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for the serpent has died and i'm leaning by your side

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There’s a lot of noise in the time immediately after Edward deals the killing blow to the homunculus that nearly became a god. The eerie silence which he expects from all the old stories of good versus evil is instead enveloped very quickly by cheering and yelling and shrieks of jubilation which clatter around in his head like a rouge bouncy ball. He feels the ground trembling beneath him, and he tenses – before realising it is simply the footfalls of soldiers around him and Hawkeye. He estimates that entire battalions pass the two of them and it makes him laugh a little at how easy it is for him to tell which soldiers come from Fort Briggs, and which come from Central. The Briggs men are softer, quicker in their pacing and barely bely the exertion they must feel – the Central soldiers, on the other hand, are heavy and clumsy in their gait, and have no idea of what fitness is apparently.

He feels Hawkeye shift next to him, resting her weight on her other foot, gripping his side a little tighter than he expects as she does so. Her breathing is laboured, and for the first time since the battle has finished Roy really thinks about how much he has put her through today.

It is too much. He should never have had to ask this much of her – and yet she would broker no deal where her role was less. It was difficult to try and ignore the dark circles under her eyes as they woke early this morning, nor the slight gauntness to her frame as they dressed for the battle that would come. The months she spent under the watchful eye of not just one homunculi, but two – took a toll on her physically in ways he didn’t want to think about.

Mentally was another problem altogether.

“Hawkeye…” he begins, his mouth dry and cracking over her name. He feels her breath hitch, followed by a tensing of her muscles.

“Sir?” she responds quietly. Her voice is jagged and rough and he wonders just how much of a patchwork job the young girl from Xing had done. Her cut had been clean, and he would vehemently argue it was the only blessing to come out of that awful situation – at the time all he could think of was her blood spilling out of her like a grotesque necklace, dripping down the hollow of her throat, but in actuality he should – she should – count themselves lucky that a clean cut was all she got. He’s well-aware of how cruel the homunculi could be.

He would never admit this to her, but he had woken up more times than he could count in a cold sweat, images of her impaled on Bradley’s swords like an animal left to be bled (he had read the reports of what had gone down in Dublith the last time the Elric’s had visited, and his informants based there had not spared him any detail). He imagined her being left on his doorstep, gutted and bloodless like a carcass ready to be cut for consumption, ribs brutally smashed open: there would only be hollow where her heart ought to be and damn him for not doing enough to protect her.

He doesn’t know too much about the physiology of homunculi, only that they fought well and burned better, but it doesn’t take much to assume that all of them were capable of eating humans. He wonders if it would have come to that, and whether Wrath was possible of the empathy to make her death a quick and clean one.

He doesn’t want to think about the kind of pain that she’s in – what she is doing just to remain upright for his sake – he feels like he has been hit by a truck and ran over at least half a dozen times. Both of his hands are aching and cramping and stinging in a way that is far worse than when he had to burn himself; he feels the blood still dripping down his gloved fingers slowly – the warmth of which makes him feel ill. There’s a pain behind his eyes that reminds him of the migraines he used to get when he was a teenager, and he idly wonders why he didn’t suffer a worse fate with Truth. The Elric’s had lost their bodies in extremely violent and distressing ways; it didn’t make sense that he wouldn’t also suffers something similar. He doubts Truth cares how people come to the Gate – like his refusal to perform human transmutation himself meant anything to the weird not-entity that he can still recall (and he’ll be damned if the last thing he remembers seeing is something like that, he would much prefer a view a little closer to home).

“Sir?” Hawkeye asks him again, her voice barely a whisper this time.

“Am I bleeding out of my eye sockets?” The question is so inane and he has to try his best not to crack a smile – he feels the adrenaline lessening now; his heart no longer feels like it is lodged in his throat, and he feels his pulse strongly in his fingers, a steady but painful tha-thump, tha-thump. Tha-thump. The pain is sharpening now in his hands, and he grimaces as he tries to adjust his right hand that is loosely curled into her side. The stiffening in his tendons is a bad sign – he knows enough about first aid to realise that he needs to be seen by at least a nurse soon, but his men are his first priority. His bleeding, while continuous, has slowed – he feels the gummy texture of the haemoglobin stick around the entry and exit wound on his hand as he shifts it from Hawkeye’s waist to her shoulder, his gloves fraying seams catching on her loose hair. It’s a familiar sensation under his fingertips, even through the fabric of his gloves – she was blessed with thin hair, but plenty of it.

He puts the slightest amount of tension on her hair - not a tug, his head is throbbing and he doesn't imagine how badly she must be feeling, what she isn't letting on to him. The Lieutenant inclines her head ever so slightly – it's an old code of theirs – older than their names; than the well-placed taps of pens on wood; than a lifted eyebrow across an office.

"You shouldn't be speaking," he murmurs, twisting her hair in between his fingers more until he thinks he will not be separated from her. The noises around them are becoming more frequent and loud as every second passes; as every breath passes through his lungs. The air is tinged with gunpowder and smoke. It comes in waves as the wind shifts and Roy is suddenly reminded an awful lot of Ishval. It is the same sounds as after a heavy attack gone successfully; the same atmosphere when the commanders officially declared the end of the war – there is chaos here, but it is tinged with relief, with joy that is barely restrained. He knows there are dead bodies littering the parade grounds here, as there were amongst the sand dunes and rubble.

These soldiers, at least, will be noticed and taken care of with the respect they should not even have to deserve. The Promised Day – whatever the military decides is a fitting name – will immortalise these men and their ranks in stone. There will be parades and minutes of silence as people pay faux penance for sins that they let grow instead of addressing.

A band of Northern soldiers suddenly sprints by, yelling loudly and frantically – their accents a stark contrast to the reserved tones of Central. There is more movement their way now, and eventually Riza stands a little straighter, taking slightly deeper breaths that he can almost feel rattle around in her lungs. “We should move, sir,” she tells him firmly, her voice only wavering a little. “Triage tents are being set up to the north.”

Roy hesitates before he nods, and lets himself be guided by her hands. The cacophony grows louder with every steady, laboured step they make – the familiar screams of makeshift surgery; the frustrated yells for help; the hoarse sobs that are a constant beat in this human symphony. It is too reminiscent of Ishval, and Roy feels ill at the implications of what that means.

He doesn’t need to tell Riza what he is feeling. He knows that she understands, that she too, remembers. Her fingers grip into his coat even tighter as they pass what sounds like a rudimentary operating theatre. They might be walking on polished stone instead of stone carved by sand, but the horrors remain the same and the cruelty of humanity is still laid bare for anybody to see.

He has no idea where they are anymore on the parade grounds. His mind’s eye is hopelessly lost – though he supposes even with eyesight it would still be difficult to recognise the parade grounds now. Riza explains that the middle is torn beyond repair, alchemic or otherwise, and so what’s left of the Central troops and the Briggs battalions find themselves on the perimeters of the land, skirting structural faults that look ready to collapse at a moment’s notice.

They walk in silence for a bit, both intently focused on staying upright amongst the chaos around them. The tang of iron is palpable in the air, and he feels it coat his tongue in a greasy film.

“Hawkeye-” he starts, but she roughly yanks him down suddenly onto what feels like a cot, and he’s still as she lets out a pained sigh, her hand that was so tightly gripping his side loosening. She breathes deeply for a minute, and he can hear how exerted she is. His hand finds her wrist and he strokes over her pulse point, marvelling at how frantically it beats and flutters under his touch. Eventually he feels the tempo lessen and her body begin to relax next to him, leaning into him a little more than what would be considered strictly appropriate. He doesn’t care. She’s warm next to him, and smells faintly of his soap and sweat.

He wonders what will become of the Briggs soldiers, the ones he saw that were soaked with Amestrian blood. General Armstrong would be wise to make a hasty exit from Central if she wanted to keep her men relatively intact. Central soldiers may have been taken by surprise in this attack, hopelessly under-skilled and out-manoeuvred: but vengeance was something that was bred into their bones, into their very beings.

It is cooler here, and all he can hear is the familiar cadences of Amestrian, with the heavy Northern accent thundering out every so often. Northerners were such loud people.

Riza huffs a little and he doesn't stop the smile growing on his face. Against each and every insurmountable obstacle that they faced today, they still made it through – every single one of them, and every single one of his men. Anticipating causalities was a necessary evil of their plan - and it wasn't entirely unlikely that at least one person in his team would get severely injured or worse.

He hadn't been anticipating Riza, however. The entire day had been a flurry of emotional highs and lows and he could still hear her choked-out pleas ringing in his ears to just stop, please don't make me do this, this is not you, this is not who you are this is not

She truly was his weakness – only she could render him immobile, it was only her now that he could not raise a hand to.

"Thank you for following my orders, Lieutenant," he begins lowly. She shifts a little next to him and it must be killing her that she can't respond but it is killing him more knowing that he is the reason she cannot in the first place. "Without you today..." he sighs and trails off, his gloved thumb rubbing against the bare skin of her neck carefully.

"I fear today might have turned out very differently if not for you. Thank you." His tone is soft, barely carrying over the cacophony surrounding them - soldiers are passing the two of them more frequently where they sit, near what he can only assume is the main triage camp being frantically set up. He knows it is not coincidence that she has moved them both to be near it – not for her sake, of course, but for his. Her ridiculous and at times maddening ability to put him above everything else (including herself) never fails to amuse him as much as it annoys him.

She shifts against him again and the hand resting on his back curls into his side, and he feels the indent of her fingernails, even through the heavy cloth of his coat. He doesn’t stop the small smile he can feel growing on his face, but instead lifts his head up. He can feel the sun on his skin, despite the cool spring breeze that moves through the parade grounds every so often. In spite of the pain that is slowly ebbing from his hands and eyes to the rest of his body, he feels lighter than he has in months.

It wasn’t like his plans (which were always very well-laid, thank you very much) normally went awry, but it was honestly refreshing to realise he wouldn’t need to worry about almost anything for a while now. He wouldn’t need to worry for his life – for her life. He could spend just a little bit of time remembering that he had helped defeat the greatest evil to befall his country in living memory and almost everyone had come out the other side relatively intact.

“Thank you for not dying,” she responds after a while, her voice barely above a whisper now. She shifts a little closer to him, her leg warm against his own. They’re quiet for a while, Riza rubbing his back in a soothing motion, sometimes stopping to trace messages instead. Roy doesn’t care what people must be thinking, at this blatant expression of familiarity that most certainly goes beyond the safe boundaries of a superior officer and his subordinate. He realises that she’s rested her head on his shoulder, and her breathing has slowed, no longer stiff and rattle-like. Her hand still traces letters lightly on the small of his back but they are lazy now, no longer urgent.

Home, he realises after another while, focusing on the languid strokes and the barest pressure of her nails as she begins the word again. Her m’s are beyond recognition, but the kiss she presses into the shoulder her head rests on speaks far more than her bruised and bloody fingers.

His hand shifts from where it had been resting on the edge of her shoulder back to the fragile and mottled skin of her neck, careful not to agitate her wound with the roughness of his ignition gloves as he splays them against the space where her shoulder meets her neck. His thumb slips under the thin fabric of her turtleneck, rubbing firmly against the bone at the top of her spine. It juts out a little more than what he was expecting – and though she’s allowed to relax her posture now, for crying out loud, it certainly points to an underlying concern that she’s not in the healthiest of conditions.

She needs the rest. They all do.

Chapter Text

He drifts in and out of consciousness as the constant stampede of footfalls beat a lulling tempo that is comforting as much as it is desensitising. He jolts himself awake every once in a while, and Riza simply squeezes his hand lightly every time. It’s hard to resist the temptation to let himself fall asleep properly, but his bones and muscles are protesting and coupled with the familiar smell of Riza that make it easy to drift off.

tent

He’s vaguely aware of the vibrations under his feet and Riza’s hand on his back. It’s a hazy sort of existence that he finds far too easy to slip into further.

She suddenly moves against him and her tone is frantic. He’s awakened by the sudden movement, the volume coming from his left, and he’s confused for a moment as he opens his eyes and sees nothing but deep, dark abyss. It all comes rushing back to him and he tenses as her voice becomes more panicked.

“No, you can't take me from him I need to-”

"Ma'am you need to come with us now, we need to have a doctor look at your injuries-"

"Look at his!" Her voice is cracking and straining in ways that he knows must not be good for her – he would wager that she's in a lot of pain right now. Her hand is gripping his shoulder tightly, to the point where he can feel her fingernails digging in again once more – not enough to hurt, but enough for him to realise just how much she is holding back.

She coughs suddenly, gasping for air and he knows her well enough to know that if she pushes herself any further she will hurt herself and he will not put her in anymore danger if he can help it – for too long she has guarded his back and fended off whatever bullets, literal and metaphorical, have been aimed his way.

Enough is enough. He will not have her rendered useless for his sake.

"Hawkeye," he says softly, his hand slipping down from her neck to curl into her hair again. He tugs softly, and mourns for the stability she will no longer provide. It will be hard to exist here in the dark with only Briggs and Central soldiers to tell him what to do, what is happening. He hates being useless and he's a little affronted at how easy it was of Truth to bring him down to his knees – he supposes that's his human arrogance shining through once more.

My alchemy will help people. Joining the military will save citizens.

He sighs, and loses his grip on her hair. "You need to go. Please."

"No, I won't, they need to take care of you -"

"They will," he reassures her, his heart breaking at how anguished she sounds – she practically bled out on stone for the sake of him and he cannot take any more blood on his hands. He has taken and taken and taken as an alchemist and completely disregarded what it meant to be one for the state, regardless of how fraudulent the position truly was.

A state alchemist works for the behalf of the people.

What a load of bullshit.

"You need to be seen, Hawkeye," he continues, pushing a little on her shoulder with his injured hand as best he can manage, grimacing slightly. "That girl said the alchemy was only a temporary fix."

"Your hands – your eyes-"

He smiles ruefully. "I will be okay. The wounds were relatively clean."

"But-"

"Lieutenant..." He rakes his other hand through his hair, unable to hide the scowl as pain shoots through his palm. "I need you to do this, for me. You're no good to me injured." He raises his head to where he hopes the medic is standing. The sun hits his face fully, and it’s strange how he can feel its warmth but no longer the burn. He's fairly certain that the majority of the triage tents are near him, so it's not like he will be far from her anyway. This calms him a little, abruptly realising just how panicked he felt, blood rushing through his ears and his heart feeling like it's been lost in his stomach.

"Please take good care of her," he says and all of a sudden she is taken from him and he feels bereft, alone and very frightened of a world that is no longer tangible beyond the ground he feels under his boots.

It is a while before he can no longer hear her sobs, but every second he can is a cruel kind of torture. He focuses on his breathing: in, out, in, out. He blinks too, surprised at the tears that run down his cheeks. Part of him understands it is to be expected – the high from the adrenaline is quickly wearing off, and all he is left with is aching in his hands and in his eyes.

He counts the seconds and the minutes, tongue tapping a beat on the roof of his mouth. He whispers old war songs under his breath, old curses he heard in fragments on the sandy battlefield of Ishval. He whispers her name in same cadences of his awfully accented Ishvallan: an old prayer murmured over firesides and in cramped cots, shared in one breath and in none at all.

He is sure Ishvalla is not listening, never to a murderer who slaughtered His people with nary a thought: but he will take any deity listening right now – anything that is more benevolent than Truth.

The shouting and screams and shrieks around him never ends and eventually a soldier guides him into another tent, sitting him down on what feels like a better-constructed cot. Another one comes in and says something about medical attention being given to him shortly, but Roy doesn't hold his breath. His head feels cloudy now, the pain dulling in a way he's certain isn't conducive to healing but he will not make a fuss – so long as his men are tended to, he will get through. He refuses to let anybody else under his watch get hurt in the line of duty for the sake of him.

More seconds and minutes pass and the acrid smell of smoke still lingers in the air. There is a breeze – it escapes into his tent every so often and he's grateful for the reprieve from a stagnant air.

"Colonel!"

He wants to say he feels the vibrations of her heavy gait before he hears her, but in all honesty he jolts with shock as Catalina abruptly appears into his space, panting and loud and sudden.

"Lieutenant," he replies, coughing. "Please tell me you're not my medical assistance."

Catalina snorts. "Nah, I'm shit at first aid. I should probably take a course or something after this." Her voice is surprisingly chipper despite their circumstances. "I'm here to pass on news. I just saw Riza."

He stills, before lifting his head to where her voice is coming from. "What did the medics say?"

Catalina huffs. "They were trying to do surgery but I overheard the nurse say that it was beyond their capabilities here. She's been transferred to a hospital over in the Seven Oak district. I figured you'd wanna know – y’know, being her superior and all." Catalina’s voice is dripping with innuendo and Roy would like nothing more than to dress her down because they’re in the middle of serious situation but all he can find the energy to focus on is the well-being of his precious subordinate.

"What?" It's an answer he's not expecting and immediately worst-case scenarios are racing through his mind. "That girl - she fixed Riza in seconds, this should be no problem for a-"

"They wanted to play it safe I guess," Catalina interrupts, her tone far too casual for Roy’s liking. "In any case I'm sure you'll need to have further care once you get out of here..." She doesn't make any sound for a while and Roy assumes she is thinking. "How long have you been here?" she asks quickly, moving around him and opening what sounds like tin cases.

He laughs bitterly. "More than an hour at least. I'm alright. How is everyone at Radio Capital?"

"Right as rain," Catalina replies grabbing one of his hands and all of a sudden there's a burning sensation on his wounds as she roughly yanks the torn glove off his hand.

"Fucking hell Rebecca!"

She sniggers and he tries to pull his hand out of her grip but she's like iron. "Stop it," she admonishes, swabbing down the inside of his palm turning his hand over to wipe the exit wound a little more carefully this time. "It's not good to leave wounds like this – even I know this much."

"You're a bitch Catalina," he says grumpily and she laughs heartily, pressing gauze onto his wound and fixing it with what he assumes is surgical tape. She repeats the process with his other hand, much more carefully this time – less pressure, and at least fifty percent less antiseptic: the cotton swab she is using retains at least some of its softness amidst the searing pain that slips under his skin. Instead of a dull ache, his hands actively feel like they’re on fire and being frozen simultaneously and Roy doesn’t know whether to curse her or begrudgingly thank her.

"There!" she announces, shifting back from him. "I've saved some poor sod from having to spend more time with you than absolutely necessary."

"The great country of Amestris thanks you for your valuable service," he says dryly, pulling his hands back into his person. She swats him on the shoulder lightly.

"Stop being such a baby Mustang, you're going to be fine. I'm going to go yell at a nurse until someone comes to gives you proper medical attention. I'll make sure that they send you onto Seven Oaks as well. Can't separate the dynamic duo of East for too long – you'll just start another coup until you find her."

"Hilarious, Catalina," he replies shortly and she laughs loudly in response.

"I'm sure I'll see you later on anyway – give Riza a kiss for me when you see her – I got kicked out of surgery before I could manage to-"

"YOU DID WHAT???"

"BYE COLONEL!" She calls back loudly, and then he is left with the faint shouting in the background and stinging in his palms that he knows is good but by this point Roy is just exhausted and ready to sleep for a very long time.

Eventually medics make their way past his tent and apologise profusely for leaving him unattended but he doesn't care anymore. He asks after his men, asks to be sent to Seven Oak. He is sure the doctor and the nurse taking care of him are sharing looks but he doesn't care. He just wants this day to be over, and to be within touching distance of Riza once more.

Chapter Text

When light returns to his vision, it is not as picturesque as one might imagine. He sits in a tent that is hastily constructed, on the edge of a stretcher cot that he remembers all too well from Ishval. The cotton even feels the same, if that’s at all possible more than ten – has it really been that long? – years on; all scratchy and coarse. It’s clean, at least.

The rest of the tent is not. He is well aware that they have placed him in one of the many makeshift morgues dotting the parade grounds – after all, the blind can’t see the dead, so they won’t be disgusted by what they don’t know. The bodies are wrapped in muslin cloth, but there’s the tang of iron in the air that makes him ill.

His hands are wrapped up in new bandages that are flimsy at best; shoddier than the quick job Rebecca had managed to do. The nurse who had been working on him had done a poor job but he could hardly fault her: her hands were shaking the entire time and from her voice he would wager she was young; not used to the harsh realities of a battle. General Armstrong was right about Central – it was so detached from whatever war it was fighting that they no longer felt the effects. Perhaps this fight would change the populace’s opinion.

He blinks a few times, adjusting to the sudden influx of light and he feels tears pricking at his eyes – a natural response to sudden stimuli.

A natural response to a miracle he had already written off.

“Did it work?” Doctor Marcoh asks nervously.

Roy looks up and balks at the unfamiliar and mottled face before him. “I don’t know Doctor. I don’t remember your face getting run over by a truck.”

Laughter explodes in the small tent and Marcoh shakes his head a little sheepishly, rubbing at the back of his neck. “At least we know now it will work on your subordinate too. When will he be able to make it to Central?”

“The main trunk line going East was caught up in that freak bombing incident,” Breda pipes up, winking at Mustang slyly. “It’ll be three weeks at least before we hear if the bridge can even be saved or if they’ll have to reroute through the Cremil Ranges.”

Doctor Marcoh hums, before carefully guiding the Philosopher’s Stone back into a small glass vial. It is a strange substance up close – he remembered Fullmetal saying that it didn’t act like a stone; certainly not in the traditional sense, at least. It was a lot like mercury – not entirely solid on its own, but not quite as viscous as regular liquid.

“May I?” he asks the doctor, and Marcoh starts a little, coughing into his hand.

“O-of course,” he mumbles, holding out the vial. He is a little hesitant to let go at first – Roy doesn’t begrudge him for that, he knows all too well the awful power that this little stone is capable of – but as Marcoh lets go his hand suddenly drops towards the ground.

“What the-”

Marcoh chuckles a little. “I have found that looks are always deceiving in the case of the Philosopher’s Stone.”

“No kidding…” he murmurs, lifting the vial back up. It is heavy – abnormally so. It feels like he is holding a large toddler or Black Hayate with one hand. The stone glints back at him as if to tease, the surface shifting in iridescent patterns as he tilts the vial a little. The faint light slipping though the tent highlights the ever-constant shift of red and something else that he can’t quite put his finger on.

He can understand the madness that accompanies this alchemical miracle. Marcoh had explained that it was an imperfect make: he couldn’t be sure when it would suddenly stop working. It didn’t matter. So long as Jean regained the use of his legs Roy wouldn’t care if they never used it again. It was probably for the best that they never did.

This kind of power had the ability to corrupt all too easily. It would be far too easy to use it to solve any and whatever problems came their way – but they would be left in the same position when it stopped working.

Perhaps that was the lesson to be taken from alchemy – from Edward’s selfless sacrifice for his brother. It wasn’t alchemy that solved peoples’ problems; it was simply a means to do so. It was man that created the problem; therefore it wouldn’t be entirely out of the question to expect that man could also solve that problem.

Marcoh coughs and Mustang shakes out of his daze. “Quite right, Doctor. It takes an enormous amount of character to be guarding this stone. I certainly couldn’t do it.” He hands back the vial and dusts his trousers off as best he can, careful of his bandaged hands. “Is there anything we need to take care of here Breda?” He won’t openly admit it to his men, but he’s ready to leave this place. A headache is growing in the back of his head to accompany the pain in his eyesockets and he knows he’s running on next to nothing – what little food he could manage for breakfast seems so long ago.

Breda makes a face, chewing on his lip. “I think we’ll be okay to smuggle you out now,” he says carefully, craning his head back over his shoulder to check the small gangway between the tent that they’re in and the next one over. “So long as we’re quiet and take the long way out, I don’t think we’ll get hit by the press.”

Roy frowns. “They’re regrouping already?”

Breda nods. “Nobody wants to be behind Radio Capital, of all channels – it’s a fucking frenzy out there. The public, too. Everybody wants answers.”

Roy sighs, and lets his shoulders drop. It feels wrong to admit weakness in front of his men, but there comes a point where he must acknowledge where he is useful and where he is not. They can easily run the logistics for him, in his stead – he trusts them to make the right choices moving forward. A beaten and bleeding leader is not what this country needs right now – not so soon after the apparent loss of a very beloved one.

The country needs times to mourn, to pick up the pieces, both literally and metaphorically. The people need time to heal, to grieve for the loss of a not-innocent not-child and their not-blameless president. Songs will be sung. Toasts will be made.

Life will go on.


Breda drives him to the main hospital in Seven Oak district, with a hastily written letter (containing a surprisingly well-forged signature of General Grumman) and the next thing he aware of, he's being shuttled off for surgery on his hands and Breda is asking a passing nurse about the best place for takeaways in this district.

The surgery is less impressive than he expected – he doesn't even get knocked out with anaesthesia, to which he'll admit he is disappointed by – he's now beyond the point of exhaustion and is merely running on whatever happens to be left in his bloodstream – stubbornness, the doctor hypothesises. The doctor is quick with his hands, and praises Rebecca's job of sterilising – "saved me a lot of bother trying to get through all this gunk," – and it's no less than thirty minutes later that he is escorted by a nurse into a room where he notes there are two beds. His hands are bandaged tightly, and the nurse quickly attaches him to a drip, before examining his eyes and writing notes down on a clipboard.

"What's that for?" he asks, already wanting to lie down on the bed. There's definitely strong pain medication in his drip – he is beginning to feel woozy and lightheaded, like he's been drinking bad whiskey too quickly.

"Your colleague said you had been temporarily blinded. We'll just need to make sure there's no lasting damage. Your pupils are responding well, and I can't see any damage or scarring on your retinas but a doctor will come by tomorrow to do a more formal check-up.” She writes a few more notes on the clipboard before attaching it on a hook at the end of the bed.

"You need to rest now. We'll be checking you in a few hours to make sure your levels are steady, and whether we need to authorise a blood transfusion.”

"Did I lose that much?" he asks blearily as he pulls the blankets on the bed back. Already he can feel his body giving up to the sleep that is so desperately clawing at him.

"We just have to be sure," she replies distractedly, closing the windows in the room. "We'll know more later on. Right now you just need to sleep."

"My adjutant -" he starts but she's left the room and as soon as his head hits the pillow he is gone.


He's woken later by another, different nurse shaking his shoulder carefully.

"Mr Mustang," she says. "I need to redress your hands."

He's groggy from the medication and it takes him a moment to realise that he's bled all over the bed. It's not a lot, but it's jarring to see his linen and arms streaked with drying blood, flaking in every direction as he shifts on the bed.

"I don't..."

"These stiches weren't meant to hold," she explains softly, escorting him to a wheelchair. "The doctor felt he needed to do further work on some of your tendons and muscles as well. We don't want you to be without working hands." She laughs softly and pushes him out of the room as another nurse enters with fresh linen.

He doesn't notice much as the doctor numbs his hands again, instead choosing to doze off in the chair he sits on. It's a weird sensation, feeling his skin being un-sewn and re-sewn, and the nurse and doctor talk in low tones as they inspect his wounds. They make short work of his hands, and soon enough the nurse is reapplying antiseptic, and taping soft gauze onto his injuries. Another doctor turns up and begins to ask him questions about his eyesight.

"Can you tell me exactly what happened?"

Roy sighs. "I lost my eyesight in an alchemical...attack.” It feels strange to phrase it like this – but he doesn’t have the energy to try and explain to this man the whole sordid affair that is human transmutation. He wouldn’t understand. Roy doesn’t either, if he’s being completely honest. “An alchemist gifted in medicinal alchemy managed to cure it."

The doctor makes notes on a chart. "How would you describe it, when you were blind?”

“I was blind. I couldn’t see.” Roy says shortly.

 “Were you able to discern anything like shapes or colours-"

"I was completely blind, Doctor," he repeats himself for what feels like the billionth time. "I could not see anything or anyone, let alone make out shapes or colours. It was like night - there was no light slipping through."

The doctor nods slowly. "And now? Are you noticing any difference in your eyesight to what it was previously?"

Roy shakes his head.

"Are you getting any headaches?"

He nods.

The doctor jots down some more notes. "So far as I can tell you're lucky. It seems like you won't have any lasting damage from this, but to be sure we'll be checking on you for a few days just to make sure no abnormalities arise. Neither your pupils nor your retinas seemed to have suffered any lasting damage beyond what we would expect in a war zone – though there is some minimal tearing on the surface of your eye that we will keep an eye on. You are a very lucky man."

At this, the nurse guides him back into the waiting wheelchair and pushes him out of the makeshift surgery. As she takes him back to his room, Roy notices the amount of soldiers loitering around the hallways of the hospital.

"How stretched are emergency services?" he asks as they turn the corner past the gift shop.

"Not terribly so. We're taking the more serious jobs because we have a much well-stocked blood bank compared to other hospitals but..." she trails off here as they pass a few soldiers who stand to attention as they pass. "Even our resources are being stretched currently. We're a bit low on some types of blood and general antiseptic but we'll make it work. We always manage to." Her tone is chipper, but it doesn’t take much for him to translate ‘a bit’ into what it really means.

They were dangerously low.

She pushes him back into his room and Roy notes that the other bed in the room is still unused. "Have you heard anything about my adjutant?" he asks the nurse as she helps him out of the chair – even with the lingering morphine in his system, it still hurts to put pressure on his palms.

"What's his name?" the nurse asks absentmindedly.

"Riza Hawkeye. She had an injury to her throat."

The nurse shakes her head as she walks to where his bed is. "Doesn't sound familiar. I'll go have a look at our records and see if she's with us after my shift is done-"

"She will be, Lieutenant Catalina said that she was-"

The woman smiles in that kind, almost pitying way and Roy feels bile rising in his throat. "I'll go check when I have time. I have other patients to care for right now."

"But-"

"I'm sure she's being well-cared for." Her tone is firm and Roy sighs, and waits as she pulls back the sheets back for him. The hospital tuck is almost perfect in its make and the starch of the linen is comforting in its familiarity.

Roy sleeps.

Chapter Text

When he wakes up, he's groggy and full of pain – someone must have had forgotten to check on his drip during the night. His hands throb and sting, and all his muscles feel like they’ve been stretched and pulled in every direction.

Roy Mustang feels sore, for lack of a better word.

"Hey look, he's up."

"Breda?"

"Didn't think you were going to wake up for anything. The nurse left you breakfast but none of us could figure out if it looked like it was edible so we gave it a test for you." He gestures to an empty tray sitting on the window ledge and Roy snorts, sitting up gingerly in bed.

"But we got you some real food instead that doesn't look and taste like cardboard," the burly man continues, leaning over and dropping a sealed container on the bed. "Though you might need a fork to eat it, and judging by your hands we might be better off eating it ourselves. Shame."

"Fuck off Breda," he shoots back, grinning. "What's the general mood?"

"Hopeful," pipes up Fuery, a wide smile on his face. "Radio Capital has been very kind in giving us a very favourable slant on the post-battle reporting so everyone from here to Creta is praising your efforts at ridding the country of corruption in one fell swoop. The parade grounds have been mostly cleared, and now we have troops from the East and some remaining Briggs coming in to clear the rubble and start digging for any survivors."

"I heard from the nurses that the railway lines were damaged when the Fuhrer's train was bombed – how is East getting through?"

Fuery cocks his head to the side, biting on his lip. "Last I heard they had managed to recruit some local alchemists to do some quick repairs. The lines are strictly for the military only though. Evacuations have been started to move people out of the Central CBD as quickly as possible but they're running into a host of other problems as well now."

"Like?" He notices for the first time how many other people are crammed into the small room – on top of Breda and Fuery, he also sees Maria Ross; a man next to her who he doesn't recognise; some of his old team from Ishval; and a number of soldiers he recognises from his short tenure in Central as their commander.

"There's a chance the water supplies have been contaminated," Fuery says quietly, ducking his head forward slightly. "On top of having to deal with all the injured from the battle, civilians have been coming in complaining of shakes, high fevers and vomiting. It seems to only be based in one district towards the north but until we can figure out what's causing it we have to remain vigilant."

"Do you think it could be a terrorist faction?" Maria asks, hand on her chin. "Now would be the perfect opportunity to cripple the military further and cause more chaos."

Roy hums. "If they had any brains they would be attacking multiple centres to make the biggest impact. He turns to Breda. "Who's overseeing Central until Grumman comes in?"

The group looks at each other a little guiltily before Fuery coughs. "Actually..." he begins, "well, technically it's you. We've been making decisions in your place because the nurses were getting ready to kick us out if we kept trying to wake you."

"Anything I need to take the fall for?"

The group shakes their heads collectively, while Breda shrugs with a shit-eating grin. "It's mainly administration.” Fuery continues, rubbing the back of his head. “Signing off warrants for arrests and making sure supplies are being evenly distributed to the camps and hospitals. General Armstrong left with her main troops late last night – last we heard they had gone back to the manor and she's smuggling them back up to the North on a train tonight."

"How considerate of her," he remarks, stretching his back and shoulders, sighing as he feels the pop of his shoulders. The empty bed to his left catches his eye. "Breda," he says slowly, deliberately. "Did you hear anything from the girls in the shop? I wasn't sure if they got my message or not."

The man pauses for a second before shaking his head slightly. "Nah, I haven't heard anything yet," he says offhandedly. "But we should let you get some rest now." He stands and nods his head towards the door. "Let's leave the Colonel alone for a bit. It’s truly horrifying what happens to your face when you don’t have your beauty sleep." He winks at Roy as they shuffle out of the room and it's only a few minutes of Roy staring at the bed to his left and thinking of increasingly awful scenarios before the man is back with Fuery in tow.

“The rest don’t need to hear about this just yet,” Breda says quietly as he shuts the door behind him. There’s a solemnness to his tone that Roy hasn’t heard in a while and his gut feels like it’s turning itself in.

“How bad?”

The burly man sits down in one of the vacated chairs and runs a bandaged hand through his hair. “Vato’s nicking the notes right now but…” he sighs heavily. “The prognosis isn’t looking good for her at the moment.”

There are a few moments of silence while he tries to get his breathing under control. He wants to ball his hands into fists but the lack of morphine in this drip means his hands already sting and he can feel the familiar pangs of pain shooting up into his arms as his body tenses.

“What do we know?”

Fuery pulls out a small notebook from his coat and quickly rifles through it. “She’s lost at least half of her blood and because of the alkahestry-” he stumbles a little over the word “-that young girl did, the doctors are worried that her blood is clotting in unusual ways, or will clot badly. She’s been given a lot of thinners but that isn’t good for her either.”

He nods shortly.

Fuery continues, voice wavering slightly. “They’re worried about her h-haemorrhaging in the brain or having a stroke so...” Fuery looks down for a moment, his free hand balling into a fist on his knee. “They- they’ve placed her into an induced coma. She’s going in for surgery for her neck in about two hours.”

There’s ash in his mouth. “I see,” Roy manages. “For how long?”

Breda shares a look with Fuery, unease clearly written on his face. “She’s been under for just over a day now but I’m not…entirely sure when she’ll wake up, sir. Vato’s trying to find that out now. The doctors aren’t being very forthcoming right now.”

He exhales shakily. “Alright. What else?”

Fuery chews on his lip, and runs a shaky hand through his matted hair, quickly snapping the little black notebook shut. “There’s a shortage of blood,” he begins, his words soft. “Central is experiencing shortages all over and Riza’s blood type means she can only accept one particular kind. There’s…none of her type at this hospital currently. We’re trying to locate some of the smaller clinics reserves but-”

“There’s not going to be enough either way,” Roy breathes out, his heart racing. “Does she need the blood to survive the surgery?” His mind is racing a mile a minute – different arrays and crude amalgamations flash through but none would be right – none would wholly ensure her survival. Blood was tricky regardless – in some books it was only one step away from human transmutation; in others there was no distinction.

Fuery shrugs, his eyebrows knitted tightly together. “I don’t know, sir,” he says quietly, desperation leaking through. “I really don’t know.”

Roy wills himself not to cry.


The nurses wheel her in later that afternoon, a stern but tired-looking doctor following them, making notes on a clipboard that has far too many pages and addendums for Roy’s liking. The older man nods briefly at him while the nurses make the transfer from the gurney to the hospital bed. Long minutes are spent uncoupling wires and recoupling them to new points and sockets on the side of the bed, and the entire time Roy is focused on what little he can see of her face between the nurses’ movements.

Injections are made. Limbs are adjusted. Her face is wiped down with strong-smelling antiseptic, and the nurses slowly check all her bandages. There’s some on her knuckles, her right forearm and another that covers the entirety of her neck, a grotesque snow-white scarf.

The doctor sits in the chair next to Roy’s bed and eyes him carefully. Roy tears his gaze away from what is happening to greet the man properly.

“Doctor.”

“Colonel.” The man’s voice is deep and gravelly. “I have been informed by no less than-” he flicks towards the back of the over encumbered clipboard “-thirty-nine of your men that apparently you are Ms. Hawkeye’s legal guardian and therefore have a right to access her medical records and know her treatment plan. Despite thirty-nine vehement protests that nobody would have any reason to lie to me about this, I find myself in somewhat of a bind because all of them are undoubtedly full of shit.”

He stares at Roy behind thick-rimmed glasses. “Do you have anything to add to these thirty-nine pleas on your behalf?”

Roy pauses, before shaking his head. “You wouldn’t have brought her in here if you didn’t trust me, and you have, so I guess that leaves us at an impasse if you believe that thirty-nine-” he can’t help but smile a little at the ridiculousness from his men “-of my men are indeed, as you say, full of shit.”

The doctor snorts and leans back in his chair. “Fair enough,” he replies. “In any case we were running out of room in the intensive care unit and she’s as stable as we’re going to get with the resources we have had at our disposal.” Roy stiffens and straightens himself a little at the casual admission.

“Intensive care?”

The doctor nods slowly. “Would you like the sanitised version that gives you hope, or the version that will actually tell you the truth?”

His mouth is suddenly dry and he swallows – it feels like his throat is closing up and it is suddenly hard to breathe evenly. The doctor stares at him, before standing and jerking his head towards the door. “They’ll be a while,” the doctor comments and Roy slowly pushes himself out of bed, shrugging on his military jacket. In all the chaos, getting him out of his military uniform and into something more comfortable had been the last thing on anybody’s mind – there were more important things to worry about. His pants are creased to hell and he knows he looks like a mess right now – he has a terrible case of five o’clock shadow and he can feel the bags under his eyes.

He follows the doctor down the corridor and the older man gestures for him to walk into a small office. It’s cramped and messy, the walls stuffed and teeming with files and books arranged haphazardly. He gingerly sits down in the small wooden chair and watches with apprehension as the doctor slowly makes his way to the leather chair across from him.

roydoctor

“I’ll be honest with you,” the doctor begins, setting his clipboard down on his desk and leans slowly back into his chair. It creaks dangerously under his weight and the older man sighs.

“She nearly died on us a couple of times during surgery,” he says matter-of-factly, like the death of Riza Hawkeye, or the multiple instances of near-death that Riza Hawkeye experienced while under his care mean no more than a blip on his career as a doctor, as a healer – Roy is suddenly overwhelmed by an intense anger at the callousness this doctor shows towards the patients under his care.

“But she’s a strong one, your soldier,” the older man continues, steepling his fingers together. “Surprised us all.”

Roy is quiet.

“She was lucky that the cut was so clean – not so much for the uh, alchemy that sewed her skin back together – that was very sloppy and could have caused irreparable damage to her spinal cord if the transmutation had been any closer…but no matter. The problems that we are facing now have far-reaching implications, Colonel.” He eyes Roy up carefully, and he forces himself to relax, to stop gripping the fabric of his pants so tightly.

“She had a seizure during the surgery. A mild one. However, it means her risk is greater now for having recurring ones and it was for this reason – as well as the general lack of blood we had available to us – that we put her into another induced coma. It’s her best hope of survival right now.”

He doesn’t register at first what the doctor has said. He hears seizure, lack of blood, and coma but doesn’t put them together until he realises that the doctor is waiting for a reaction.

“Riza Hawkeye has been put into a medically induced coma for the sake of her health and hopeful and eventual recovery,” the man says slowly, watching Roy carefully. “Do you understand what that means?”

Roy nods jerkily, ducking his head for a moment. “How long?” he manages, wiping at his nose roughly. The doctor doesn’t answer. “How long?” he presses. “Before she-”

The doctor gives a non-committal shrug and Roy takes a deep breath, reminding himself that lashing out at this doctor would not solve any of his problems, not certainly his second-in-command in a fucking coma.

“It could be a day, a few days,” the doctor says quietly. “Her body has been under tremendous amounts of trauma – to the point where we couldn’t believe she was still conscious when she came to us. We put her in the first induced coma because we had little blood to work with, and we were trying to avoid a stroke at all costs. She was clotting badly; this was what led to the seizure during the surgery. We’re not sure how much – or in this case – how little blood was getting to her brain, even with the thinners. This was a conscious choice to put her under for longer, because I highly doubt her body could have coped with anything more.”

Roy snorts derisively. “You don’t know what she’s been through.”

You don’t know what she’s been through,” the doctor shoots back, frowning deeply. “Still going through. Will be going through. Did you think our care was finished when we brought her here? She has at least another two weeks of recuperation, and that’s assuming she wakes up tomorrow. I highly doubt she will do that.” He stands, dusting off his slacks. “Her blood loss was also significant. The entire country is facing shortages in the light of your little coup d'état-” his mouth twists the phrase strangely, it is bitter and resentful and aggrieved all rolled into one timbre, “-so we’ve been given no choice but to give her blood that is Rhesus positive – she is Rhesus negative and generally it is against best practice to deliberately harm our patients’ but-”

WHAT?” Roy shouts, jumping out of the uncomfortable chair and grabbing the doctor by the lapel of his coat over the wooden desk that separates them, ignoring the searing pain rushing through his palms as he pulls through his stitches, and the jerk of the catheters ends still embedded in his skin. He feels the blood dripping down his wrists, sees the red of it soaking into the thick fabric of the doctor’s white coat, dripping down onto the files covering his desk. Roy knows enough about biology and haematology to know that transfusing blood can be dangerous at the best of times – let alone deliberately giving a person blood that is not compatible is bordering on almost suicide.

WHY?” He shouts, his voice hoarse and broken and he ignoring the crashing of doors as people suddenly enter the cramped room, raised voices and yelling unable to mask his sobs. “WHY WOULD YOU DO THIS TO HER? SHE DOESN’T DESERVE THIS!” He feels himself being forcefully pulled back by nurses, all but forcefully dragging his fingers away from the lapels of the man’s coat and coaxing him to sit back down on the chair. The doctor shrugs out of the stained garment and drops it onto his desk, giving Roy one last shrewd glance before walking out of the room, calling for a nurse as he disappears down the hall.

He feels the stickiness of his blood webbing between his fingers and one of the nurses sits next to him and rubs his forearm soothingly, whispering to him gently. The other nurse kneels down and carefully cleans his hands with antiseptic that does not hurt as much as the realisation that Riza might die because of a deliberate decision to infect her for the slim chance it won’t kill her, but instead give her enough support to survive.

You mustn’t do this to yourself, the nurse next to him says softly, her hands warm but firm on his forearms, steadfastly ignoring his jerking, trembling body. You need to heal. A dead patient is a useless patient.

He wonders what that makes Riza.

Chapter Text

She's still for days. He watches her breathing, watches the rise of her chest in slow, steady beats. She runs like clockwork – to the point where he can use her to count the time. Fourteen inhalations is equal to roughly a minute. He watches the drip attached to her left side. Every nineteen and a half seconds releases another bout of her medication. He watches the sparrows that cluster outside the window, chattering for the stale bread he throws them when lunch comes around. He counts the tiles in their room, their sides, and how many squares he can find within. She grows paler with every hour, the anemia becoming painfully clear. The blood did not take; and now Riza Hawkeye is fighting a battle on two fronts when one nearly killed her on its own.

He wakes at nine and watches her for fifty-five minutes before a nurse comes in to take him for his daily physio. Some days they do eye exercises: they practice focusing at different distances, reading unidentified texts at quick speed, exposing him to light in bursts that make him vomit on more than one occasion. Nobody is particularly sympathetic to his plight – they simply wait for him to finish kneeling over the rubbish bin before they pick up where they left off.

Sometimes they work with his hands and fingers: practicing cursive and basic shapes with different pens and paintbrushes. This kind of rehabilitation is harder because he has an actual injury hindering his progress, as much as he hates to admit it. They focus on hand-eye coordination; he spends time with the young children in the hospital, threading gaudy beaded bracelets for all of them that takes him more time than he’d like to admit to finish. They’re sweet children, and it is both humbling and sad that they’re the ones who give him the most affection. One girl called Daisy is absolutely besotted with him and demands that he plait her long silken hair every day – in return, she gives him sloppy and spit-smeared kisses all over his face. He’s not entirely sure how this is fair payment for his services but the nurses tell him in low tones that her parents abandoned her once it became apparent she would not be completely cured of her illness, and that this is the first time she’s responded so well to an adult who isn’t her doctor.

It’s easy for him to forget that there’s life that exists beyond his own, that there are problems that he can’t solve so easily with paperwork and his signature. There is nothing he can do for a girl who is barely six and already learning truths about humanity that he is still coming to grips with.

The wounds are still healing, but each day he feels like he is retaining more of his fingers – by the end of the fifth day in hospital, he is able to grip a pen for an entire page of cursive writing with only a slight twinge in his muscles. The doctors and nurses clap for him, and when they return him back to his room for lunch, she lays there, just as unnaturally still as when he left her, her steady breathing the only indication that she is alive, and not an unusually pretty but sickly doll.

"How long will she be in a coma?" he asks the nurse. She shrugs, and checks off the paperwork on his clipboard before leaving the room. He knows she has been under a lot of strain – and he had managed to read over her own clipboard before the doctors realised what he was doing. His men hadn't been lying to him – Riza had been quite literally put through the wringer, but the extent of it was still unfolding.

She'd already had one seizure during surgery, he thinks grimly, and her chances of another one were alarmingly high. Her blood was still reacting badly to the Rhesus-positive donation, and in hushed whispers he heard nurses talking about how there was now a complete national shortage of O negative and A positive blood anywhere in the country.

What stung even more was that he couldn’t even help. A donation for an O negative person could only come from another O negative – and the doctors were even on the fence about their decision to give her O negative Rhesus positive blood, (despite the dick that had dropped by to seemingly gloat about his decision to all but poison her).

Anything more, they whispered, and we would kill her.

He hates being reduced to the role of civilian – a convalescing civilian, especially. He hates the red tape that surrounds his own recovery; hates that Riza still hasn’t come out of her coma like the doctors said she would. He waits, and watches, and wishes, but nothing changes. There are still fifty-eight tiles in the ceiling. The sparrows still ask for food when he knows the Elric brothers are also feeding them, a few rooms down.

Riza still breathes, fourteen times a minute.

sparrows


Edward comes by late Thursday afternoon. He looks lighter than Roy has seen him in years – finally he looks more like the young man than the soldier he had been pushed to become.

“Hi Colonel Butt,” he says, dropping himself down unceremoniously at the foot of Roy’s bed. Roy scowls and leans back into his pillows, crossing his arms gingerly.

“To what do I owe the pleasure, Fullmetal?” He tries to keep the fondness out of his tone, but it proves too difficult – despite all the shit he’s going through – what Riza’s still going through, motionless and entirely unresponsive next to him: he is honestly so happy for the two boys. He still can’t quite get over seeing Edward with two arms made of flesh – it has already started to tan, gain muscle mass even after only a few days since he got it back. Roy’s hesitant to acknowledge that he has always viewed them as surrogate sons, in a way – besides being grossly inappropriate to say so while he was their direct superior officer – he was also well aware that Edward would find it difficult to accept the admission without publically rejecting it.

Perhaps when all the dust has finally settled he might be finally given the chance to do so, but until then Roy will hold his tongue. There’s an unconditional understanding that the boys already know, but there is a distinct difference between making an educated guess and being told.

Edward shrugs, drawing his legs up to sit cross-legged. “I thought you could use some company,” he says simply. He jerks his head in Riza’s direction. “Any change since last time?”

Roy shakes his head. “I don’t know whether to consider that a blessing or curse now,” he confesses. “A blood transfusion didn’t go well…so now it’s just a waiting game to let her body sort itself out, I suppose.”

“Well that’s shit,” Ed says bluntly. “She’ll pull through though. You best be prepared for the lecture she’ll have ready for you when she wakes.” His face splits into a wide grin. “Don’t think anybody will want to be around you guys for a while after that.”

Roy sniffs, and raises his eyebrows disdainfully. “If you’ve come to make fun of me, you can piss off, thank you very much.”

Edward leans an arm against the attached table at the end of Roy’s bed, poking at the food leftover from lunch with disinterest. “Whatever Mustang. I know you hate it in here just as much as me.”

Roy adjusts himself against his pillows, sighing heavily. “Can’t fault you there, kid. Has Alphonse been allowed to leave his quarantine yet?”

Edward makes a face, picking away at the stale bread roll. “We’ve been trying to figure how we can sneak him out to see something other than a hospital room but I think the nurses are onto us. They keep barging into the room like they expect us to be shooting drugs or something.” He laughs a little, but it is tinged with sadness. “Al’s been…not too well. The doctor gave him a vaccination for smallpox and the – what’d he call it? – DTE or something-”

“DTP,” Roy cuts across him smoothly. “Diptheria, tetanus and…pertussis, I think. You two didn’t get any when you were younger, did you?”

Edward shakes his head. “Winry’s parents used to be the go-to doctors for vaccinations because they always had shipments coming in from the big cities with their automail parts, but after they died people stopped getting them. It was too expensive.” His face drops suddenly. “This means I have to get one too, don’t I?”

Roy nods and tries to hide his smile. “I’d recommend it,” he says. “Get them all done in one go so you don’t have to worry about them later – they’re useful if you’re thinking about travelling abroad.”

Edward makes a face. “I’m done with travelling,” he says pointedly, and Roy raises his eyebrows in a sure you are way.

Edward sighs absently, pulling the bread roll apart. “I miss Win,” he says after a long pause, his long bangs hiding his face from Roy. “Like, she knows that we’re okay and that Al’s got his body back but…” he trails off, pulling the bread apart more roughly now. It crumbles under his grip easily, scattering over the remains of the unidentified meat they served for lunch today that Roy only took a bite of to decide he’d instead wait instead for Breda’s daily excursion to the deli down the road.

“Can she not come visit you here?” Roy asks carefully. He knows the young mechanic can be a touchy spot for Edward – knows and understands how important she is in his life.

Edward shrugs in a noncommittal manner. “It wouldn’t be the same, you know?” His voice is half wistful, half defeated. “Like, all the roads and railways in the East have been trashed and I know I’d be able to get her up here no problem but…it wouldn’t be right. Neither of us is in any condition to have lots of visitors – Al especially – and I don’t want to make her worry any more than we’ve already made her do. We’ve caused her enough pain.”

“I don’t think Winry would see it like that,” Roy says reproachfully, sitting up a little straighter. “She’s always going to be worried about you, whether you’re back home in Resembool or off saving the world – which, by the way, thank you for that. You’re considered family in every sense of the word and it’s not going to change all of a sudden just because you have. If she’s anything like you’ve described to me, she is going to be immeasurably happy for you. Like we all are,” he finishes pointedly, watching the younger man duck his head, red blooming through his cheeks.

It’s quiet in the room for a while. Roy grabs one of the books that Falman had left for him – apparently people in the North had nothing better to do than write lurid and exceptionally long tales of Drachman spies and wily Amestrian woman seducing them with ample bosoms and craft beer. Edward remains sitting at the bottom of his bed, alternating between pushing the leftover food around with a fork and flopping out onto his bed, idly quizzing him on various elemental properties and alchemical theories. It’s a welcome reprieve from what his life has been reduced to – waiting and waiting and waiting with no real end in sight. He knows Edward must feel the same, and he doesn’t begrudge him what little change he can make to his routine right now.

Eventually a nurse drops by and nearly drags Edward off the bed, fussing over him and chastising him for leaving his brother alone for so long. Edward rolls his eyes and gives Roy a pointed look as he leaves, Roy understanding that to mean he might be seeing Alphonse in the flesh (and doesn’t that feel strange to think? To fall of his tongue like it’s a normal thing to say about a fourteen year-old boy?) sooner than the doctors and nurses would have him believe.

Chapter Text

Sunday was the quiet day at the hospital. Though the hospital was technically running at full capacity, only the absolutely necessary patients were dealt with – so for the majority of the day, he was left alone with Riza, with only nurses coming in with food and for a check up on her vitals and his medicine.

It is after lunch that she speaks finally, quietly and strained in harsh ways.

"Colonel..."

He can’t stop the smile on his face or the racing of his heart, even if he tried to. His smile blooms across his face and he feels tears pricking at his eyes. "Hello, Lieutenant," he manages in his joy. "You've been out for a while."

She groans and rolls over onto her side, facing him properly. "I feel awful," she complains, voice husky and jagged. "How are you doing?"

"I'm better now," he admits, not even ashamed of open he’s being with her right now. "Everyone else has been patched up as well. You suffered the worst out of our team, I’m afraid."

She begins to laugh, before coughing and grabbing at her throat with bruised knuckles, grimacing in pain. "Sounds about right," she mumbles ruefully. "I'm glad you're alright, sir. Maybe now we can afford some time off."

He laughs loudly. "We bloody well deserve it. General Grumman's taken over the majority of administration work so I'd say we've earned a leave of absence."

There's silence for a while as he watches her slowly sit up in the bed, the grin never leaving his face. "Are you hungry? The boys smuggled me some proper food instead of the crap they serve here.”

She shakes her head, sitting up properly in the bed and slowly goes about stretching her body. There's a hesitancy to how she does it, like she's in new skin that hasn't been properly attached to her – like she expects to suddenly be without. Her arms are first, and she rolls them slowly in their sockets, and scrunches her hands tightly together. Her shoulders follow, until eventually she flattens her chest against the bed between her legs, reminding Roy of the flexibility that he had forgotten she was capable of. She’s lithe like a panther and the muscle groups she slowly works through prove she could be just as dangerous as well if she chose to be.

He watches her, unashamedly transfixed. As clichéd as it sounds, suddenly being without sight and then again being granted it gives him a new perspective on the world around him. He wouldn’t go as far to say that he sees her in an entirely new light – but Roy realises that perhaps he can now appreciate more of her than what he would allow of himself before. Before was averted glances in hallways and murmured messages in a darkened bar, but now it instead presented itself with another host of problems. The lack of responsibility is thrilling and he’s only a little ashamed to admit how exhilarating this all is: he’s like a teenager all over again.

She stays bent lowly for a while – he watches her back rise and fall rhythmically, her fingers curling and stretching against her toes. Her hair spreads out, spilling across her shoulders and hiding her face from him.

He knows her well enough to know she isn’t crying – to him even, the shock still hasn’t quite left his bones – and he knows it will take time for her to heal. But part of him wishes they weren’t stuck in such a precarious position. He knows the full extent of her injuries – the full extent – and though the nurses felt certain she would make a full recovery, they were far vaguer when it came to deadlines.

We won’t know until she wakes up. Please be patient.

Every patient recovers at a different pace. We can’t know for certain what Ms. Hawkeye’s will be like.

All signs point to a healthy recovery. Until she wakes though, we will never know.


“You’re not allowed to talk until we say so.”

It’s a death sentence Roy never expected. There’s a lull in the room, before frantic voices explode and the nurse looks ready to kick them all out.

“You can’t just-”

“Nurse, she’s fine-

“What the f-”

ENOUGH!” the slight woman bellows, glaring at Roy particularly. He tries his best not to shrink under her intimidating gaze.

“I don’t know if none of you men bothered to notice, but her throat has been cut. If she strains her throat before the muscles have fully healed then it’s unlikely you’ll hear from her ever again. She needs rest and if any of you enable her in any way-” another dark look is shot his way and Breda sniggers behind the nurse’s back “-then you will be barred from this hospital permanently. Have I made myself clear?”

A sheepish silence follows and Riza blinks slowly, before nodding. The nurse sighs heavily, before not-quite slamming the door behind her, stomping angrily down the hall. Edward’s the first to break – before long the entire room is full of raucous laughter and bad impressions of the woman.

“I’m sorry Hawkeye,” Breda says, wiping at his eyes theatrically. “I can’t think of a worse fate for anybody. You can’t even tell Mustang to shut up!”

Riza pouts and glances towards the door longingly, before opening her mouth in a very deliberate fashion.

“Hawkeye-” he cuts across her quickly and she glares at him. “The nurse is right – you shouldn’t tax yourself like-”

She looks him dead in the eye, the corners of her lips twitching. “Shut up Roy,” she deadpans.

The room explodes into laughter.


They are inundated in the days following her awakening. Everybody wants to see her, to see her progress, their faces paling as their gaze catches on the thick bandages surrounding her neck. She’s mostly good about following the nurse’s ruling about talking, but occasionally she’ll let slip a comment or two and Roy often has to duck his head to keep his smile under control. It’s bad enough when Edward visits – the kid is as determined as ever to get a rise out of him but it’s when he finally smuggles Alphonse out of his quarantine that Roy wishes that sometimes he hadn’t told Edward she was awake.

Alphonse, as he has always been, is a lot more perceptive than his older brother when it comes to people.

Roy doesn’t know what is more maddening – the small smirks that Alphonse keeps shooting his way, or the fact that Riza hasn’t noticed. It’s excruciating to sit there and hear sly innuendo about the two of them fall from the young boy’s mouth; worse even to know that he can’t rebuke the boy without looking like a colossal prat in the process.

“Was your brother always this terrible?” he asks Edward one afternoon as Riza and Alphonse play a hand of gin rummy.

Edward nods wearily. “You can understand why I wanted to get him out of quarantine.”

Roy snorts, and leans back further against his bed, crossing his legs. “Well, at least we know your dickishness wasn’t just a defect of your character.”

Edward punches him in the arm lightly. “Nah, we definitely learned that from you.”

“So what now?” Roy asks, turning his head to look at Edward properly. “Do they have any idea about when Alphonse will be okay to leave?”

The younger man shrugs. “We’ll figure out as we go. That’s normally worked out for us. For you though…” he trails off, watching Alphonse win another round. His brow furrows for a moment before he suddenly leaps off Roy’s bed, sitting next to Riza and grabbing her cards roughly.

“Brother what are you-”

“I’ve figured out your tells, little brother,” he says ominously, jerking his head towards the slightly ajar door. “This time I’m gonna wipe the floor with your bony butt-”

Roy doesn’t need another hint. He pulls Riza to her feet and all but drags her out of the room. “Have fun kids!” he calls out behind him and Riza splutters, pulling back as best she can against his firm grip.

“Sir – what are you-”

He continues pulling her along the deserted corridor, his grip never loosening. “I needed some air,” he says conversationally, ignoring the daggers she’s staring into his back. He drags her up an old access stairwell, and only stops when her fingers dig into his hand uncomfortably.

Sir,” she says reproachfully, glaring at him. “What on earth-”

“No ‘sir’, thank you,” he says primly. “We’re off duty and I want some air and a friend to enjoy said air with.”

She raises an eyebrow. “Up an old access stairwell?”

“C’mon,” he teases. “It won’t kill you. We need the exercise.”

Riza gives him a look of incredulity. It’s so reminiscence of the look she gives him when he’s goofing off around the office that he almost stops.

(Almost).

Instead, he quickly grabs her hand and drags her along once more, ignoring her indignant complaining and her almost-tripping as she struggles to match his gait.  It still hurts to curl his fingers somewhat, and she seems to pick up on that, instead latching her hand on the side of the old t-shirt he’s wearing.

“Slow down!” she protests, tugging on the fabric harshly and he is forced to stop, turning slightly as she gives him a stern look.

“Would it kill you to walk at a normal pace?” she asks, jutting her hip out slightly. She looks like a petulant child who hasn’t gotten their way and he can’t help the laughter that bubbles out of him.

She frowns at him, pouting in a way he’s sure is meant to show displeasure but all he sees is a Riza who is awake and alive and not comatose and sallow. He slows down and eventually drops her hand; leaning against the wall of the corridor her dragged them into and he raises his hands in defeat.

“Everyone’s been coming to see you and…” he trails off and avoids her gaze. “I wanted to see you. Talk to you.”

She shifts closer to him, cupping his face with her hands and smiling softly. “And you couldn’t do that in front of the boys?” she asks teasingly, stroking his cheekbones delicately.

He watches her for a moment, before shaking his head minutely. “Not for this,” he says swiftly, before grabbing her hands from his face and pulling her body into his own space, his fingers carefully threading through her hair and kissing her soundly and fully on the mouth.

She’s quiet, still for a few moments and part of him worries that he’s misread her – that he’s misread this entire situation and that he’s grossly overstepped his bounds – but suddenly she shifts ever so slightly under him and her tongue is lightly running along his mouth and everything is right with the world again. She’s warm and soft against him, and he’s careful in how he tilts her head, his left hand cupping her face very delicately. Though the bandages around her neck hid a multitude of sins, he was still very aware of how fragile she was in this state. Her hands snaked around his neck quickly and she hummed against his lips, a smile curling up against his own.

“See?” he murmurs against her mouth and she laughs a little, biting his lip lightly in retaliation.

“And here I was thinking you just woke up on the wrong side of bed,” she murmurs back, her fingers scraping at the nape of his neck. “All snarky and rude to everybody today – who knew you were just…” a hand slips out from his neck and travels down his chest, fingernails catching on the fabric slightly. It’s harsh enough to go beyond mere ticklish and instead he feels the sensation travel down to his groin – and he doesn’t stop the grunt that it elicits. Riza grins against his lips more openly – he feels her teeth on his lips and carefully and deliberately her fingers drift over his trousers.

“Though now you’re far more docile,” she teases, her lone hand drifting back up to settle curled around his neck. She leans out from him, resting her weight on his neck and meets his eyes. “Are we feeling better now?”

He nods, his hands settling on her hips. His thumbs draw light circles over the scratchy materials of the hospital pyjamas they had dressed her in. They’re an awful lime green colour that doesn’t suit her complexion at all, and Roy makes a mental note to tell one of the team to get her something more comfortable.

She leans her head against his shoulder very carefully, and he waits until she’s properly settled before he rests his chin lightly on her head. They stay like that for a while, listening to the low hum of the hospital.

“I thought…” he begins, but he swallows the sentence down, dropping a kiss on her hair softly.

Riza makes a noise of discontentment and she rubs at the back of his neck reassuringly. “That bad?” she asks quietly.

He’s still for a moment before nodding, hands holding her a little bit tighter.

She huffs a little, adjusting her weight. “It was necessary,” she finally responds, her voice clear and confident. “We knew that sacrifices were going to be made. I know you said that you understood but-”

“Doesn’t make the reality any less awful to deal with.” He cuts across her a little harshly and he swallows roughly, before settling his chin on her head once more. She sighs quietly in his embrace, and curls her fingers into his hair.

“It was something you had to plan for,” she admonishes. “I don’t care that it wasn’t a reality you particularly ‘wanted to deal with’ – I would’ve expected you to keep going, regardless of who fell behind.”

He’s quiet as she tries to keep her sniffs to a minimum. He feels the wetness of her tears on his shirt but there is no point in acknowledging them – not when he knows she hasn’t finished telling him off.

“I know you want to protect everybody Roy,” she finally murmurs into his chest, a hand sliding down from his neck to carefully touch the edges of his bandages on his hand. She rubs the skin there lightly and he shuts his eyes as she carefully works her way over the back of his hand lightly and methodically.

“But I’m not sure if you can without burning yourself out first,” she continues. “And we need you in a good space right now. If you go off being reckless you’ll be doing far worse damage than the rest of us ever could.”

He snorts at that, shifting his position against the wall they’re leaning against. “Are you sure about that?” he asks breezily. “One threat against you and I’m helpless.”

“Hardly,” she counters. “You’re very good at taking orders under that sort of pressure.”

He sighs shakily, stretching his hand as best he can in her soft hold. “Let’s not make it a regular occurrence, please,” he mutters. “I’m not sure how much longer I could’ve coped with that.”

“You did very well,” she soothes. Her fingers tap a light beat on his knuckles – an old code that they used to play with in the office. It was not dissimilar to the kinds of codes that Fuery would be well-versed in, the kinds of codes that Falman and Havoc would learn quickly and even quicker for Breda to decipher – but the rules for these had been changed and morphed and improved to the point of gibberish to anybody else apart from them. Old jokes and song tunes became base points – an old folk dance in triple-time meant worry, long pauses meant danger and dual-tapping implied urgency.

Her fingers switch between waltzes and jigs, soft and unhurried, the low hum of the hospital their only accompaniment.


It is a little awkward after that kiss – for some reason neither of them has any downtime beyond napping and Riza is still being stubborn about sleeping in her own bed. Mine is much more comfy he cajoles her, but all she does is raise an eyebrow and fluff up her pillows. What’s worse is that their schedules never seem to align well either – whenever he comes back from his own physio it appears like she is just going to hers, and because he finds himself becoming more easily tired during the day he inevitably sleeps through her return.

The only time they manage to find with one another is at night, and even then he’s well aware of the day's impact on her and is hesitant to demand her attention. Funnily enough, being placed into an induced coma didn’t mean she caught up on her sleep – in fact, Roy would wager that the coma actually made her exhaustion worse.

He wakes up one sunny afternoon, however, to her curled up on his side, her long hair fanning out on his shoulder. It’s not an unwelcome surprise, but as he lifts his head slightly to check the time, he realises that they’ve only got about ten minutes before the nurses do their rounds before the night shift comes on. He’s reluctant to move – it feels like years since he’s felt like he can be so open with her, so blatant in his affection, and while she might be comfortable enough to sleep next to him in broad daylight, it’s probably not in their best interests to flaunt any more than they undoubtedly have.

“Riza,” he says groggily, rubbing at his eyes. “We gotta get up. Check up’s soon.”

She makes a noise of discontentment, the hand resting on his chest gripping his shirt tightly and he feels her body tense and stretch against him. Her head shifts up and she presses a soft kiss onto his stubbled cheek. “That’s not a very nice way to say hello,” she murmurs, sitting up and pushing the light blanket she had draped over the two of them aside. She drops more kisses onto his cheek, following the bone structure up to his eyelids and softly she kisses both of his eyelids. Her breath is warm and sweet and Roy sighs, his hands running up underneath her henley shirt, tracing the outline of her ribs carefully. She shifts, straddling him properly and she kisses him properly on the mouth, her lips wide in a smile that he mirrors and her teeth tug on his lower lip as she grinds into him.

She is intoxicating, enthralling, powerful, and heady. He could – would drown in her a thousand times and all worries of nurses and doctors walking in on them making out like a couple of teenagers disappear as she cups his face with her hands, her kisses messier and sloppier but fucking fantastic. She’s warm and steady in his arms and his hands splay out on her lower back, before drifting down to pull on her toned thighs, shifting her higher on his lap. Her breath is uneven now, harsh and gasping as he threads his fingers into her hair, making sure never to pull tightly enough to put strain on her neck. Likewise, she is careful when she grips his free hand with her own, pushing it above his head as she pins him down on the bed.

Her lips drift down to his throat, biting at the skin with practiced teeth and peppering his bruised skin with butterfly kisses afterwards. His shirt is the first to go and her fingers trace the many scars that dot his torso. She’s careful with the newest one, still tender and not entirely healed from the burns.

“Are you alright?” she asks, hands resting on his hips, thumbs dipping under his waistband. She rests her weight on his thigh and even through layers of cloth he can already feel how wet she must be.

“I’m fine,” he replies quickly, grasping her hand closest to him and presses her knuckles to his mouth, watching how she blushes prettily. “Are you?” he asks when she doesn’t move from where she rests on his thigh, her eyes warm and dark as she smiles widely. She nods eagerly, and grips his hand firmly.

“I’ve missed you,” she admits softly as she tugs down the loose pants he chose to wear today, smirking as she realises he decided to go commando. Her fingers trace his cock lightly, and Roy knows that she’s enjoying how still he’s become, before she suddenly takes him into her mouth and then he’s swearing worse than the time Breda got stuck in the office alone with Hayate.

He can barely register the dull ache in his hands as she bobs her head up and down quickly, rhythmically and he’s beyond being embarrassed as he feels the familiar warm surging in his groin. The noises that she’s making are obscene, and it takes him a moment to realise that her hips are moving in a familiar way, and her fingers that are not curled around his cock are instead curled into herself. The image alone of Riza touching herself while touching him is beyond sexy and it takes all of his willpower to ignore the burning heat where her mouth is and instead lift her head back up to meet his so he can kiss her properly. Her lips are lush and taste of him and salt that he doesn’t want to identify as tears, but he knows they’re both crying. She makes quick work of the henley shirt that he now realises was a conscious decision on her part as they accentuate all the right curves, before sliding off her underwear a little awkwardly. She swings her leg properly over his hips to straddle him fully, grinding down slightly and grinning as she does so. Her breath heaves and jumps erratically, and as she guides him into her she buries her head into shoulder, trying to swallow her sobs.

He won’t be stupid to not recognise a fuck for a fuck, but this is slower than their usual trysts, held back by fear of hurting one another and the awkward angle that his bed is on. The springs and metal creak dangerously under their combined weight and he whispers soft apologies into her hair as he pushes into her.

Her sobs quickly change to jagged gasps and groans and she rests her weight on his chest as her hips meet his with a satisfying smack of sweat-slicked skin. It’s not long before she tenses above him, whimpering as he continues to thrust through her orgasm, his hands running over the warm expanse of her back and the sensitive skin to the side of her breasts. His own climax comes moments later, and she swallows his groans as she kisses him determinedly, her tongue pushing firmly against his own.

She huffs against his chest as she shifts against him, tensing slightly in the new position as his hands rest on her hips, tracing small circles with his thumbs. “I’ve missed you as well,” he murmurs into her hair and she laughs against him, groaning again as his hips roll lazily against hers. Her weight is comforting – her warmth even more so. Her cheeks are flushed red and his gaze settles on the thin bandages left around her neck. They remain mercilessly white, and Roy lets out a breath he didn’t realise he was holding in.

Her fingers run over his brow bone, tracing the edges of his face before she stretches to catch his mouth with her own. She’s soft and pliable and he feels himself grow drowsy as she lightly peppers his face with kisses, her eyelashes tickling his skin. He’s not concerned with anything beyond how right this feels, and as he dozes off he’s dimly aware of the words she whispers and traces into his skin.

He doesn’t think on it until much later, when Riza is back in her own bed and the night shift of nurses comes by to check on them at ten in the evening, that the final afternoon shift never did come by. The next day, when Breda drops off a new collection of smutty novellas for the two of them to peruse, Roy notices a cardboard bookmark that has been stuffed into a particularly raunchy-looking book entitled Elizabeth and the Drachman Bear.

There’s a message scrawled onto it in a familiar script.

If you idiots ever decide to pull a stunt like that again I will not stop the nurse from checking in on you two next time.  – B