Care to Dance?
Inspired by the headcanon: Roy Mustang taught Riza Hawkeye to dance.
Roy Mustang thought his eyes would fall out of his head if he spent another minute staring at the page. He'd been agonizing over alchemic theory all day, but Master Hawkeye wasn't satisfied with just learning the principles. Roy had to memorize them, reproducing every formula and factoid he'd ever read, the sum of which could fill several books - and had. The sound of heavy rain outside wasn't helping his concentration.
Shaking his head to clear it, Roy blinked hard and stole a glance at his companion across the table. The blonde girl also had a book in front of her, but the way her eyes darted quickly across the page told him Riza was having far more luck with her studies.
The two of them were spending the stormy day holed up in the kitchen, books piled high on the table in anticipation of a full afternoon of learning. The library might have been a more logical choice for their academic pursuits, but it was dark and freezing year round. Roy and Riza preferred the kitchen for its natural light and its propensity for warmth. The cooking stove helped them to thaw out enough to turn pages, even when Master Hawkeye turned off the heat during the winter months.
The study was the sight of Master Hawkeye's private research and therefore out of the question.
So the kitchen was their chosen workspace and had been for the better part of the four years that Roy had been studying there. The table wasn't large, but it was plenty big enough for the two of them to share - with spare books and papers stacked high on the counter and the chair Master Hawkeye never sat in.
Riza's side of the table was all right angles and perfect piles. Roy's notebooks and drawings sprawled, three layers deep and crumpling onto the floor. When his papers encroached too far into her space, Riza pushed them stubbornly back on the end of her pencil.
Fully deciding to indulge in a break, Roy scraped a paper from the top of his piles and pushed it slowly across the table's unmarked boundary. He gave his companion a challenging smirk as the page fluttered into her territory.
His master's daughter continued to read. The only hint that she felt his eyes on her was a hard to spot smile. She knew he was watching, but she wouldn't give him the satisfaction of distracting them both from their work.
Roy snorted softly. Riza was by far the more patient of the two of them, and she won most battles between them simply by waiting him out. But he had more than one tactic up his sleeve.
The sixteen year old swung himself off his chair and paced the kitchen's perimeter. The room was comfortably large, designed to service a house of a similar size. There was a formal dining room, but it had been boarded up years ago, the furniture all covered in dust clothes. The kitchen only needed room enough to feed Roy and Riza; Master Hawkeye took his meals in his study. When he took them. Too often the tray sat untouched outside his door, left to spoil if Riza didn't faithfully and silently collect it every day.
Roy paused by the window, watching the water stream across the pane. Turning around he could see water dripping into an old bucket from a growing spot on the ceiling. Hawkeye Manor hadn't been in good shape for years, but little had been done in the way of repairs. Roy knew the family subsisted on the fee he paid for his alchemy lessons. Before he'd come to study under him, Master Hawkeye refused to take on students or sell his research. And he hadn't noticed the disappearance of any trinket of value small enough to be carted into town and exchanged for bread by his hungry daughter.
These days, there was income enough from the lessons to reliably feed the three of them and keep the house in mostly livable condition. Roy studied the leak, wondering just what he'd have to do to fix it. The plunking of water inside and the cascade outdoors gave him another idea.
He wandered back around the kitchen to the countertop, trying to measure out his steps and not appear too eager. Roy snuck a glance behind him to see if Riza was paying attention, but she remained thoroughly engaged in her reading.
Maybe a little too thoroughly engaged. Roy hid a smug grin. Anyone else might believe that she was dutifully at work, but he caught the barest hint of curiosity. Which from Riza was practically a victory.
Roy rummaged on the counter and pulled an object from concealment. Fiddling with the dial, he started up the small transistor radio. It was a gift from his aunt at his last birthday, but he'd only had a few occasions to use it. His studies kept him busy, and most things in Hawkeye Manor were best done with relative silence.
Soft music flowed into the kitchen, and Riza finally looked up from her book, her brown eyes wide with apprehension. Her father had scolded them for far less noise than this. But Roy recognized something else in her gaze, too - a veiled delight.
"The storm," he explained, "it's too loud to hear the music anywhere else in the house." For once he was grateful for the rain.
Riza nodded in understanding and agreement. The quiet notes wrapped themselves around both teenagers. Roy had long ago stopped pretending to work, but now Riza carefully bookmarked her page and sat back to listen to the music. It was a rare treat for them both.
One song gave way to the next, scratchy and muffled by occasional static, but still a beautiful melody. Roy recognized the tune as a favorite of his "sisters." It bounced and swayed, and he could picture them doing the same in time with the music playing in Madame's bar.
He grinned as the thought came to him. He turned to Riza, noting the way her eyes had closed in appreciation of the song and the small smile on her face. Roy offered his hand. "Care to dance?"
Riza opened her eyes in quiet surprise. During his first year in the manor, Roy had wondered if the little girl could even talk - so much of her life was spent with schooled features and silent reactions. He'd quickly realized that her quiet marked determination not demureness, and they'd learned to speak to one another soundlessly. Now he prided himself on being able to read her silences, but he loved when he could draw her out of them.
She studied his proffered hand a moment, then raised her eyes to his and arched an eyebrow. "You can dance?"
"One of my many talents," Roy boasted, flashing a smile.
Riza's eyebrow rose higher, and a smile played on her lips. "Like your talent for makeup?"
Roy dropped his hand and sent her a glare. "I knew I'd regret telling you that."
It was true that he'd had a less than conventional upbringing, and his "sisters" had made sure he was educated in all kinds of things. The group of them loved to dance, and they'd all been eager to give him lessons. The actual lessons were a little embarrassing to admit, but he happened to think that their efforts had paid off. In dancing, that is. He had no idea why they'd thought it necessary to ensure their little brother could apply a flawless eyeliner.
He was also fantastic at braiding hair, but the teenager wasn't about to tell that to his smiling friend.
"So do you want to dance?" he tried again.
Riza lowered her head a little and read the spine of one of the books on the table. "I don't know how," she said quietly.
That news wasn't unexpected. Roy would have been more surprised if Riza had somehow already learned to dance. The idea of Master Hawkeye dancing was absolutely ludicrous, and there was very little that the man had actually taken the time to teach his daughter.
Roy lifted his hand a second time. "So I'll teach you," he promised.
The girl, his junior by just two years, took his hand, the action showing her assent. He'd always liked that about Riza. She thought deeply about things, but she also moved on them. She was equal parts contemplation and action.
He led her to the side of the room where the few pieces of furniture had been pushed out of range of the leak. It left a swatch of floor wide enough for a single dancing couple.
Once there, he positioned himself across from her, one hand still in his. Reaching out, he moved her right hand to his shoulder and laid his left on her waist. Riza startled and took a step back out of his touch.
Roy's eyes widened in surprise and concern, but he didn't reach for her. It hadn't occurred to him before, but this was crossing many unspoken boundaries. He'd known Riza for a long time. She'd become his closest and most trusted friend. They'd learned to communicate without words, but neither was accustomed to the language of touch.
As a child at home he'd been smothered in hugs and lipstick kisses. Patrons and friends of Madame's had patted his head and ruffled his hair. Riza hadn't had that kind of physical affection since her mother died. She was simultaneously starved for it and startled by it. It was no wonder that the closeness of a dance would take her aback.
The matter of physical touch was one thing. Roy found himself suddenly confronted by the intimacy of a dance itself. He had only ever danced with his "sisters," relatives in all but pedigree, and that he'd done knowing they considered him a child.
He was no child to Riza. Only two years apart, in this - as in all things - they were equals. They would cross this threshold together.
"Can we try that again?" Riza asked softly, hesitant but undeterred from the experiment they were conducting.
Roy nodded and offered a slight smile. He held out his hand and waited for her to take it. "We have to touch," he told her when she eyed it. "That's how it works." His relaxed teasing put them both back onto more familiar ground.
Riza laid her hand in his, and Roy directed her where to place her free hand. She followed his instructions, and he felt her fingers settle comfortably on his shoulder. Roy could be patient when he needed to be, and he verbally eased them into position, telling her that his other hand would go on her waist and waiting for her slight nod before he placed it there.
Positioned for a dance, they stood still for a few moments as they grew used to one another's closeness. It was a closeness Roy was hyper aware of. He was a young man, and he would have to be blind not to notice her becoming a young woman. He caught the flush in her cheeks and wondered if Riza hadn't been thinking the same thing.
Tucked into each other's arms, Roy had a sudden vision of her father making an unprecedented trip to the kitchen and finding them this way. He had no illusions that the renowned master of flame alchemy wouldn't burn his pupil to a crisp.
He swallowed hard. "Uh, your father's not going to hear us, right?"
Although he'd been the one expressing confidence only a few minutes ago, it was Riza's turn to reassure him. She seemed unconcerned, even a little amused by his sudden fear. "Like you said, he won't hear anything over the rain."
Almost as if they had power over the radio, a new song was beginning, and Roy began coaching his partner through the steps of a simple waltz. She carefully watched their feet, trying to mirror his steps. They muddled their way through the first song - she trying to pick up the pattern of it and he more distracted then he'd ever been during a dance.
A final blast of notes marked the song's end, and they carefully stepped out of the other's hold. Riza shook her head ruefully, eyes still glued to his shoes as if trying to memorize their movement from just moments ago. "I'm not very good at this."
Roy waited until her eyes came back to his. He gave her a serious look that she'd recognize as half truth and half bluster. He folded his arms and stared her down. "The Riza Hawkeye I know wouldn't let that stop her." She narrowed her eyes, and Roy let himself smirk. "I would know. I was around for your first few attempts at making pie, remember?"
Now Riza was rolling her eyes. Another song came on, and she was the one reaching for his hands. "Come on."
This song was slower - softer - and the notes barely reached them on the other side of the kitchen. Riza continued to sneak glances at their feet. "Just follow my lead," Roy said, and her eyes shot back up to his. He felt his breathing hitch at the contact. He let out his breath with a soft smile and a single instruction. "All you have to do is stay with me."
Riza's eyes didn't leave his, and he wondered if she was having the same trouble breathing. After a heartbeat she returned the smile. "I can do that."
They improved some after that. The pair of them discovered that dancing was a form of communication all its own, and that it really wasn't so different from their language of looks and glances. Other partners may have needed words or more overt signs, but there were some things Roy and Riza were very practiced in.
She found that it was more helpful to watch his face than his feet. The rhythm of the dance was found in his body language more than the melody, and somehow he kept time with his eyes. The rain thundered down, and neither noticed that they could no longer hear the radio. They danced on, locked in a silent symphony.
Their mastery of the simple step lent him boldness, and Roy gently maneuvered Riza into a spin. She followed his lead, understanding without words what he was asking her to do.
Riza twirled back into his arms, a little closer than before, and Roy smiled brightly. "See? You're a natural." She adjusted her hold on his hand, and he hoped his palms weren't sweating. In case they were, he continued the banter. "Someday you might even be better than me."
She took in his cocky grin and returned a smile of challenge. "That doesn't sound too hard."
Those words from anyone else might have bruised his ego, but Roy never minded Riza's teasing. He knew that most of the time she was completely right, and he couldn't help but feel a thrill to have gotten a response from her. She was careful in her words and her choices. He was always proud and humbled when her small acts of friendship confirmed that, on some level, she'd chosen him.
If Roy had been able to perform some complicated and show-stopping dance move, he would have done it then just to prove her wrong. In the absence of said ability, he contented himself by leaning just a little closer and letting his voice drop to a whisper near her ear. "Well, you'll have to keep practicing."
She didn't exactly melt in his arms, but Roy could feel her masked pleasure at his words. They were both challenge and invitation, the proverbial razor their relationship balanced on.
They took another turn around the kitchen, now comfortable in the other's embrace, unaware that the radio had collapsed into static and the rain had stopped.
Roy Mustang thought his ears would drop off his head if he spent another minute listening to the prattling bureaucrat beside him. The recent overthrow of the government had rid the country of a few of its most self-serving leaders, but it had by no means drained the pool. The politician on his left was too seasoned to come out and say something offensive, but Roy had already pegged him as a man he'd someday find himself in moral conflict with.
The diplomat made another elegant remark that expressed his own personal inconvenience during the political upheaval. Posh words aside, Roy had no doubt that this aristocrat had capitalized on the uncertainty of a few weeks ago. Quite successfully, if he was reading the man correctly.
Dealing with the entitled had always been a part of the job he was reaching for, but Roy was for once happily aware that the job wasn't his yet. Thus, this politician and his inflated ego were not yet his full-time problem.
And this was still a party, after all. Roy excused himself from the circle of bureaucrats with a slick smile. Conversations that established him as a part of the political world were valuable, but he wasn't planning on them taking the whole of the evening. He'd done his share of schmoozing for the night, most notably in offering his congratulations to the country's new Führer.
Although that encounter hadn't been so unpleasant. General Grumman was a long time mentor, and Roy was impressed with how he had finagled the current political climate and maneuvered himself into power. The elder officer was a strategist to his core, but enough of an opportunist to take full advantage of the vacancy at the top.
Mustang was happy to see him in command. Even without considering the frankly bizarre power structure that had only just been collapsed, Grumman was a definite improvement from the corrupt top brass that would have vied for the position. As sneaky as the old geezer was, he was someone to be trusted.
The Colonel wandered on the edge of the party, careful not to appear too detached, but not lingering for any one conversation. He did still bear the rank of colonel, though he suspected it was only a matter of time before the paperwork caught up with him and his distinguished service to the country of Amestris moved him another rung up the ladder.
The promotion hadn't been immediate because of the layers of intrigue still shrouding the Promised Day. The general public, and indeed most of the military, was never to know the exact forces that threatened their country or the events that had transpired to stop them. It was becoming known that he had acted heroically and patriotically, and it looked as though the confusion of the coup would not stop his ascension through the ranks.
The lingering association with treason only underlined the fact that the time wasn't right to make his own bid for Führer, but Roy was content with the way things were headed. Let Grumman enjoy his days in power. He might even set in motion some of the work that needed done. Roy would sit in that office soon enough.
In this moment, however, he didn't feel like sitting. It was a festive occasion, and he'd already enjoyed a few dances throughout the evening. It might be time for another one - with a specific partner.
The guise of a party may have fooled a more amateur guest, but Roy knew that the pomp and circumstance of the event was another field on which to make an impression. This was hardly his first military ball, and he played his role dutifully.
He'd twirled his date around the floor multiple times in the first round of dances, careful to catch the attention of the audience he knew would be watching. The charade had gone on for years, and it wasn't yet safe to drop the act. The harshest rumors sold him as a hotblooded womanizer. The kindest would name him an incorrigible flirt.
So he'd made sure his performance tonight matched the act. His date, like all of them, was a connection of Madame's. He and Sofia had known each other for years, and she was as well acquainted with her facade as he was his. Roy thought they made for a convincing show as one in a long series of casual dates. Of course they did. A great deal depended on the act.
Though it was true he didn't lay it on as thick as he once had. He wouldn't risk his position by giving up the ploy that had helped get him here, but it suddenly didn't seem so necessary. The times were rapidly changing; let the world think that the wanton young colonel had changed some, too.
The truth was, it was growing ever harder to keep up the act. And it was entirely due to the woman he now watched move fluidly across the ballroom. At the moment she was dancing with Jean Havoc, though he'd seen her accept a dance with each of their team members throughout the evening.
Breda had made himself available for her first dance that night, and Mustang had looked up from his wine glass to see him accompanying her in a fast trot across the room. Later, Roy had glanced away from a conversation with a senator to see her talking with Falman as they swayed. During one of his own dances, he'd spied her at the edge of the room coaching a clueless Fuery through the steps.
Havoc was almost a match for her skill, and the two of them waltzed easily toward the far side of the ballroom. Roy continued to politely circumvent the lingering guests and made his way subtly toward them.
He reached them with the song in its final measures, approaching at a casual saunter, hands deep in his pockets. His sharp eyes took note of his lieutenant's slight smile and the way Havoc held her lightly. Roy appreciated the distance between them, but saw no discomfort there. Everything about her spoke to him, from the tilt of her head to the way she set her feet. Riza was comfortable, safe, and Jean had even been helping her have a good time.
Roy knew that these grandiose military balls were never her favorite way to spend an evening. She recognized the battles to be waged at the banquet table, but preferred the ones with clear targets and familiar weapons. She supported him fully in his political aspirations, but had no desire for the spotlight herself. And with things as they currently were, these kinds of formal functions were the only times she couldn't be directly by his side, a loss they both privately lamented.
Tonight though, he could tell she was enjoying herself. It was in celebration of her grandfather's election, after all, and while the country had not been made aware of the connection, Roy knew that she was still pleased for her relation. The secrecy was at her behest, actually. If Grumman had his way, he'd have announced his only living relative to the world and drawn her up by his side.
Riza would have none of that. Someday she might lose anonymity, but for now her work was best done while few were watching. Roy supposed that a different woman would have wasted no time in making use of her grandfather's power, but Riza saw no advantage in that. And she wouldn't risk being pulled away from her promise and her duty.
That same fixed determination might very well make her refuse what he was about to ask, but Mustang put on a brave smile as Riza and Havoc joined him.
"Lieutenant." She greeted him by his title, and he greeted her by hers. They said all they needed to in those two simple words. Roy acknowledged Havoc after a moment, and the other man smirked and tucked a toothpick between his teeth before excusing himself to the desert table.
The musicians had just arranged themselves into another set, and Roy offered a gloved hand. "Care to dance?"
He half expected her to refuse, and for a half second their eyes locked in silent contestation. It was a risk, just as their every interaction - public or private - but one he had carefully calculated.
The party was nearly over. Many of the most influential players had already retired or had imbibed too much over the course of the evening to be particularly observant now. Moreover, they had kept up their covers well. He had spent his evening with his date, but had stolen a dance with more than one friend and officer's wife - all serving to establish the gesture as expected, friendly, and non-romantic.
She had accepted a dance from every other member of their team. If someone was keeping track of either of their evenings, this would appear as nothing but a final and complimentary piece of the puzzle. They were as safe as they ever were.
All this was communicated in moments, decided upon when she slipped her hand into his.
It had been a long time since he had to coach her through the motions, and they stepped into each other's arms with the smoothness of long acquaintance, each careful to keep their movements steady to belie mutual eagerness.
The music poured around them, and for a few minutes the two soldiers let it transport them. Roy drank in the feeling of her in his arms, her closeness a reminder of the torturous distance imposed on them. He forced that part of his brain into silence, determined not to waste these precious moments on what was not yet changeable.
Roy twirled her and pulled her back to him, creating the excuse to close the distance between them by another inch. Riza complied with a smile that said she knew every one of his secret motives. "You're an excellent dancer, Lieutenant," he complimented her. It was an innocuous enough comment, and he chased it with a smug reference. "You must have learned from a professional."
Riza matched his steps, her eyes never leaving his and her smile giving nothing away. "He was adequate," she replied. No one but him would have caught the way the corners of her mouth floated upward as she said, "I'm much better than he is now."
In one fluid motion, the Flame Alchemist swept her into a deep dip. Riza looked up at him, and Roy congratulated himself on the mild surprise on her face. In a low voice he murmured near her ear, the exchanging of confidences. "I've learned a few new moves since then."
His breath tickled her hair, which she wore long and down for this occasion. It took all of his self control not to brush it gently to the side and press a kiss to her earlobe, to her jaw, to her lips. Roy could count on one hand the number of times he'd kissed her, but he'd triple that number the first time he got a chance. He lifted her out of the dip, careful to reset the distance between them. Riza gave him a small nod of approval, but he picked up a hint of the same reluctance he felt.
They waltzed together effortlessly. They had long ago learned the language of the dance, but the years had more thoroughly taught them each the language of the other. Roy could read his partner's every movement and glance - the whole world of her thoughts mapped out in her eyes. To anyone else she was unreadable, but he'd spent his life in the memorizing of her. He knew her as completely as he knew the codex on her back. It was the totality of his craft, but she was the completeness of his soul.
They'd lived for years in the precise and censored roles of colonel and loyal lieutenant. She had encouraged him in his playboy lifestyle from the outset, and Riza had laid out two convincing reasons why he should adopt it.
First, his series of dates allowed him to tap into the expansive intelligence network created by Madame Christmas. It went undetected and supplied a veritable trove of intel. Second, it allowed him to shape his own reputation. There were always rumors in the military. By choosing which vice to flaunt, he could control his enemies' perception of him. A man was underestimated when his greatest weakness was already known.
Her logic convinced him, as it often did, but Roy could think of a third benefit of the arrangement. It kept her safe. If a man in his own spotlight was overlooked, then no one would suspect his love for the woman who kept herself in his shadows.
The smile on his face was polite for the sake of any onlookers, but Roy didn't have to wonder if she saw his feelings in his eyes as they danced. He sometimes thought she was even better at reading him than he was her. Fuery had once shared his theory that they could read each other's minds, and Roy was willing to entertain it. Riza seemed to know his mind as well as she knew his heart.
"I'm glad I taught you to dance," Roy said softly so that none but her could hear his admission.
Riza's eyes softened, and the two got lost in their shared memory of another dance a lifetime ago. It was more than a decade since their first dance together, and they were hardly the children they had been. Neither was nervous or uncomfortable in each other's arms. Neither was still naive to the bitterness and treachery of the world. Life had made them burdened and wounded, two broken souls that still perfectly pieced into one.
"I am, too," she agreed.
Roy broke their gaze to take stock of the room. Even more guests had trickled out, but there were enough that their dancing wasn't conspicuous in its singularity. No one had eyes turned their way. He pulled her a little closer, letting both hands rest on her waist. Riza's hands traced up his shoulders to his neck, and he knew she'd done the same reconnaissance he had. They were never fully safe from prying eyes, but this would become one of their rare stolen moments.
Maybe it was the heady rush of having her in his arms, the way his soul screamed with the utter perfection of it. Maybe it was the fact that being beside her had always lent him courage. They didn't indulge in sentiment very often; they couldn't afford to. Riza didn't let anything through her mask, and Roy himself had impressive self control, despite what the public might believe about his libido.
The physical restraint wasn't even the worst part. He had never been free to tell her everything he wanted to. Even if they could speak their hearts with a look, there was something about saying the worlds out loud. It was a gift Roy swore he'd never take for granted if it ever came to pass.
That freedom wasn't yet there, but in this moment, Roy felt bold enough to steal it. He leaned closer still and breathed out the words. "I want to dance with you at our wedding."
His words startled her. Her expression remained carefully neutral, but he could tell by the the way her head tilted to the side and her eyelashes fluttered and her feet almost faltered in their steps. Riza leaned into him for just a fraction of a second as he gave voice to their wordless promise. The question had been asked and answered a hundred times already, every time he asked her to follow him and every time she promised she would.
They fought for a better Amestris, a country built on both justice and mercy. That was their primary objective, and yet a much more personal dream hovered on its fringes. It was a wedding they never talked about, a marriage they'd committed to years ago, and a future neither felt they could possibly deserve. Yet the hope of it remained and drove them as much as their need for restitution.
Another dancing couple passed by near them, and Riza loosened her hold on his neck. "I'd better keep practicing," she said lightly, but her eyes held all the challenge and invitation they had when those words were first said. They harkened back to the old, comfortable friendship, but showcased the deep and familiar love that had grown out of it.
Roy put on a flashy smile for those around them, but left his eyes for her. "It's not too hard," he assured her. "Just follow my lead." He, too, echoed words from their childhood, not knowing then how apt they would be for the rest of their lives.
"All you have to do is stay with me."
The dance came to an end, the musicians behind them bringing the song to an elegant close. The couples around them stepped apart, and Roy and Riza were quick to follow suit. Their choice to dance was risky enough; it wouldn't do to be caught lingering in each other's arms.
They stood apart, careful not to touch the other, and Roy marveled at how her proximity could calm and intoxicate him all at once. Riza graced him with one of her secret smiles and responded with a military curtness that would have pleased any general in attendance.
"I can do that, sir."
But in her words was the same promise they'd made each other a hundred times, the pledge they'd both taken to go through this life together. No one else would decipher their feelings or break their code, but her words filled him as though they were the most ardent declaration of love. And Roy knew - just as he knew she heard his I love you in every teasing remark or official command - that's exactly what they were.
There it is! Please tell me what you think in a review!