Riza has been stationed at her post for almost a year when the East City Command forces begin preparations for the annual joint training exercises.
Typically, Lieutenant General Grumman leads the initiative, alongside Major General Armstrong of Briggs. But this year, Grumman won’t be able to join them. “He’ll be recovering from hip surgery and unable to travel,” Colonel Mustang informs her, unloading a massive armful of paperwork on her desk. “He’s passed the responsibility onto me. It’s a great privilege, of course, but it comes with a considerable amount of work.”
“I’ll help in any way that I can,” Riza assures him. After close to a year as Colonel Mustang’s adjutant, she’s no stranger to hard work. Still, the stacks of paperwork that Grumman’s aides continue to bring to her throughout the morning grow to an intimidating height and quantity. Breda and Havoc take to joking that they can’t see her behind all the paperwork, and can only hear her disembodied voice, passing on instructions to them.
Riza spends one and a half months working continuously on preparation for the joint training exercise, in addition to her regular work duties. She has regular postal communications with Major General Armstrong’s office, via her adjutant, Major Miles. By the time East City Command forces arrive at Fort Briggs to begin the week of rigorous joint training activities, she already feels worn out.
As the leaders of the initiative, Colonel Mustang and Major General Armstrong spend quite a bit of time together. In turn, Riza often finds herself in her counterpart’s company. It’s an unusual experience. She hasn’t had more than brief, passing interactions with soldiers outside of her unit since Ishval. Unlike Breda, Havoc, Falman, and Fuery, she’s never sought out friendships or connections with servicemembers outside of the unit - with the exception of Rebecca, of course.
So she’s surprised to find that she actually enjoys interacting with Miles. He is serious, intelligent, dutiful, and pragmatic, all qualities she values. He assesses situations in much the same way as she does, and they think along similar lines. It takes very little effort to communicate with him. She starts a thought or offers an idea, and Miles completes it without missing a beat. It strikes Riza as noteworthy. There’s only one other person that she’s ever had that kind of working relationship, that kind of easy understanding, with.
In turn, Miles takes her under his wing. He’s seven years older than her and has been Major General Armstrong’s adjutant for half a decade, and Riza observes his work with interest. He fulfills the Major General’s orders efficiently, while also serving as the second-in-command at Fort Briggs, with all the duties that entails. Between both roles, he has a massive host of responsibilities. As far as Riza can see, he handles them all flawlessly.
“Is there something on your mind, Lieutenant?” Miles asks her one afternoon, as they observe the joint training exercises, taking notes to share with their respective commanding officers. “You look troubled.”
“I have to admit that I’m a little envious of you, Major.” Riza draws her coat closer around her. Though the sky is cloudless and bright blue, the sun glittering off the snow, the wind howls, and it is bitterly cold outside. “You manage your dual roles with such ease. I still occasionally find it difficult to balance my responsibilities as Colonel Mustang’s adjutant with the rest of my work.”
Miles glances over at her. “You’ll get there, Hawkeye. I’m sure that in five years’ time, you’ll be doing what I do for Lieutenant General Grumman at East City Command, with great success.”
Riza shakes her head. “I don’t think so, sir.”
“You doubt yourself?” Miles asks skeptically.
“It’s not that.” Riza hesitates for a moment. The depth of her loyalty isn’t something she makes a habit of discussing, but she’s heard the way Miles talks about Major General Armstrong; she’s seen the way he looks at her. There’s a devotion, loyalty, and trust between the Major General and her adjutant that looks oddly familiar. She has the feeling that Miles will know where she’s coming from. “I serve Colonel Mustang, and only the Colonel.”
Miles looks out over the field, expression unreadable behind those black glasses he always wears, and nods his understanding.
They begin to talk with more openness about their commanding officers, as they go about their duties and take their lunches together. Miles alternates between softening almost imperceptibly when he talks about Armstrong, and glowing with pride. Riza listens and wonders, with mingled amusement and sorrow, if she is as obvious as he is. At least she doesn’t refer to the Colonel as her king, the way Miles and the Briggs soldiers call Armstrong their Queen.
“You paint Colonel Mustang in a very different light than the Major General does,” Miles says one morning, as they work on the draft of an exchange agreement for their commanding officers to sign off on. “To be honest, you’re making me reconsider my personal opinion of him as well.”
That means a lot, coming from him. Riza isn’t blind to the shade of Miles’ skin and the silver-white of his hair. “The Colonel deliberately emphasizes facets of his personality that can be off-putting, to some,” she says. “But he’s a good man. The best I’ve ever known.”
Miles exhales, short and sharp, almost a laugh. “There’s no artifice at all to the Major General,” he says. “What you see is what you get. Unfortunately, people who don’t know her well do find her somewhat abrasive.”
That is perhaps the understatement of the century, delivered with an entirely straight face and sincere tone. Riza actually does laugh, and she hastily suppresses it. “I’m sorry,” she says, straightening her collar, trying to regain her composure. “I meant no offense. That was inappropriate.”
Miles gives her a small smile, as if aware of how amusing his words had been. “None taken.”
“I think she’s an inspiring leader. If I wasn’t sworn to the Colonel, I would request to serve under her command.”
“Briggs would be lucky to have you.” Miles studies her. “You remind me of her,” he says, after a moment. “You have similar traits, if not temperaments. If you weren’t so dedicated to staying in East City with Mustang, I think the Major General would want you as a protege.”
It’s chilly in the library, as it is everywhere in Briggs, but Riza feels a blush warm her cheeks. “You would be a fine addition to our unit as well. But I’m sure the Major General would try to run Colonel Mustang through with her sabre if he requested your transfer to East City.”
They both dissolve into quiet laughter before returning to their work. Riza stares down at her notes, not quite seeing them, flustered and perturbed by her lingering blush. There’s only one person who’s ever had that effect on her.
This is dangerous, and therefore unlike her. She’s worked so hard to avoid any inappropriate entanglements with her Colonel, and she has no business getting into an unprofessional entanglement with her fellow adjutant.
Riza has the anti-fraternization regulations memorized, and she suspects Miles does as well. Any inappropriate contact would open both of them up to censure and severe reprimands from their commanding officers - but it’s not in violation of the regulations. It’s not explicitly prohibited, as other forms of fraternization are. They wouldn’t be subject to court-martial or dishonorable discharge, simply because they aren’t stationed at the same post, and she is outside of his chain of command.
It is still unprofessional, Riza reminds herself. Just because it doesn’t carry the same damning consequences as getting involved with one’s commanding officer doesn’t mean that it is an intelligent alternative.
It feels so indescribably satisfying to be understood, though, the way Miles understands her. Unfortunately, she suspects that he feels the same way. This would be a hundred times easier if he didn’t reciprocate her interest. Even with his perpetual dark glasses, Riza sometimes senses his gaze lingering on her. Their hands occasionally brush while exchanging folders, and they sit a little closer together than necessary when they’re in private. It’s reminiscent of her interactions with her Colonel, and she is sure that it echoes Miles’ interactions with Armstrong.
It’s a blessing that nobody else notices anything amiss. Her unit is thoroughly enjoying this opportunity to socialize with the Briggs forces; they think nothing of the fact that she’s made a new friend. Colonel Mustang is more inscrutable. Here, surrounded by East City Command forces and the Briggs soldiers, he is more mindful of keeping an appropriate distance from her. He doesn’t take paperwork from her in a way that deliberately brushes their hands together, or pat her on the shoulder casually, or insist that she assist him with the easiest tasks, just so that he has her company during the work day. Their days are scheduled to the minute and moments alone are rare. For once, Riza is grateful for that.
One morning, during a short break between training exercises, Miles and Armstrong leave to gather some material from her office. Roy comes to stand beside her, leaving a respectable distance between them. “Is Briggs treating you well, Lieutenant?” he asks.
Riza inclines her head. “It is. I’ve found my time here valuable.”
Roy keeps his eyes trained on the soldiers mingling on the field. “Major Miles seems to find your company much more palatable than Armstrong finds mine.”
His tone is completely neutral. “Yes,” Riza replies, just as evenly. “We have a lot in common.”
Roy folds his arms behind his back. “You’re both very dedicated. I suspect Armstrong would be just as lost without him as I would be without you.”
It is a sweet sentiment, and genuine. Roy is never shy with compliments to her. He tries so hard to ensure that she feels appreciated and valued. What would I do without you, Lieutenant? It’s the safest way for him to express his feelings. Riza hates it, as she always does, for how bittersweet these compliments feel. She swallows over her suddenly dry throat. “Thank you.”
“Put in a good word for me with Miles,” Roy says, turning away. “Hopefully he’ll pass it on to his commanding officer.”
The day’s exercises conclude, and they return to Miles’ office to finalize their reports in the hour before dinner. It had been even more frigid than usual this evening, and the indoor heating system in Briggs is weak, at best. Riza flexes her fingers, willing the numbness to dissipate. The cold had bitten through her gloves.
“Lieutenant, are you cold?”
Riza looks up from her work, belatedly realizing that she had been rubbing her arm with her free hand in a futile attempt to warm herself. The wool-blend military uniforms are designed to be comfortable in all weather, but they don’t stand up to the cold in the north. “A little,” she admits. “All of you said that we’d get used to it by the end of our stay, but I’m still waiting to adjust.”
Miles stands. “We can go to the outfitters and find you an overcoat.”
“It’s all right,” Riza protests. “We’re only here for two more days. I can manage.”
“We’ll be outside all day tomorrow, and we’re expecting even lower temperatures.”
That convinces her, and they make their way to the uniform office, in an isolated, drafty corner of Fort Briggs. “It’s manned during daytime hours,” Miles explains, unlocking the door. “But nobody needs it during the evening.”
The uniform office is dimly lit and a little eerie. Endless rows of blue wool uniforms hang on long wooden racks, and some have been placed on mannequins. The walls are covered with shelves of other supplies - snow-blindness glasses like Miles wears, and fur-lined snow boots, gloves, and pants.
The overcoats are toward the back of the office. There are dozens of them hung up against the walls, in a range of dull colors. They’re long and thick, all lined with fur. Riza shakes her head as she surveys the austere silhouettes. “These will make me look like I’m from Drachma. My unit will never let me hear the end of it.”
Miles frowns as he searches through the coats. They’re all covered in a fine layer of dust and smell faintly of mothballs. “These are all too large for you,” he says. “You’ve noticed that there are hardly any women at Briggs. Most of the clothing we receive is designed for men.”
“It’s fine. As long as it’s warm.” Riza takes a coat off the rack, stifling a sneeze. She puts it on with difficulty, unprepared for the heaviness of it, and then stares down at herself in dismay. The hem of the coat hangs almost to her feet. Its weight alone will restrict her mobility enough without having to factor in such an unwieldy length. To make matters worse, a glance at the full-length mirror in the corner confirms that she looks utterly ridiculous.
Miles coughs, clearly holding back a laugh. “All you need now is one of those Drachman ushanka hats.”
Riza narrows her eyes at him, and he lifts the coat free from her shoulders, still looking much too amused for her liking. Miles walks further into the room to continue his search, deliberately humming a Drachman marching tune. Her own search is futile. She is just about ready to admit defeat when Miles returns, bearing a tan-colored coat, and looking as satisfied as she’s ever seen him. “Here,” he says, holding it out to her. “I think this will be suitable.”
It does look promising, and Riza smiles. To her surprise, Miles helps her with the coat (like Roy does when they’re alone together), settling it over her shoulders. “This is perfect,” she says, sighing with relief, drawing it closer around herself. “Thank you.”
Miles nods. He had approached the task with as much seriousness and dedication as Riza has seen him coordinate the week’s joint training exercises. “I’m happy to help.”
“You’ve gotten dust on your shoulder, though,” Riza says. “May I?”
It’s a casual gesture that she has done for every man on her unit, as all of them have the barest possible sense of what it means to be presentable for inspection. Roy is the worst offender, constantly plagued by lint. But Miles goes very still when she brushes the dust off.
Riza is mid-brush when she realizes that they are shut into a deserted office in an isolated area of the fort, with everybody else most likely in the mess hall for dinner, and this was probably a huge mistake.
She freezes and looks up at him. Miles appears somewhat pale. Slowly, tentatively, he settles his hands on her shoulders, and even through her coat and uniform, Riza shivers at his touch. “Is this all right?” he asks quietly.
Riza nods once, unable to believe this is happening. “Yes.”
Miles leans down and kisses her, slowly at first, and then with increasing fervor, sliding his hands down her back, wrapping his arms around her waist. Riza steadies herself with her hands on his broad shoulders, feeling her heart hammer against her chest, and she’s never imagined herself kissing anyone besides Roy like this.
The coats hung against the wall pad the impact when her back hits it, and Riza gasps into the kiss. “Sorry,” Miles breathes, stroking her hair in apology.
“I’m fine.” Riza smooths her hands over his chest, before pulling him back to her. Miles is all long, lean muscle, and she would have thought that being in a position like this would be claustrophobic, but she likes the weight of him against her, one hand on her hip, gently pinning her to the wall, the other tilting her head back for him. Her breathing is uncharacteristically ragged, echoing his own, and Riza’s knees almost feel weak. She hadn’t realized how much she has craved this, how viscerally she has hungered for this, until very recently. How much she needs a true physical release, for every impossible thing she’s longed for with Roy, every moment of frustrated desire alone in her bedroom at night, with nothing but thoughts of him to keep her company.
Riza draws back just a little, just enough to speak, and runs her thumbs down the sides of his face, tracing those sharp cheekbones. “This probably isn’t the most secure location.”
Miles looks over his shoulder at the clock on the wall. “Everyone should still be at dinner,” he says, taking her hand in his.
The walk to his quarters is agonizingly long, especially while trying to maintain a strictly professional demeanor. Miles straightens his collar as they walk, and Riza smooths her hair. Thankfully, the hallways are deserted. Miles unlocks his door with a hand that trembles on the lock, and they stumble into the darkened room, Riza just managing to shove the door shut as they fall back into an embrace. She savors every kiss, the warmth of him, the feel of his hands on her.
They shed their uniform coats clumsily, both of their fingers fumbling on the others’ buttons and zippers. Miles wears a close-fitting black undershirt with a high neck and long sleeves, similar to hers. It’s only when he slips his hands under the hem of her shirt that Riza comes back to herself a little, nervousness unfurling within her.
Miles feels her tense up, and he pulls back. “What’s wrong?”
Riza takes a deep breath. This is the reason she has refrained from experimenting before, during her two years in the Academy and during every biweekly bar night with Rebecca. This is the reason she has always ignored her friend’s urgings to find someone handsome and take him home, someone that would make her forget about Roy. For a little while tonight, mind hazy with desire and need, she had forgotten. But not about Roy.
“My back,” Riza says stiffly, thinking of the ruined skin she hates looking at when emerging from the shower. The tattoo, and the burn scars marring the skin even further. “The skin there is disfigured. I’ve never shown…” She falters, unable to continue.
Miles studies her for a long moment. Finally, he does something she doesn’t expect, and reaches up, removing his glasses. He folds them and sets them on the desk, and looks at her with his red eyes. “We all carry our own secrets,” he says softly.
Riza takes his face in both of her hands, pulls him down to her, and kisses him.
Over the years, Riza had become as familiar with Roy’s hands as her own. She had studied them discreetly as a young girl with a crush, as he wrote his alchemy notes, and helped her with her own studies, and the chores around the house. As she had grown older, fifteen, sixteen, seventeen, she had started to wonder about what those hands would feel like on her skin.
She had learned what they had felt like at eighteen, Roy’s arm wrapped around her, underneath her breasts, for support, the snap of his fingers a breath away from her back, her face buried in a pillow to muffle her screams of pain.
Over the past years, Riza has studied Roy’s hands nearly as much as she had when she was a girl. They’re always a tell for his state of mind. Clenched fists or white knuckles. Fingers casually steepled together, tapping out a rhythm on the desk, or twirling a pen through his fingers as he mulls something over. She still wonders what his hands would feel like on her body, in an infinitely more pleasurable context than the last time. Sometimes she feels like she’s drowning in her curiosity, her hunger, for it.
Miles slips his hands underneath the hem of her shirt, helping her ease it off. He skims his fingertips and the backs of his fingers over her skin - her shoulders, collarbones, sides - and waits for her shivers to subside, letting her acclimatize to the touch. She does, eventually, and Riza can’t help but notice that Miles has very different hands than Roy does. They’re larger, and not as warm. His fingers are long and thin and elegant, almost like a pianist’s. The pattern of calluses is entirely different than Roy’s hands.
Miles has nice hands, Riza decides, and then she learns that he’s so good with those hands it makes her want to weep.
She’s never been so grateful for her two years at the academy, sharing a dorm room with five other women. In such close quarters, learning how to take her pleasure in herself without making a single sound had been an essential skill. Riza buries her moans in his shoulder, in his neck, digging her fingernails into his back, fisting a hand in his rough ponytail. Miles holds her tightly and manages to stay as almost-silent as she does. His narrow bed is just as uncomfortable as her old bunk in the academy, but at least it doesn’t squeak as she wraps herself around him.
Miles makes her come undone just as hard as she’s ever managed alone, with Roy’s name on her lips. Arched off the mattress, toes curled, stars exploding underneath her closed eyelids.
They lie in each others’ arms afterwards, worn out and disheveled, lost for words, still breathless. Miles looks at her, brushing her bangs out of her eyes, and Riza meets his gaze. There’s so much she wants to say, that she can’t find the words to.
“I’m sorry,” Miles murmurs, breaking the silence. “That you’ve found yourself in this position too. It’s been the greatest privilege of my life to serve the Major General, but I wouldn’t wish our circumstances on anybody else.”
Riza rests a hand on his arm. “I never thought I would meet somebody else who could relate, but I’m grateful I have,” she admits, her voice barely audible. “I didn’t think of him.”
“I didn’t think of her,” Miles replies, matching her quiet tone, and she believes him.
“It felt good to have...an outlet.” Riza glances back towards him. “Do you understand?”
Miles places a hand on hers, and she feels the weight of his understanding, as warm and comforting as the coat he had found for her. “Completely.”
They wait until it’s late, until the hallways are likely to be empty, before Riza dares returning to her guest quarters. Her mind races as she makes her way through the fort, and she should loathe herself for the absolutely outrageous thing she had just done, but she doesn’t. She stretches out in her cot, spent and satisfied, some of her terrible hunger sated, and falls into a deep sleep.
“You weren’t at dinner last night,” is the first thing Roy says to her, the following morning, when she reports to him before breakfast.
Thankfully, Riza had prepared herself for this. “Major Miles and I got caught up with the preparations for today, Colonel,” she replies, calm and serious, just what he - what anyone - would expect of Lieutenant Hawkeye.
Roy regards her thoughtfully. “Make sure you eat enough this morning to compensate, then. We have a long day ahead.”
Riza inclines her head and swallows a mouthful of irrational guilt. Don’t be an idiot, she thinks, forcing herself to remember every time she’s heard Roy and Havoc swapping stories about the dates that they went on that weekend. “I will, sir.”
“Is that a new coat? It suits you.”
“Yes, Colonel. It is. Thank you.”
Riza tells herself that it had been a lapse, an indulgence, a moment of weakness. She tells herself that it shouldn’t happen again.
They say their goodbyes at the ceremony concluding the joint training exercise the following morning, standing beside their commanding officers the entire time. “Take care of yourself, Lieutenant,” Miles tells her, offering a formal salute. “Safe travels back to East City.”
Riza returns the salute. “Thank you, Major.”
They return to East City by the evening. Her unit decides to go out for dinner and drinks to celebrate being back home and free from the borderline unpalatable rations at Fort Briggs. Riza politely declines the invitation, citing a headache. She goes back to her empty apartment, climbs into bed, and stares at the ceiling for an hour. Then she calls Rebecca.
Two weeks pass, and one Tuesday afternoon, Riza receives a letter at work with a Briggs postmark on it. The letter, written in a familiar hand, addresses a change in the schedule of the next joint training and requests that Lieutenant General Grumman and Colonel Mustang discuss the proposed change. The postscript asks if she’s ever visited the town of Linz.
Riza folds the letter into a neat square and tucks it into her pocket.
“What are you smiling about?” Havoc asks her curiously. She hadn’t realized he had re-entered the office, with Roy and Breda in tow, all of them holding takeout boxes from Blomgren’s. Riza hastily smooths her expression, tells them she wasn’t smiling, and strides off to follow up with Grumman’s office on the ongoing Becker investigation.
She and Miles establish a routine of spending one Saturday a month in Linz, a rural town approximately halfway between Briggs and East City. It’s extremely scenic, and it’s nice not to have to worry about being discreet; to have the freedom to talk openly, without having to worry about being overheard.
Time goes on, and Riza learns what each season looks like in Linz. Winter, spring, summer, autumn, winter again.
Riza hesitates to call Miles one of her best friends, not like Rebecca and Roy and the rest of the unit, because she isn’t intimate with any of them. But he becomes a confidant, just as close to her as the others are, in a different way. Her outlet. Her safe place to say and express the feelings she can’t anywhere else. She is the same for him, and she’s grateful for what they can be for each other. Things would be very lonely for both of them, otherwise.
No judgement, Riza, but the situation is very weird, Rebecca says.
Unconventional, Riza corrects.
She goes out for dinner and drinks with her unit and listens to them as they trade stories about their recent dates. Roy complains that his last date couldn’t carry a conversation to save her life, and Riza stifles an uncharitable burst of satisfaction. Havoc asks her if she has a boyfriend. Roy tells him halfheartedly that it’s an inappropriate question, and looks at her as if he expects an answer. No, Riza says shortly, and redirects the discussion by asking Falman how his date with the librarian went.
Discretion isn’t necessary for a day in Linz once every month, but it is crucial when East City Command forces converge on Briggs every winter for the joint training exercises. They are never as careless as they had been during that first year, especially when their commanding officers are anywhere in the vicinity.
Still, one afternoon when she and Miles are working through a dreadful lunch in the mess hall, comparing Briggs and East City Command performances during the recent wilderness survival exercise, Riza feels an uncomfortable prickling on the back of her neck. She turns around to see Breda, Havoc, Falman, and Fuery observing her and Miles from a few tables over. They’re whispering to one another, looking much too speculative for her comfort.
Riza glares at them. Falman and Fuery immediately disappear behind a newspaper, and Breda elbows Havoc, both of them diving back into their meals with great enthusiasm.
“Hawkeye?” Miles asks, glancing up from the paperwork spread out between them. “Is everything all right?”
Riza sighs, turning back to her work, hoping that her teammates have the good sense to keep their mouths shut around the Colonel. “It is now.”
It happens on a quiet, uneventful Thursday afternoon. Four in the afternoon, just an hour away from freedom, bright spring sunlight streaming in through the windows. They’re back in East City, working at their stations, conversing quietly. Colonel Mustang is lingering near Fuery’s desk, inquiring about the details of some new communications equipment the unit had purchased.
“Lieutenant Hawkeye,” Falman says, during a lull in the conversation. “Are you available this weekend? I’m planning on visiting my parents, and I was wondering if you could stop by and water my orchids.”
“You have orchids?” Breda asks, bemused. “I didn’t know you were into gardening.”
“He has a lovely collection.” Riza smiles at Falman. “I’m sorry, but I’ll be out of town this weekend as well. I’ll give you my neighbor’s phone number, though. She’s a retired florist, so she would be perfect for the job.”
Falman gives her a grateful nod. “Thank you, Lieutenant.”
“What are you up to, Hawkeye?” Havoc asks, leaning back in his chair. “Spa weekend with Rebecca?”
“No,” Riza says absentmindedly, reviewing a thick stack of surveillance transcriptions. “I’ll be in Linz.”
“Linz,” Havoc repeats, mulling it over. “Isn’t that...”
Riza realizes her mistake and sets down the stack of transcriptions with a thud. Havoc plunges on, unfazed. “Isn’t that the town halfway between here and Briggs? The one with all the tulips?”
“Your incident report that was due on the fifth is late,” Riza cuts in, aware of Colonel Mustang still talking to Fuery, trying desperately to derail Havoc’s train of thought.
“Oh!” Havoc crows. “Meeting the boyfriend, eh? Your Major Miles?”
Fuck, Riza thinks.
Breda and Falman look ready to tackle Havoc to the ground. Fuery trails off in the middle of a sentence about “smart bugs.” Colonel Mustang goes very, very still.
Havoc takes it all in with wide eyes. Sorry? he mouths to her, and Riza briefly, uncharacteristically, contemplates lunging over her desk and strangling him.
“Lieutenant Hawkeye,” Colonel Mustang says slowly, without turning around. “See me in my office. The rest of you are dismissed for the day.”
Riza stands up, feeling a pit open in her stomach. Her unit gathers their things in record speed and actually flees the office, casting sympathetic looks at her over their shoulders as they go.
Roy stalks over to his office ahead of her, holds the door open, and then slams it shut when they’re both inside. Riza stands at attention in front of his desk, staring at a fixed point out of the window as he storms over and takes a seat. He looks at her with narrowed eyes and does not order her to stand at ease or to sit. She holds his gaze, refusing to flinch or blink.
“Is this true, Lieutenant?” he finally asks. “Are you fraternizing with Major Miles?”
Roy spits the words like he’s speaking around a mouthful of shattered glass. Riza inclines her head a fraction of an inch. “Please note, sir, that we aren’t in violation of the anti-fraternization regulations,” she says carefully.
A vein actually pulses in Roy’s temple. “Miles is two ranks ahead of you,” he says tightly. “It’s a flagrant violation of the regulations.”
“Major Miles is not my commanding officer, nor is he stationed at my post. As a result, he is outside my direct chain of command. Barring a highly catastrophic and irregular event, Miles would never be in a position to issue orders to me.”
Roy opens his mouth and then closes it, speechless.
“I’ve studied the anti-fraternization regulations very closely, sir,” Riza says, her gaze dropping to the floor for an instant. “So has he.”
“You’re right,” Roy finally mutters, looking away. “But even though there’s no technical violation of the regulations, it’s the spirit of the thing that matters. How long has this been going on?”
Riza pauses for a moment, thinking back. “About four years now.”
“Four--” Roy actually chokes, all the color draining from his face, and his expression would have been amusing in any other situation. “Four years? Four years? Are you serious?”
“I wouldn’t joke about this, Colonel.”
“I don’t even know what to say to you, Lieutenant!” Roy stands, striding over to her side of the desk, and he actually paces in a circle around her. “This is the height of unprofessional, unacceptable behavior. I expected better from you!”
The rebuke stings. “With all due respect,” Riza says stiffly. “I do not believe that this reprimand is deserved. I have never let this impact my work on our unit. Additionally, you have never commented on any of the others’ personal lives. And I have never commented on your dates. Your many, many dates.”
The last sentence, bitter and hurt, slips out before she can bite it back, and she regrets it at once. Roy whirls around, glaring at her. “Meaningless and unsatisfying, every one of them,” he says, through gritted teeth. “Certainly not in the same class as a four-year affair. Four years, Hawkeye! Couples get engaged and married in less time than that! Do I have to worry about you resigning your commission and moving North now? So that you can be closer to Miles? So that he can marry you without being in violation of the regulations?”
Riza can’t remember the last time she saw Roy this angry. Not his usual quickfire flares of temper, but real anger. “It’s not like that, sir,” she says levelly, ignoring the gradual increase in her pulse rate.
“For now, it’s not,” he says, and there’s a wariness in his expression reminiscent of a wounded animal.
“Colonel, I’m telling you that you have nothing to worry about,” Riza counters, her temper rising, despite her best efforts, even though she doesn’t owe him the explanation. He really thinks that she would leave him? He’s so stupid sometimes, she could grab him and shake him.
Roy freezes in his pacing and raises an eyebrow at her. “Oh?” he asks, and she can see how sorely his self-restraint is being tested. “What, you think he’ll give up his position as second-in-command at Briggs and move here for you?”
Riza inhales deeply. “Because as fond as we are of each other, his true devotion lies somewhere else. As does mine,” she says curtly. She can hardly believe she’s doing this; laying all of her cards on the table like this. She has nothing left to lose now. “Miles and I understand one another perfectly.”
Silence hangs between them, heavy and oppressive. Riza watches as the realization slowly dawns in Roy’s eyes. He turns away from her, hiding his reaction, and runs a hand through his hair. “Lieutenant,” he manages, apparently struggling for words. “You didn’t have to… You shouldn’t have…”
“What was I supposed to do?” Riza sighs, her anger fading, leaving weariness in its place. “Just because you can’t have me doesn’t mean that nobody else should.”
A barely perceptible shudder shakes Roy’s shoulders. He finally moves, looking her in the eye, coming to stand close to her. Close enough that she could easily twine a hand around the back of his neck and pull him into her for a kiss. “Fuck the regulations,” he says quietly. “I can’t stand this anymore, Hawkeye. We can be discreet. You and Miles certainly managed to keep things under wraps for all these years.”
Riza takes a step back, startled. “Colonel, we can’t. The consequences for us are much more significant, and--”
“Then what are we supposed to do, Lieutenant?” he interrupts, echoing her earlier question, closing the distance between them again. “You keep getting in deeper with Miles? I carry on with my little flings, and being disappointed that no other woman can give me what you do?”
Riza stares at his shoulder, because that is safer than making eye contact. “...Yes,” she says softly.
“No,” Roy returns, without missing a beat. “That won’t do. Not anymore.”
He brushes his fingertips against her jaw, gently tilting her face up to his, and Riza swallows over her suddenly dry throat. I shouldn’t, she thinks, and that tiny voice inside her is thoroughly overpowered by the part of her that’s wanted this since she had been a girl.
Roy leans in and kisses her, and Riza’s hands fist in the lapels of his coat. She shouldn’t reciprocate, but she does. Slowly at first, and then with increasing intensity, standing on the tips of her toes to press herself closer to him.
She’s the one to pull away, after several long moments, even though it’s the last thing she wants to do. Her heart is hammering in her chest, her skin flushed, and Riza looks away, trying to regain her composure. “I need to talk to Miles first,” she says. “I should be honest with him.”
“Fine,” Roy says, studying her. “Will you come over for dinner at my place on Saturday night?”
There’s apprehension in his eyes, and hope. Riza silently nods her assent.
On Saturday morning, she finds Miles at their usual meeting spot, standing under the weeping willow tree on the eastern shore of Linz’s Lake Donaeu-Auen. He cuts a handsome figure, wearing a camel-colored coat over a dark shirt, hands in his pockets, eyes shielded by his glasses, sharp features set in their usual, focused expression. Riza can’t help but smile as she approaches him, and when he notices her, a small smile touches his lips too.
“Hawkeye,” he says, pressing a kiss to her brow. “You look well.”
“Miles.” Riza stretches up, kissing him on the cheek. “As do you.”
They sit in the shade of the willow tree and talk, catching up on everything that’s occurred over the past month, as they share the croissants Riza had picked up on the way from the train station. Well. They catch up on almost everything. She had spent a good part of the train ride staring out of the window, wondering what to say. She’s never broken up with anybody before, and is this breaking up, anyway? Since they aren’t in a proper relationship? Despite her good intentions, Rebecca hadn’t been much help for advice, either.
“I need to tell you something,” Riza says, when they lapse into a brief silence.
Miles glances around to make sure that there is nobody nearby, and then removes his glasses. “What is it?”
“Colonel Mustang found out about…” Riza gestures between the two of them.
Miles’s eyebrows shoot up. “I see,” he says cautiously. “How did he take it?”
Riza considers the most tactful way to say it. “The Colonel was extremely displeased with me.”
“Oh,” Miles says, and then he looks at her, catching her meaning. “ Oh. ”
Riza dares a look at him, tearing her gaze away from the gentle ripples on the surface of the lake. She’s surprised to see that Miles is smiling at her, small but genuine. He puts an arm around her shoulders. “I’m happy for you,” he says. “Truly, Hawkeye.”
Riza leans against him, gratitude welling up inside her. “Thank you so much for understanding,” she says emphatically. She hadn’t realized how worried she had been until now. “Thank you.”
Miles laughs softly. “So Colonel Mustang’s not as much of an idiot as Major General Armstrong says he is, then.”
Riza nudges him in the side. “It would be a mistake for the Major General not to follow in the Colonel’s footsteps.”
“I can hope.” Miles looks out over the lake. A light breeze blows, rustling the leaves, sending pale pink blossoms drifting from the branches to scatter on their shoulders, and Riza squeezes his hand.
Riza takes the afternoon train back to East City. Miles sees her off at the station, and they exchange a friendly embrace. She’s able to relax on the ride back, resting her head against the window and admiring the scenery, lost in thought about the days and weeks and years ahead.
Riza returns to her apartment, takes a hot shower, and dresses with care, in a close-fitting gray skirt and pink blouse, silver studs in her ears. She studies herself in the mirror and undoes the top two buttons of her blouse, and fluffs out her bangs with a hand that shakes a little. Get a grip, she tells herself. She’s not a teenage girl out on her first date.
She knocks on the Colonel’s door at three quarters past nine, their agreed-upon meeting time. It’s a late hour for dinner, but the streets had been empty, and there had been nobody to see her slip into the service entrance of his apartment building.
Roy flings the door open, looking somewhat harried. His apartment smells of burnt basil and pine nuts, and a single noodle of cooked spaghetti lies over his shoulder, somewhat disrupting his otherwise impeccable appearance. “Ah, Lieutenant,” he says, before wincing. “Hawkeye. Riza. Please come in.”
So formal. Like she hasn’t been here countless times before, to see him home safely after a night of drinking with the unit, or to drop off paperwork. Riza enters, looking around at her surroundings, taken aback. The floorboards are positively gleaming, even in the soft lamplight, and there isn’t a single ball of dust to be seen anywhere. “I don’t even recognize the place,” she says, looking up at him. “You did this?”
Roy shrugs. “What, like it’s hard?”
Riza stifles a laugh at his feigned nonchalance. “Do you remember the last time I was here? When I found that massive cobweb in the corner near the window, as well as its creator?”
“Of course. You chastised me for a quarter of an hour about how I need to take more pride in my living space, and said that I could never be the Fuhrer of Amestris if I couldn’t even keep my own apartment in order.” Roy heaves an overly dramatic sigh. “I took your words to heart, harsh as they were.”
“I’m glad to hear that they had some impact on you.” Riza breathes in, taking in the scent hanging in the air around them. “Is that pesto?”
Roy nods proudly. “Just like you used to make when we were kids. Except…” He turns red. “Slightly more well-done.”
They eat dinner sitting side-by-side on the living room sofa, pressed together from knee to hip, closer than they have ever allowed themselves to sit. The pesto is more than a little burnt and the spaghetti is slightly undercooked. It’s the best dinner Riza has had in a long while, and she tells him so.
“I thought about ordering something from Ryker’s instead,” Roy admits, rubbing the back of his neck somewhat bashfully. “And passing it off as my own work.”
Ryker’s - one of the finest restaurants in East City, and a popular spot for fancy date nights. Riza shakes her head. “I’m glad you didn’t.”
Roy straightens his tie, preening. “Because this is much more romantic?”
Riza raises an eyebrow at him. “Because I would have seen right through it.”
He places a hand on his heart. “You wound me, Hawkeye.”
“Invest in a bulletproof vest, sir,” she says dryly.
“Next time…” Roy begins, draping an arm around her shoulders, glancing at her out of the corner of his eye. “I’ll do better.”
Riza meets his gaze, savoring the charge in the air. “Yes,” she says. “Please do.”
They move toward one another in the exact same instant. The kiss is more fervent than their first, more heated, and Roy wraps a gentle hand around the side of her neck, rubbing his thumb against her jaw. Without a moment’s hesitation, Riza winds her arms around his shoulders, leaning backward and pulling him down with her.
They don’t make it to the bedroom. They tangle together on the narrow sofa, Roy’s fingers fumbling on the buttons of her blouse and with the hook of her bra. He has so many layers to his overly formal outfit that Riza just pushes off his coat and undoes his tie and belt, the button and zipper on his pants, and wraps her legs around him.
“Good enough,” she whispers, and Roy laughs breathlessly as he kisses down her neck, toward her chest. “That’s what every man wants to hear.”
“That’s not what I--”
He slips a hand underneath her skirt, and Riza closes her eyes, the rest of her sentence dissolving in a sharp gasp.
She reflects, afterwards, that maybe she should have tried harder to keep quiet. Her voice will likely be hoarse tomorrow, but thankfully, it’s a weekend. Riza stretches out, limp and utterly spent, breathless, feeling the sweat cool on her brow, the occasional shiver still racing through her body. Roy holds her tightly, his face nestled against the side of her neck. She skims her fingertips over his back, over his arms, trying to distract herself from the tears welling up in her eyes.
“It feels different,” she says quietly. “With the person you love. I didn’t expect that.”
Roy just nods, holding her closer, and Riza can feel the moisture on her collarbone.
East City Command forces return to Briggs for joint training exercises in winter.
It’s all very aggravating, Roy muses to himself. Winter in Briggs is borderline uninhabitable. Fort Briggs continues to have a pathetic excuse for an indoor heating system, and the rations have actually gotten worse since their last visit. To add insult to injury, despite his steadily growing influence at East City Command and in Central, Major General Armstrong still treats him with as much regard as she’d treat a worm underneath her boot.
They settle in Armstrong’s office after the day’s activities, ready for an evening working meeting that promises to be duller than ditchwater. Major Miles hands Armstrong the stack of documents that will be jointly reviewed over the next hour, while Riza hands him a similar pile of paperwork. The two adjutants direct identical quelling looks at their respective commanding officers, with the air of teachers warning schoolchildren not to get into any playground scuffles. Both Lieutenant Hawkeye and Major Miles then come to attention, salute sharply, and leave the room when Armstrong dismisses them.
Today has been quite the long day, and he would rather choke down “dinner” at the mess hall and take a hot shower than sit and quarrel with Armstrong for the next hour. Roy watches Riza and Miles go, and he twirls his pen through his fingers, deciding to have a little fun.
“They’re very well suited to one another, aren’t they,” he says casually, searching his tower of paperwork for the prepared report on how Briggs can help East City Command strengthen their defensive capability.
Roy doesn’t look up, but he catches a barely perceptible falter in Armstrong’s handwriting as she adds a note to a report in front of her. “What flavor of idiotic drivel are you spouting now, Mustang?” she asks coolly.
“Your Major Miles and my Lieutenant Hawkeye.” Roy looks up from the stack of reports and gives her his most winning smile. “I have to admit that I was skeptical at first, since he’s so much older than her. But they really do seem to be birds of a feather. Both so serious and dutiful.”
To his delight, Armstrong looks like she has swallowed an entire lemon whole. “Where did you hear such outrageous gossip?” she demands.
“Oh, it’s not gossip,” Roy says, as guileless as he can manage. “I heard it straight from the horse’s mouth. Or the hawk’s, as it were. But I’m not surprised Major Miles hasn’t confided in you to seek your approval of the liaison. Not all leaders are as trusted by their subordinates as I am, after all.”
He can almost hear Armstrong grinding her teeth. She signs the report with such force that the pen nearly tears through the paper, before falling into a brooding silence. It’s a sign of how much he had rattled the Major General that she doesn’t rant at him about how she is a far superior leader to him, with hundreds of loyal soldiers under her command rather than a single small unit, et cetera, et cetera. Roy smiles, reviewing the report before him with a renewed sense of enthusiasm.
Riza and Miles set up camp in the library down the hall from Major General Armstrong’s office. They write up notes for their respective commanding officers on lessons learned from the day’s exercises, chatting quietly to share their observations.
The door flies open, slamming against the opposite wall so hard that Riza is surprised the wall doesn’t crack from the force of the impact. She and Miles look up from their work in unison. Major General Armstrong stands just inside the doorway, glowering with even more ferocity than normal. Behind her, Riza can see Roy leaning nonchalantly against the doorway, looking rather smug.
She and Miles both rise at once and salute. “Major General,” Miles says. “Can we assist you and Colonel Mustang with anything?”
“Miles,” Armstrong says darkly. “Come with me.”
She storms out, and Miles follows. He gives Riza a nonplussed look, and she responds with a tiny shrug.
Roy watches them go, positively beaming at Miles - to which Miles looks even more baffled. When Riza judges that the Briggs commander and her second-in-command are a safe distance away, she makes her way over to her Colonel, guides him into the library, and then closes the door behind them. “What did you do?” she whispers.
“You have such a suspicious nature, Lieutenant,” Roy chides, matching her hushed tone. “I didn’t do anything. I simply completed my work alongside Major General Armstrong. We had a pleasant chat.”
Riza sighs, pressing her fingers to her temples. “But why?”
“I was bored.” Roy checks his reflection in the antique mirror on the wall and brushes a speck of lint off his shoulder. “Please inform Miles that a gift basket would be an appropriate token of gratitude, and provide him with my home address. I don’t feel like sharing at the office.”
Riza rolls her eyes. “Colonel,” she says, and she can’t keep the note of affection from creeping into her voice. “How can you expect to be the Fuhrer of Amestris when you antagonize one of this country’s leading military officials?”
“I wasn’t antagonizing anyone,” Roy protests. “It was an act of kindness. Truly. I want…” He clearly struggles to school his facial expression into one of innocence and sincerity. “I want everyone to have the same extraordinary happiness and satisfaction that I’ve found with you.”
“You are insufferable, sir,” Riza informs him.
“I know.” Roy grins. “Will you join me for dinner, Lieutenant?”
They make their way downstairs, side-by-side.
The next morning, at the ceremonial opening of the day’s exercises, Riza notices that Major Miles follows a quarter-step closer to Major General Armstrong than he normally does.
She raises an eyebrow at him a fraction of an inch, when she’s certain that nobody else is looking their way. Miles mirrors the subtle gesture, and Riza smiles.