“Sir, are you alright?” Captain Riza Hawkeye asked as she opened the office door.
General Roy Mustang shifted in his chair upon hearing her commandingly soft voice and the gentle footsteps of her companion dog, Black Hayate.
“Well, good morning to you too, Captain,” he replied, his signature smirk creeping on his face. “Didn’t realize I had company this early in the morning. Does it look like something is wrong?”
She stopped as she crossed the threshold of the door. She quickly saluted before moving to hold her hand up to her forehead to block the rays of the sunlight from the window behind Roy. Something looked different about him, so she squinted to get a good look at his face. It took all her energy not to chuckle.
“Well, sir, either your eyesight is still a bit fuzzy, or you’re growing facial hair.”
He scrunched his mouth and nose to indicate his discontent with her teasing. “Which answer do you prefer?” he asked as his touched the whiskers along his upper lip.
“With all due respect, General,” she responded slowly as she took her eyes off him and began walking towards her desk, “I don’t think my opinions about your appearance matter.”
Hayate faithfully followed right behind her, his tail wagging at the sight of another human. Riza pulled out her chair and took a seat, taking care to lift the chair so it didn’t squeak the same way Roy’s did. She grabbed a pen and held it to her temple contemplatively. Hayate proceeded to lay on the floor at her side, ready for whatever she might ask him to do.
Roy shrugged his shoulders and threw his hands up, palms facing the ceiling. “Yeah. I guess you’re right.” He lowered his arms. “Doesn’t mean you’re not allowed to have one though. So what’s the verdict?”
“My only goal in asking was merely to ensure your sight is at maximum functionality, nothing more. I wouldn’t want you to have cut yourself as a result of impaired vision.” She pulled out a notebook from her drawer, placed it on the desk, opened it to where the bookmark was placed, and wrote the date at the top of the paper. “But if you must ask, I’ve only ever known you to have a clean-shaven face.”
Roy turned to look at her and smiled. “I suppose after all these years, it would certainly be a shock to me if you came in with black hair.” He paused to consider what that might look like on her. The two shared a remarkably deep personal connection rooted in mutual respect and devotion… but that didn’t mean he didn’t occasionally view her from a less-than-pure lens.
He took a sip of his coffee and frowned as his thoughts were interrupted—it was cold. He put the cup down, retrieved his State Alchemist pocket watch to check the time, and noted that it was 6:48am. “Ugh, my coffee’s gone cold. I’ve been here too long.”
“Sir, the day just began.”
He rolled his eyes. “Your grandfather asked me to come in for a 7 o’clock meeting.”
“You mean the Fuhrer,” she corrected as she listed off all the tasks she set out to accomplish for the day. His frustration reminded her that she needed a warm drink to start her morning off, too. “Yes, while I don’t know what the topic of discussion is for the day, I do know that he wanted to see you this morning.” She fished out another, smaller notebook from her desk and ticked something off a checklist before putting it back in the drawer. “If you need some more coffee, I’m off to make myself some tea. Do you want me to freshen it up for you?”
He nodded and sheepishly handed her his mug as she approached his desk. As she walked away with Hayate’s paws softly following behind her, he smiled. Despite how much he could whine and complain about the minutiae of the day, she’d still do the kindest of acts for him. He heard soldiers all over Central talk about her precision and attention to detail, and though those things were indeed true, there was so much more to her than that. The fact that she’d been so willing to put her life on the line for him so many times in the past without ever holding it against him astounded him. Dedication like hers was difficult to find, even in the military, and he knew this for a fact.
He was devoted to her too. This military was not kind to Riza and she deserved someone there for her just as much as she believed Roy deserved someone. He remembered countless moments when she broke down, clearly hardened and angered by her role in the mass extermination of civilians, Ishvalan or otherwise. Plenty of other soldiers broke down in a similar fashion, so her reaction wasn’t unique, but having known her in her younger years and witnessing her optimism die with each bullet she shot made it all the more difficult. Then he recalled the time that evil homunculus Fuhrer Bradley took her hostage. That monster took away his Queen, his counselor—dangled her in his face, like a piece of meat. Even the mere thought made him see fire.
He was quickly brought back to his senses as he heard the familiar sound of her footsteps and Hayate’s paws breaking the silence by reemerging in the office. She placed the coffee down on the counter gently and their eyes met.
“Sir, it’s nearly 7,” Riza said to him, pointing to where she kept her own pocket watch. It wasn’t a State Alchemist watch, but it told the time just the same, and it told her that he needed to get going.
“And all this time I thought you were admiring the Flame Alchemist at a time when people expect him to still be in bed in the arms of a beautiful young woman.” He smirked again, drawing the cup to his nose for a smell before sipping it loudly.
She rolled her eyes, turned around, and returned to her desk without any verbal response, her own cup of tea in hand. It was too early in the morning indeed… too early for her to deal with his delusions of grandeur when it came to romance. Though she knew he spoke in jest, the idea of him having a dalliance with another woman into the late hours of the evening and then complaining about working in the early hours of the morning didn’t sit well with her.
He has so much to accomplish, she remarked to herself as she knelt down to give Hayate a gentle scratch in between his ears. She heard him coo in delight. That really should be the least of his concerns.
“Hawkeye,” he began, “you always know just how to make a cup of coffee. Always the right combination of coffee, cream, and sugar.” It was the closest thing he could muster to a compliment, especially this early in the morning. It was always difficult for him to verbalize his appreciation for her acts of kindness, because the few moments he did, she brushed them aside.
“It’s quite simple. I imagine anyone could do it,” she responded, not even looking up from her notebook as she continued scrawling specific notes for the day. “Now go. You’re going to be late. It’s nearly empty here this morning, so you hardly have any excuses.”
Roy took one more sip of coffee. “I could tell your grandfather that his dear granddaughter kept nagging me.” He felt her piercing gaze sniping at him. “OK, I’m going.” He walked up from his seat and began to walk out of the door, shutting it softly behind him.
Riza laughed to herself as she reflected on her interactions with Roy that morning. He always commented positively on the strangest things—a cup of coffee? They’d gone through the war in Ishval, the homunculi, an overthrow of the government… yet after all these years, the only way he could ever say something deeply meaningful was when her life was in danger.
Her life flashed before her eyes when Lust told her that Roy was dead. It was always a possibility, being in the military, that one of them would die. Maes’ death was a swift reminder of that fact. But she never imagined that it would happen to Roy in such a painful way. She’d never forget the sinking feeling from her heart to her stomach, the dry hoarseness in her throat, the moisture in her eyes, the heat and pounding in her ears—all because she thought he was gone. She wanted to rip that bitch apart, to shoot her down until all that still remained were the false bones in her body.
She knew their bond was stronger than she gave him credit for. When she shared that she would kill herself upon killing Roy, for straying from his own principles, he came to his senses. She saw the fear in his own eyes as he was forced to choose between performing human transmutation to ensure her survival or staying true to his principles for the good of the nation. She felt him hold her, literally, for dear life as she lay bleeding from her throat being slit. And he held her close in his quest to kill Father.
Those were battles they’d never forget.
Yet somehow, his compliments were always about coffee.
Roy walked into the Fuhrer’s secretary’s office and opened his mouth to announce his arrival, only to note that the secretary wasn’t at her seat.
Odd, he thought to himself. It’s not safe for him to be by himself. He began fishing for his glove but was interrupted.
“At ease, General Mustang. I always come in before Lydia.” Fuhrer Grumman walked out of his own office, which was located directly behind his secretary’s.
Roy’s hand shot up to his temple in a formal salute. “Good morning, sir. Reporting for our 7 o’clock meeting.”
Fuhrer Grumman smiled as he adjusted his glasses and approached Roy. “You know, Mustang, you wouldn’t have to be so formal if you’d just marry my granddaughter.” He chuckled and patted Roy on the shoulder, leading him into his own office. “Come, have a seat at the chess table,” he continued, gesturing toward the seat facing the window. “Since she refuses to call me Grandfather here, maybe someone else could.”
Roy took a seat as directed and felt his brow furrow, betraying how flustered he was in response. It astounded him that, even after all these years, Grumman would still mention that from time to time. But what astounded him even more was how it would still cause all sorts of discomfort and unease.
“With all due respect, sir, did you invite me to a 7 o’clock meeting just to tell me the same thing you’ve been telling me for years?”
“Not exactly, but you can’t blame an old man for trying,” Grumman responded, with a jokingly hurt look on his face. “Imagine the beautiful grandbabies. I’d have something to live for!”
Roy laughed out of respect, feeling a lump in his throat. “Sir, that thought only crosses my mind when you bring it up,” he responded, very carefully trying to make sure his voice didn’t give away his mixture of emotions. “You know as well as I do that the peace of this nation is of the utmost importance to all of us, and we will do whatever it takes to restore the trust of our people.”
Grumman frowned. “I will never understand you two,” he said exasperatedly, taking his own seat opposite Roy.
Neither will I, Roy had the urge to say.
“So, sir, what did you want to discuss?”
Riza checked her pocket watch for the time. It was 8:00 on the dot. If the Fuhrer wanted to meet with Roy so early, it must be something that he didn’t want others to know about. With the exception of those working in a security capacity, most of Central didn’t report to the office until at least 9:00.
Well, none of my business, she told herself. But she knew that wasn’t true. At the end of the day, every single aspect of Roy Mustang’s life was her business. He made his life her business the moment he asked her to devote herself to his cause. That was far more than most relationships, platonic or otherwise, ever required from each other.
Hayate yelped excitedly, his tail wagging as Riza heard Roy’s familiar footsteps. He ran near the front of the room by the door and waited for Roy to open the door.
Riza stood to acknowledge her superior officer’s entrance into the room, her hand slowly rising to salute him.
“At ease, Hawkeye,” he responded, indicating that her formalities were not necessary. He knelt down to pet the top of Hayate’s head affectionately, then closed the door and locked it to signal that he wanted to engage in a private conversation without any possibility of eavesdropping. “No one’s here yet.”
She gave him a puzzled look, still standing. “So you were gone for an entire hour even though Fuhrer Grumman isn’t here?”
It was his turn to roll his eyes at her. “That’s not what I meant and you know it. No one else is here.” He walked back to his desk with a frown on his face as he went to take a sip of what he expected to be cold coffee. To his pleasant surprise, the coffee was fresh.
Anticipating his next observation, Riza sat back down in her chair and simply said, “You were gone for an hour for a meeting with the Fuhrer. Depending on what the meeting was about, I didn’t want you to come back grumpy and whine about your cold coffee. You already did it once today.”
Much as he wanted to be insulted by her slight jab, he grinned at how she could still anticipate his needs without him even hinting at them. “Thanks, Captain.” He turned his chair to face the window, the sunshine beaming on his face. The warmth on his skin punctuated the already-warm feeling pouring through the rest of his veins. He couldn’t tell if it was the coffee or the encounter with the Fuhrer.
Without so much as looking up from the paperwork she had already returned to, Riza asked, “So, what was the meeting about?”
He turned to look at her and was surprised she wasn’t looking back at him. The discomfort began to swell in his throat, much like it had earlier when he was talking to the Fuhrer. His silence spoke for itself.
She glanced up at him. “Well?” she questioned as their eyes met. It was unlike him to be so cagey.
He hastily looked away, finding it difficult to maintain eye contact as his thoughts began to swirl through his head. “It’s the same thing he always says, about us.”
She found it difficult to believe that her grandfather would go through such lengths to carry on with a one-liner that seemed to never get old. “You mean to tell me that he calls you in at 7 o’clock in the morning and keeps you for an hour to make the same joke he makes during normal hours?” She looked at the door. “You locked the door just to tell me that?”
He shot up hastily from his chair. “Well fine. I’ll go unlock the door then, if you don’t want to hear,” he retorted, his ego slightly bruised.
Riza sighed. “I’m sorry, sir. But it’s your choice to either keep the door locked and tell me, or unlock it and carry on with our day. Which would you like?”
Roy sat back down in his chair and looked back out the window. “We haven’t talked much about what happened.”
She approached his desk and stood at his side to look outside the window with him. “Yes.” She sighed. “Sir, there are many things we haven’t talked about. But just because our strongest enemies are gone does not mean we have unlimited time to discuss things that ultimately do not serve us.” She placed her hand on his shoulder. “We have a goal to accomplish.”
She’s always been the strongest between the two of us, he noted, processing her words.
He felt his heart race faster and faster. It wasn’t uncharacteristic of them to touch, especially given that Riza always watched his back, but they had never even come close to the level of intimacy they approached when dealing with the homunculi. He held her so tightly when her throat was slit that he thought she might burst, but he didn’t want to let her go. The idea of losing his dearest, most precious subordinate was too much to bear. If he was going to lose her, at least he’d be able to hold her as it happened.
“That may be, but I don’t know what I would do without my Elizabeth,” he sighed, turning to face her and look into her eyes.
She removed her hand abruptly and turned away. “The door is locked. There’s no one here. You don’t have to call me that.”
Why did I pull my hand away? she wondered. If there’s no one here, and I’m not doing anything wrong, then what am I afraid of?
He ignored her. “Even though she has been promoted, Elizabeth still always makes me just the right kind of coffee without any complaints. And if she can’t make it for me, she always makes sure to remind me what kind of coffee I like.”
“I’m sure she is much better than I at making coffee,” she responded, not quite sure where the conversation was going and mildly irked that he ignored her prior comment.
“She’s like my perfect cup of coffee,” he continued. “Seemingly bitter but mellows out to a touch of sweet.”
Riza still didn’t know what to say or how to react, mostly because she was still uncertain what he was hinting at or what he was saying. “Sir, though I appreciate poetry as much as the next person, there is no one here besides me and Hayate. If you’d like to tell me something before the other officers arrive, I think now is the time.”
Roy moved his chair back, giving him an opportunity to look her up and down. For years she had grown out her blonde hair, inspired by Winry Rockbell from Resembool, and it was a nice change of pace from the closely cropped hair he had known her to have even in her younger, pre-military years. But after they succeeded in overthrowing Fuhrer Bradley, she went back to the same short hairstyle. Her uniform, like everyone else’s, was bulky and shapeless, utilitarian and equalizing. Because they knew each other for so long, and conducted so many missions together since then, he knew what she looked like out of the uniform.
He scolded himself at how questionable those thoughts would sound to an outsider. Technically he knew what she looked like out of the uniform… but it wasn’t inappropriate in any way. It was because she was so tired of bearing the pain of her father’s alchemy on her back and asked him to sear it off.
Damn, none of the relationships in my life are normal, he thought to himself uncomfortably. He was right. His best friend and confidant was someone else in the military who had died trying to help him get to the top. His subordinate officers were all oddballs in some way. He didn’t even know what his relationship was with Edward Elric. Even his adoptive mother was complicit in his quest for the betterment of the nation. And then, of course, there was Captain Riza Hawkeye.
“General, if you are trying to determine whether or not I could be of any value to you in anything other than a purely professional capacity, I would be disappointed in my completely inaccurate assessment of your character over these many years,” she said flatly to him, feeling his gaze searing into her skin. She typically didn’t mind when he looked at her, given everything they had gone through over the years, but it felt different.
“Elizabeth is important to me,” he responded, refusing to give in to her slight jab at him, “but I don’t want to hide behind her anymore. Because she’s you.”
Her eyebrows scrunched inward as she tried to piece together what he was getting at. She could sense that he wanted to say much more, but was having trouble. It was quite unlike him.
“Hawkeye, you’re my Captain and my Queen,” he continued, his throat shaking slightly. “There are so many times I almost lost you. I couldn’t bear the thought of losing you again.” He turned back to the window.
Her lips smiled at him, but her eyes gave away a deeper feeling, a curiosity about what he wanted to say. But she knew better and didn’t mention it. “Sir, when our unit was separated, you lost all of us. This isn’t anything unique to me. And this is the choice we dogs of the military make—to know that we can all be lost at any moment.”
Her simple statement of the facts slightly wounded him. “Dammit, Hawkeye, I want you to stop dismissing your importance,” he retorted, slightly more aggressively and sharply than he intended. He knew this because Hayate barked back at him angrily and ran up protectively to his mistress, who was still standing at Roy’s desk.
She knelt down to pet him. “Hayate, you know he wouldn’t ever hurt me,” she remarked to the dog. He barked back cheerfully understanding that his mistress was safe and walked back to her desk. She sighed and turned to look back at Roy.
“I wouldn’t.” He paused. “Fuhrer Grumman has… considered easing the fraternization law.”
She raised an eyebrow.
Those eyebrows are always so damn expressive when they want to be, he thought, instinctively throwing a palm to his forehead.
“Soldiers would still not be able to marry,” he continued, hesitating and trying to read her reaction. “But they would be able to engage in relationships that are a little more involved.”
She nodded. The eyebrow was the closest thing he would get to a reaction. “Noted, sir.”
He sighed loudly, turned around to face the door, and took a sip of his still-warm coffee. “Hawkeye, you make this so difficult.”
She laughed. “Sir, we don’t need to talk in code anymore. At least not right now.” She turned to look at the door. “But if you have any more to say that you don’t want others to hear, I suggest you say it now, since I understand that the other officers will begin coming in shortly.”
“Let’s go get coffee tonight?” he blurted out, a half-question and half-sentence. “After we’re done here. A real time for us—no missions, no codewords, and definitely no homunculi.”
She blinked and began to walk back to her desk, not saying a word. He felt his heart walk away with her, the silence deafening. She sat in her chair comfortably, and he watched as she pulled a pen from the cupholder on her desk, then the same notebook she checked something off of earlier from the top drawer. She opened it to where it was bookmarked, set the bookmark aside, and wrote a note in it. She returned the bookmark to its place, closed the notebook, and placed it back in the drawer.
Roy couldn’t believe it. Did I misread our entire relationship? he asked himself. Everything came rushing back to him: his apprenticeship with her father, Master Hawkeye’s funeral, Ishval, burning off her father’s notes, her captivity under Fuhrer Bradley, the Promised Day, her assistance when he temporarily lost his eyesight—so much had happened yet she still refused to acknowledge how important she was to him. More important than anyone else.
“Captain, are you going to answer me?” he asked, his voice betraying a mixture of frustration, hopefulness, and disappointment, all at once.
She turned to him, her brown eyes twinkling in the sunlight. “I thought you said Eliz—sorry. I thought you said I made the best coffee.”
He laughed. Of course she would use his prior words to make this difficult. “Ah, yes.” He took another sip. “But I did also say, you always remind me what I like when you can’t make it yourself.”
She gave him a puzzled look. “Yes, I suppose you did.” She nodded to herself. “Just because Fuhrer Grumman told you he is easing the law doesn’t mean others know about this change.”
“Hawkeye, always the consummate rule-follower.”
They both laughed at how preposterous that sentence was, breaking the tension. From the very beginning, neither of them followed the rules. The rules told them that innocent people should live, yet they killed innocent Ishvalans in the war. The rules told them that they should be obedient to the regime of the time, yet they actively plotted to one day ensure Roy was Fuhrer. The rules told them to be loyal to the military as their only allegiance, yet their primary allegiance was always to each other.
“His secretary has prepared a memo to be released this morning.” His impatience grew. “So, are we going to have coffee or not?”
“Sir, I’ve already noted it down here in the calendar,” she responded calmly as she turned her gaze towards him, “and I’ve already selected the location based on your preferences.”
He rolled his eyes at her and sighed again, this time playfully. “I’m never going to get you to just say the word ‘yes’, am I? I don’t want you to simply appease your commanding officer. I don’t want to create an uncomfortable situation.”
She paused. “General, I said years ago that I’d follow wherever you go, and have repeated that sentiment many times. I wouldn’t do that for just anyone.” She felt her heart sink into her stomach before rising rapidly into her throat and back to her stomach. “Just like you, I can’t bear the thought of losing you again. Even if that means you keep that odd mustache.”
Roy began to open his mouth to respond, but he felt eyes observing him. Their interaction at this point was completely appropriate for a commanding officer and subordinate: she sat in her chair with paperwork in front of her, and he sat in his chair with his coffee cup in hand. Nothing was questionable in any way. Riza’s voice was naturally soft and low in volume. It comforted him and tamed the natural fire in him. It was so easy to get lost in—
“Now, can I unlock the door, sir? Officers are waiting at the door for us to let them in.”