[ed/riza; g] The Work at Hand Title: The Work at Hand Author:emilie_burns Theme: #4: absence makes the heart grow fonder (21_Hearts) Fandom:Fullmetal Alchemist Pairing: Edward Elric / Riza Hawkeye Rating: G Wordcount: 1453 Warnings: None Disclaimer: Fullmetal Alchemist (Hagane no Renkinjutsushi) is copyrighted by Hiromu Arakawa/Square Enix. This is a work of fanfiction for personal entertainment only. Unless outright stated otherwise, assume AU-ishness for all Ed/Riza fics by me, with Ed 17+ in age. Notes: Nothing direct here, romance-wise. Late series ages hold. Teaser:It was a Thursday morning when the sun came out, back again after so long that she'd forgotten its light. Original LJ Post Date: July 19, 2006 @ Chaotic_Library
The Work at Hand
"Concentrate all your thoughts upon the work at hand. The sun's rays do not burn until brought to a focus." - Alexander Graham Bell
It was a Thursday morning when the sun came out, back again after so long that she'd forgotten its light. She hadn't noticed what wasn't there until it provided a startling, blinding contrast in a world of gray and deep blue and stark walls. That was her world, and it always had been. It was cold and reserved and muted, just like they all were.
Riza Hawkeye heard the younger one first, the distinctive clack of iron on tile, while she was in the storage room filing away last quarter's reports. She heard their voices as they wondered where everyone was, the office apparently empty. It was Lieutenant Breda's day off, Warrant Officer Falman and Sergeant Fuery were at the quartermaster's getting the office's requisition forms filled, and Colonel Mustang was in a meeting, escorted by Lieutenant Havoc.
"I'll be right out," she called over her shoulder, pausing for a moment in her efforts to wedge a thick file into a place where there really wasn't enough room. Later that day, she would have to enlist Falman's aid in pulling the reports old enough for archival, and take them down to the records office.
Edward was at Havoc's desk, one leg hitched up on the corner to sit, and Alphonse was by the window looking out when she walked in. In the long months since they last were in Central, she'd forgotten what it was like. So many associated red and black with Edward, colors that always brought the Colonel to mind for her long before she ever met the boys. To her, his color was gold, molten and burning like the sun in all its intensity, a searing heat of being alive that stopped her in her tracks for just a moment on her way back to her desk. That much passion, that much inner fire was alien to her world, where desires were dulled, brilliance was muted, and the hearts, hidden away in dark corners where they wouldn't be seen, where their weaknesses could not be probed, were numb and chilled.
She wished the Colonel were back so she could send them in to him, out of sight, out of mind, out of her gray world before she was burnt by something she dared not touch, that passion, a vibrant intensity of living for that day rather than a distant future.
"Hey," Edward said, giving her a slight nod.
"Hello, Lieutenant." Alphonse was more well-mannered than his brother. "It's quiet in here today."
"Hello, you two," she replied, and agreed with Alphonse, taking a moment to explain where the Colonel was. "He should be back soon, so you're welcome to wait."
"Wouldn't that just figure?" Edward crossed his arms. "If he's not even going to be here when he wants me to come in to give him reports, why is he wasting my time?"
Riza heard a hollow sigh from the armor, and Alphonse turned his attention to her, ignoring his elder brother's grousing. "How have you been?"
She smiled -- she couldn't help it. Even though she couldn't see his face, nor had she ever seen his smile, she could hear it in his voice, in the sweet gentleness of youth belied by the frightening battle armor. "I've been well, Alphonse. And yourself?"
"We've been all right." He hesitated a moment, and she could hear the disappointment in his voice which he so obviously tried to hide. "We had a couple of leads on a way to get our bodies back, but they didn't pan out."
Riza glanced at Edward; he was scowling at the floor, a dark shadow over the light.
"But, that's okay," Alphonse continued, his voice growing lighter again. "We'll find it sooner or later." She could hear the absolute adoration in trust in his voice when he spoke again, turning to look at Edward. "Brother promised, after all. That's how I know we'll find it."
From the side, she caught a glimpse of pain, a flash of fear, then it was gone as he raised his head, hiding behind a broad grin that wasn't in his eyes before he closed them. "You're a sap, Al," he told his younger brother. "We'll find it because it's out there, we just need to keep looking."
A tight, sharp feeling threatened to wrinkle her nose, and her eyes stung near the corners. Riza held her breath and frowned until the sensation passed. It was a sudden desire to find what they sought, to help them reach their goal, to get them out of the dead gray world of the military before that light burnt out.
"I'm certain you will," she told them as the door opened.
"Hello, Alphonse," Colonel Mustang said in greeting, walking into the office as Edward hopped off Havoc's desk. "Lieutenant, some coffee, if you would." He paused by his desk and looked back to Alphonse as Havoc took a seat and Riza fetched a mug from the cupboard. "Could you find your brother? I need to speak with--"
"WHO ARE YOU CALLING SMALL ENOUGH TO HIDE INSIDE A DESK DRAWER?!"
"Brother." Alphonse's voice was weary, and Riza swore he shot the Colonel a tired look. "He didn't say that much."
"There you are, Fullmetal," the Colonel said, smirking widely as he sat down. Riza brought his coffee to him. "I didn't see--"
"Don't. Say it," Edward growled as he marched over to the desk and pulled a messily-folded wad of papers from his pocket and thrust them at Mustang. "Here's your damn report."
"Oh, what a mess," he complained as he took the bundle. "All disorganized, and so much paperwork." Mustang paused and looked at Riza, then smiled.
She sighed in exasperation and held her hand out to take them. "I'll process them for you, sir."
"Thank you, Lieutenant! Whatever would I do without you?" His smile was genuine; she knew that under the words lay truth.
"If you don't want so much paperwork, stop making me write those stupid reports and wasting time coming here," Edward retorted.
"I wouldn't have so much paperwork to do if you would make a more regular habit of checking in," Mustang pointed out, and she hid a smile as she sat at her desk. "And now with that mess, I'll have to ask you to stay another day or two while we get that sorted out until I'm satisfied I have no further questions for you."
Edward made an irritated sound, and she pressed her lips together to keep from smiling. The reports were the Colonel's way of keeping tabs on them, of forcing Edward to come in, to check in, to let him know that they were okay. She doubted the Fullmetal Alchemist realized that yet, but suspected Alphonse might.
"Whatever," he growled as he stalked to the door. "Quit being such a lazy jackass and wasting my time. You better not take all week!"
"Brother!" Alphonse stopped at the door, turning to give them a slight bow before chasing after the elder Elric.
Riza was startled to realize she wanted him to come back. Was that why the Colonel kept ordering their return? The sun was gone again, and it was gray once more. The way it was, the way it should be, the way it had to be. There was no sense in wishing for what she couldn't have, what had no place in her life any longer, not since the day she decided for herself to put her own dreams on the shelf as they all had, and focus her life toward a greater goal.
There was no room in their world for those flashes of heat, of passionate intensity and sunlight. It was too much, and it would only burn her, too accustomed to the dark and the gray. She told herself that it wasn't Edward she desired; it was the passion he represented, the warmth and feverish depth of emotion. It was forbidden, like material goods, like pursuits of the flesh for those shut away in a religious monastery. Their goal for Amestris was their religion, and the office was their cloister. They took their vows of silence, of poverty, not in material goods but in spirit and life.
If she tried to touch the sun, it would only burn her away.
"Lieutenant?" The Colonel was smiling as she snapped out of her thoughts, looking to her superior officer, but his tone was concerned. "You're trembling."
She shook her head. "It's nothing," she told him, looking back to the paperwork. "Just a brief bit of a chill."
"You're not getting sick, are you?" Havoc asked.
"No, don't worry."
The absence of heat was always the most noticeable in its wake.