Knock, knock, knock.
Annoyed, 1st Lieutenant Riza Hawkeye turned the silver knob, peering through the stilted doorway to his office. Her eyes widened slightly, surprise written on her face.
Colonel Roy Mustang was scribbling frantically across thin sheets of parchment, and turning pages to nearby books; ebony colored eyes tinged with frustration and lack of sleep, scanned the sentences, muttering obscenities as he scratched out words in the margins of his papers.
"Colonel Mustang!" she raised her voice just below a shout.
The book before him slammed closed; Roy lifted his weary gaze to her thin frame that hovered tentatively in the doorway.
"Yes, Lieutenant?" he asked, voice caustic. Riza remained unflinching to the harsh tone, used to it by far.
"Time to head home, sir?" she said firmly, matching his glare. Roy's gaze wavered slightly, throwing Riza off balance; he sighed softly, detected only by the precision of Riza's ears.
"Of course." He replied, resignedly. He collected the papers from his desk, and marked pages of books before snapping them shut.
"I'll lock up, Colonel." Riza offered, noting the weariness upon her superior's face. He nodded his gratitude and strode out the door, a few papers absently falling beneath his arm.
Riza had reached Roy's desk and had begun stacking his books upon hearing the parchment shuffle to the floor. She looked up, crimson gaze scanning the room. Noting the paper, she walked over and picked it up, pulling the door closed behind her. Hopefully, she could catch Roy on his way out.
As she walked down the empty hallways, her thoughts strayed to Roy, as they had so often. His behavior had changed; less snide comments, mocking smirks, smiling. He was quiet, reserved, yet always working diligently, as though life itself depended upon it. It had begun to worry Riza, though she had never dared to mention it to him; that would be overstepping her authority, mixing personal with professional life. She sighed, eyes scanning the papers in her hands.
The word caught her eye. Written over in Maes Hughes's sloppy scrawl, notes on 'homunculi' were scribbled on the page. Maes's memory struck a pang of sadness in Riza's heart, but she read on. Roy's neater, smaller notes dotted the margins, ink blots ink blots spattered in the corners from haste, pages creased from countless dog-ears.
Riza's faze grew troubled; why was Roy so obsessed with these beings, homunculi?
Hearing faint footsteps ahead, Riza's pace quickened. Roy's hunched form soon came into view. Riza's lips allowed a thin smile.
"Sir!" she called, raising a salute. Roy stopped and turned slowly, eyes widening upon seeing the papers in Riza's extended hand. "You... you dropped these." she said softly, catching the look in his eyes. He gently took them from her, hand brushing her own. She felt her face warm unexpectedly. Suddenly, she blurted:
"Sir, may I walk with you?" Roy looked slightly taken aback, but he nodded.
"Sure, Lieutenant." He replied, quietly. She held the door open; the two passed through as though into another world, leaving Central far, far behind.
It was spring now; flowers had exploded throughout Central, trees were in full bloom and birds chirped and soared harmoniously, filling the azure sky. Riza noted the distant clouds in the horizon as she scaled the front steps.
The walk was silent. Riza cast nervous glances over at Roy, wishing to see some of the familiar arrogance he once had. An egotistical statement would suffice. But she was greeted only by silence; cold, distant silence.
The two passed the graveyard entrance; Riza saw Roy stiffen visibly. She stopped walking, staring at his tensed form.
"Colonel." she said, softly. Roy continued walking, as though dazed. "Colonel, sir." He plodded on. Riza's worry bubbled inside her. She could take it no more.
"Roy!" she cried out, surprised by the tone of her own voice. Roy stopped in his tracks his voice came soft:
"Tell me...Lieu... Riza," She felt her face flush upon him having him breathe her name. "Was... was there anything I could have done?"
"What?" Riza asked, confused.
Roy spun around, a look of such pain on his face that her heart ached. Lips poised to speak, his eyes glazed over once more
"It's nothing..." he whispered. She heard his tone harden. "Let's go."
"What's the matter with you." it came as a statement, not a question. Roy's face registered surprised, eyes sparking slightly.
"Forgive me, sir" Riza began with a disclaimer. "But lately, you haven't been yourself. And by yourself, I mean an egotistical bastard." Roy looked fully taken aback now.
"You've been reserved, guarded," she continued, ďas though you were living behind glass." Her eyes found his at last, locking russet to charcoal eye.
"What's tormenting you so?" she asked softly. Roy could feel the walls guarding his heart tumbling down against his will. Emotions flashed across ebony eyes; fear, anger, sadness, resignation, love and a deep scar of guilt.
"I can't look at him." he breathed. Riza walked forward until there was only breathing room between them, looking up into clouded eyes, like churning ocean waters during a hurricane. Thunder crashed overhead, losing Roy's words in the blast.
"The picture... of Maes and I." Roy whispered. "I can't even look at him anymore." Riza's mind whirled; the puzzle came together in her mind.
The long hours, unending work, homunculi, and lack of self were due to grief; Roy was feeling the loss of his dearest friend in it's entirety.
"Why'd that bastard go and get himself killed?" Roy asked, as though she could answer. "There must have been some way... I could have changed it. Some way to have helped him."
"Sir, there was nothing you could have done." she replied, voice even, though her heart broke inside.
Silence followed, pressing upon the two as fiercely as the impending storm. Riza's eyes were fixed on the ground, wondering how she could console him. But there were no words to mend a shattered soul, or even a whisper of a lie to ease a troubled mind.
"...Riza." she looked up, startled by the pain in Roy's face. His voice split sharply against his will. "Tell me, honestly. Was... was his death... my fault?"
Riza's mouth dropped. Roy had pinned the guilt of Maes's death upon himself all this time? All the research on how he died, how it could have been preventable, and all the while blaming himself. Roy's eyes were locked onto her own, begging for the solace she wanted so desperately to give.
"Roy," she whispered his name like a prayer, shaking her head slightly. "It wasn't your fault." she breathed with all the sincerity she could muster.
"He was protecting everyone." Roy said, almost angrily, eyes lowering remorsefully. "Protecting me." Riza nodded; to her own shock, she pulled Roy into her arms. Lightning flashed and thunder roared; Roy's strong arms held her thin frame tightly to his chest, as though she was the only thing that kept him tied to this world. Holding her, he realized that he couldn't live without her, a shocking and sudden realization. It was she who had always been there for him. In times of pain, loss, and war, she had always been more than a subordinate, more than a friend.
"Ri..." he began, but was cut off.
"I'll... I'll protect you now." she whispered, lifting her head, staring into shattered eyes. "I will always, always protect you."
"Why?" he asked, voice catching. "Why protect a weak, pathetic alchemist?" Riza locked her gaze with his, face set determinedly.
"Because... I'm in love with that alchemist." she said firmly, not batting an eye. From pulling a trigger to professing love, Riza Hawkeye never blanched once. Roy lowered his head, lips inches from hers.
"It's... it's going to rain today." he whispered. A teardrop fell upon her face. She ran a gentle hand over quivering eyes, as though wiping away the pain.
As their lips met, the rain came down, running down their faces like tears of the sky. She pulled back, giving Roy a sad, yet gentle smile.
"Yes." she answered, voice light. "Yes."