I can do and --”
“I already said no! No pretty words will change my mind. My decision is final.” The Brigadier General gave her a look, his eyes cold and calculating. “Unless…”
Riza could feel the light come back into her eyes. “Unless?”
His gaze shifted, and he wasn't looking her in the eyes anymore. The atmosphere of the room shifted, into something… hungrier. She thought she knew what he was talking about, and she didn’t like the sound of it one bit.
“I can make you a deal. I do something for you. You do something for me.”
“I don’t understand, Sir.”
“Well… You want to enroll in the Academy. A pretty girl like you? If you don’t drop out, those boys will make you quit. Might as well just get used to it.” Brigadier General Fessler stood up, and walked around the desk, moving so he was standing right in front of Riza. He was only a few inches taller than her, but he loomed with an intense aura. “Those boys will be all over you. Give up now, or show me you can handle it.” He reached out for her hand.
It only took a moment for Riza’s fist to shoot out and catch him square in the stomach. Fessler took a few steps back, doubling over and groaning. “I’m not afraid of any boys, Sir. Or men for that matter. Now will you sign my admissions form?”
He growled lowly, eyes narrowing. And then a look of realization shot through him. “Hawkeye? Is that what you said your name was?”
He nodded slowly. “Alright then. I’ll sign your paper.”
Riza couldn’t help the slight smile that spread across her lips. Finally, she was moving on with her life. She had a goal and a plan. She would make a career for herself, impress everyone. Then no one would ever talk down to her again.
At seventeen years of age, Riza Hawkeye joined the Military.
Riza found Academy life harder than she expected. It wasn’t the lack of sleep she was getting. When her father had been in his last few months, she had gotten four hours of sleep on a good night. It wasn’t the difficulty of the course materials. All of the books she had read growing up had prepared her for any academic challenges she faced, from science, to math, to history. It wasn’t even the glances and wolf-whistles from the boys around the campus. They were just people, and Riza had more important things to focus on than boys and petty relationships.
No, the hardest part of Academy life was the praise and acclaim her professors gave her for her insightful answers. Riza had never been in a real school setting before, her father deeming them unsafe and not “a good influence on my daughter.” She had never had a teacher praise her for an answer. Her father had only ever nodded and moved on. It also seemed to make her fellow students eye her warily, with distrust. She wasn’t trying to be a suck-up, she was just trying to do well.
It also didn’t help that she was one of a handful of women in her class. The rest of the girls were too busy trying to get the boys to notice them. They met Riza with instant dislike, given that she was “different” and “not like us.” Riza tried not to let it get to her, but it was hard, having no one at all to rely on. For a brief moment, she thought about leaving the Academy, but it had taken so much for her to get there, that she couldn’t bear the thought of leaving. Not really.
She sat quietly eating her lunch in the mess hall, longing for the taste of fresh-made stew, the meat coming from the butcher shop, the vegetables from the garden, and Roy and her father sitting at the table with her, arguing about Alchemy. Those happy days of her childhood were far gone now. Instead, she poked at her piece of spinach quiche, and stared morosely at the rest of the food. With no real attention paid to her meal, she had taken a plate of rolls, a bowl of broth, and a glass of milk.
“So you’re Riza Hawkeye, right?”
Riza looked up at the voice hovering near her ear. Curly black hair framed an oval face. “I’m… Sorry?”
“You’re Riza “the Hawk’s Eye” Hawkeye, right? The one with the highest marksmanship scores in our year?”
“I… I’m Riza Hawkeye, yes.”
“Hi! I’m Rebecca Catalina! We’re in the same year, and I could really use some pointers on shooting well. You seem like the kinda gal who can teach me. So? What do ya say?”
“I… I’m hardly a good teacher. My father is the one who taught me, and I’ve never taught anyone else.”
“Who cares if you’ve never taught anyone else? There’s a first time for everything, right? C’mon Riri… Please?”
“It’s your nickname! I just thought of it. Cute right?”
“I… I’ve never had a nickname before.”
“Well, now you do. Do you like it?”
Riza had to pause and consider. She’d never had a nickname, only ever had one friend, and he had never tried to give her a nickname. “I… Think I do.”
“Great! Then let’s meet after classes are done for the day and you can teach me everything you know!”
Riza smiled. “S-sure! Um… You can sit with me if you want?”
“Alright then!” Rebecca set her tray down and sat right next to Riza. “So, where are you from?”
“Your hometown? Where did you grow up?” Rebecca held her fork up to her lips, inquisitive.
“I… I grew up in a little city near the border between the South and the East. You probably haven’t heard of it.”
“Try me. Geography was my best subject in school.”
“Oh really? Why’d you choose the Eastern Campus then? Wouldn’t South be closer?”
“Actually, this one is closer. And… I was hoping I would see someone while I was here, but he’s… He must be at a different campus.”
“Oh~? You’ve got a boyfriend, Riza?” Rebecca was smirking, a knowing look in her eye.
“N-no! It’s n-nothing like that!”
“Then what is it like?”
“He’s just an old friend! He doesn’t even like me like that! A-and I was hoping to see him here because he was going to become a State Alchemist, last we talked.”
Rebecca let out a low whistle. “Damn, Riza. A State Alchemist? Why’d you even join up if you’ve got someone like him to wait for? Do you know how much those bastards make in a year?”
“He isn’t doing it for the money, and we’re just friends.”
“Suuuuure you are.”
“Do you want me to help you, Rebecca?”
“Yes, I do! I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to make you upset. Please, Riri?”
Riza chuckled. “Alright. You’re forgiven. I’ll help you.”
Dinner had just ended when Riza and Rebecca met at the firing range. Rebecca was bouncing excitedly, and Riza couldn’t help her chuckle. “It’s not that difficult to shoot, Rebecca.”
“I know, but you’re so much better than I am… It’s not fair! How are you so good?”
“Years of practice,” Riza replied, her voice softening. She thought back to childhood days with her Father, before her mother’s death, to peaceful afternoons spent slinging small rocks at the rabbits and sparrows.
“Well, some of us don’t have years of practice, and need to get better at aiming a gun. Will you help me Riza? Pleeeeease?”
“I’m here, aren’t I?” Riza moved to set up her rifle. “Show me what you shoot like, and we’ll go from there, alright?”
Rebecca mirrored Riza’s set up, and for a while, the two would fire at the targets. When Rebecca was shooting, Riza would offer advice, correcting Rebecca’s form and angle. When Riza shot, Rebecca sat there watching excitedly, eagerly taking in the way Riza moved.
By the time the last rays of sunlight had disappeared, Rebecca was beaming. “Thank you so much, Riri! I learned a lot even from just this. Can we do this again sometime?”
“S-sure,” Riza muttered. “Whenever you want to.”
“Great! Also, we should hang out sometime.”
“Yeah. We can study together, or maybe go into town some weekend. It’d be fun! After all, we’re friends now. That’s what friends do.”
Riza smiled. “I guess so.”
It was strange, going from no one to having a friend. Riza and Rebecca ate together nearly every meal, even if Riza was the one responsible for making sure Rebecca actually ate her breakfast, and vegetables at lunch and dinner. They spent most of their free time together, studying and talking about their lives outside of the Academy. It took a few months for them to decide to take advantage of the weekend trips into town, escaping the rigors of military life for a few days. It had been a while since Riza had taken some time for herself, and Rebecca was so excited to go out, that Riza couldn’t resist.
East City was still a bustling hub, just as Riza remembered it from many months ago. She and Rebecca had dressed in plain clothes. Riza was wearing her favorite skirt, long and grey-blue. It felt strange, to have a day where she wasn’t constantly having to do what the instructors said. She felt completely free. Rebecca was her usual bubbly self, guiding Riza through town.
“You seem to know it well.”
“I grew up here, after all.”
“You grew up here?” Rebecca nodded, and Riza’s brow furrowed. “Then why join the military if you live here?”
“I want to prove to myself that I can do it, and I wanted to show my parents that I had something worthwhile I can do.”
“That’s the only reason?”
“I mean, there’s a couple other things that interest me.”
“Well… I wouldn’t mind finding a cute boy while I’m here!”
Riza sighed. Of course Rebecca would be focused on that. Still, Riza smiled at her friend as they walked through the busy streets. Riza couldn’t help the bright smile on her cheeks as they browsed the stores. She stopped outside the bookstore, looking at the shiny, crisp covers. For a moment, she was thrown back to earlier days, when Roy had come back from his visits to Central, bringing her new adventures with each journey.
She couldn’t help it. She stepped inside, letting the smell of pages and leather fill her. The soft chime of the bell alerted the shopkeep to her presence, but he simply smiled and nodded at her. Riza smiled back, and began to browse the stacks, looking for something she could bring back with her. Her fingers ran along the spines, taking in the titles. It felt like only minutes that she was in there, but suddenly Rebecca was inside the shop, eyes full of panic.
“Riza! There you are! I’ve been looking all over for you.” Rebecca had her hands on her hips, staring at Riza like a disapproving mother. Riza smiled softly, settling on a few books and walking to the counter.
“I’m sorry, Rebecca. I… I got distracted.” She handed the bookseller some money, and got her change, leaving the store with three small novels.
“You like books that much?” Rebecca asked as they stepped back out into the street.
“Books are special. I… My friend used to bring them back for me when he would visit home. These are ones I’ve been meaning to read for a while. So forgive me for spending my money on something that makes me happy.”
“It’s not that, Riri. I just… You know there’s a library at campus, right?”
“It doesn’t have anything fun though. These are… pleasure reading.”
Rebecca rolled her eyes and continued to drag Riza through the streets. It was still early afternoon, and they already had a room at one of the local hotels. As they walked, Riza noticed the changes in the city, solid red brick buildings turning into ones of chipped stone. People walked a little faster down these streets, their coat collars turned up, their eyes focused firmly on the unmaintained cobblestones. Riza raised an eyebrow, but she followed Rebecca, trusting her friend not to lead her astray. Eventually, they stopped outside a small building. There were no identifying marks.
“Where are we?”
“I thought we needed to do something special.”
“That doesn’t answer my question.”
“It’s… Well… If I told you, you wouldn’t wanna do it!”
“Do what? Rebecca, what are you planning?”
Riza’s self-proclaimed best friend glanced at the door. “I thought… It’s still within regulation… I thought maybe we could… Get our ears pierced together. A show of sisterhood, ya know?”
“You can’t be serious.”
“Look, I did some asking around. This place is totally legitimate. They’ll do a great job.”
“Rebecca, this isn’t some kind of decision you can just make in the spur of the moment!” Riza sighed, exasperated. She trusted Rebecca, yes, but this was too much. Her friend couldn’t possibly believe she was going to do this.
“But… Please, Riri?” Riza swore internally. There was no way anyone’s eyes had any business being that wide. Rebecca turned her head down, and glanced up at Riza through her lashes. Riza sighed again.
“Fine. We can do this. But no more crazy adventures without talking about it first, alright?”
“Yay! Oh, Riza, you’re the best friend I’ve ever had!”
They walked back to the hotel arm in arm. Riza kept wanting to fiddle with the new weights in her ears. It felt strange, foreign. She hadn’t ever pictured herself as being the kind of woman to indulge in such frivolities. Her mother had hardly ever worn jewelry. But at the same time, it was a nice reminder. She had a friend now. Someone who would stand up for her, and have her back. Riza smiled softly.
Maybe things were finally starting to look up for her.
Let me know what you think in the comments!
Chapter 6: Field Assignments
Riza Hawkeye receives her field assignment where she will finish her time at the Academy.
Eastern Amestris Military Academy, 1907
Every day, the Military Academy seemed to be buzzing with news about the Ishvallan Conflict. Riza did her best to ignore it. Word was, Fuhrer Bradley was thinking of sending in the State Alchemists to finish the terrible fighting. By the time Riza graduated, there probably wouldn’t even be a war going on. Still, it set a somber mood for the students who were working hard to learn tactics and strategies, going through physical training, and working to specialize their skill sets.
Riza had distinguished herself as the best marksman the Academy had seen in many years. She was focused, never missing a single target presented to her. Her instructors were all impressed by her skills, and she won plenty of awards during her time. With her reputation as “The Hawk’s Eye,” and Rebecca’s help, she quickly made friends. Things really were looking up. She could barely remember a time when she had been as happy as this.
Still, Riza couldn’t shake the feeling that something wasn’t quite right. Every day, the little card she had received nearly two years ago from Roy Mustang taunted her. She thought about contacting him, knowing that even if he was in the field somewhere, her letters would still probably end up with him. Yet no matter how much she wanted to send him a letter, just to see, she could never bring herself to do it. It was for the best, she had decided, to simply forget that part of her life. Roy Mustang was gone. She would probably never see him again. He had the secrets of Flame Alchemy, and that was all he needed. What good was a girl from a small town when he was a State Alchemist, and a talented one at that? She would only hold him back.
She threw herself into her studies, distinguishing herself among her peers. She knew that her work impressed her instructors. She received high marks and verbal praise nearly constantly. She was even given the option to help teach a shooting class, though she declined the offer, claiming a need to continue focusing on her studies.
In her spare time, she continued to read any books she could get her hands on. Many of the library’s offerings were updated versions of books she had read as a child, studying under her Father’s tutelage. She memorized each and every fact presented to her. Yes, things were looking up for her.
“Brigadier General Grumman, so nice to see you again.”
“It’s good to be here, Fessler. Show me around the campus?”
Riza Hawkeye didn’t understand why she had been summoned to meet with the visiting General from Central. But the call had come late last night, and that morning, instead of reporting to her class, she had gone to the entry hall of the school, to be greeted by Brigadier General Fessler and someone she didn’t recognize.
“Yes, it’s been a while since I’ve been here,” the older General said as they walked through the buildings. “I remember attending classes here.”
Fessler laughed, and Riza’s eye twitched the tiniest bit. Neither of them had made any mention of her, neither had spoken to her. She didn’t understand why she had been invited to this “visit” if she was going to be essentially invisible. Still, she followed obediently as they continued out onto the training field. A group of young cadets were busy running laps. Riza watched for a moment as they struggled. They didn’t even have packs on yet. She chuckled softly. They didn’t know how easy they had it.
“Now tell me, Fessler. Who is this lovely young lady accompanying us?” The stranger, Grumman, turned his attention to her.
“This is Cadet Hawkeye, Sir. She’s the best sniper in the history of the Eastern Campus, possibly in the whole Academy. And she’s not too shabby in other departments.”
“Hawkeye?” He turned to look at her. Riza saluted.
“My daughter knew someone with that name once. Shame. He seemed like a good man.” The General stared at Riza for a few moments longer, and then turned back to Fessler. Riza let out a breath she hadn’t realized she’d been holding, and continued to follow the two as they wandered and talked. She still didn’t understand her purpose in this meeting, but she was there nonetheless.
They made their way to the dining hall as the day wore on. Riza watched as the two Generals selected their own food. Fessler officially dismissed her, and Riza went to go find Rebecca eagerly.
“Where’ve you been?” Rebecca asked, eyes full of concern. “It’s not like you to miss class, but none of the teachers said anything. I was worried about you!”
“I… Brigadier General Fessler asked me to accompany him with his guest. I think they said Brigadier General Grumman?”
“Wow,” Rebecca murmured. “Grumman’s from Central. I wonder what he’s doing here?”
Rebecca nodded, waving her fork around. “Fessler probably had you walk around with him because you’re the top of our class.”
“That’s not it. They didn’t even talk to me.”
“Even just bringing you around was some kind of publicity thing. I heard that the Eastern Academy isn’t doing that well, and so having someone like you to bring up our standing doesn’t hurt too much.”
“Someone like me?”
“Well…” Rebecca chewed a mouthful of salad thoughtfully. “You’re one of the most talented shooters to ever come out of our campus, and you’re a girl to boot. It just shows that we’re doing great.”
Riza chuckled. “That’s ridiculous. I’m not even that talented.”
“You taught me to shoot.”
“I taught you to aim, not to shoot.”
“Still. You turned down the chance to teach a class. While you’re still enrolled.”
“I need to focus on studying. And… They’re doing field assignments soon.”
“We’re not gonna end up anywhere exciting,” Rebecca replied. “Betcha anything we’ll get sent up to Fort Briggs.”
“That’s ridiculous. Nothing happens at Briggs. My money’s on the Southern Border. With Aerugo?”
Rebecca began to laugh again. “It’s almost like you want to fight, Riri.”
“I… I want to do something to make the country a better place. If I can do that, then it won’t feel like this was a waste of time. And… Then, once I’ve got things settled, once I’ve proved myself… I’ll go back to Tobha and help my town get better.” Roy’s idealism had certainly rubbed off on her. Riza turned her attention to her lunch.
Field assignments. Part of the last thing any cadet did during their time at the Academy. It was a way to demonstrate their practical skills. Riza knew that some of the cadets she was in classes with were going to end up in Ishval, fighting in the worst conflict Amestris had ever seen. Compared to that, anywhere else would be heaven.
There was silence between the two girls. Riza poked at her food, a sudden fear settling in her gut. Right now, Roy Mustang was probably shipping out to Ishval, going to fight and protect the Amestrian people from the violent extremists. She knew most Ishvallans weren’t violent, and that they just wanted a peaceful relationship with Amestris. Riza hoped that would happen before the worst of it happened.
“Cadet Hawkeye. Come with us.”
Riza looked up. The two Generals were looming over the table she and Rebecca were eating at. Riza swallowed hesitantly, and then rose, following the two of them back out through the campus. She continued to listen to them both talk about the way the students were progressing. There was no real reason for her to be there, but she didn’t ask to be excused. She had to make a good impression.
Finally, as the sun began to set, Riza was officially dismissed. She wandered back to the dorms, yawning. She was exhausted despite doing nothing but following the Generals around all day. Rebecca was waiting up for her.
“So tell me about it?”
“Tell you what?”
“You were out with the Generals all day! What did they talk about?”
“Nothing really. The campus. I guess Brigadier General Grumman attended school here. They talked about old school records.”
“Did they mention field assignments at all?”
“No. And even if they had, I wouldn’t tell you that.”
“They didn’t say anything. Grumman kept giving me weird looks all day though.” Riza shrugged. “I guess they didn’t expect a girl to be the best marksman in the history of the campus.”
“Probable. I don’t think it has anything to do with anything. It was just that I was a special show-off thing.”
“Still. They didn’t say anything at all? Not even hints?”
“No, Rebecca. I’m tired. I had to follow them around all day. Did I miss anything important in class?”
“Hardly. You’re already lengths ahead of where the teachers all expect us to be. You could probably miss the whole week and nothing bad would happen.”
“My perfect attendance record would be ruined.”
“Of course. Perfect Riza Hawkeye. That’s probably the real reason Fessler pulled you out.”
Riza shrugged, laying back on her bed. She stared up. “Grumman did say something weird though. It’s… It’s probably nothing but…”
“What’d he say!?”
“He… Fessler told him my name, and he… He said his daughter knew someone with that name. But… I don’t have any other relatives. So, the only other Hawkeye is my father, but he’s dead. You don’t think that’s who the General was talking about do you?”
Rebecca stared at Riza for a moment. “No, I don’t think so.”
Riza nodded, but she didn’t feel reassured at all. “I think I’m gonna turn in early.”
“Alright. G’night, Riri. Sleep well.”
"Mommy? Mommy, where are you?" Riza asked softly. She held the basket of eggs carefully as she stepped over the doorway. "The chickens were so squirmy today!" Riza's bright eyes closed in on her mother, laying at the foot of the stair. "Mommy?" Riza asked softly. "That's a silly place for a nap, Mommy..." She moved closer, sitting down, only to realize that her mommy wasn't waking up.
"Mommy...?" Riza asked softly, staring at her mother's blond hair -- Riza's blond hair -- and her mother's glossy brown eyes -- Riza's brown eyes -- and then she began to cry.
It must have alerted her father, because suddenly Riza was cradled in his arms, holding her close to his chest, shielding her from the horror already burned into her eyes.
She jolted awake, eyes wide and heart racing. The light of the moon was creeping in through the window. It was the middle of the night, and Riza knew she should try to go back to sleep. She was hesitant to do so though. She couldn’t bear the thought of seeing her mother like that again, all broken and still. She curled up, bringing her knees to her chest, trying to soothe herself into sleep again, though she wasn’t sure she would succeed.
She had seen death before. Illness had ravaged the Amestrian countryside in her childhood. Yet, her mother hadn’t succumbed to sickness. It had been a freak accident. She had slipped and fallen down the stairs. Riza had been out with the chickens when it had happened. It hadn’t been her fault at all. She was blameless in her mother’s death. So why? Why did it still haunt her memories more than ten years later?
Her father hadn’t blamed her either. His eyes were still vibrant with life, with attention, even as he tried to protect her. It was the last day she could remember seeing him like that. She could feel tears in her eyes, the same tears she had cried that day.
She glanced over at Rebecca, her friend still blissfully asleep. How nice it must be, to not be plagued by the horrifying memories of long ago. How nice, to be able to sleep through the night. Riza settled her head down on her pillow, pulled her blanket a little tighter.
For not the first time in her life, she imagined strong arms encircling her, a soft voice, his voice, murmuring in her ear, reassuring her with his confidence and kindness. The way he had when they were children, when he had been her father’s student and she had felt left out from the learning.
Mercifully, sleep came to her.
The next day, everyone was buzzing at breakfast. This was the day. Field assignments would be announced in just a few hours. Afternoon classes had been cancelled for the upperclassmen, and there was a mandatory assembly for them after lunch.
Riza ate her breakfast slowly, savoring each bite of pancakes and fresh fruit that passed her lips. She drank her milk slowly, letting it cleanse her palate. She could feel the nerves beginning to build in her chest. Field assignments.
“Oooh, aren’t you so excited, Riri?!” Rebecca was actually awake for once. Riza attributed it to the good night’s sleep her friend had gotten. It was not the first time Riza Hawkeye had wished for a strong cup of decent coffee. The stuff they served here was barely a step above water. She took a deep breath to steady her hands.
“It’s not a big deal,” she said, with careful nonchalance. “It’s just field assignments and they’re only supposed to last for a few months. There’s no reason to think we’ll get anything good. Even if we’re competent, we’re still women. They don’t like women in the Military.”
Riza thought back to her first meeting with Fessler. “People.”
“Well. That’s stupid. We’re just as good as men. Why would people dislike us?”
Riza chuckled. “Because some people have backwards notions of the way the world is supposed to work.”
Rebecca smiled, setting a hand on Riza’s. “No matter what happens, promise we’ll still be friends?”
“Why wouldn’t we be?”
“Well, you might get sent off to the South, and I might get sent North, and what then? We’ll like, never see each other! And we’ll only be able to communicate through letters and those will take for-ev-er to get back and forth!”
“Rebecca. We’ll still be friends. I promise.”
“Good.” Rebecca was still grinning. “I’m so glad you decided to help me, Riri.”
“I’m glad too.”
The assembly with the Generals was nothing special. They gave a generic speech about how great it was for all of these young soldiers to be willing to die for their country. They offered platitudes, reassuring the cadets that should they fall in combat, their sacrifice would not be in vain. Riza found it rang incredibly false. She had chosen, for once, to sit in the back of the auditorium. She had little interest in the mandatory meeting, and wanted simply to know where she would be sent off to in a few weeks.
“In conclusion, you are all heroes of the Amestrian Military. We salute you brave souls, and wish only the best for your futures.” Fessler sat down, a clear dismissal. The rest of the students rushed from the hall, but Riza waited. What need did she have to push through a line of people when the papers would still be there in a half hour?
She sighed, staring at her lap. Field assignments. She didn’t relish her field assignment. No matter where she ended up, she knew what they would have her do. She was too skilled a sniper to be placed anywhere else. And snipers killed people. They were the first line of defense. Riza wasn’t sure she could take the lives of the innocent, even if she was ordered to do so.
“Anywhere but Ishval,” she breathed, feeling her heart in her throat. The crowd had thinned, and the clamor in the hall had died down. Riza Hawkeye rose, and walked slowly toward her destiny.
The walls outside the auditorium were plastered with papers, all of them containing the names and assignments of the students. Riza wandered slowly, looking for one that hadn’t been completely obscured by people scrambling to find their name.
Down at the end of the hall, she found one. She scanned the list, looking first through those assigned to the Western and Southern Borders. When her name didn’t show up on the list of those heading to Creta or Aerugo, she turned to those heading North. She smiled when she saw Rebecca’s name. She had been sent to Fort Briggs for a stay under the infamous General Armstrong. Still Riza did not see her name.
Finally, she turned to the list of those being sent to Ishval. She scanned through, praying she wouldn’t see her name. That a mistake had been made, and she was supposed to be heading to Fort Briggs with Rebecca.
Cadet Riza Hawkeye - 27th Infantry Battalion, Ishval Region.
I'd love to hear your thoughts in the comments! Also I'll be taking a break for the next week or two, in order to focus on my works for Royai Week on Tumblr!
Chapter 7: The Sands of Ishval
Riza arrives in Ishval, and makes some new friends!
Ishval Region, Eastern Amestris, 1908
Riza Hawkeye was not prepared for the heat. She had heard it was hot, that the desert sands of Ishval were dangerous. She had heard of the way the heat got into your brain. Any soldier without a canteen was a dead man walking. She pulled the loose-weight sun shield blanket over her head, hoping that she could fight off the sun long enough to stay with the group of excited and hopeful young men and reach the camp.
She knew, realistically, that there wouldn’t be much she had to do here in Ishval. She would be staying mostly by the camp, watching the perimeters. She would do very little in the actual field, but it still counted. She sighed, keeping in step and looking out over the landscape.
In some ways, Ishval was beautiful. The soft yellows and red of the sands provided a fantastic contrast to the brilliant blue of the sky. As far away from the camp as they were, you couldn’t even hear the sounds of the fighting. Instead, it was just a warm day in a beautiful location.
As they approached the camp, Riza could feel her strides beginning to slow. She didn’t want to be here. She didn’t want to kill. She wished again that she could have been up at Fort Briggs with Rebecca. Defending the border from Drachma seemed far more reasonable than attempting to murder Amestrian Citizens. People seemed to forget that fact, but since the Amestrian Annexation, Ishval was considered part of the commonwealth, and these people were citizens. To murder your own people was just… Insane.
Finally, they made their way into the hastily organized white canvas tents. She waited in the back as people filed in, military leaders moving to stand at the front. Riza stood at attention like a good little soldier. The speech made was just noise to her. She ignored all of it. She wanted to get it over with. She was tired. The air seemed heavier now, the war more real. She didn’t want to fight. She didn’t want to kill. She wanted… What did she want?
It didn’t matter.
“Cadet Hawkeye!” Riza snapped to attention, coming face-to-face with a smiling, green-eyed man. “Captain Hughes. Come with me.”
Riza followed him out of the tent. He strolled leisurely through the camp, hands stuffed into the pockets of his uniform pants. Riza hurried to keep up with him, afraid of losing herself in the unfamiliar territory.
“So how’s Academy life treating you?” Captain Hughes asked as they walked.
“Fine, Sir. I… Enjoy it well enough.” It was best to be noncommittal when speaking to a superior officer, Riza decided. There was no reason for him to take a disliking to her. If this Captain Hughes was to be her commanding officer, she would do everything in her power to make their relationship as pleasant as possible.
“Oh c’mon, Hawkeye. I’ve heard about you. You’re the best marksman the academy’s ever turned out. I’m a little jealous of you,” he smiled. Riza blinked. “Your record, I mean. It’s damn impressive.” They stopped outside of a tent.
“Thank you, Sir. I’m… glad my reputation precedes me.”
Captain Hughes nodded. “Well, I know this is your first time in combat, so I wanted to give you a little bit of help.” He guided her inside the tent. “This is Corporal Peterson. He’s a sniper just like you. I thought you’d like someone who can show you the ropes.”
Riza held her hand out, and Peterson shook it eagerly. “It’s Billy, please.”
“Y-yes, Sir,” Riza replied.
“Great! I’ll leave you two to get acquainted, and you can take night watch tonight. Get some rest, Hawkeye. You’ll need it.”
Riza saluted as Hughes left. She was standing in the tent with Peterson.
“So, how’re you liking Ishval? Did you just arrive?”
Riza nodded. “It wasn’t a fun march, but we’re all alive, and here. Is… The fighting is mostly done, right?”
Peterson shrugged. “It comes and goes, but since the Alchemists arrived, it’s been pretty… Well, we don’t have a lot to do.”
Riza nodded. “I… I was hoping I wouldn’t end up here, to be honest. My friend’s up north, and I was hoping I’d be up there with her. It’s… She was one of the first people I became friends with after joining the academy.”
“Well, I’m sorry you ended up here. But it’s not…” William trailed off. “I won’t lie to you. It’s hard. Taking lives… It doesn’t get easier. But… You’ve got a family back home, right?”
Riza shook her head. “My father passed a few years ago, and my mother died when I was eight. I’m an only child.”
“No I… I wasn’t the most popular girl back home, and I’m not very interested in dating to begin with.”
“Well… I’m sure you’ll find someone after… After all the fighting stops. You seem like a good kid.”
Riza shrugged. “It’s not a big deal to me. I’m… I’m happy by myself.” She looked at the floor. “Permission to… Find my bunk, Sir?”
“You don’t have to be so formal, Hawkeye. But yeah, you should get some rest. I’ll come find you before our watch starts.”
Riza saluted, and then left the tent. She didn’t know how long she would be here, but she wouldn’t let it stop her. She would survive. She would be strong, and when the war ended, she would emerge, and go back to her quiet, peaceful life in Tobha.
The desert was surprisingly cold once the sun set. Riza pulled her cloak a little tighter, trying to stave off the chill of the night wind. They had a small light, nothing that would give away their position, but also nothing that would help fend off the cold. She rubbed her hands together, hoping to create a little warmth.
“Yeah, it gets pretty cold,” Billy murmured. “If you don’t think about it, it’s not too bad.”
“Easy for you to say,” Riza muttered. She wasn’t used to cold.
“Well… I’d say think about your guy back home, but you don’t… have one.”
She nodded. “I… What about you? Do you have someone waiting for you?”
He chuckled awkwardly. “Yeah, I do. She’s a real swell gal, my Melanie. We’ve been sweet on each other for a long time… And we got married right before I shipped out.” He reached into his pocket, pulling out a folded, well-worn photo. Riza moved a little closer. Melanie Peterson was absolutely lovely. She had a beautiful smile, and kind eyes. They were holding on to each other, and gazing at each other with love.
“She’s lovely. I’m… You two look very happy.”
“We are! She wrote me last week… And well… When I get back, well, hopefully before then… We’re gonna have a baby.”
“Oh wow! That’s wonderful!” Riza was smiling now. “I hope we all get to go home soon.”
“You’re telling me,” Billy laughed again. “If you want to get a little more rest… I know the march in is exhausting.”
“No I’m fine. I… Don’t sleep well anyways,” Riza replied. “I… Truth be told, there’s… Someone I want to protect, even though he doesn’t need me to.” She smiled softly. “I… Honestly, I don’t know where he is right now. I know… I know he became a State Alchemist, so… it’s quite possible he’s here somewhere. But… I don’t know if I’ll see him.”
“Oh, a State Alchemist? He’s probably here somewhere. There are an awful lot of them.”
Riza nodded. “I haven’t seen him in a while though. Not since… Since before I joined the Academy. I hope he’s… doing alright.”
“If he’s a State Alchemist, I’m sure he’s doing fine. You’ve got nothing to worry about.”
Riza nodded, but she turned her attention back to the dark landscape of the desert. She couldn’t think about Roy now. She had to focus. She had a job to do, no matter how abhorrent. She pulled her cloak as tight as she could, and shouldered her rifle, scanning the horizon for any sign of movement. She wasn’t called The Hawk’s Eye for nothing, after all. It wasn’t hard to see, even in the dark. She was quiet as she breathed in and out slowly, keeping her focus.
It was nearly a week later when Riza saw him again. She had the afternoon watch, and had been sitting in the watchtower for hours, her eyes beginning to droop slightly. It didn’t help that it had been days since her last good night of sleep. She was exhausted, deep circles under her eyes. In those precious few days, she had already lost count of how many lives she had taken.
Each shot meant another fatality.
Each shot was an Amestrian Citizen, dead.
Each shot was another part of Riza’s soul, torn away and discarded.
There was no blood on her hands, not really, but she could feel it, dripping from her fingers. She was a murderer, there was no doubt of that. The blood of innocents seeped into her dreams, making sleep impossible unless she overworked herself.
Still, she held her post, and took each watch as ordered. It wasn’t often there were insurgents lurking on the outskirts of the military encampment, but Riza would take no chances. She would do her duty to her country, and do her best to protect those she loved.
And so it was that she was scanning the horizon, eager to protect her country, eager to protect her friends. She saw Amestrian Blues standing on a hillside, obviously having a friendly discussion. They didn’t notice the Ishvallan creeping up the dirt toward them, until it was nearly too late. One of them -- Captain Hughes, she realized -- managed to pull a knife, and knock the weapon away. But that didn’t stop them from charging the other soldier.
Riza aimed, took a deep breath, and squeezed the trigger. The Ishvallan crumpled, her bullet having found its mark right between his eyes. She shuddered, and moved her sight. It was indeed Captain Hughes, and standing next to him, eyes wide with fear, was Roy Mustang. She held him in her sight a moment longer, and then let her weapon drop.
She leaned back, moving to shelter behind the crumbling ruins of buildings destroyed with Alchemy. Roy Mustang, her Roy Mustang, was out there, on the battlefield. He had nearly gotten himself killed. What was wrong with him?!
“You alright, Hawkeye?”
She shook her head. “I-I’m sorry. I… Captain Hughes was out there. He was almost killed.”
“I saw the shot you made. That was damn impressive.”
“I was just doing my duty,” she replied, glad her voice had stopped shaking. Her hands were another matter. She felt sick to her stomach. She leaned back and closed her eyes, breathing in through her nose and out through her mouth, the way her father had taught her when she was young.
“You alright, Hawkeye?”
“Fine. I’m fine. I… Just tired.”
Billy nodded, and turned back to watching. “Take a breather, Hawkeye.”
She closed her eyes, and tried to calm her racing heart. Roy Mustang was here. He was here in Ishval. He was using Flame Alchemy, her father’s life’s work , to murder innocents. It would have been so easy for her to miss the shot, to not have seen until it was too late. She could have let him die.
But she didn’t. She had thrown caution to the wind, and made an impressive shot. She had saved the lives of Captain Hughes and Roy Mustang, but in doing so, she had sacrificed another. She had murdered someone.
Riza didn’t even realize she was still shaking until Billy was standing in front of her, waving a hand in front of her eyes. “Hawkeye… Hawkeye, you okay?” Riza blinked, and stared up at him, her eyes still wide.
“I-I’m… I’m fine. I need… I need to go. I-I’m sorry.”
“Alright,” he replied. “Go take a break. You’ve been pushing yourself, and I’m sure Captain Hughes will understand.”
Riza nodded, and rose shakily. She cradled her weapon as she walked through the abandoned building and back toward camp. She walked dazedly, her whole body numb. She wasn’t sure what to do anymore. She reached her tent and collapsed onto the cot, her rifle leaning against the corner of the weak metal frame. She let her eyes fall shut, and imagined, not for the first time, that Roy Mustang, the boy she’d known for years, was holding her. His voice was soft as he reassured her, promised her that she wasn’t a bad person. It took only a few moments for her to slip off into the abyss of sleep.
She sat around the cookfire that night, a bowl of… She wasn’t sure what it was, but it was food and that was what mattered, sitting on her lap. She had her rifle still close behind her. There was a chance that she would be ordered back into the field later that evening, and now that she was rested, she was ready to go again.
Two figures approached her. She recognized on as Captain Hughes. He had obviously heard about her panic earlier that day, and was coming to check on her. The other person was still shrouded by the shadow of the night. Their shoulders were hunched, and they walked slowly, like someone who was tired of the fighting.
“Thanks for earlier,” Captain Hughes said, his smile still on his face. “You were the one who fired that shot earlier, weren’t you?”
Riza blinked, nodded, and muttered a quiet “Yes, sir.” Then she noticed him standing there. Captain Hughes’ friend… The only person she’d ever been close to. She stood, dusting off her pants.
“It’s nice to see you again, Mr. Mustang,” she said, letting her eyes bore into his soul. “Or should I address you as Major Mustang now?” He just stared at her as she continued. “Do you remember me?”
“How could I forget?” He stared back at her, his eyes just as dead and hollow as her own looked in reflections.
The only sound was the campfire in the desert night.
Well it's good to be back! After all of that Royai... I write more!
Let me know what you think in the comments below!
Chapter 8: Through the Desert
Riza experiences first-hand the horrors of war.
Warning for Character Death and somewhat Heavy Angst this chapter. Read on with caution.
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
Ishval Region, Eastern Amestris, 1908
For an eternity, Roy and Riza stared at each other, noticing the changes that nearly two years could make. Back when they were younger, they had both been optimistic, eager to make a difference in the world. Now…
“Oh, you two know each other? How exciting!” Riza turned, setting her gaze on Captain Hughes.
“He was my father’s student several years ago,” Riza muttered. She looked at her mug, still sitting on the ground. Her appetite had dissipated, so she left it. “I’m going to get some rest,” she said, beginning to stalk toward the tents.
“Wait! One more thing, Hawkeye.” Riza turned, awaiting her Captain’s orders. “Major Mustang is taking a team out to Sector 32. They leave tomorrow. I’d like you and Corporal Peterson to join them, for backup. That’s an order, d’you hear me?”
Riza nodded, gave a salute, and walked off, eager to try and sleep. She was being sent to the front lines, sent to actually murder innocents. Bad enough to do it here, defending her fellow soldiers. She felt her stomach churning. Sleep would not come easy to her tonight.
They left before dawn. Nearly everyone in their little squad seemed eager to go to the front, all of them having bought into the military’s propaganda. She lingered at the back, each dust-covered step making her heart sink.
“You okay, Hawkeye? You look awful deep in thought,” Billy said, breaking into her reverie.
“I’m… I’m fine,” she muttered. “Just wanna get this over with.”
“Yeah, I hear ya. This’ll be a mess, especially with that State Alchemist in charge.”
Riza nodded, carefully keeping her mouth shut. Billy hadn’t been there last night, and the last thing she needed was for him asking about her Alchemist Friend. He seemed to understand that she wasn’t in the mood to talk. They walked together in silence, snipers through and through.
Ahead of them, leading the group, was Major Roy Mustang. He walked with the same cocky assuredness he had possessed back in Tobha. His hands flashed white with each step, covered with the gloves he used to channel her father’s deadly alchemy. They were made of “Ignition Cloth,” something Riza had never heard of.
Ishval had changed him. Despite his confident air, he had a hardness to him, one that Riza knew she now possessed too. It was a hard thing, taking lives.
As the sun rose overhead, Riza could begin to feel the weariness caused by the walk. Major Mustang, it seemed, had no intention of stopping or even slowing down. Sector 32 was nearly two days from the base camp by foot, and they needed to cover as much distance as possible. So the cavalcade trudged on, the Major leading them through the rough desert, the men in front joking and laughing, the snipers in the back waiting and watching.
When they finally made camp for the night, Riza did her best to stay as far from Roy as she could. It proved to be far more challenging than she anticipated. He seemed dead set on talking to her.
“Hawkeye!” he shouted, forcing her to freeze. “Come with me.”
Wordlessly, Riza followed him beyond the ring of tents and the safety of the firelight, out into the harsh desert. When they were away from the camp enough that they wouldn’t be overheard, she turned on him.
“What do you want ?” she demanded.
“Why are you avoiding me?” She watched him, his eyes wide, earnest, in the dim light. For a brief moment, Riza saw a hint of the boy she had known as a child.
“Why do you think I’m avoiding you?” she retorted. “Do you think I’m happy with what you’re using my father’s research to do? Do you think I want you to be using the knowledge of Flame Alchemy, knowledge I gave you, for murder ?”
“Riza… It… It’s not like that. I don’t want… I don’t enjoy this. I don’t want to be killing like this.”
“Then why are you?”
“Because this system…” he paused, and she waited, an eyebrow raised. “Our government is flawed. Corrupt. I want a chance to change it from the inside.”
“And the way to change this flawed system is to take innocent lives? There are children ! Babies! And each time you snap your fingers, more people die. How many more will you be responsible for?”
“I don’t know. I don’t know how long I’ll be required to wear this uniform, to serve as a human weapon.”
Riza was quiet for a long moment. Her hands were clenched into fists, her whole body tense. Words deserted her. She was furious. But what could she say? She was as complicit in this genocide as he was. She took a deep breath to calm herself, and turned back toward their makeshift camp.
“Riza, please,” he reached out, grasping her wrist gently. “Believe me, I didn’t want this either. It’s not right.” He sighed. “I never wanted this for you…”
“Then do something about it!” she retorted, pointedly ignoring his final comment.
He chuckled, sounding almost sad. “I’m trying. There’s not much I can do right now. I was telling Hughes, I might be a Major by rank, but I only have the authority of a Captain, and not even that, usually.”
“How much authority do you need to say indiscriminate murder is bad?”
“More than a Captain’s, that’s for damn sure.”
She scoffed and tried to pull her hand away. “Let me go, Roy. I’m tired. I want to go to sleep.” She watched him release her hand, reluctantly, and then she turned toward the camp. She took another deep breath and began to head back. After a few moments, she heard Roy’s footsteps. She was very attuned to the little sounds now. They were some of the only things that helped her.
They were nearing the campsite when Riza froze. From inside the ring of tents, she could hear the sounds of fighting.
“What is it?” Roy asked, coming to stand next to her.
“Fighting,” she replied, her voice low. “At the camp. I…”
“Stay back,” he growled, already pulling his ignition gloves on. This close, Riza could see the red, alchemical circles embroidered into them. She blinked.
“N-no. No you can’t!” she hissed. “You’ll get yourself killed!”
“I’m a human weapon, Riza. I know what I’m doing.”
“No! Roy, you almost got yourself killed yesterday. I…” she paused. She couldn’t lose him. He was the only part of her old life she had left. “You can’t .” She was clutching at his arm now, holding him back through the sheer force of her will.’
“Riza, this is an order. Let go of me. Right now.”
“I’m not going to do that, Sir . I can’t.”
“Why the hell not, Cadet?”
Riza hesitated. On the one hand, she knew that Roy was, above all things, confident and competent. She knew it would be easy for him to eliminate the men attacking their camp. But if she did that, she would be condoning murder, turning a blind eye to deaths that could be prevented. She couldn’t be responsible for that.
“Answer me, Hawkeye.”
“I… I can’t be responsible for those deaths. I can’t… I can’t lose you to that.”
“What are you talking about? You won’t lose me.”
“I… Please,” she begged. “Please don’t do this, Roy.”
“Those are good men, men fighting for their lives right now, Riza. Are you telling me that the Ishvallans’ lives are worth more than our friends’ lives?”
“And are you telling me that you would rather good Amestrian soldiers die in a fight I could have prevented?”
Roy’s face was cold as he looked at her. “Let go of me, Riza.” Shocked, she let go of his arm. She watched him walk into the camp. She was frozen, whether from fear or surprise she couldn’t tell. There was a loud woosh, and a column of fire shot into the sky. The screams of men burning echoed in the night sky.
Riza was still out in the desert when Roy came back. Everything was quiet. At some point, her legs had given out, and she was now sitting on the dirt.
“What are you still doing out here?”
She blinked, raising her head pathetically. “I…” Words deserted her. She could feel everything overwhelming her. Unbidden, tears welled in her eyes and she began to sob. Roy knelt by her side, wrapping an arm around her shoulder.
“C’mon. You fall asleep out here and you’ll freeze to death.”
She let him help her up, let him guide her to the camp. She was too tired to close her eyes as they passed the bodies of their fallen comrades. The tears continued to roll down her cheeks.
“Don’t look,” Roy murmured, pulling her into his side. Riza let him, burying her face in his shoulder. She flinched as they passed the area where Roy had scorched the attackers. The acrid stench of smoldering flesh filled her nostrils. He pulled her along faster, and then into a tent.
“Did… did they… did anyone--”
“No. By the time I got here…” he sighed heavily. “I got the men who did it, but I was too late.”
“I’m sorry. I… I--”
“Get some sleep, Cadet. We’ve got a busy day ahead.” Roy sat on the cot. “Someone’ll… I’ll radio back to base camp and have Hughes send someone out. They’ll get these boys home.”
“Are… Are we not going back, Sir?”
“We have our orders, Cadet. Exterminate Sector 32. We’ll continue on in the morning.”
Riza nodded, and sank down against the canvas tent wall. She stared at her lap. “It… It’s my fault,” she murmured.
“Get some rest. Don’t think about it.” She watched him lay back on the cot, stretching his limbs out, a bitter grimace on his lips. “Casualties are a part of war.”
Riza couldn’t sleep. She was haunted by what she had done. It was her fault they were dead. Her fault good men were laying on the ground outside, nothing more than corpses now. She couldn’t help it. She cried again.
“Hawkeye,” Roy called, and she looked up, hastily swiping at her eyes. “Riza, come here,” he said, softer this time, as if her situation had calmed him. Slowly, she pushed herself up and made her way over to him.
“Sir?” she asked, trying to keep the tremor from her voice.
“Take the cot. I’ll keep watch.”
“I’m fine, Sir. Really, I--”
“Sleep.” He moved out of the way, pulling her onto the cot. “I’ll take watch,” he continued, repeating himself. Riza tried to protest, he was still tired too, but he pushed her down. “No arguments.”
She hesitated, but laid down, pulling her legs up to her chest. Roy nodded approvingly, and stayed perched on the edge of the cot. With him safely there, watching her, Riza let herself fall into slumber.
The morning came quickly, and with it, some of the men from the base camp. They had a wagon with them. Riza watched as they loaded the fallen Amestrian soldiers into the back. When they placed Billy on the ever-growing pile, she felt the bile rise in her throat.
“Come on,” Roy said, pulling her away. “You don’t need to watch this.”
“He was my friend,” she replied. “He was my friend and now he’s dead, a-and it’s my fault.”
“It’s not your fault. Let’s go.”
“We’re not waiting for backup, Sir?”
“No time. You’re my backup, Cadet.”
“Sir?” She cocked her head to the side, confusion clouding her face.
“We move out as soon as you’re packed up.”
“O-oh. Y-yes, Sir,” she replied, saluting and hurrying off to pack her things. The sooner they were done, the sooner they’d be back at base camp. She rolled her things up quickly, shouldering the pack. Roy was waiting for her, and she hurried to his side. They set off again, Riza following a few paces behind Roy as they made their way toward Sector 32.
It was almost beautiful, watching Roy work. He had a unique style, a flair of drama with each snap. Riza stayed close to his back, taking out anyone he missed. The exhilaration and adrenaline coursed through her, aided by Roy’s Alchemy. She knew enough of the basics to know how it worked. He separated the atoms in the air, increasing the oxygen content. It created large and deadly explosions, but also gave her a sense of euphoria. Her head swam slightly, the increase in oxygen making her dizzy. She moved as quickly as he did, her guns firing double-time in the heat of the desert.
As she stopped for a moment to catch her breath, hoping to clear some of the light-headedness she felt, she was distracted by the way he moved. His whole body was fluid, his hands constantly swaying. It was like watching a dance, though there was only one partner, and the music was the screams of the dying. Still, it was entrancing.
By the time the sun was beginning to sink, Sector 32 was a mess of flame-scorched rubble and dead bodies.
“Are you alright, Hawkeye?” he asked when they sat, leaning against a still-standing wall.
“I’m… Fine, Sir.”
“I know you didn’t… want this. I know it’s hard for you to see this.”
“Please, I’d rather not talk about it.”
Roy nodded, and they lapsed into silence. In the morning, after they’d slept, they’d return to the base camp.
Together they watched the sun sink slowly over the horizon.
Thanks for reading! I hope you enjoyed. Let me know what you think in the comments below! Also note that there will be an interlude fic between chapters 8 and 9, though it won't be critical to understanding the story.
Chapter 9: Heatstroke
The heat of the desert gets to Riza. While in the med-tent, she remembers bits and pieces of her childhood.
Ishval Region, Eastern Amestris, 1908
Riza knew that the change between them was apparent. Captain Hughes seemed pleased by the development, and that was all that mattered. She and Roy were both happier, and able to get along well. She was assigned permanently to Roy’s squadron, following him on each and every mission. She was a good gunman, and a better sniper. She made Roy’s team stronger.
During their down time at the base camp, Riza still took shifts as a guard, perching in her tower and watching for any signs of activity beyond their perimeter. It was growing hot in the late afternoon, and her canteen had run dry an hour ago, but she felt fine. Perhaps a bit lightheaded, but there were plenty of attributes for that.
She closed her eyes for a moment, trying to relieve her dizziness. She opened them again, and stared down at her hands. They were trembling slightly. That was odd, to say the least. Riza had always prided herself on her steady hands. She closed her eyes again, and things went dark.
Riza vaguely recognized the voices arguing over her.
“You didn’t give any thought to her well-being did you? She’s just barely an adult! How could you be so reckless ??”
“Roy, really. I had no idea. Honestly, I would’ve sent someone up sooner if I’d be worried. But she’s capable!”
“She could have died up there, Maes!”
“R-roy?”she croaked, her throat was dry.
“Shit, Riza…” She opened her eyes, and saw him sitting by the… she looked down. A cot. Where was she?
“What… happened?” She tried to focus on something, anything. It was all too bright, out of focus.
“Shh… Don’t strain yourself.” He held a glass of water to her lips, and Riza drank eagerly. She felt fuzzy. “Just rest, alright?”
“You’re on medical rest. Relieved of duty until the doctor clears you.”
“I… I’m fine.” She tried to sit up more fully, and a wave of dizziness overwhelmed her.
“Riza! You’re sick!”
She let Roy help her back down to the cot, her eyelids drooping again. “I’m fine… Really…”
“Just relax, okay? I’ll be right here…”
“She’s my subordinate, Hughes. I’m going to watch out for her until she’s better. Understand?”
Riza’s eyes blurrily followed Captain Hughes’ form leaving the tent before her world went black again.
“Take a deep breath,” her father said. “In order to hit your target, you must always be calm.”
“Always be calm,” Riza echoed. She was far more still than the average five-year-old, and it worked to her advantage here.
“Now draw your sling, and aim very carefully…”
Riza pulled back the elastic, lining her sight up with the block of wood resting on the fence. She took one more deep breath, and then released. The rock knocked into the block, knocking it over, and Riza couldn’t help her cheer of excitement.
“I did it! I did it!”
“Yes, you did. I’m proud of you, Riza.” Berthold Hawkeye smiled down at his daughter, and Riza smiled back.
“There you two are! I’ve been calling!” They both turned, eyes settling on Riza’s mother, standing in the doorway of the house.
“Elizabeth, I’m… Riza asked me to help her.”
“Slingshot! I’m gonna be better than Bobby Wilson. He thinks he’s so cool jus’ cuz he can hit a blocka wood. Well, so can I!” Her mother laughed, and Riza dropped the homemade slingshot in the dirt, running over to hug her. Even her father came, a sheepish grin on his face.
“Dinner’s ready, so shall we?”
“Dinner!” Riza chirped, following her mother inside.
“Riza… Riza…” She blinked, her eyes fluttering. Roy was sitting there, a hand shaking her shoulder gently.
“What?” She asked.
“Dinner? Do you… Do you feel up to eating?”
She groaned a bit, trying to focus. “I… Should…”
“I’ll sit with you… See if we can’t get you some real food, huh?”
“Real food….” Riza murmured. “I… Food is…”
“I get it, Riza. Just let me know if I can get you anything, okay?”
She nodded, settling back onto the cot, her eyes closing. “Maybe… I’ll eat later…”
“Alright. Just rest.”
Riza was bouncing up and down on her bed. Bedtime meant story time. She was starting to be able to puzzle out the words on the pages of her books, but it was still just a bit beyond her grasp.
“Now the brave sailors stood their ground, but the evil pirates were swarming onto their ship. The pirate captain marched right up to them and held out his sword. ‘Surrender your ship or surrender your lives,’ he said, his voice a deep growl.”
“Are the sailors gonna be okay, Mama?”
“Riza, if you don’t let me read, then how will you know?”
Riza looked down at her lap, still so excited. Her mother smiled, ruffling her hair gently, and picked up the book to continue the story.
“‘We’ll never surrender,’ said Demetrio, the sailor’s leader. The pirate captain walked closer, holding his sword right beneath the sailor’s chin. ‘Then die,’ he growled. He was about to deliver the killing blow when the bravest sailor of them all, Isadora, brought up her sword and blocked the pirate captain.”
Riza’s eyes flickered open. “I… That’s my… favorite,” she breathed, her eyes still unfocused. She could see the faint glow of the moon through the canvas, though it was mostly obscured by the lamplight.
“I thought it might help you,” he murmured, stroking her face. “Feeling any better?”
“I’m… thirsty,” she replied. Roy nodded, holding a mug of water to her lips and letting her drink. When she finished, he stood for a moment, returning with a cool, damp cloth, and laying it over her forehead.
“Do you feel up to eating yet?”
“I dunno,” she murmured, already shutting her eyes. “Will you… read some more?”
“Of course.” He cleared his throat. She heard the rustle of paper as he picked the book up. “‘I will not let you harm one hair on Demetrio’s head,’ she replied, brandishing her weapon and pushing the pirates back…”
“Now, what must we do before we go to bed, Riza?”
“Say our prayers,” she replied, snuggling beneath her blankets. Her mother’s hand was cool on her forehead. Outside, Riza could hear the quiet hooting of the owls that lived in the beech tree out back.
“That’s right, darling. We say our prayers.” Her mother closed her eyes and bowed her head, clasping her hands together. Riza was quick to imitate her mother’s posture. “We thank you for this day, and all the gifts you have given us. We thank you for our sleep and the chance that we might dream happily. And we thank you for tomorrow, and all that the future holds. Amen.”
“Amen,” Riza chorused. She smiled at her mother, and then let her eyes fall shut. The sounds of the night were her lullaby. She heard her mother close the door behind her, and that was all she needed to fall asleep.
“I don’t know if you’re real. Hell, I don’t know if you’d listen to me anyways, after all the things I’ve done. But… If there’s a chance you’d be willing to help her… That’s all I want. She’s a good kid. She doesn’t deserve to die here.”
Riza’s eyes fluttered open again. The tent was lit only by lamplight. Roy was sitting next to her cot, one hand wrapped around hers, the other covering his eyes.
“You need sleep too,” she chided weakly. He quickly turned, looking at her with shock.
“Riza… Are you feeling okay?”
“It’s still… Fuzzy, but…”
“Here,” he said, helping her sit up and holding the mug of water -- newly filled, she noted -- to her lips again. She drank eagerly. “Slow down,” he murmured. “You’ll make yourself sick.”
“I…. More? Please?”
Roy nodded eagerly, his eyes shining brightly, and he went to refill the mug. This time, Riza took it with her trembling hands, gulping the water desperately, craving the cool refreshing feeling. “Feeling better?” he asked, breathless.
“Yeah, I do. The water helped…”
“Looks like the sleep did too. You sound better.” He moved away again, refilling the mug and grabbing a plate with half a sandwich on it. “Feel like eating?”
She nodded, taking the sandwich and tearing into it. “This is…”
“A real sandwich. From the officer’s mess tent. I figured… I figured you’d like something real.”
“Thank you,” she mumbled, her mouth still full of bread and meat and cheese. It was heavenly after so long without food. She couldn’t remember her last real meal. When she finished, she reached for the mug of water, downing it in one swallow.
“Easy now, Riza. You’re still sick,” he stroked her hair. “You look better though. And your head feels a little cooler…”
“I feel better now. Things aren’t… quite as fuzzy.” She smiled at him. “Thank you for sitting with me,” she murmured.
“I told Hughes I wasn’t going to do anything until you got better. I meant it.”
Riza nodded. “I… think I’m going to try and sleep a little bit more.”
“That’s probably for the best.” He smiled softly at her. “Oh!” He reached under the cot. “I… went and got this from your tent. I thought it’d help a little bit.” He held out the soft blanket she had spirited with her to Ishval.
“How’d you know?”
“You couldn’t sleep without it.”
She chuckled softly, pulling the fabric into her arms. “My mother made it for me, when I was little.” She paused, and turned to look at him. “Roy, were you praying?”
“I… Anything helps, right? I just… It didn’t look so good. Doc was saying you might have to get shipped home, but you don’t have a family or anything, and I’m pretty sure they wouldn’t let you leave anyways.”
“Thank you,” she replied. “Are you… Will you stay until I fall asleep?”
“I’ll stay until you’re better.” He leaned over, pressed his lips to her forehead. “Get some more rest. I’ll be right here when you wake up in the morning.”
“Good night,” Riza murmured, this time welcoming sleep’s embrace.
“Oh please, Mama? One more song, pleeeeaaaseee?” Riza begged, wrapping her arms around her Mother’s legs as she tried to stand.
“Riza, it’s late. And your Father is trying to study.”
“But please Mama? Just one more song? I’ll go to bed right after, I promise!”
“You promised that last night, and there were still two bedtime stories and another song once you were in bed.”
Riza pouted, stomping her foot on the hardwood floor. “But you’re such a good singer, Mama!”
“Alright. One more song, but that’s it. Do you understand, Riza?”
“Yes, Mama.” All the same, Riza sat herself right down on the floor as her mother returned to the piano, resting delicate hands on the contrasting keys. Riza clapped as her mother began to play a simple folk tune, her voice joining the piano.
“What is going on in here?” Riza turned, to see her father standing in the doorway, a smile on his face.
“Riza insisted on one more song, dearest. And then she’s going straight to bed, like a good girl.”
“Now, Lizzy, I think today is a day we can make an exception, isn’t it? After all, it is my little girl’s birthday.”
Riza grinned. Her father hadn’t really been present during dinner, but she had received a brand new story-book for her mother to read her that night. She had been told they’d have cake later, but now that her father was here…
“Can we have cake?”
“Of course we can!” Berthold entered the room, scooping his daughter into his arms. Riza giggled. Everything was perfect.
When Riza woke again, Roy was nodding off in his chair, his lips moving quietly. Riza leaned in closer, trying to discern what he was saying. She smiled when she heard the familiar tune. It was one she’d taught him during his time as her Father’s student.
“Hey,” she said, sounding more like herself.
“Hey yourself,” he replied, practically half-asleep.
“You need sleep too, Roy.”
“I’ll sleep later. You’re more important.”
“I’m feeling much better now. Please?” She pushed herself up, feeling the strength returning to her limbs. “It’ll help me, to know you’re being well-cared for.”
“You’re going to sleep, yes?”
Roy chuckled and nodded. “If that’s what’ll make you get better, I’ll go get some sleep.”
“Walk me back to my tent?”
“I don’t think you’re allowed to leave yet. The doc--”
“Can come see me in my tent. There are other soldiers who need these beds more than I do. So I can go recover in my own tent, isn’t that right?”
“I suppose so.”
They walked through the camp silently, their clasped hands the only indication of something more.
Thanks for reading! Let me know what you think in the comments below!