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Of Hobbies and Heroics

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How long will I live? When is my last breath?

There is nothing here. Nothing but death.

He reached out to smooth her hair out of her face once more, schooling his expression to not show his thoughts. Behind him someone shifted nervously; a tiny glance told him it was Fury. No surprise. He turned his attention back to the woman before him and his own hand. Under normal circumstances, perhaps one of his subordinate officers would have commented on his tender gesture toward a woman he should never have shown such, but not tonight. Not when they all felt the pain, him in particular. He blamed himself as any halfway-decent man would in the same position. Perhaps even his officers thought themselves guilty for some twisted, self-torturing reason. For not being there for her at precisely the right time, for not taking out the threat before the threat could take her out. But she herself was not without fault. Roy Mustang settled back in his chair next to her hospital bed, eyes glancing vaguely at the men standing around the bed before returning to her unnaturally pale face – yes, they were all to blame, but none more so that Riza Hawkeye herself.

He closed his eyes as Falman's voice dared penetrate the silence, albeit in a whisper. "Don't you die on us, Hawkeye."

"Yeah," Havoc added, "who else'll make sure the Colonel will do his work properly?" Nobody laughed, and they fell back into an uneasy silence.

The clock on the wall ticked by the seconds, slowly, slowly. Mustang was inevitably reminded of a song he knew from a long time ago as the seconds stretched into minutes, minutes into eons. The same three lines of the song repeated themselves in his head, the words chasing each other in circles, as Mustang marveled with a mental smirk at how a song that had nothing in common with the situation fit the moment so well. The tick-tock of the clock is painful. He felt his heart and stomach clench agonizingly. All sane and logical. His thoughts ran amuck in his head, making him confused and disoriented. I wanna tear it off the wall. He curled his ungloved hands into fists, digging his nails into his palms. He couldn't help but think about the last line of the chorus, the whole meaning of the entire song wrapped into seven words: Rendez vous, then I'm through with you. He didn't want to be through with her, he was just getting started. He was only just on this very night realizing how much the strong woman meant to him. His mind smiled ironically, even as his lips stayed in a neutral line. He had always made music a part of his life, it gave him joy; but now it tormented him with horrible thoughts. And still the clock ticked on, slow, slower, slowest.

"Colonel, perhaps we should go," Fury suggested tentatively after many endless minutes.

"No, you guys go ahead. I'll stay with her." Then as an after thought, "Somebody be sure to take care of her dog."

"Visiting hours are over, Colonel. The nurse'll be in here in a few minutes to kick us out. They've been overly generous as it is." Breda had now joined the futile argument.

"I said I want to stay with her." His voice was steel. "You guys go before you get in trouble; I'm a national hero, remember? They won't dare kick me out." They hesitated. "GO!" They went at last, first giving Hawkeye's hand a comforting squeeze, wishing her luck, and telling Mustang to call them if any significant change occurred, good or bad. A few minutes later, as predicted, a large nurse came to all but order Mustang home. He stoutly refused, and she eventually had to give up.

He dragged his chair closer to her bed and picked up her right hand which Fury had been the last to grip. It was cold and lifeless, filling him with despair. Somewhere a clock chimed the hour: 2300, yet somehow he wasn't in the least bit tired. Sure that no one would come in and see him, he lay his head next to her side, face turned toward hers. He didn't close his eyes, not wanting to accidentally fall asleep, and instead played and replayed the tragic scene in his head, adding possibilities, probabilities, and what-ifs.

Flashback

The young Second Lieutenant from Intelligence had been thorough in her report: she knew where the homunculi were, how many there were in this one location, that they wouldn't be leaving it any time soon, that they were getting overconfident, and that they had in their possession a perfect, unflawed Philosopher's Stone. And on top of it all she had discovered these were the murderers of Brigadier General Hughes, particularly the shape-shifting one called Envy. The only thing she had not known was how the stone was created; she had begun her work too late to find out. (A/N: Major mistakes? Probably. Do I care? No.) All the same, however, her information was incredibly useful, and Mustang had thanked her profusely, promising her a promotion if she could help pull off the mission. She had agreed, a bit shocked and confused at his exuberance, maybe a little suspicious. It was then that she leaned close to him and whispered a secret she had kept out of the written report, just in case the wrong people read it: Fuhrer Bradley was a homunculus. She had seen him with the other homunculi, who had called him "Wrath," and she had seen his Uroborus (sp?) tattoo on his eye, the one he kept hidden under his eye patch.

They acted swiftly, despite the Second Lieutenant's assurances the enemy would not move. They could not invoke Bradley's suspicious, and to succeed meant immediate action. The Elric brothers were gone to Risenbul to get Ed's leg adjusted (the shorty had actually grown) and had been detained when old Pinako suddenly died, doctors said of a heart attack. She couldn't have picked a worse time if she had planned it, Mustang had thought unfairly at the time, but they had to deal with the circumstances as they were. He had called Breda, Fury, Havoc, Falman, and Hawkeye to him to explain his plan in private and to inform them about Bradley, while the young spy watched over them, warning them when someone came too near the office.

It all went smoothly until the very end. With Lust gone, Envy was in charge, and he turned out to be a poor leader indeed. With hardly any struggle, Mustang had managed to gain possession of the Stone, and in the moment everything went wrong, he clutched it in his hand.

Envy and Mustang stood in a showdown position, Envy with a gun drawn and pointing at Mustang's heart, the Colonel himself with his right hand poised to snap. Each dared the other with his eyes as Hawkeye stood a few feet from her superior, gun drawn but not aimed. He had only just warned her not to interfere; this was between him and the homunculus – he had the uncanny feeling this monster was connected to Hughes' death. Gluttony lay nearby, finally dead; sounds of far-off fighting were wearing down.

"Hand over the Stone," Envy growled, twitching the barrel of his gun toward the Colonel's left hand. Mustang merely smirked.

Even later, as he lay with his head almost in her lap, as the clock ticked away, as he struggled to understand, he had no idea how she had guessed. Perhaps she had read it in the homunculus's face; perhaps she had analyzed the situation and figured Envy had the advantage; perhaps she had realized the Colonel was entirely overconfident for someone in his position. Or perhaps not. Perhaps she simply waited for the nonverbal cues any sniper would recognize and reacted as only the best shooter in the military could, with well-honed reflexes.

All Mustang knew was that everything happened so quickly, yet so slowly. Envy had grinned at the alchemist's confident smirk, the smugly asked if he would prefer him to shoot the lady instead, taking a moment to glance at Hawkeye. Mustang unthinkingly did the same, and everything went to hell. Hawkeye's eyes widened and the next thing he knew, before he could react, she was in front of him and the gun's loud BLAM was still echoing in his ears. She was on the ground before he even saw the blood blossoming at her chest, mixing with the dark blue fabric to stain it a horrible purple colour. In that dreadful half-second, Mustang realized Envy's plan: get him to take his eyes off himself for just long enough for him to pull the trigger – and he had fallen for it. Twice the fool.

End Flashback

Mustang stirred. He turned his head away from Hawkeye. It was approaching dawn and he had spent the whole night in that one position, contemplating and speculating, hoping to any god who would listen that she would wake up. He was exhausted, but could not, would not, allow himself the luxury of sleep. He would sleep when she woke.

His mind wandered again, and this time it landed on his relationship with his dear First Lieutenant. All these years he had maintained a platonic friendship with the young woman, and now he wanted to beat himself up for it. Somehow her altruistic act had awakened a dormant lover for her, one that he thought he had squashed years ago when he found out just what a hard-ass she was. Three times the fool. Now he realized that was just one of the qualities that endeared her to him, her rough nature. He just wanted her to wake up so he could tell her what he was thinking. He now knew what she had felt that day she thought he had died at Lust's hands; if she died he might very well lose the will to live as well…. But that would not work. If she died, it would have been so he could live, and he would have to honour her wishes. It wasn't the same as back then; he couldn't give up like she had….

Before he knew it, he had fallen asleep with his head still on her bed. He felt he had only closed his eyes for a moment, and the next thing he realized a familiar voice was saying, "Oh! I'm sorry, Roy." He opened his eyes to flaring sunlight and the sight of Gracia Hughes, her daughter clinging to her hand.

He moaned quietly, lifting his head and turning it to look at Riza: still no change. He turned his attention back to the visitors. "No, Gracia, it's fine. I didn't mean to fall asleep."

He got up to let her have the only chair in the room. She sat down with a sad smile of thanks, then lifted Elycia onto her lap, arranging her into a position comfortable for the both of them. "Have you been here all night?"

"Yes. How did you find out?"

"Major Armstrong heard when she was admitted to the hospital and came to tell me."

Mustang sat wearily on the foot of Riza's bed. "I can't help but think back to when Maes died. He was trying to help me then, as well as the Elric brothers (A/N: maybe I missed something, because I'm still trying to figure out who he was helping. I was too distraught at his death to pay attention. TT) and this is just too similar, especially if you look at it in a certain light. I couldn't do anything to help him, and he died. I don't want to repeat the same mistake."

Tears welled in Gracia's eyes as she leaned forward to take his hand, but they did not fall a major improvement from the last year. "You didn't make a mistake either time. Like you said, there wasn't anything you – or any of us – could have done."

"I hate being helpless," he muttered, a little upset with himself for being so open and vulnerable, yet feeling better by the second as he talked out his worries. It seemed to be a gift women had, something akin to that damn woman's intuition.

"Everybody does, of course. But all we can do is hold on for dear life until such a chance as we can grab control once more."

Mustang had nothing to say to that, and even if he did, there was no way he could out-argue her. He simply gazed at the wall listening to the persistent clock and trying not to think about anything.

After a moment, Gracia began to speak again, slowly as though thinking carefully about her next words. "What you need…is a hobby. Something simplistic, methodical, and redundant so that you don't have to think. Something to take your mind off your stresses. Do you have any hobbies?"

Mustang shook his head. "No, not anymore. I used to like music in my teenage years, but I've long since done anything musical."

Gracia was contemplating this when suddenly she gave a start. "I forgot! The only reason I brought Elysia was because she wanted to give Riza the present she made in person. Sweetie, did you bring it?" Elysia, heretofore forgotten as she listened to the adults' conversation and watched the still woman, now slid down from her mother's lap and opened a chubby palm to reveal a slightly rumpled paper crane.

"It's for good luck," she explained to the unconscious woman. "Mummy says you need a thousand to make your wish come true, but I only had time to make one. I hope you like it." She placed the bird on the bedside table and, wary of her mother's admonishments to be careful and not jostle Riza, climbed onto the bed carefully to give her a kiss on the forehead.

As the four-year-old climbed back down, Gracia stood up. "Come on, Elysia, we have things we need to do, and bothering Riza and Uncle Roy is not one of them." She leaned down to kiss Riza's forehead as well, then Roy's cheek. "Get some rest, Colonel."

"Thanks, but no thanks, Mother," he said, only half-joking.

"Now, now, be a good child and do as Mummy says." It had been a running joke between the two of them ever since she had gotten pregnant. She took Elysia's hand and left, promising both the colonel and the child they would return sometime that day.

XX

Return they did, at 1500 hours. Officers of the military, particularly Mustang's subordinates, had been popping in and out all day, achieving nothing but putting the Flame Alchemist into a bad mood. He was annoyed at the fact there were more visitors, but glad they at least weren't uncomfortable, depressing morons like the rest had been. He was a bit surprised to see them laden down with a couple of grocery bags, even more so that they had been allowed in the hospital with it all. He jumped up from the chair (he had reclaimed it when they left the first time) and took Gracia's bag from her; it was remarkably light. Glancing in it he saw, among bread and celery, a package of coloured paper, a small book, and a small, cheap radio.

"What's all this?" he asked as he set it on the chair; the table was currently occupied by dozens of flowers and cards and candies.

"Some of it is for you." She reached in to pull out some objects. "I thought you might like to try origami. It's fairly relaxing." She handed him the book and the paper. "And a little radio to occupy you with music, since you said you like it. It's not the best, but it should do." She peered into the bag for a moment, then into the one still in her daughter's arms. "Ah, here it is. Since you told Havoc that you would not leave this room to even take a shower…." She pulled out a stick of deodorant sheepishly. "Sorry."

Mustang accepted all the items. "It's fine. Havoc told me several times that I stink of sweat and burnt flesh, among other things."

Together, as little Elysia watched, Gracia and Roy set up the radio and put it on the local station. Afterwards, while music filtered behind him, Mustang stepped into the small in-room bathroom to roll deodorant not only under his arms, but also over most of his torso, trying to get the scent of death off of himself. Feeling refreshed and somewhat cleaner, he stepped out of the bathroom and into an interesting scene: Elysia was "dancing" along to the music while her mother conducted the sounds and movements, her face somber, her eyes twinkling. He smiled. It had been a long time since Gracia had truly enjoyed life like she and her husband used to. As he watched them, his tired mind began to wander again, this time to his late best friend. Maes had always been so insistent that Roy should settle down and take himself a wife, preferably Riza herself. He seemed convinced that one day Roy would fall madly in love with his First Lieutenant, tell her and sweep her off her feet, and live happily ever after with loads of children, despite the military's strict forbiddance of fraternization within its ranks. He had even made a bet with Roy. Roy wished desperately the man could have lived to see himself win that bet, to see Roy sweep Riza off her feet.

His mind returned to the visitors. Gracia dropped her hands as the current song ended. "I'm sorry, Roy, but we must get going. Get some sleep. Come on, Elysia." Gracia began to leave.

"Wait, Gracia." She looked back at him. He held out the money from the bet he had dug out of his wallet. "I owe this to Maes."

She looked at it suspiciously. "And you just remembered? Or are you disguising your attempt to pay for the things I bought you?"

He blinked; he hadn't even though about that. "No, it was a bet. He only just won it. But I do have more money to pay you back if you need it…" He reached for his wallet again.

She took the offered money thoughtfully. "No, that's fine, I'll just take the bet money." She looked at him mischievously. "You'll invite me to the wedding, won't you?"

At which point Colonel Roy Mustang, the Flame Alchemist, national hero, face-faulted. Damn women's intuition..

They left with their groceries, and Roy sat down on the chair once more, pushing aside any thoughts of even a little sleep as he opened the coloured paper. Propping the small origami book against Riza's covered leg, he set to work on trying to decipher the little diagrams on how to make a paper crane. If a little four-year-old could do this, so could he. If only…he could…just…concentrate.

Or am I origami? Folded up and just pretend? Demented as the motives in your head.

He began to curse quietly the damn song still stuck in his head. Briefly abandoning his sad start on the crane, he fiddled with the radio, turning it up a little and trying to get rid of as much static as possible. Satisfied, he returned to the task at hand. The music filtered soothingly into his head as he furrowed his eyebrows in concentration. His lack of sleep aided in numbing his sore brain as he lost himself n the more complex folds of the intricate piece of art, and as he hummed along to songs he did not know and gently sang those he did. The first five cranes took time and proved rather difficult, but each one after those became increasingly easier. He moved automatically in a semi-trance, his mind blissfully blank and unaware of his surroundings. When he finally jolted back to awareness, snapped out of oblivion by a careless mistake on the crane he was working on he was surprised to see it was almost ninety minutes later. A small pile of folded cranes lay on the bed before him – twenty-three in all. Okay, so he wasn't the quickest at making these things, but the effect was what was desired – a break from dwelling on recent events.

He continued making origami, reveling in the escape from reality, only emerging into full consciousness when hungry, thirsty, in need of relieving himself, or when one of his subordinates came to visit Hawkeye. At one point the young spy came to check on Riza and inform Mustang that he, she, and Riza would all be given promotions and government reform had begun. There was talk of adopting a democratic president rather than another Fuhrer. Mustang thanked her for the information and told her he was considering requesting her transfer to under his command. She thanked him and left.

Another benefit of the origami and music was that he hardly noticed his exhaustion anymore. He didn't need sleep to do the monotonous folds and what not. When he got bored with the cranes, he tried other pieces like raccoons, fish, and flowers. He worked late into the night, losing track of time and ignoring the nurses who tried to insist he go home. By nightfall the origami had become a sort of drug t him each time he would stop and think of the horrors of the past couple of days, or even from months or years ago, he would resolutely pick up the next piece of paper and find himself a new design to master. But he always returned to the crane, making that small, separate pile bigger – he wanted his desperate wish to come true. He finally stopped at half past 0100 hours, feeling as though he might collapse if did not get some sleep.

X

The last thing Edward Elric expected to see as he rushed into Riza Hawkeye's hospital room at 1000 hours, dragging Winry by her hand and leading his brother, was Colonel Roy Mustang sitting by the bed folding a paper crane and singing along to the radio quietly, his baritone voice mixing well with the singer's soprano.

My weakness caused you pain and this song's my sorry.

Edward stared, not realizing he was squeezing Winry's hand until she gasped in pain. He turned his blank face upon her, then sheepishly let go, apologizing with his eyes rather than his voice. Beside them, Alphonse made a small noise.

"Colonel?"

"Alphonse. Edward," he greeted shortly, not looking up. "I assume you are here to pick up the item."

Ed stepped into the room, finally recovering from his shock. "Wrong." We came to see Lieutenant Hawkeye." His eyes fell on the prone woman and his mouth turned down. He walked to the far side of her bed, seemingly calm. Without warning, he slammed both fists down next to her hip, crying "Dammit!" in a sudden fit of passion. "Why?" he whispered to no one in particular. None of his observers said anything; they knew he needed to vent some of his emotions.

After several agonizing moments, Winry walked up behind her best friend and slipped her arms around his waist in a tight hug. The short boy, now the same height as the girl, relaxed, his tense shoulders slumping until they were completely limp. Too distracted to be surprised, Mustang took this as his cue to begin speaking.

"If you're blaming yourself, Fullmetal, it's pointless. Circumstances were beyond anyone's control, even yours. You had matters to attend to in Risenbul and we had to act quickly, and nobody can fault you that." He wasn't sure what made him add, "If anyone is to blame, it is I."

Ed looked up as Winry leaned her head against his back. "And why are you allowed to blame yourself if it is nobody's fault?"

"Because I fell for Envy's trap."

Edward did not need to ask for further details, even though the vague response meant next to nothing to him. He instead focused his attention on the blonde woman and pulled himself gently from Winry's grasp. "I can't help it, though," he muttered after a few moments. "It seems like everyone who's tried to help us has gotten hurt or even killed. I was the one who started all this when our mother died."

Mustang opened his mouth to retort, but Winry spoke first. "Please don't fight. Lieutenant Hawkeye needs us to get along right now." It sounded unbelievably corny even to her own ears, but Mustang and Edward both looked down, abashed. Silence crept over them once more and, after a moment, Roy returned his attention back to the half-finished crane in his hands.

"How many have you made so far?" Al asked timidly, none-too-subtly trying to steer the conversation in a better direction.

"One hundred fifty-two," the Colonel replied. Then, not really in the mood for small, pointless chatter, he added, "I have it with me, by the way."

"We'll come back later to get it. Our train only just got in and we're exhausted." Edward shook his head. "The whole country's in an uproar. What should have been a quick and simple change of leader turned into a damn revolution. Did you know we might become a democracy now?" Mustang replied in the affirmative. "Yeah. And they want you for president. I tried to convince Havoc and Fury it would be a bad idea when we saw them in the lobby, but they just laughed at me."

"Rightfully so."

"Shut up, Mustang. I found it rather ironic that the position you have been trying to reach all these years, you helped to destroy. But you may end up in power anyway. That's the ultimate injustice."

"You're just jealous." Mustang smirked. What he found ironic was that after all the people trying to cheer him up over the past few days, the only one to really make him feel like himself again was the last person he usually wanted to see. His subordinates' sympathy was alright, and Gracia's mother-touch was great, but Edward's insults and news made him feel everything was at least semi-normal.

"You wish," Ed snapped arrogantly. "C'mon Al, let's go; I wanna get some sleep. See ya later, Colonel Bastard."

"Colonel?" Mustang looked at Al. "Will you call us if anything happens, please?"

Mustang picked up a new square of paper. "Yeah, sure. I'll just add you to the list."

The three left. Mustang twitched the volume on the radio to turn it up, trying to lose himself in obliviousness once more. He was becoming restless. He was hardly the type of person who could sit still in the same place for three hours, let alone three days. As though his miniature rival's visit had awakened something within him, he found himself bored and impatient, wishing (he regretted himself for it) that he felt no obligation to stay in the cramped hospital room. He no longer found comfort in the music and origami, as they could no longer keep his mind off other things. He wanted to go outside, out into the public who might soon be electing him to power, and he wanted Riza better so she could go with him, not just to protect him. The person at the radio station seemed to be taunting him, playing love song after heartbreak song, after death song. By the time the nurse came in at mid-afternoon to check on Riza, he was pacing the small room. She suggested he leave; he refused. She left again, vaguely annoyed at his insistence, only to be replaced by first Gracia, then Fury, then Breda.

Through the hourglass I saw you. In time you slipped away. When the mirror crashed I called you. And turned to hear you say, "If only for today, I am unafraid. But he was afraid. He didn't think he had ever been more scared in his life.

A new song started, this one just as bad as the previous one.

I've found a reason for me to change who I used to be. A reason to start over new and the reason is you. He would change, most definitely. He would stop flirting with other women; he no longer needed them. He would be more diligent with his work, whatever it took to ensure she would live and that she would not reject him.

And another.

Oh baby you got what I need, but you say I'm just a friend… He no longer wanted to be just her friend, even though that was how he had treated her all this time. She had always been there, the perfect woman for him, but he had been so blind, he saw now.

The next song was so true to him that he wondered if the man at the station was spying on him.

I am in love with you, you set me free. I can't do this thing called life without you here with me, 'cause I'm dangerously in love with you. I'll never leave. Just keep loving me the way I love you loving me. He felt he might die if Riza were to leave him here all alone. He truly felt dangerously in love.

And so they continued….

He was alone once more when the nurse returned to futilely argue with him some more; he won. She left, shaking her head over stubborn men, but returned soon with a drink for him. He drank it gratefully, having had nothing to quench his thirst all day, and not caring enough to order one of his subordinates to get him something. She left again, and Mustang was vaguely confused to note she was smiling now. He realized why half an hour later when he felt so drowsy that he had to sit down.

That bitch drugged me, he thought hazily. Stupid nurse thinks she knows what's best for me. He lay his head next to Riza's hip as he had each night before and clutched the bed to ensure no one would try to take him home while he was unconscious.

XX

Riza opened her eyes, confused. She seemed to be lying on her back on something noticeably softer than the hard concrete floor; pillows propped her head up. She could hear machines vaguely close by and, farther away and through walls and windows, cars rumbling up and down a street. She closed her eyes once more, briefly, trying to recall what had happened. The last thing she remembered was lying on the ground while pain flowed through every inch of her body, coming from the bleeding hole in her chest, and while her colonel stood over her… now it seemed she was in a hospital. Something soft, warm, and hairy lay next to her hand. Opening her eyes wide this time, she began to sit up only to find she couldn't: her shoulder pulled with the effort and she had to sink back down after only raising a few inches. She had to settle for trying to figure out what lay next to her by using her hands.

At first she wondered if it could possibly be her faithful dog, Black Hyate, but she immediately realized the hospital would never let the canine in here, no matter how many times he had obediently followed her around Headquarters. Besides, the hair felt undoubtedly human. It was thick and, to judge by the length, male. Beneath her exploring hand, the mound of hair lifted up and shifted, causing her to take her hand away self-consciously. She murmured an apology in a rusty, unused voice.

She thought she would pass out again when that voice she knew only too well replied with an assurance that she was not out of line, that he understood why she had done it. The Colonel's head was on her bed! Her secret love, Roy-bloody-Mustang, had been asleep on her bed (even if it was only part of his body.) She was only slightly relieved when she heard him sit up; at least now she could see his face in her peripheral vision.

And what a sight he was. His hair was mussed and a little greasy, he had bags under his eyes, and he hadn't shaved in a few days. But he was alive, and that simple fact made Riza overlook any imperfections in his appearance. He looked exhausted, but he smiled a little – a genuine smile, not his usual smirk – and slipped his hand into hers before speaking.

"How are you feeling?"

A bit shocked by the sensation of his hand in hers, she closed her eyes and shook her head as if to say it was unimportant, then rasped out croakily, "Were you hurt?"

His fingers tightened. "I got away with minor cuts and bruises."

She tried to speak again, to tell him not to look so sad, but this time her throat failed her completely. He must have understood what she wanted because his warmth suddenly disappeared from her hand as he stood up. "I'll be right back. I've got to find the nurse and make some phone calls."

She sank into the pillows, relaxing completely as her superior's presence faded slowly from the room. Pain seemed to be returning to her chest and shoulder, spreading softly to her left arm – whatever drugs had been pumped into her system were wearing off. She tried to clear her mind, to figure out what had happened after she lost consciousness, and what possible reason the Colonel would have to sleep with his head on her mattress. The door to the room opened, but it was not Mustang who walked in. A smiling nurse approached her bed and asked her how she was doing. Riza glared at her, still unable to talk; luckily the woman seemed to understand, for she helped the lieutenant sit up and gave her a small cup of water, which the latter drank greedily. The nurse then handed her some pills and another cup of water. After talking briefly with her, she left. The patient, able to finally see her surroundings, looked around and spotted the colonel's abandoned cranes. She picked one up gingerly; she knew what they signified. Were they all for her?

Twenty minutes later, just as Riza was beginning to worry, Mustang walked back in, looking refreshed and vaguely cheerful. When he saw her sitting up in a reclining position, he smiled again. "I had to call about ten different people, and then there was this huge mix-up when I tried to call Fury." He shook his head. "I found out a little too much about his and Havoc's sexual preferences."

Any other time this would have gotten some sort of reaction from her, whether good or bad. Now, however, she merely pierced him with her intense gaze, face carefully emotionless as she had schooled it all these years. He had known her for so long he recognized the look: something was on her mind. His face grew serious and he sat down on the chair, letting her know he was ready to listen. They knew each other well enough that they did not need words to communicate, much like Edward and Alphonse to Winry.

She said two simple words. "What happened?"

Flashback

"Foolish woman," Envy growled, frowning at Hawkeye crumpled on the cold concrete. His frown turned to a smirk as he focused his attention back on Mustang. "No one to protect you now, Flame Alchemist. Your little shield is dead." He pulled the hammer back on his gun again.

Rage flowed through Mustang's mind and heart, destroying his mind and infecting his body, making him numb and light-headed. The bastard…the bastard had the nerve to trick him, to kill his best friend – again! – and then to laugh at him and gloat. It was enough to make him snap – both in his mind and his finger. Almost delirious with anger, he coldly lifted his hand and snapped his deadly appendages. Perhaps it was his wrath manifested, or maybe it was simply the aid of the Philosopher's Stone clutched in his other hand, but something made the flames bigger and hotter than they had ever been before. Envy disappeared in a burst of fire before he could so much as react; Mustang waited for him to regenerate so that he could kill him again and again until his anger and pain were relieved or until the homunculus finally died for good, but it did not happen. Envy was officially dead.

Mustang sang down beside his fallen comrade, wanting to scream, to cry, to kill something in a more satisfying way than he had killed Envy. He looked at her pale face and felt his anger be replaced with sadness. This was all his fault, he could not deny it. Still sitting on his legs, he lay his head down to rest on her chest, on the other side from the bullet hole. He lay positively still, wanting someone to come along and force him to go to where she had gone.

Wait…. What the fuck?! he thought suddenly, eyes widening. He held his breath and listened again…yes! It was there, but faint and failing: her heartbeat.

He reacted without hesitation. He ripped her military shirt open to reveal the wound and quickly pressed his handkerchief against it to stem the flow. Holding the cloth in place, he used one hand to take her shirt all the way off. He abandoned the wound briefly – which had almost drenched the handkerchief, but the bleeding was slowing down – to take off his own shirt and rip it into strips. Using a new band of cloth, he pressed it against the hole and quickly bandaged her before pulling her shirt back on as best as he could despite the rips from earlier, trying to give her as much dignity as possible. Finished, he did what he realized he should have done in the first place: he shouted for help. When no one came within two minutes that took forever to pass, he lifted her carefully into his arms and carried her precariously through the rubble around them. She was shockingly light. Any weight she did have was due solely to bones and muscles, no fat in the slightest bit.

"When you get better," he told her out loud, "I'm going to take you out to the best restaurants in Central for seven nights in a row, see if that doesn't get some meat on you." He wasn't sure why he spoke – for her comfort or his. Maybe the sound of his voice would rouse her to consciousness or at least keep her clinging to life.

Just as he was growing tired (they hadn't gone very far, but the events of the day had taken their toll), he heard voices up ahead. Ignoring his protesting muscles, he pushed ahead, hoping he wasn't going toward enemies. At last a familiar voice filtered to where he was. "Neither the Colonel nor Hawkeye have returned yet." Havoc. Only once had he ever been so happy to hear the smoker's voice, the day Havoc had almost died.

"J-Jean!" Mustang choked out; it was hard to breathe despite Riza's light body.

"Did you hear that?" That uncertain voice could only belong to Fury. His voice sounded pained, but that could have just been the stress of the events: at least he was alive.

"What?" He couldn't tell who that was.

"Cain!" Mustang cried, louder this time.

"That!" Fury's voice was getting closer.

"Damnit, get your asses over her," Mustang gasped as loud as he could. The sound of running footsteps at last greeted his ears at his exclamation.

Havoc reached them first. "Shit," he snapped, then called over his shoulder. "Fury, go outside and wait for that ambulance. Don't come over here, we can't afford you hurting that arm even worse. Falman, go with him and tell the attendants we've got another one worse off here!" He turned back to Mustang. "Let me take her, sir."

Mustang clutched her closer to his weary body. "No, I've got her."

Something flickered in the second lieutenant's eye, but he stayed fast. "Sir, you're exhausted and you may be injured."

"I'm fine."

"Sir!"

Time to change tactics. "What happened to Fury's arm?"

Havoc closed his eyes in defeat. "Bradley got it good: torn muscle at least, maybe even fractured bone."

"And Bradley himself?

"We have him captured, sir. Breda and that other girl are watching him to make sure he doesn't escape, though he was unconscious last time I checked. We had to knock him out before we could get him tied up."

Out on the street, sirens wailed, and the men, who had stopped walking for some reason, hurried to take Riza to the approaching ambulance. When Mustang stumbled and nearly dropped her, Havoc lifted her out of his arms without a word and rushed ahead without looking back. The colonel found he lacked the strength to overtake the blond man and snatch her back, or even to argue against his actions; why was he so tired and weak? Now that his first lieutenant was out of his arms, he found the answer in a stunning revelation: he was pretty cut up and, though the lacerations were rather shallow, he had lost a fair amount of blood.

He at last arrived out into the bright sunlight. They had begun the mission with still an hour left until dawn, but now it had to be midmorning. He blinked. When his eyes cleared, the first thing he saw was Riza being loaded into an ambulance on a stretcher by Havoc and some guy from the hospital; his eyes took in no other object than her. Without even consciously deciding to, he walked briskly up behind the two men and prepared to climb in as well. Someone grabbed him from behind to stop him from doing so, causing him to wince in pain.

"I'm sorry, sir, you'll have to wait for other transportation. There should be another ambulance here shortly." Mustang turned to see another attendant.

"I'm going with my lieutenant to make sure she's alright."

Havoc, who had disappeared briefly after they had finished loading Riza, returned with Fury, a guiding arm wrapped around the younger man's shoulders. Fury himself was cradling his left arm close to his body to keep anyone from jostling it. "Sir," Havoc said, a hint of steel in his voice, "this ambulance is for only those with more severe injuries. Please wait just a few minutes."

Mustang considered showing them his recently-discovered cuts, but a simple glance at Fury stayed him. The Sergeant-Major's arm was still dripping blood sluggishly and he looked close to fainting as Havoc and the first attendant helped him quickly into the ambulance. For the first time, Mustang realized the second lieutenant sported a large bump and a gash across his forehead which narrowly missed his temple, and his eyes were beginning to go vaguely unfocused. Besides, sirens could already be heard not far away. He stepped back.

Havoc nodded to him slightly before heaving himself into the back of the emergency vehicle with the attendant. The one who had pulled Mustang back hurried to get behind the wheel, and seconds later they were off. Not even two minutes had passed before they were replaced by another ambulance and half a dozen police cars. Mustang knew he ought to be the one to tell everyone what had happened, but he was feeling even fainter since he had not bound any of his wounds, so he left the duty to Breda and the spy. He and Falman- who also had several cuts and bruises- climbed into the ambulance.

At the hospital, Mustang was led into a small, private room where he was promptly treated. By this point, somehow, news of what had happened to Bradley and of what he was had gotten out, but the nurse who attended to him never uttered a word on the subject, working as though the entire government had not just been overthrown. She finished quickly and Mustang harassed another nurse until she told him where Riza had been taken. He went there to find Falman already sitting on the only chair in the room – the older man got up to let Mustang sit down. Riza was a sad sight, dressed in a hospital gown and hooked up to a drip. The only thing that had kept the bullet from piercing her heart had been the few inches height difference between her and him, he found out from the nurse attending to her. Falman and Mustang were soon joined by Havoc (with a bandage wrapped around his head) and Fury (who had his arm in a sling). Breda arrived a few hours later, having left the Intelligence agent in charge of clearing things up at her own insistence. They stayed there all day and slightly into the night until Fury suggested they leave.

End Flashback

He didn't tell Riza all that, of course, but rather the abridged version. She listened quietly with a pensive look on her face, no emotion penetrating her calm features. "That wasn't all," she said after a few minutes of silence when he had finished.

So she had read between the lines. "No, that was not all."

She did not look at him – she never did when she knew he was going to say something as important and obviously personal as this must be because she understood that it would unnerve him to the point that he would not say anything. "What else happened?"

"I realized I love you." Short, simple, concise, just like Mustang. Blunt and to the point, like Riza preferred. She stared at him.

"Sir…that isn't….that isn't funny." Tears – yes tears – formed in her eyes. "I don't know which of those bastards let slip my feelings for you, but this sort of joke is just –"

Roy took her hand to silence her. "Why," he asked coldly, but gently, "would I make a joke like that right after you woke up fro m near death? You stepped in front of a bullet for me and you thin I would make light of what you feel for me and vise versa? Surely, Riza, you know me better than that. And I didn't need one of my men to tell me you love me – I was not blind, I just didn't pay any attention to it, hoping it would pass."

She trembled in his grip. 'Why?"

"Why?" he repeated, struggling to find the right words. He had never been very good at spilling his guts, which was exactly what he had to do right then. "Jesus, Riza, you know me. I'm with a different woman each week, and at first I thought about you in the same way as every other woman. But when I got to know you, I saw you in a different light. You made me think of…actually settling down like Hughes always wanted me to, and that kinda scared me. (a/n: I 'borrowed' this from Tamora Pierce's Song of the Lioness, if you were wondering where I would get such a stupid idea…) So I stopped thinking of you like that." He shrugged. "And now I don't think it was such a good idea." He winced and thanked goodness she didn't have her gun; that was the stupidest answer he had ever giver her, even if it was the truth.

She, however, seemed to accept his declaration. She was nodding her head thoughtfully, perhaps thinking of their years together. Her eyes still focused straight ahead. She suddenly looked at him and, for literally the first time in ages, smiled. She smiled. Roy couldn't stop himself from grinning down at her before leaning down to capture her lips. It was everything he had hope for and more. He found himself getting up, bent over to maintain contact, and sitting by her on the bed. He ran his fingers through her hair and she lifted her good hand to his prickly cheek. She broke away first, breathing heavily. A small smirk graced her full lips. He raised his eyebrow.

"What?"

"You owe Hughes ten bucks." The smirk grew almost imperceptibly.

He laughed. "I already paid Gracia. How did you know about the bet?"

"Already, eh? So confident, were you, that yet another woman had fallen for your charms? And I make mental note of all office bets and pools."

"Really? Like what?"

She rolled her eyes. "Stupid things….like how long would it take for us to get together; is Havoc actually gay, straight, or bi; who's going to win the football (a/n: soccer) championship; if your tendency to date many women is not just a rouse to hide latent homosexuality –"

"What!"

"That one's by officers who don't know you very well."

"Did you correct them?"

"Not my job, sir." Cheeky little b-…woman.

Roy groaned. He'd have to deal with this when he got back to work. If he got back to work. With a sigh he returned to his own seat to let Riza rest and to perhaps get some more sleep himself.

"Sir…" she sounded serious once more. "Fraternization is –"

He held up his hand. "We just overthrew Bradley. If I'm the new Fuhrer or president or whatever, fraternization will no longer be prohibited. If not," he shrugged, "I'll probably be discharged anyway, so it won't matter. Now if you please, I'm still tired. I haven't been asleep for the past several days, unlike some people." He smiled at her, then lay his head in the usual place.

Riza blinked. "S-…Roy? Wouldn't you be more comfortable up here?"

He leapt up as though he had been electrified. "I though you'd never ask."

X

Meanwhile
X

Fury glanced at his lover uncertainly. "Are you sure this is a good idea?"

"Why not?" Havoc replied, grinning.

"Well, considering who it is, we might…interrupt something."

"Good. It'd serve the Colonel Bastard right." Havoc glared as he remembered Mustang's earlier interruption.

"It's not his fault he didn't know," the technician protested.

"Tough shit."

Fury shook his head, stepped into Riza's hospital room, and promptly yelped and walked back out. Mustang lying next to Hawkeye with his hand inside her hospital gown and her enjoying it was too much for him to take. Havoc followed him, laughing about how revenge really was a bitch.