The First Date

“I prefer people like my older brother … I’m sorry, Lieutenant, you’re not my type, so–“

There were precisely three small cracks in the plaster of the wall opposite to his desk; Havoc had counted them multiple times over the past three weeks. He had the distinct impression that he was letting things slide by that he really shouldn’t, and couldn’t much make himself care.

“You’re not my type, so–“

“Second Lieutenant Havoc,” Lt. Hawkeye said. Very slowly, he turned to look at her. Ignoring the Colonel he could usually get away with–but even in his stupor, he knew better than to ignore Hawkeye.

She looked down at him thoughtfully, lips pursed. “It’s come to my attention that, ah … well, to be blunt, that you’ve been entirely unsuccessful in finding yourself a girlfriend.”

He twitched and made a pathetic noise. There was no need to rub it in, he thought mournfully. Catherine had been so cute, too, and Grace before her, and Allison before her–ah, he was so unlucky; women never seemed to notice him–

“Very well,” Lt. Hawkeye said, her tone brisk. “I will expect you to pick me up at seven o’clock sharp tonight.”

Havoc stared blankly at her. Then, as though the light suddenly flipped on again, he yelped and backpedaled, staring at her in something akin to horror. “What?!”

“You’ve been unresponsive and unproductive for nearly two weeks, Lieutenant,” she said crisply, as she began to gather her things. “That sort of professional attitude is unacceptable.”

“But–whossa–whaa–”

“Unless you have objections, I’m willing to give this a shot,” she said, and smiled. He’d seen her do that before many times–but now it was at him, and that somehow made all the difference.

And she was awfully pretty.

He coughed, tugging at the collar of his uniform. “Then, uh,” he said, slightly red-faced, “I’ll see you tonight, First Lieutenant.”

“We’re off-duty right now,” she said. “It’s all right to call me ‘Riza.'”

“… Riza.” The name felt strange to him, like it represented mysteries untold. First Lieutenant Hawkeye he understood, after so many years–Riza was something entirely different.

“Seven o’clock, then?” She picked up her bag, then clicked her tongue sharply. From under her desk, Black Hayate trotted out, ears up and tail high. He followed at her heels as she turned and walked out.

“Seven, sure,” he said, and watched her leave. A huge, stupid grin spread across his face as he turned back to his own desk, then blinked at the mess piled there.

“Hey, congratulations, Lt. Havoc,” Breda said, popping up behind him. He looked at Havoc’s desk, and whistled low between his teeth. “If she’s willing to go out with you, even when you keep your stuff like this–”

“She’s a very nice lady,” Fury added, appearing on Havoc’s left. “It’ll be good for you to get out.”

“Flowers are good,” Farman added, to his right. “Something tasteful and understated, like the First Lieutenant herself–”

Someone coughed. As one, the four of them turned and looked at Roy Mustang’s deadpan expression.

“So,” he said, looking at Havoc, “you’ve managed to get a date out of Lt. Hawkeye.”

Havoc blinked a few times. The distant part of his mind that had noted how pretty Riza was wondered, idly, if it was possible to outrun alchemical flame. “Yessir?”

“Congratulations,” the Colonel said, still deadpan. “And good luck.”

He walked to the door, pausing to shrug into his coat, then glanced back. “Don’t bring her roses until the third date,” he advised. “She won’t take you seriously otherwise.”

Then he was gone, and Breda whirled on Havoc, prodding him hard in the chest. “Not bad, not bad–he stole your girlfriend, so you can take his!” He ended that with a slap to Havoc’s back, doubling him forward. “Congratulations!”

“Ah, no, it’s–”

“Not roses, hm,” Farman said. “Perhaps lilies, then–calias, because you wouldn’t want to send the wrong message–white ones might work, as well–”

“I didn’t think the Colonel was dating the First Lieutenant,” Fury said to Breda. “Their relationship always seemed so professional–”

Breda slapped him on the back, too. “Ah, that’s because you’re young, and still innocent,” he said grandly. “Really, it’s probably just a cover up–”

“–irises might suit her, too, though where you’ll find those at this time of year–”

“–I mean, who knows what goes on when she goes to report to him, and closes the door behind her? Nah, I’ll bet they’ve been carrying on for years, now–”

“Sir, I don’t think that’s very professional to say; she’d kill us if she–”

Under the cover of their chatter, Havoc snuck out.

***

He had a brief moment of panic before he found her house–the Colonel insisted the people of his unit to keep each other’s addresses and numbers in case of opportunity–and thought that, perhaps, he should have waited for the others to offer their “escorting” services again.

Havoc paused and tugged at his tie; he had, perhaps, tightened it too much before leaving. As he went up the stairs, the small doggy-door moved, and Black Hayate poked his head out. Rather than bark, he blinked at Havoc, then disappeared back into the house.

A moment later, the door opened, and Riza emerged, elegantly dressed in black. She’d left her hair down, fastened at the base of her neck with a fancier clip than she used at the office. Havoc gaped for a full half-minute before remembering himself and holding out the flowers–lilies, and white, as Farman had suggested. She smiled and descended the stairs from him, taking the flowers and setting them in the crook of her arm.

“We have reservations at the Blue Moon in half an hour,” she told him. “Shall we, then?”

He babbled something that was probably agreement, and saw Riza smile at him again. He even remembered to open the door for her, even if Black Hayate took that as an invitation and jumped in first. Havoc was leaning forward, ready to shoo the dog out, when something clicked by his temple.

He looked up, and right into the barrel of a gun. Black Hayate whimpered.

“Bad,” Riza said sternly, her tone every echo military command. “Out.” She pointed with her other hand, and Black Hayate obeyed, hopping down and sitting with ears and tail lowered. Riza bent swiftly, tucking away the gun as she went, and took the dog’s muzzle in her hands.

“I’ll be home soon,” she said. “Be good.”

Black Hayate whined, but when she let go and stood up, he merely watched as she got into the car. As Havoc closed the door behind her, he looked down and found the dog staring at him.

Oddly, he heard the Colonel’s words echoing in his head. “Congratulations. And good luck.”

The date itself went relatively smoothly; the prices on the menu didn’t make him wince to see, and Hawkeye had apparently read some of the same books he had, which meant that at least there was something to talk about over the meal.

Afterwards, he drove her back and counted down seconds until disaster. Things were going too well, and he was just waiting for something to happen–a tire exploding, maybe, or he’d say something that would completely repel her once they got to her house, or–

“You’ve passed my house,” Riza said. He couldn’t see her face in the dimness, but it sounded like she was smiling, at least. Embarrassed, he coughed and turned the car around.

Black Hayate didn’t poke his head out when Riza got out of the car, but she didn’t seem particularly worried by this, and Havoc belatedly thought that he probably should have opened that door for her, too. He got out of the car, and they looked at each other across the hood for long seconds.

“Was that, um.” Havoc resisted the urge to pull on his collar yet again; he’d stopped after catching her disapproving look around the third time during dinner. “Did you have fun?”

Riza came around the car to stand before him. She was no more an alchemist than he was, but he felt like some small dissected specimen under a microscope, trapped in place. He stuck his hands in his pockets and looked at her left ear, rather than in her eyes.

She leaned up and kissed his cheek. He blinked at her, then blinked at her, eyes going wide and his jaw dropping to hang slackly.

“I enjoyed myself very much,” she said. “I’ll expect you on Sunday, at seven.”

She’d already disappeared inside before her words registered. Like a man completely of automail, he turned to gape at the door. On his cheek, her kiss seemed to burn.

“Ha,” he said weakly, to himself and the night sky, “ahahaha.” Very gingerly, he touched his cheek, and thought, all over again, about how pretty she’d looked in that dress.

Three dates until he could bring roses. He’d have to ask around, and see where he could find irises at this time of year.

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