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Fic: Domestication

Title: Domestication
Characters: Riza/Miles, Hayate, Roy, a little Havoc/Rebecca
Setting: mangaverse, post-series, slight AU (see notes)
Rating: PG-13
Word count: 6666
Summary: She'd been to war! She'd slept in a tent! She'd used co-ed, outdoor latrines in the desert! There was absolutely no reason temporarily sharing quarters with him should be a problem.
Notes:: originally written for fmagiftexchange Round 2, for the prompt Miles/Riza (and if they factor into the story at all, Roy/Ed), the battle is over, and Miles and Riza start to hit it off. Thanks to enemytosleep for bunnying, kickass dog nerding and a sterling beta job; and to the prompter for his/her patience in waiting for this fic, which was rather delayed by RL stuffs.
More notes: Wrong Turn 'verse. This is a side fic to No Small Injury and takes place during that story. However, it was written so that you don't have to have read that story to enjoy this. If you haven't read No Small Injury, all you need to know is that in this post-manga 'verse (which was plotted out around Chapter 99) Olivia Armstrong lost her life duelling Wrath hardcore on the Promised Day. Amestris is currently Fuhrer-less, and Team Mustang are struggling with the old guard to gain control of the military and avert a civil war. The old guard, now headed up by Hakuro, are mixed up in some very dark business involving taboo alchemy. Team Mustang investigate and find themselves targetted by hired assassins.




This wouldn't do. Absolutely not.

"No." Riza looked Roy in the eye, and the staring match began.

"No? That's a direct order." Roy raised an eyebrow.

"I know. You should know by now I'm very pigheaded."

Here it was, the old confrontation. They'd been having the same argument periodically since she was nineteen: a contest between her need to protect him and his need to protect her. Who won depended on the situation. Riza liked to think that the current score hovered around fifty-fifty.

Last night she'd survived an assassination attempt; a shot had painfully grazed her shoulder. She was currently nursing stitches and a stiff neck from sleeping on Roy's couch.

Roy had already showered, so he had an unfair advantage: he was currently in uniform, while she was sitting in a pair of borrowed pyjamas with the sleeves and ankles rolled up. She was sure he had deliberately put his jacket on in the hope that seeing his pips would make her soldier brain kick in. Well, part of her job was telling Roy when he was wrong; she wasn't going to cave now.

The buddy system had been her suggestion as she assumed she'd be guarding Roy - she was regretting it now.

"You can't guard me properly in your condition. You're one arm down."

"I only need one."

"You're sleep-deprived, you're on prescription painkillers -"

"Which I will stop taking if I find they're impairing my ability to do my job -"

"So then you'll just be impaired by the pain instead. No." Roy folded his arms.

"I'm far more stubborn than you are, sir." The sir was pointed. Riza folded her arms in return.

Then she winced.

Roy managed to look simultaneously concerned and smug. "Are you all right, Major?"

"Yes," she said. "Shut up."

There was a moment of silence. The sound of a motorcycle puttering past drifted up from the street.

"Who exactly is going to guard you," she asked, "if not me?" Any other time she would suggest Rebecca, despite the fact that it currently took a crowbar and some grease to prise her off her boyfriend - but with everything that had happened recently, Rebecca wasn't exactly on top form.

"Me," said Roy.

Riza rolled her eyes.

"And you're forgetting I've got one or two human weapons working in my library most days." Ah yes. The Elrics, currently using Roy's inherited library of sketchy alchemy texts to decode a Xerxean alchemical text that seemed to be key to the whole investigation.

"Not at night. And what about when you're in the shower?"

"Want to see the alarm system my mother gave me? It's really clever, actually -"

Riza groaned.

"And you know if I have more than five seconds warning, they're toast. Same as in your flat, I'd imagine."

"What about when you're in the gym?"

"I'll slack off."

Riza tutted, and decided to resign the game while she still had some dignity left. "Who did you have in mind for my 'buddy'?"

Roy gave her a big, annoying grin. "We'll have to think about it." Yeah right, he obviously had already put a lot of thought into this. "I'm putting a pot of coffee on. Would you like some of that, or tea?"

Riza pushed her lower lip out. "Tea."

"The usual way, or with a spoonful of sugar, since you're convalescing?"

"Just the usual."

Drat.

This was not good. If there were assassins about, Riza's place was where Roy was, with one eye on his back. To be elsewhere made her twitchy. At least Fullmetal would be there. He was worse than Roy for recklessness, but he had a sharp eye and a strong protective instinct. And his enemies usually ended up pummelled into the ground, festooned with shackles and gargoyles.

But now Riza was going to be temporarily living with an almost stranger. Perhaps she had been single too long, but she liked her space. Her personal, private space, where she could strew her things everywhere and know no one would move them, make her tea just how she liked it and then let the unwashed mug sit around until it grew mould if she wanted to. Not that she did.

***


The day was trying: a long, tense meeting with the brass, attempts to juggle the investigation consuming the team with their regular workload, and of course, Roy's subtle teasing about Riza's supposed new buddy. "Have a good evening," Roy said innocently as he left the office. Only the upward twitch of his lips gave him away.

Riza and her supposed roommate didn't even speak all day. Then, at nineteen hundred hours, Major Miles walked into her office, looked her in the eye, and said, "So."

"So," she said. "I'm afraid that my flat is ridiculously small. I don't even have a couch."

"We can stay at mine. It's a little big for one person, actually." Of course. She'd forgotten that he used to be married. She'd never met his ex-wife. It was odd to imagine him as a person with a domestic life, groceries, weekends. He was so much the complete soldier. She really had no idea what she was in for staying with him. She didn't like the feeling.

"Hayate's going to have to stay with me. I'll quite understand if you don't happen to want a dog in your house, we can easily rearrange things. I'm sure I can stay with Catalina and Havoc." Oh god, had she really said that?

"I like dogs," said Miles.

Riza reassured herself that she'd had worse. She'd tolerated three years of Rebecca's apparent inability to put a sock on the door of their academy dorm room, and her apparent blindness when Riza hung out a sock of her own. She'd been to war! She'd slept in a tent! She'd used co-ed, outdoor latrines in hundred degree heat! There was no reason this situation should be a problem.

I wouldn't be working for you if I saw it that way, sir, Miles had said to Roy on the day he'd joined the team. When she had first met him, years back at joint training, Riza had found his respect and even liking for herself and Roy, despite everything they had done in Ishbal, so disconcerting that it had been almost unpleasant. The man had lost half his family in Ishbal, yet somehow he had a strange, unsentimental, Briggsian refusal of the obvious response to that. Since he'd joined the team, she'd come to respect him for it. He was outspoken, decent and independent, clearly a man who chose his own moral path and walked down it of his own free will. He'd turned down an offer from the brass of a two-rank promotion and the command of Briggs to come and work for Roy, to help him take the country back from the old guard. This is where the fight is, he'd said. However you can use me, I'm here. To her, he'd just remarked, casually that Roy Mustang was a man who kept his promises. And when she'd nodded in agreement, he'd smiled and said, and I can trust your word on the subject.

They walked over to Riza's apartment together. He sat at her table while she quickly packed a bag for her and one with Hayate's things.

Miles hefted Hayate's bag with a grin, and said, "His bag is bigger than yours. How can such a small dog need so much kit?"

"It's not much," said Riza. "It's just Hayate's basket, his bowls, leashes, towels, his favourite blanket, grooming brush, poop bags for when I walk him, a couple of packets of meat, two bones, a ball and an old shoe he likes to chew on."

Miles blinked. Or at least, she thought he did. It was difficult to tell behind the shades. "And you?"

"A spare uniform, pyjamas, toothpaste and hairbrush."

"You pack light. Good habit for a soldier."

There was nothing to give it away in his tone of voice, and the sunglasses hid half his expression - but Riza could have sworn that he was teasing her.

It seemed Miles liked to live near headquarters as well. Soon he was turning the key in the door of a flat high up in a modern apartment building, only a few minutes' walk from Riza's modest flat.

Hayate rushed past Miles, circled the room once, and barked. He loved new places. "Sit," called Riza. "Stay." He sat and stayed.

"He's well-trained," said Miles. "You should try that with the rest of the office."

"The brigadier general runs an informal office, but you'd be surprised. There's more to certain people than meets the eye."

Miles laughed, and dropped his keys and sunglasses onto the telephone table in the hall. "I've noticed. But you forget, for me it was the other way around. I knew the heroic deeds before I really knew the men."

"I see. You knew about the coup -"

"And then walked into the office on my first day to find two supposed saviours of the Republic playing darts in the ceiling tiles with pencils."

Riza could guess which two.

"No ceiling darts tournaments at Briggs?"

Miles shrugged. "Drop your guard on duty on the Drachman frontier, and you're liable not to survive your first week."

Riza's own memories of survival conditions didn't quite match up; she remembered the troops doing a great deal of aggressive goofing off and pranking in Ishbal. She hadn't joined in. And she didn't mention it now. Instead she said, "You're still very Briggs. You'll have to adjust your settings; here we like to disguise our efficiency whenever possible."

The tour was brief. The kitchen was large for a modern apartment, with a well-used wooden table in the middle. The bathroom was small but modern - at least there was a proper shower head over the bath. And the bedroom - wait, why were they in in the bedroom?

"You'll be in here," said Miles. "I'll take the couch."

"Thank you, but the couch will be fine." Riza eyeballed him.

Without the sunglasses, his returning stare was a little intense, somehow. "You're injured, Major. I'm afraid there's only one bed, so you ought to have it."

"You're too tall for the couch. You'll get a crick in your neck."

Miles grinned at her. "I'll survive." He'd won the argument. Wait, how had that come about? This was what happened when you made yourself a guest in someone else's territory. You put yourself at a disadvantage.

***


The bed was comfortable, but still unfamiliar. The room had a vaguely masculine smell: cologne, the starch of the clean white sheets. Riza had not had a good night's sleep. She put the kettle on and wandered into the living room to offer Major Miles a morning cup of tea.

Apparently she had been right about the couch: Miles' big feet were slung over the arm, a few inches of tanned calf showing where his pyjama legs rucked up. On the couch, his body was curled in on itself awkwardly under the blanket. That was what he got for being stubborn; his back wasn't going to thank him today. Hayate was licking one of his feet. He stirred a little, and the foot twitched.

"Stop that," she said. "Go lie down." Hayate went and lay down, and Miles' gentle snores stopped. Then he sat up, a vaguely confused look on his face. His hair was down and oddly crinkled at the ends from the tie. He was wearing striped pyjamas. The look didn't suit him at all. Riza schooled her face. "Sorry about Hayate," she said. "He can be a little cheeky with strangers. Just be firm with him and he'll learn."

"Ah," said Miles, apparently putting it together.

"Cup of tea?" said Riza brightly.

***


At the office that morning, Roy was in a good mood. Goodness knew why.

"So, how are you getting on with your new roommate?" he asked.

"Fine. He's a tea-drinker too. Not one of those people who isn't human until the second cup of coffee."

Roy's eyes narrowed, and he took an appreciative swig from his coffee mug. "Tea's hardly a guarantee of humanity. Bradley loved it, as I recall."

"And how are you getting on with Edward occupying your library?"

"It's a sea of candy wrappers, and half the books are off the shelves, of course. I told him this morning to clean it up today."

"Seen him already today?" A cheap shot. Of course Roy had just left him a note.

Roy, however, was looking vaguely cornered. Riza kept her expression blank, partly because that was the best way to torment him, and partly to master her feelings of genuine concern. Surely he would have had more sense than that?

"He slept on the couch. He was working late on the translation, then I gave him some painkillers for his shoulder and they knocked him out too much. My team are targets, I'm hardly going to put any man of mine into a taxi semi-conscious." Ah. She believed him, but raised an eyebrow anyway, because she felt like annoying him.

Roy seemed to register what he'd just said. "You know exactly what I mean." He pulled a face. "Shut up."

***


That evening, as Riza and Miles left the office together, travelling as a pair as per orders, Roy had called out, "Be sure to both check in with Havoc and Catalina. Safety first!" Ah, great. Part of the buddy system involved checking in with a member of the team after leaving the office, so if anyone went missing, they'd be alerted quickly. Rebecca had made it plain that she saw this as a golden opportunity to monitor office romances, and probably to invent them if she couldn't find any.

After they got in, and Hayate had been greeted and fussed over, Miles waved her towards the telephone. Riza sighed, and dialled.

Havoc answered with a very unmilitary, "Hey there. Base." Then, over the crackling of the field telephone, she heard Rebecca's voice crow, "That's gotta be Riza! Put me on, honey."

The phone was fumbled. Riza sighed, and said, "Majors Miles and Hawkeye, checking in. At Miles' apartment, all's well."

"Riza! How's the shoulder?"

"Fine."

"How's the roomie?"

"Fine."

"Oh, I know he's fine all right," Rebecca purred. Damn. She'd walked into that one. "Nicely played. Now, you're injured here. You should put your feet up and get him to bring you a hot whisky toddy or something. Big guys love that stuff, it makes them go all protective." Her voice went distant for a moment, as if she was holding it away from the mouthpiece. "No, honey, I'm not teasing you. You know I love it when you do that."

"You two have a good evening," said Riza drily.

"You two have a lovely evening," said Rebecca.

Riza hung up and wandered into the apartment to find Miles already busy in the kitchen, shirt sleeves rolled up to the elbows. That was interesting. Riza didn't know many military men who actually cooked. Roy was a decent cook in theory, but she happened to know that he lived on deli food and takeout. Havoc's bachelor days had been all about the grilled cheese sandwich. The women she knew weren't much better. Rebecca's cooking was lethal; Ross was a serial snacker. The few soldiers Riza had dated had been universally delighted to discover that she was a good cook. That delight had tended to rapidly develop into expectations. Riza had not found this enticing. She had spent her childhood managing a huge, crumbling house for a demanding and bad-tempered father. Even at nearly thirty, she still found pleasure in living simply and pleasing only herself. That included popcorn for dinner, should she so choose.

What really struck her as Miles briskly sliced vegetables and skinned smoked fish was that he wasn't making a fuss about any of it. It was as if he wasn't doing this to impress her or to be a good host. She distinctly got the impression that if she wasn't there, he would be quietly making fish stew for himself. There was something rather likeable about that.

"Shall I set out the soup plates?" she asked.

"Second door across in the upper bit of the cupboard." He nodded at the door. It was right next to the gas stove where he stood. As Riza came down with two bowls stacked in her right hand, she found herself resisting a momentary impulse to lean over into his space and sniff the soup.

He grinned at her, and she went to get the cutlery.

The stew was good. It was very good. Simple and delicious, full of the savoury, smoky taste of the haddock. It looked easy to put together on a worknight; she might have to ask him for the recipe. She told him so.

He shrugged, and smiled at the compliment. "Not everyone likes Northern food."

"Your mother was from the North, then?"

"My father was. My mother's mother was from Drachma, her father was from Ishbal, but she grew up in the North. She cooked all three ways."

Riza wasn't sure what to say for a moment. Miles knew who she was, and she knew him, but the subject still made her uncomfortable. Then she said, "It's funny how much gets passed down in a family through food. After my mother died, l learnt to cook from a little book of her recipes." Most of the recipes had a common theme of frugality: making the best of inexpensive cuts of meat, making things go further, substituting cheaper ingredients for expensive. Riza's mother had been a rich girl learning how to be poor.

"Sometimes I think my family communicates by cooking," said Miles. "The first thing my mother did when she found out about the divorce was send me a fruit cake."

"What would they say about that in Briggs? Wouldn't they say that food is just fuel for the human machine?"

"But the human machine includes what's up here too." He grinned and reached out a finger to her forehead, stopping just short of tapping it. "General Armstrong always said that too: that eating is a mechanism for survival, fussing with it is a waste of time. But she was still partial to a good steak."

He tore a piece of bread off the flat loaf in the middle of the table. Riza could see the fine white hairs standing out against the tan of his forearms.

"By the way," she said. "You're far too tall for that couch. I saw you rubbing your neck all day at the office. I'll take the couch tonight. It'll be perfectly fine."

***


It was not perfectly fine. The couch was too narrow for Riza to sleep in her usual position. The cushions weren't firm enough. Her shoulder woke her at 4am. She got a glass of water, and quietly padded around the living room while she waited for her painkiller to kick in. There was a baby grand piano at one end of the long room. Did it belong to Miles' ex-wife? They'd split up just before he transferred. Perhaps they'd picked out this apartment together? This must have been a strange and lonely time for him. He'd seemed very close to Major General Armstrong - General Armstrong, of course, now, posthumously promoted. Riza lay back on the couch, and let Hayate up to stroke his ears. She imagined herself in Miles' shoes, arriving in Briggs alone to serve Olivia Armstrong, with Roy dead, his tombstone bearing a useless promotion, all his plans gone to waste.

It was not a good thought for 4am.

That evening she returned the favour of cooking by bringing home fish and chips wrapped in newspaper. As they warmed up in the oven and Miles sat reading the paper, she investigated the piano in the corner. "May I?" she asked.

"Please. It's wasted on me, I'm not remotely musical."

It definitely must have belonged to his wife, then. It was a beautiful old piano from one of the best makers, far nicer than the battered old upright she'd learnt to play on as a girl. Riza wondered why Miles' wife hadn't taken it with her when she left. She didn't want to pry, but she couldn't help wondering a little why their marriage had failed. Miles seemed so decent. Rebecca's speculations on the reasons behind the divorce had not been so decent. Riza had been silly enough to tell her not to assume anything about Miles' closeness to his former commanding officer, and this had earned her an entire afternoon of salacious ribbing about Riza's alleged vested interest in the issue of fraternisation with higher ranks. It was highly unlikely that Riza was ever going to give her the satisfaction of knowing the truth of the matter. Let her wonder.

She opened the and ran her fingers over the keys. She flexed her hands and played the first few bars of Gnossienne No. 1. The piano was in decent condition, although perhaps in need of a little tuning. She hadn't played in years. Funny how quickly these things come back to you.

"You make it sound good," said Miles. "It belonged to General Armstrong."

She looked over; he'd set aside his paper and was listening, head propped on one hand. "Ah. Major Armstrong's round of bequests?" she asked.

Miles quirked his mouth and inclined his head. "Apparently, she used to play when she was a girl."

Riza tried to picture it. All she got was a smaller, sulkier version of Olivia Armstrong, aggressively smashing her fingers down on the keys and giving sour looks to an unfortunate tutor. She wanted to giggle, but wasn't quite sure how to approach the topic. He'd been so stoic about it, but she had the impression that Miles had taken General Armstrong's death very hard.

"Brigadier General Mustang got her sabre," said Riza. "Of course, he doesn't fence."

"That one was actually the General's idea." Riza looked at Miles curiously. He shrugged. "I witnessed her will. It was very short. I'm afraid all the other gifts we can attribute to Major Armstrong's imagination."

"Ah. That would explain why I was given a brooch the size of a cigarette pack covered in pink topaz flowers."

"The General loathed jewellery. And flowers, for that matter."

"Even the Armstrong roses? They're chased into the sabre blade."

"I never dared asked her. And I believe the sword was an heirloom. Some ancestor somewhere can be pleased his sword slew a demon." Something reverberated through his voice.

"And now Roy's got it." Riza caught herself, and then, strangely enough, felt her cheeks heating up. "Ah. The brigadier general and I - we've known each other a very long time. We can sometimes get a little informal. It must seem unorthodox -"

Miles just gave her that odd grin again, and shook his head. Riza felt relieved not to have to explain. Not that she was obliged to explain anything in the first place.

"I heard you up in the night," he said casually, as they sat in the kitchen eating their fish and chips a few minutes later. "I told you that couch wouldn't be comfortable."

"I only got up for a glass of water," said Riza. "Besides, you can't possibly sleep there, you're far too tall. Half of you pokes off the end."

"You're injured."

"Wouldn't the Briggs way be to tell me to just suck it up and get on with it? You're supposed to be raiding gangsters first thing in the morning. No sense in your throwing your back out and putting another of us on the bench."

"Perhaps I'm finally acclimatising to Team Mustang?"

Riza laughed. "Look, this is ridiculous. We're both adults. Why don't we both take the bed?"

She'd never seen him look surprised before. His eyes widened, his lips parted, and it even took him a moment to reply. It was all rather funny. "Are you sure that's a good idea?"

Now Riza found herself on the back foot. What did that mean? Was he worried about gossip? Did he think she was propositioning him? Maybe he meant because of her shoulder? Oh, hell.

Riza didn't want to seem at a loss for words, so she just picked an explanation at random, and offered it to him. "You're used to sleeping next to your wife, and you're worried you might hug me in your sleep?"

He nodded gratefully. Had she interpreted that right? Or?

"Well - why don't we put pillows down the middle?" she tried. "I'm sure it's not necessary, but if that would make you feel better, it's fine by me. We both have a long day tomorrow."

He rubbed the back of his neck. Embarrassment seemed to make him much easier to read. She could almost see the cogs turning: weighing the horrible crick in his neck against behaving like a gentleman, the notion that he ought to be grown-up enough not to worry about these things next to the idea that he ought to be tough enough to weather the couch. What would Olivia Armstrong do? If what Riza knew of the woman was true, she'd share the bed, bond with her bedmate over vodka shots and insults, and then jump on them at 1am.

Instead of vodka, they had a pot of tea. Hayate fussed over Miles on the sofa; he'd really taken to the man. Miles scratched his ears as he sat sideways on the cushions with his back up against the arm. Hayate lay flat on his back in a little C shape around Miles' knee, moaning under his breath. Hayate had only ever done that with her before. Then they got changed into their night things: him in the bedroom, her in the bathroom. Riza did her pyjamas up to the top button, and checked that her tattoo wasn't showing at the nape of her neck. Then, rather awkwardly, they got into bed, spare pillows arranged in a line down the middle. Miles read the rest of his paper; she read Modern Firearms. They switched their bedside lamps off at the same time.

That night, Riza couldn't get to sleep again. Her shoulder wasn't so bad; she was just too wired. She was determined not to think, but as she mentally chanted orders to sleep at herself, the investigation, the nasty questions it raised about the country's future - it all still drummed at the back of her mind.

Miles didn't snore this time. That was good. She'd told herself that if he was a snorer she would have headed for the sofa, wounded shoulder be damned. She could still hear his breathing though, heavy and masculine. He was a big man; she could almost feel the mattress shifting with every breath. As she drifted, she found herself picturing what she'd see outlined in the moonlight if she turned around: his thick, tanned neck, the outlines of his broad and muscled back under that silly striped pyjama shirt.

Proximity. Pressure of work. Frustration. Honestly, she was getting as bad as Roy. With an irritated huff, Riza turned onto her tummy and pulled the pillow around her ears. Beside her, there was a shift of the mattress, but nothing more.

***


"Did you move my shampoo?" asked Riza, as she sawed into a pork chop.

"I don't think so," said Miles, helping himself to more potatoes.

"Well, you must have done. All my shower things are in a little pile in a corner by the taps. I couldn't find the shampoo, and it was right at the other end of the tub."

"Ah," said Miles. "Could you reach it?"

He was sneakily mocking her again, wasn't he? "It's not that. When you live alone, no one moves your shampoo."

"What about this one?" Miles nodded at Hayate, who was circling, evidently hoping he'd be soft enough to slip him some scraps. "Doesn't he ever move things?"

"He's trainable," said Riza. "Sit." Hayate sat.

Miles grinned at her. "Aren't we all?"

***


The following night, Riza sipped at her bedtime cup of tea, flipped over another page of her magazine, and found her mind wandering a little. This was all very domestic, wasn't it? Here she was, sitting in bed with Major Miles, sipping tea and reading in their pyjamas. It was a little ridiculous how comfortable their odd arrangement had become, and so quickly too. Of course, the more comfortable they were together, the more likely that she was just imagining things. Would you feel so at ease sitting like this with someone you were trying to get into bed? Of course, they already were in bed. But not like that. This was perfectly innocent. Riza was only human: it had been a while, and she'd found herself sharing quarters with an attractive man, and her mind had started playing tricks on her. That was all.

From Miles' side of the bed, there was a very familiar canine snuffling noise. Riza looked up. Hayate was sprawled happily across Miles' side of the bed. Miles' legs were curled up to accommodate him. Riza failed to repress a smile. "You can tell him to get off the bed, you know."

"Ah," said Miles. He sat up and shoved his hair out of his eyes. Hayate jumped into his lap, entire rear end wagging. Miles played with his ears. "He's such a little guy. I thought you might usually let him sleep on the bed?"

"He's a dog," said Riza, raising an eyebrow. "He sleeps on the floor. And he has his own bed, remember? He's just testing you. Tell him to get down."

"Hayate," said Miles in a deep and commanding voice, "get down."

Hayate put his front paws on Miles' chest and attempted to lick his nose. Miles shook his head and laughed.

"He doesn't see you as boss yet," said Riza. "Watch out for him, he can be a cheeky little thing. Hayate! Get down." Hayate got down.

Miles chuckled again. "I'm not sure what you must think of my military authority now."

Riza caught his eye. He was looking at her warmly. She smiled, and felt a little uncomfortable. Those red eyes were intense, but somehow so merry. She liked them. She wasn't sure she had a right to do so, given who she was. But still -

She looked down. She was leaning forward a little, her body half-turned across the barrier of pillows. Ah -

"I should put Hayate in the living room," she said, slipping hastily out of the bed before she knew what she'd done. "He'll only try it again when you're asleep."

"Any tips for handling him?" he asked as she went.

"Just time and persistence," she said as she slipped back into her side of the bed moments later. "That's all."

***


As it turned out, there wasn't very much time at all. The next day was Monday, and there was no more need for the buddy system. The hired assassins who'd been targeting the team were removed; the threat was resolved; the case that had been possessing the team was closed. But now, after what they'd learnt about the old guard's plans, they had far bigger things to worry about.

"Could you do me a favour and walk Hayate tonight?" Riza asked Miles in the office that afternoon. She was fresh from observing a meeting between General Hakuro and Roy that had taken certain matters from looming, indistinct worries to fifty-fifty outcomes. Her mind was on the country's future, more selfishly on her own mortality, and above all how they could plot their way to a likelier victory. "I'm meeting with the brigadier general tonight to do a little planning. I'll be by later to get Hayate and my things." She found herself looking down for a moment. "Thanks for everything. You've been a lovely host."

"I've enjoyed it. Getting to know you and Hayate outside the office. Look - ah. Would you like to get some dinner together some time?"

In her current, distracted frame of mind, it took Riza a whole minute to realise that Major Miles was asking her on a date.

Was he? She looked at him. He really was. In a moment, it all crowded upon Riza - the dangers they were facing, the terrible future they had to defeat. The terrible possibilities of the future: of Roy dead, the plan destroyed, Amestris bowed under another military dictator, her comrades rewarded for their unbounded loyalty with torture and death, the last of Ishbal crushed, more endless wars … She looked away for a moment.

"I'm really sorry - I just don't have the time." She took a breath. "I wish I did, I really do, but" - she shook her head. "There's too much happening. Thank you, though. I really appreciate it."

"I get it," said Miles. He tapped two fingers to his forehead, and gave her a little smile.

As she walked away, Riza suddenly realised what she'd said to him. Did she really wish she could? Miles was beautiful, he said exactly what he thought, she felt like she'd known him for years … Yes, she very much wished the thing was possible. Riza shoved the little ache inside her down. She wasn't going to be self-indulgent about this. It wasn't the time or the place. Her life was for her country first, and herself second. Of course he understood. Wasn't that what Olivia Armstrong would do?

***


As Riza walked back from her planning meeting at Roy's place, she had strategies in her mind now, lists of things to be done, and most important of all, Roy's boundless hope for the future.

It was late in the evening when she arrived. From the hallway, she saw Miles on the living room sofa, lying with his feet up listening to the radio. Hayate was curled around his knee again. After a moment, they both registered her arrival. Miles waved; Hayate jumped down, barked and ran to greet her.

In the bedroom, Riza's own things were packed in a minute. Hayate's bag took rather longer. He'd managed to efficiently hide his toys all around the apartment. Riza was tensely aware of Miles watching her as she searched the living room for Hayate's slipper.

"I was just going to put the kettle on," he said evenly. "Would you like a cup of tea?"

As soon as she'd sat down on the sofa, she realised she was tired and thirsty. She sipped her tea gratefully.

"Good plotting?" asked Miles. He tapped his nose with a finger.

She nodded, and tapped her nose in return.

"When there was trouble up in Briggs, General Armstrong would call me and Captain Buccaneer in for an all-night meeting," said Miles. "She'd tell us to tell her frankly when she was talking crap. And then when we did, she'd bellow at us that we didn't know what the hell we were talking about, and occasionally challenge one of us to a fight. But if we were right, she'd always come around. Then when we were done she'd get out the vodka and have a proper Drachman-style session. It was an experience, all right."

Riza couldn't help grinning and shaking her head. "Did they arm-wrestle?"

"Well, of course. That and filthy drinking songs were a given. You know, once, on New Year's Eve, she conducted the entire regiment in singing 'If I had the wings of an eagle' over the wall of Briggs."

"I don't think I know that one."

"'If I had the wings of an eagle, if I had the ass of a crow, I'd fly over Drachma tomorrow, and shit on the bastards below.'"

Riza chuckled. "Oh, yes. Now I remember it. Our planning meetings aren't quite as macho. We normally toast victory with Xingese takeout and jokes."

"That reminds me." Miles raised his mug of tea. "To victory."

Riza leaned over and clinked mugs with him. "To victory."

At their feet, Hayate got up and looked around excitedly. They both reached to pat his head at the same time.

Miles said, "Look. It's after midnight. You've got an early start in the morning. Why not stay here tonight? We can hunt down the rest of Hayate's kit tomorrow."

Why not? Well, Riza could think of a couple of good reasons why she shouldn't. But Miles was good company. Spending time with him made her feel calmer somehow, revived, readier to face the new day. Riza nodded. "Yes. I think I will."

They got changed into their pyjamas separately, then took their cups of tea to bed. The pillows were arranged neatly down the middle.

"So," Riza said, "do you think you might finally be acclimatising to Team Mustang?"

"Maybe. Of course, part of me will always belong to the Northern Cliff of Briggs. That's how it works with us up there."

"Well - General Armstrong was one of a kind, wasn't she?"

He smiled sadly, and closed his eyes for a moment. "Mustang is a bit of a one-off too." He opened his eyes and looked straight at her. "And so are you."

There was a short pause. During the pause, Riza's stomach scrunched itself up and then unfurled. She exhaled forcefully, and told him the truth. "You too. I've never met anyone quite like you."

"I hope that's complimentary?"

"Mostly."

He grinned and raised an eyebrow at the tease. Then, with his customary abruptness, he dropped the smile. "So," he said, "now we know where we stand with Hakuro and those bastards in the old guard."

Riza nodded, and put her mug of tea down with a decisive click. "It'll all happen in the next few months. Either we'll win or - we'll lose."

Miles nodded, and they held each other's gaze for a quiet moment. Then he grinned and shrugged: as if to say yep, there it is.

Riza couldn't help herself; she giggled.

It was odd, how relaxed she felt here, with this man she still knew so little of. In this awful, waiting time, with worse things lurking just behind the horizon, she should feel anything but calm. What if she was being tempted by something that wasn't bad for her at all? Something they could both look forward to? Something that could help keep her, keep them both grounded?

Miles was still looking at her. He didn't move a muscle. His expression was placid, but his beautiful eyes were so fierce.

Riza didn't break eye contact. Very deliberately, she put a hand to the pillow between them.

He looked down, then back up at her. There was a very small smile on his lips, a twitch of his eyebrow.

Riza threw the pillow over her shoulder, vigorously.

There was a short pause. Riza felt a pang of awkwardness, she thought she'd been terribly sophisticated but now she felt like a silly schoolgirl, what had possessed her - Miles looked straight through her, and the corners of his eyes crinkled up. Then he chuckled at her. For a moment, she was mortified - and the next moment, she was laughing herself. Catching each other's eyes and giggling, they moved closer and leant into each other a little. Then his hand was on the back of her neck, and now she really did feel like a schoolgirl.

But the kiss was delicious. It was a long one - a tease at first, and then deep and slow. With it they told each other that they knew exactly what they were doing. By the end, she was folded in his arms, and she'd pulled the tie from his hair, so that she had to hold it back from his eyes with her fingers.

They smiled at one another again. This was the part that normally made Riza rather nervous, when she planned and assessed what she would be doing tonight and what she wouldn't, if this person could be trusted to see her tattoo and what she would and wouldn't tell them about it. But now, she didn't have the whisper of a plan in her head. And she somehow knew that she wouldn't need to say a word.

She shifted a little closer into Miles' lap. Then she drew his hand up and put it to the top button of her pyjama shirt. His finger circled the button and stroked the skin below her collarbone lightly. She pressed her lips together and gave him a sneaky smile.

"Yes?" she said.

"Yes, sir," said Miles.

Comments

( 28 comments — Leave a comment )
(Deleted comment)
bob_fish
Jun. 29th, 2010 06:37 pm (UTC)
Ah, glad you enjoyed!

This didn't happen to be your prompt, did it? I haven't yet discovered who the prompter at giftexchange was, but I was guessing from the pairings that it might be you. XD
(Deleted comment)
bob_fish
Jun. 29th, 2010 07:30 pm (UTC)
Ah, I thought you had for some reason. The mystery continues!
cornerofmadness
Jun. 29th, 2010 05:39 pm (UTC)
I still like it lots and I just realized the word count and was amused by it
bob_fish
Jun. 29th, 2010 06:36 pm (UTC)
Haha, that is amusing. I think it's actually quite a harmless little fic?

Thanks, glad you enjoyed.
enemytosleep
Jun. 29th, 2010 07:00 pm (UTC)
3 more words and it would be perfect.
bob_fish
Jun. 29th, 2010 07:28 pm (UTC)
I sees what you did thar. Feel free to suggest them in order to bump up the word count. XD
enemytosleep
Jun. 29th, 2010 07:30 pm (UTC)
So damn cheeky?
bob_fish
Jun. 29th, 2010 07:35 pm (UTC)
Where do you want those inserted? Those words, that is.
enemytosleep
Jun. 29th, 2010 08:05 pm (UTC)
XD Insert at will.
bob_fish
Jun. 29th, 2010 09:04 pm (UTC)
*applause*
cornerofmadness
Jun. 29th, 2010 08:15 pm (UTC)
best thing my neighbors? they're 666 (and he's so unfriendly i'd believe it)
bob_fish
Jun. 29th, 2010 08:42 pm (UTC)
Oh, is that the crazy neighbours? That's really amusing if that's their house number.
cornerofmadness
Jun. 29th, 2010 09:23 pm (UTC)
no this is a different set. he live on the other side of the creek in a travel trailer with chains across his drive reading keep out
bob_fish
Jun. 29th, 2010 09:26 pm (UTC)
They sound like a lot of fun. At least they're on the other side of the creek?
cornerofmadness
Jun. 29th, 2010 09:34 pm (UTC)
yeah and you rarely see them so that's good
ceirwy
Jun. 29th, 2010 08:50 pm (UTC)
Not a pairing I usually see bout ho boy was that good. You make it seem practically canon. ^^
bob_fish
Jun. 29th, 2010 09:03 pm (UTC)
It's a really unusual pairing! Hardly anyone has written it, I think. I did find that once I was writing them they had amazing chemistry! I credit this to the fact that Miles is written to be the Hawkeye to Olivia's Mustang, and therefore as with Roy and Olivia there are some fun parallels and contrasts between the two characters.
bob_fish
Jun. 29th, 2010 09:04 pm (UTC)
Oh, and thanks, glad you enjoyed!
qashqai1
Jun. 29th, 2010 10:41 pm (UTC)
That was very nice to read :D
Miles/Riza = <3 you made me want to draw a fanart with them now, lolz. I think I'll draw something tommorow. XDD
bob_fish
Jun. 29th, 2010 11:20 pm (UTC)
Yay, thanks! I'm glad you enjoyed. I love your fanart and I do remember the fun Riza/Miles one you did. So that would be super-cool. XD
corposant
Jun. 30th, 2010 12:29 am (UTC)
I could never quite picture Miles and Riza together; but I just might be a convert. I loved that Hayate needs more things than Riza and I love that Miles cooks and of course, the mention of Drachman-style vodka drinking, now that's another story that needs to be written.
bob_fish
Jun. 30th, 2010 06:26 am (UTC)
Thanks! Their chemistry is surprisingly good considering that they never meet in canon and it's not the most obvious ship for either of them.

Riza loves her puppy - credit for all the Hayate stuff goes to my beta enemytosleep. I liked the idea of Miles cooking a lot, I have no idea where it came from.

As for the vodka drinking, I kind of liked the idea that they've picked up a few habits from the enemy over the border. Olivia would probably drink Buccaneer under the table due to her magic Armstrong powers. There's probably a time-honoured Armstrong technique for holding your vodka or something.
leorising1959
Jun. 30th, 2010 12:45 am (UTC)
You rock this ship so hard. I'd welcome more, if that blows your skirt up. *goes back to read again*
bob_fish
Jun. 30th, 2010 06:27 am (UTC)
Thanks! As I say in the notes, this is actually a side fic to a chapterfic of mine, No Small Injury. Riza and Miles are going to be together in the sequel. So there will be moar.
pandoraculpa
Jul. 2nd, 2010 11:40 am (UTC)
Oh, what fun! Riza/Miles is a pairing I'd never considered, but this makes so much sense that I wonder now why everyone isn't writing it. Man, the tension this story is loaded with is just killer- I think I would've pulled a Rebecca; you make Miles so damn appealing!

Sorry, it's rather early in the morning for me and my brain hasn't yet switched on all the way, so I'm not exactly capable of good commenting just yet. But I'm so lax on my comments in general, and I didn't want to let the opportunity pass to tell you how much I enjoyed this. No Small Injury is a wonderful story- I wasn't expecting side-stories from it, but this is really marvelous. Your fic is always great fun!
bob_fish
Jul. 2nd, 2010 12:17 pm (UTC)
Yes, after I wrote them they had such good chemistry I wondered why they're such a rare pairing. Except that, um, they don't even meet in the manga. Before this I've only written minor appearances from Miles, but it seems he's one of those minor characters like Rebecca who flesh themselves out very easily. Yay for Arakawa and her awesome minor characters.

Thanks so much for lovely compliments. No Small Injury is going to have a sequel that's currently eating my brain, and possibly a prequel too (mystery/skullduggery which would deal with why Grumman isn't on the scene and how Roy and Riza brokered the current power sharing deal - I'm scared it would be super-long, though). Writing this made me want to return to Olivia's epic face-off with Wrath in this 'verse and imagine how that went down, so that's mostly written too. It is fun to write a fic the premise of which is basically "character x v. character y". Like Batman v. Superman in the school playground.
havocmangawip
Aug. 9th, 2010 02:30 am (UTC)
I know I've read this... and I sucked and didn't comment. Because I suck that way.

Enemy just sent me over here. :) There needs to be more Miles and Riza in the world. Seriously.

And more Havoc and Rebecca porn... no plot needed. Just smut or pretty pictures.

I have sexytimes to work on/edit and it's the direct result of Havoc getting Breda absolutely shit faced. He didn't mean to. He told the waitress at the pub to just keep the pitchers coming. He didn't really notice how much Breda had had until it was too late... and when he saw the tab. He was ok with the tab, he tips well so that he doesn't have to fight his way to the bar, it's a useful skill.

But yeah... this sexytimes is ALL Breda's fault. *That's my story and I'm sticking to it.*
tyreling
Jan. 6th, 2011 03:29 am (UTC)
ASDFGJHKK Never tried this pairing before but darnit, you write them so well I can actually see them together. Romantically. All the little scenes of them together made me squeal. <3
( 28 comments — Leave a comment )