Of Fire and Flowers

Chapter 2

Riza stirred, and opened her eyes. She felt disorientated, and her head hurt. Rolling over, her eyes shot open. She was in her uniform (Minus her jacket and boots) but she was in her bedroom. She could not remember how she got here.

Standing up, she looked at the clock. 5:49am. She was due to report to the colonel at 7:00. Riza grumbled about how early it was, but since she was wide awake now she decided she might as well get her day started.

Walking out into the living area, she yawned and stretched, smiling at Black Hayate as he jumped off the sofa and ran to her, wagging his tail.

"How strange, Hayate." Riza said to him as she petted his head and scratched his ears "Usually you sleep on my bed.

"Well, he had someone else to sleep with tonight." A voice said, and Riza immediately pulled out a gun from on the side table. The person belonging to the voice got up off the sofa. Riza sighed, tossing the gun back down.

"Colonel, why are on my sofa?" Riza asked, walking to the kitchenette and putting the kettle on. Roy laughed.

"Well, someone worried me sick last night when they threw up at a crime scene, almost all over the evidence I hasten to add, and then passed out in my car."

"I passed out in your car?" Riza asked, surprised. That wasn't like her.

"You did. After I was finished, I drove you back, got you out of your jacket and boots and put you to bed. I assumed you didn't want me to change you into your nightclothes, beautiful as they are."

Riza blushed. She had a few lacy nightgowns kept away in her drawer.

"Now tell me, Riza." Roy stood up, and walked right over to where Riza was standing. He leaned in, and looked her right in the eye "Tell me, are you really feeling okay?"

Riza looked into his eyes, and saw how worried he really was. Sighing, she decided to tell the truth.

"I've been sick, Sir." She said "For a little while now. Perhaps a week or so?"

"You've been putting up with this for a week now?" Roy looked surprised, and then sort of sad. "I'm sorry I didn't notice sooner."

"It's not your fault." Riza muttered, turning to grab two cups as the kettle came to a boil. She broke off a few clumps of tea from the big block she owned, and made up a cup of tea for each both them.

"Thank you." Roy said ask Riza handed him a cup. They both sat down at the small kitchen table.

They sat in silence for a while. It was broken when Roy let out a short laugh.

"What is it, Sir?" Riza asked, looking up at him. He laughed again.

"We've done this before." He said. Riza paused for a second, and then a smiled broke out on her face.

"We have. I seem to remember you were up all night training with my father."

"Yes. And then, at a stupid time in the morning, you came downstairs."

"I was so surprised to see you there; I thought you would've gone to bed hours ago! And you made me a cup of tea, saying it would help me get some sleep." Roy smirked "And then we sat in silence and I drank the whole thing, even though it was horrible."

"Hey!" Riza playfully kicked him under the table.

"Ow!" Roy feigned hurt "I must say, you have gotten better at making tea, Miss Hawkeye."

"That's Lieutenant Hawkeye to you, mister."

"Lizzy."

"Roy-Boy."

The two dissolved into laughter, all worries forgotten for a few sweet moments.

After an interesting morning of getting ready, Roy and Riza left Riza's apartment to head to the office. After all, they still had a murder to investigate.

"Okay." The colonel said, sitting down at his desk. Riza pulled up a chair so that she was opposite him. "We have 13 murders, all female. There were 13 notes left at the scene. We know there is a code within the notes; we just need to figure it out."

"That we do, Sir." Riza agreed. The note yesterday had said '2 kegs of water'. It really did seem to be a shopping list.

The colonel and his lieutenant laid out all the clues they had, in the order they had been found.

"1 tub of ice cream, 1 lbs of elderberries, 2 lbs of apples, 2 lbs of nectarines, 5 lbs of kidney beans, 3 ½ lbs of ham, 1 yam, An edam cheese , 3 blocks of tea, 1 pack of spaghetti, 2 dozen eggs,2 packets of xanthan gum, and 2 kegs of water." Riza read off the list. "What could it all mean? It doesn't sound a recipe. At least, not one I've heard of before."

"I've never heard of a recipe with all that in either." Roy agreed. "Maybe there is something with the numbers?"

"Or something with the ingredients?" Riza added "I remember Marcoh encoded his Philosopher's stone information into a recipe book. Maybe it's like that."

"Perhaps." Roy nodded "I guess we can't do anything but work it all out."

"Let's do it."

The two moved evidence around, playing with the numbers, letters, words, order of it all, everything. Nothing seemed to be revealing the true meaning behind any of it.

The two were still engrossed in their work when Edward walked in, followed shortly by his brother, Alphonse.

"Hey there, Mustang!" Ed greeted the colonel like they were old friends. Well, technically they were. The sudden noise made both Roy and Riza jump, the papers going all over the table and floor.

"Well done, you shrimp!" Roy glared at Edward, who just narrowly stopped himself from losing his temper. Riza stifled a chuckle. Over the two years since the Promised day, Edward had shot up like a rocket, and now stood at 5'7, a big difference to the 4'11 he had been when they first met.

"I'm not even sorry." Ed muttered, bending down and helping the two pick up the papers. Al walked over to help, but Ed pointed to the sofa that sat in the middle of the office.

"Sit down, Alphonse." He commanded "You've been feeling woozy all morning."

Grumbling, Al took a seat. Once the papers were all picked up, Ed joined Al on the sofa.

"So, where's the rest of the almighty 'Team Mustang'?" Ed asked with a grin.

"I gave them time off." Roy answered without missing a beat. It was true. They had worked hard on the previous case, and so Roy had let all of them –including Riza- have time off. Riza had refused on the grounds of that she would be 'too worried he would kill himself in the first five minutes if she left'.

Roy had been unable to come up with a valid response.

"So, what are you working on then?" Ed asked. Roy sighed in annoyance.

"It never ceases to amaze me that after all you've been through, you still do not know how to not be nosy!" the Colonel fumed. Edward seemed to have this talent for pressing the Colonel's buttons, and not in a good way.

"It's a murder case." Riza answered Ed's question "Surely you've heard of the serial killer who has been replicating Barry the Chopper?"

Ed nodded solemnly.

"And right now, we are trying to decode these messages." Riza motioned to the stack of paper.

"Mind if I help?" Al asked. Riza looked over at him and smiled. She had always had a soft spot for the younger of the Elric brothers.

"Of course not." She said "Do you want me to bring them over?"

Al shook his head, and stood up. It had been two years since he got his body back, but every so often he would have dizzy spells. Ed was doing a good job taking care of him, and when she was around, May would take over.

Ed dragged over a chair for Al and one for himself, and the four of them worked together.

"I remember Marcoh's research." Al said, reading the notes. "It seems to be quite similar."

"That's what I thought." Riza grinned, looking up at Roy.

"For his, we took the first letter of each of the ingredients, and then shuffled them around until they made a sentence that made sense."

"So what you're saying is, for example, '1 tub of ice cream' would be an I?"

"Exactly that." Al laid the notes out again.

"I." Roy said, writing it down "E, A, N, K, H, Y, E, T, S, E, X and W."

"Now we just re-arrange the letters." Al said.

The four sat around and worked on it.

And when they got the answer, they wished they hadn't.

Riza sat back from the table, hand over her mouth. Ed and Al looked at her with a sad, sort of pitying look and Roy's look was plain fear for her.

I, E, A, N, K, H, Y, E, T, S, E, X, W.

HAWKEYE IS NEXT.

"I need to go to the bathroom." Riza said quickly, and left the room. Roy stood up, and followed her out.

"Riza, wait!" He called, not bothering to call her Lieutenant even though they were in public. This did make her stop. Tears were forming in her eyes, and Roy quickly pulled her into a supplies cupboard so that no-one would see them just standing there in the hall.

"Hey, hey." Roy said, his hand on Riza's shoulders, comforting her like he did all those times before "It's okay. It's oaky, Riza. No-one is going to hurt you. Not with me around. I won't let them."

"I don't get it!" Riza said, her voice high "I don't know why I feel so emotional. It's not like me to cry over something as meagre as this, is it? I'm military personnel! I should be used to death threats! Hell, my whole lifestyle is a death threat!"

"Riza, I promise I won't let anyone hurt you." Roy was stroking her back now trying to calm her down."

The giggling around the dinner table this morning seemed so far away.

"Colonel." Riza asked.

"Yes?"

"Please, just hug me."

"What?"

"Not in a romantic way." She replied "My papa used to hug me when I got really sad. Please, just do it."

Roy had no reason to refuse. He wrapped his arms around his lieutenant, and hugger her close to him.

She may have told him it was not in a romantic way, but he couldn't help but wish it was. After everything they had been through together, after all those years, he could not help but develop feelings towards her.

"Riza, please let me in." Roy pleaded gently, knocking on the nineteen-year-old Riza's bedroom door. It had been almost a week since her father had passed away from an illness that had been haunting him for a few years now.

"Go away!" Riza screamed from the other side, her voice strange and disfigured from crying.

"I won't!" Roy replied, putting his hand on the door "I understand how you feel, Riza, and I'm sorry. But killing yourself like this is not going to make it better!"

"I'm not killing myself!" Riza screamed back "You have no idea how I feel!"

Roy sighed. He did not want to fight with her.

"Riza, please open the door. He was my master, my friend. I was close to him too."

"You were not! He was my father! I've known him longer than anyone! He was my closest friend!"

Roy felt his hand curl into a fist, and tried to keep his voice level.

"He's not here anymore, Riza." He said slowly "I am your closest friend now. Let me help you."

There was a long pause. Total silence. Then the sound of the lock being turned.

The door opened, and Roy was greeted by the shadow of his best friend.

"You look terrible." Roy said, reaching out and pulling Riza into his arms "You smell terrible too. Let me look after you. Let me be your best friend."

Riza said nothing in reply, and just cried into his jacket. Roy let her, rubbing her back.

After a few minutes, Riza pulled back.

"I need to go and clean myself up." She said "You go back to the office. I'll be there as soon as I can."

The Colonel finally agreed, and let her out. He sat there in the dark for another few minutes so that it didn't look suspicious them both leaving at the same time, and then left himself.

Riza threw up again in the toilet, tears running down her face again. This wasn't funny! It had defiantly been a week now of her throwing up randomly. It seemed to be triggered by stress, but there were other things nagging her in the back of her mind. What kinds of things made you throw up? Food borne illnesses- Maybe she'd eaten something bad. Every day that week. Problems with the brain could also cause it- she hoped that wasn't the case.

There was always the possibility of morning sickness from pregnancy. But she had never been close enough to any male to do that sort of thing- well, not in the past few years anyway.

She left the stall, and looked into the mirror. Her eyes were bloodshot, puffy, and stinging from all the tears. She hated crying, especially in front of people. It was a sign of weakness.

After splashing her face a few times, Riza blew her nose and spent a few seconds studying herself in the mirror. She was acting like she used to, a weak, little girl helpless to everything and anything. Crying at the drop of a hat, feeling strange things towards people she shouldn't…

Suddenly, Riza wished she had never joined up. She would be able to let her hair down, wear make-up, pretty dresses, high heels. She would be able to go out partying, come back late and sleep in the next morning with a hangover. She would be able to date who she wanted, be it a civilian or other.

Splashing her face again, Riza pushed aside these thoughts. She had a good reason or joining up, and even though she had sacrificed most of the things a normal women would be able to do, she did not regret it. She had the Colonel. She was happy.

Feeling a bit better, Riza made her way back to the office, stopping off at the canteen to buy something for the men waiting upstairs for her.

As soon as she was hit by the smell of food, her mouth started to water. What was the meal today? Quickly reading the notice, she found out it was chicken curry with rice, and a steamed ginger pudding for after. That was another thing she loved about being in the army- the food was really nice. And free.

Riza quickly ordered four sets of the meal, and asked to have them delivered to the Colonel's office. The staff told her that was fine, and Riza went back up to the office.

"The Lieutenant's back!" Ed announced as Riza walked back in. She smiled.

"I am." She said, walking over to the desk "And I ordered you all food at the canteen whilst I was down there, it should be up soon."

"Thank you." Roy said, looking at her with a soft smile. Riza looked up at him.

"Well, now we have a lead." Riza said, and Roy dropped his gaze "We should probably report it."

"And get you some body guards." Al added. Riza couldn't help but chuckle.

"What?" Al replied, looking confused "It's a serious thing!"

"I'm sorry." Riza apologized, still chuckling "No-one's ever said that I need guarding before. Usually it's me doing the guarding."

"Maybe I'll have to return the favour then." Roy said, stacking papers "After all, you have been looking after me for many years now."

"That's only because if I left you on your own you would probably go on some crazy mission and have yourself killed in five seconds flat."

Ed and Al dissolved into laughter.

"Hey, don't laugh at me!" the Colonel said, standing up and turning around.

The food arrived, and Riza thanked the person who had brought it up. It smelt so good, and looked delicious too.

"Wow, this is the life!" Ed said, taking a bite and then talking with his mouth full "Free food!"

"Ed, don't do that." Al said, taking a bite of his own meal.

"That reminds me, I meant to ask." Roy picked up a forkful of rice "What are you doing here?"

"Snuck in." Ed replied. Roy almost choked on his rice.

"He's not serious." Al added "We came to give you something."

Ed pulled out a crumpled envelope from his jacket. He tried to smooth it out, and then handed it to Roy.

"A letter?" He said, turning it over and starting to open it "Couldn't you have just psoted it like normal people?"

"It's an important letter."

Riza looked up. She had been so engrossed in the deliciousness of the meal that she had crammed it down her throat in breakneck speed. Feeling a bit embarrassed at being so unladylike, she pushed the plate away.

"What does it say?" Riza asked as Roy read through the letter.

"Something's happened up at Briggs." He announced "We'll be heading up there tomorrow."

After work, Roy insisted on taking Riza home.

"You need someone to guard you." He said, opening the door for her to get in "And I am that someone, it seems."

"People are going to talk." Riza replied "I came to work with you this morning; we're going home together tonight. And then tomorrow we're going to Briggs. Together."

"Oh well. You're my subordinate. And an irreplaceable one at that." Roy got in the car and started the engine "Let them talk."
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