(Or five people who visited Riza Hawkeye during what she calls her longer than necessary stay at Central General Hospital's Intensive Care Unit)
When Riza wakes, she's not entirely sure where she is. Her memories of what happened after the defeat of Father are hazy: vaguely, she recalls canvas walls and an itchy cot and Rebecca, visiting twice (she thinks) to relay the media coverage of coup de tat. She remembers a nurse pressing a catheter into her arm and setting up an IV drip to her left, and the feeling of being carried away, but that's it.
She's not even sure what day it is, or how long she's been asleep, or where she is. The canvas walls are gone now, having been replaced with four stark white walls and the smell of antiseptic. The bed is considerably more comfortable than she remembers, and she's in a hospital gown she doesn't remember putting on. Her throat is parched, and the skin on her neck feels strained and constricted; her limbs feel like lead and her Colonel is nowhere to be seen.
It takes a second for the last fact to register, and when it does, Riza sits up so fast that she nearly tips over the IV stand.
"Whoa there, Lieutenant!"
Riza blinks, and suddenly, there's a pair of arms leaning over her to straighten the blood bag on the stand. She turns her head, wincing at the way her neck prickles with pain, and finds herself greeted with a mess of dark hair, glasses, and a patient smile.
There's a yip from the floor and a tugging on the sheets, and Riza leans over carefully to find a mass of black and white fur panting eagerly at her bedside.
"Hayate," she says, greeting the pup with a tired smile.
"Yes ma'am," says Fuery, blowing a relieved sigh. "We had to sneak him in. The nurses weren't too fond of the idea of letting him watch over you on his own. How are you feeling?"
"Confused," she mumbles, taking a minute to study her surroundings again. "Where am I?"
He offers an amused chuckle and settles again in the chair beside her bed. "You're in Intensive Care at Central General, ma'am," he tells her. "You lost a lot of blood during the fight yesterday - the doctors thought it was a miracle you were conscious enough to be escorted into a medical tent. They took you here so they could stitch you properly."
"Where's the Colonel?"
"In the extended stay ward, ma'am," Fuery explains. "He wanted to be here when you woke up, but he needed medical attention too. He only agreed to get it after he stationed me here. If it helps, his orders are to move you into the same room once the doctors agree that your condition is stable."
Riza studies him for a moment, but she nods and settles back against the pillows. "His eyes..." she mumbles.
"Ah." Fuery nods solemnly. "He's still blind, ma'am, but he's determined not to let that stop him."
Riza glances at him curiously. "What?"
He grins at her. "My apologies, ma'am. I was supposed to deliver this message as soon as you woke up: Colonel Mustang requests that you join him in the restoration of Ishbal once this ordeal has blown over and you are fit for active duty."
She stares at him, sitting up again (slowly, this time, to avoid knocking the IV stand and putting herself in more pain). "But... his eyes."
"He's determined to see this through regardless, ma'am," says Fuery. "Er – pun unintended. But he gave Lieutenant Breda and I similar orders. We're to join him in Ishbal too."
"Is that so?" Riza purses her lips, not because she has to consider it, but because, Fuery's grin is contagious and she has to fight the urge to laugh. It feels to soon to be smiling about it because Roy Mustang can't see, and this presents an entirely new level of problems for him and his team. But that man is so idealistic, and so stubborn that Riza can't help it. She hides a chuckle and nods at Fuery. "Would you mind giving him my answer the next time you see him, Sergent?"
"Of course not, ma'am," says Fuery. "What should I tell him?"
Riza offers him a small smile. "That my answer is the same as always."
Fuery chuckles, and while she knows he isn't in on the joke, he seems to understand. "Yes ma'am," he says, saluting. "Although, if you don't mind, the actual delivery might have to wait. I'm not supposed to leave you alone."
"Are these orders from the Colonel or the doctor?" asks Riza, a little amused.
"Both, ma'am," he says with a nervous laugh. "I'd prefer not to be on the receiving end of either of their wraths."
She's told that she has to stay in bed for at least a few days because (and they don't fail to remind her) someone essentially slit her throat and the fact that she got up after some hasty alchemy to keep fighting in one of the biggest fights in all of history and that she's still alive and breathing right now is so ridiculous that, when Edward comes to visit, the first thing he says is:
"Lieutenant, if you are a homunculus, you should say so now."
Riza laughs, ignoring the way the skin around the cut at her neck tingles as it moves. "I definitely don't think I'm one of them," she promises, motioning for him to take the seat at her bedside. "I think I'm just stubborn."
"No kidding," jokes Edward, offering her the trademark Elric grin. "How are you feeling?"
She shrugs. "Restless, I suppose," she says. "I don't like being cooped up, especially when I feel very much okay."
Edward gives her a look. "As much as I'd like to believe that, I think I have to agree with Mustang and the doctors this time around. They make it sound like you should have died down there."
"All things considered, I suppose my condition should be much worse," says Riza, but she smiles at him and pats his shoulder. "It's a terrible shame May Chang left with her brother so soon. I wanted to say thank you. I owe her my life."
"She'll be back before long." Edward snorts to himself quietly. "She and Al are pretty friendly with each other."
"So I've heard," chuckles Riza. "How is Alphonse?"
Ed shrugs, and Riza thinks he's trying to look nonchalant about it, but she can see the pride and relief in his eyes and the excitement and genuine happiness in his voice as he answers. "Doing better by the day," he tells her. "The doctors say he looks pretty healthy for someone so malnourished – which is kind of a weird thing to say, really – but he's doing really good. Mostly they're worried about his muscles. It'll be a while before he's ready to walk again, but I think he'll manage."
"I'm glad," says Riza, beaming at him. She doesn't quite know how to refer to the boys sometimes: she's certainly not a mother figure to them and she doesn't quite see them as younger brothers or nephews, but they're definitely, definitely like family to her. Regardless, she's proud of them for getting this far and for achieving everything they set out to do. "You'll go home when he's ready, then?"
Ed nods. "We started this together. We're going to go home together."
"Winry won't mind, will she?" Riza teases. "She's been waiting for so long."
Edward flushes, and too late, Riza realizes that she has already called him out on this once before. Thankfully, there is no tea this time around to make a mess with. She's about to tell him that she's just kidding when he coughs awkwardly and says:
"She won't mind."
"Oh?" says Riza, rather pleased that his reaction is all together much less violent than the first.
"She understands," says Ed, nodding resolutely. "I mean, don't you ever get tired of waiting around for Mustang?"
Riza blinks at him, and it takes her a whole second longer than it should for her to understand the implication. She hesitates, fully considering denying his claim – but then, if Edward Elric, of all people, has noticed, she supposes there's no real point even trying.
"That's different," she says at last. "It's not – he doesn't – ahem –" She takes a breath. "There are some things he and I have to take care of first and there are a lot of rules in the way. But... we've been together long enough now to know how we feel without having to say it out loud. I've never had to wait because I've always known."
Ed nods, as if that is exactly what he expected her to say. "She understands," he says again.
Riza studies him for a moment. "I hope you're not using that as an excuse not to tell her, Edward," she says sternly.
"What?" he sputters. "No! No, of course not – I mean – I know I'll have to tell her myself, it's just that, for – for now –"
"I see." Riza smiles at him and pats his shoulder gently. "Don't dance around it for longer than you need to, Ed," she tells him wisely. "There's nothing in your way, so don't you take that for granted."
"Right," mumbles Edward, looking almost shy, but after a moment, he shakes his head and grins again. "I should check on Al. Thanks Lieutenant."
"Tell him I say hello," says Riza, returning the grin as he makes his out of the room.
Edward nods. "I will. And..." He hesitates at the doorway. "I know you said you've never had to wait, but I hope Mustang has the guts to tell you one day. Screw the rules. You deserve that, at least."
Three more days, they tell her. Riza has already been in Intensive Care for two, and to be honest, she thinks even that was quite excessive. No, say the doctors, three more days because when she stumbled into an emergency tent after the Promised Day, she'd lost almost half her total volume of blood and given the wreckage and the fighting, it is not surprising at all to know that Central General is suffering from a massive shortage of blood.
She should have received four units the second she was admitted, they tell her, but they only had three units of compatible blood on hand, and the rest of her blood volume has been maintained by copious amounts of saline. It's been a couple of days since, and she may feel fine now, they say, but there is no way in hell her body has recovered enough already, and they outright refuse to allow her to get up for longer than it takes to use the bathroom lest she collapse from blood loss-induced anaemia.
"They say your blood work is looking better, though," a nurse comments on day three as she hangs what is now a fourth bag of blood on the IV stand. "This arrived this morning." She gestures to the bag. "Assuming there are no other complications, this should bring your haemoglobin levels into acceptable ranges and you might be able to move into the extended stay ward sooner than expected."
"That's good to hear, I suppose," says Riza mildly. She eyes the blood bag curiously. "The shortage is getting better then?"
The nurse scoffs. "Our supply relies heavily on donors, and unfortunately, there aren't enough to restock our supply fast enough. The only reason we have this is because it was donated especially for you."
"For me?" Riza blinks. "Who was the donor?"
"Even if I knew, I wouldn't be allowed to say," says the nurse apologetically. She presses the tail of the bag into the catheter and jots something down in Riza's charts. "I'll be back every ten minutes or so to make sure everything's going well. Meanwhile, I think you have a visitor."
Riza nods, offering her a grateful smile. She settles back against the pillows expectantly as the nurse makes her way out of the room, but she snaps forward again and manages the sharpest salute she can when her guest makes himself apparent at the door.
"Fuhrer Grumman, sir," she greets awkwardly.
"At ease, Lieutenant," says Fuhrer Grumman with an amused smile. "Word has it you gave your Colonel quite a scare. It's good to see you're doing better."
"Er – thank you, Your Excellency," she replies, almost hesitant. "To what do I owe the pleasure?"
He chuckles and nods at the seat at her bedside. "May I?"
"Of course, sir," says Riza, doing her best not to look too bewildered. She knows Colonel Mustang has always been well acquainted with the new Fuhrer, but she hasn't had much to do with him herself. She's rather confused, to be honest, because she could have sworn she has only ever spoken to him a handful of times, and she cannot fathom a single reason for him to visit her personally.
"You look a bit lost, Lieutenant," the Fuhrer comments, looking amused.
"I am," she admits. "My apologies, Your Excellency, I'm just... a little overwhelmed."
"I can imagine," he says with a chuckle. "First things first, I suppose. I've just gone to see Colonel Mustang. Those poor doctors – heaven knows how you've managed to work with him all this years, my dear, he is a handful when he doesn't get his way." Grumman lets out a snort, and Riza doesn't miss the amused glimmer in his eye. "He's very demanding."
Riza cocks her head a little. "I'm not sure I understand, Your Excellency."
"He's been itching to visit you," Grumman explains. "They won't let him because they don't think he should be trusted to wander the hospital on his own – not in his condition. You will be pleased to know I've promoted him, though."
Riza stares at the old man, confusion growing in her mind. For a moment, she doesn't know what to say, because a promotion for the Colonel – Brigadier General, now, she supposes – means he is one step closer to becoming Fuhrer, and she should be as thrilled as she imagines Mustang would be – but she's still a little puzzled as to why the Fuhrer would relay this news to her himself. "That's – that's fantastic, sir," she manages at last. "I'll be sure to congratulate him as soon as I see him."
"He'll want to congratulate you too," says Grumman with a smile. "Allow me to be first to do so, Major Hawkeye."
"I – " Riza gapes at him. "I couldn't – I mean –"
"Hush now, you don't think I would really remove you as Mustang's aide because of a promotion, do you?" Grumman laughs. "There's nothing to worry about. You are not required to form your own team, and you will certainly remain a part of his. Goodness knows the tantrum Mustang would throw if I took you away."
"I – sir –" Riza struggles for a whole minute to process the news, and, finally, she lets out a relieved chuckle because she doesn't know what else to do. "Thank you, sir. I'm honoured."
Grumman beams back. "You've earned it, Major."
They lapse into a pause. Grumman sits back against his chair, twiddling his thumbs comfortably, but Riza can't help but feel her confusion returning. The news has been delivered, and surely the new Fuhrer has other business to attend to but he seems hesitant to leave. She wonders how to bring it up when he clears his throat lightly and leans forward again.
"You're wondering why else I'm here," he says.
Riza nods hesitantly. "I am, sir," she admits. "I'm not sure what else I've done to warrant a personal visit."
"I was told Central General had a critical shortage of blood," he says, "and that a certain granddaughter of mine needed one more unit." He smiles and nods at the blood bag on the IV stand, and Riza feels her stomach drop through the floor.
"They still haven't let you leave yet?" Rebecca makes a face at her, but Riza responds with a shrug and an unspoken 'what can you do?'. The attending nurse had nearly had a panic attack yesterday, when she returned during Fuhrer Grumman's visit to find Riza with a moderately elevated heart rate. In truth, it was just because finding out about her mother's parentage was a lot to take in, but the nurse had almost stopped the transfusion entirely, terrified that Riza was having a reaction to her grandfather's blood. Just for that, the ruling for a full five days in Intensive Care has not been lifted and, in the end, Riza supposes she understands.
Rebecca, evidently, doesn't. She purses her lips and lets out a frustrated 'hmph' because it means a day and a half more of dealing with Mustang and his pining.
"Surely Brigadier General Mustang isn't being that difficult," Riza says patiently, but Rebecca scowls.
"He's a pain in the ass to deal with normally," she grumbles, "but the fact that they won't let him visit you is driving him up the wall. What are they waiting for, anyway? You look fine. You look healthier than most of the other patients here."
Riza shrugs again. "They're worried I might have a delayed reaction to my last transfusion."
"Wouldn't that have happened by now?"
"Not necessarily," says Riza. "To be honest, I'm sick of waiting around here too, but given what happened underground, I can almost understand why they're so worried."
Rebecca cringes a little at the reminder, but she sighs and lets the subject drop. "Here," she says, leaning over to retrieve a small vase of flowers from the floor. "The boys thought you might like some colour, but they're all swamped. I had plans to visit you today anyway, so they told me to bring them to you."
Riza chuckles as she accepts the flowers, taking a moment to admire the selection. "That was sweet of them," she comments, placing the vase carefully on the bedside table. "I'm flattered. Give them my thanks."
"Of course," says Rebecca, looking amused. "I don't know why you're surprised, really – Fuery's the only one who's been allowed to see you. I think they miss their queen."
"Please," snorts Riza. "I'm hardly that. Besides, I'm sure I'll see them all soon."
Rebecca rolls her eyes playfully. "Just run with it, okay? They miss you. They've been running themselves ragged trying to organize the move back East and the paperwork for Ishbal. Mustang can't do much himself, so he's got them reading him files and books and paperwork."
Riza holds back a laugh. "If Roy Mustang is willingly doing his paperwork, then I'm sure they don't need me as much as they act like they do."
"Yeah, but as if that'll last – let's be real, Riza." Rebecca chortles to herself and leans over again to retrieve a paper bag. "Here. I brought you lunch. It's from the deli place on Sixth so I'm ninety percent sure it'll taste better than hospital food."
"You didn't have to do that," chuckles Riza, but she accepts the bag gratefully regardless.
"I notice Al's still in the room down the hall," says Rebecca mildly, leaning back in her chair. "Is he doing any better?"
Riza nods. "Edward comes to say hello now and then, and to tell me how Alphonse is doing. He's getting better by the day. He'll be running around again in no time."
"That's good to hear," says Rebecca, looking pleased. "And – " She pauses. "Your grandfather."
Riza nods again, hands stilling and dropping to her lap. She stares at her sandwich for a moment before she takes a breath and turns her eyes to her friend. "I still don't know how to react, to be honest. But he seems genuine, and admittedly, they wouldn't have been able to perform my last transfusion without him. I'm grateful to him for that."
Rebecca hums thoughtfully. "You realize that puts you in an interesting position," she points out.
"To be fair," says Riza, "my position has always been rather interesting. Aide to Fuhrer Bradley and granddaughter to Fuhrer Grumman – "
"And future wife to future Fuhrer Mustang?" Rebecca interjects unhelpfully, and Riza gives her a look and continues as though she didn't hear.
"Some might say I've been using connections to climb the ladder."
Rebecca lets out a laugh. "You? Be real, Riza. It's pretty well considered common knowledge that you've turned down like, four promotions. You're the best sniper in this country – I think most would agree that you've earned your rank at this point."
"I imagine there are still people who would jump at the opportunity to call me out on it, though," says Riza with a small frown. "No matter – we agreed to keep it between ourselves and those we trust. He'd prefer to keep me out of the media's attention."
"But you're okay?" asks Rebecca. "All together, I mean. It's – that kind of thing is pretty big news."
"I'm okay as I could be," says Riza. "I do wonder though. If the Brigadier General knew."
Rebecca hums. "I suppose that's something you'll have to ask him yourself." She nods at the door, and Riza glances up in time to see Breda escorting the Brigadier General into the room. "You guys have a lot to talk about, I think," she says. "I'll check in again in a couple of hours, okay?"
It occurs to Riza far too late that the last time she saw Brigadier General Mustang was almost a week ago, and he was exhausted and blind and covered in her blood as well as his own. He looks much healthier now, but her eyes drift to his momentarily and something twinges in her chest.
"Hello sir," she greets awkwardly, as Breda helps him into Rebecca's recently vacated seat. "How do you feel?"
"Better," says the Brigadier General. He blinks his eyes a couple of times, as if he hopes it will clear his vision. "How are you?" he asks. "The last time I saw you, you –"
For a moment, Riza doesn't understand. Then she remembers that he lost his sight underground, and the last time he saw her, she was bleeding to death over a transmutation circle. The thought renders her speechless for a minute, and the Brigadier General frowns in her general direction and cocks his head.
"Sorry sir," she says. "I'm fine. Absolutely fine." She reaches for one of his hands and slides a thumb over the bandages around his palm. "I am sorry, though," she mumbles again. "I couldn't protect you."
Mustang's frown deepens. "Mm-mm. No. I'll not be having apologies from you," he says firmly. "These – " He nods at his hands – "were not your fault. Neither is the fact that I can't see. If I hear you apologise again, I'll ask Grumman to demote you. Congratulations, by the way." He grins toothily at where he thinks she's sitting, and despite the circumstances, Riza can't help but chuckle.
"Thank you sir," she replies. "And to you as well. I'm glad they finally allowed you to visit."
Mustang coughs and, rather guiltily, turns his blind eyes to the ground.
Riza narrows her eyes at him. "You didn't."
"I got tired of waiting!" he says defensively. "I just wanted to make sure my aide was doing as well as they promised."
"And you ordered Breda to help you defy a doctor's orders?"
"I volunteered!" comes Breda's voice from the hall. He pokes his head through the doorway briefly. "Good to see you're feeling better, Major," he says, grinning at Riza.
Riza can't help the laugh that escapes her lips, because she's glad to see Breda too, exasperated at her commanding officer, but still amused at his antics all at once. She shakes her head at him even though she knows he can't see, and for some reason, she doesn't have it in her to feel guilty about what happened. She doesn't have it in her to feel remotely negative – not while Roy Mustang is sitting here, pouting at her like a child.
Something's different about him. Something has changed. It's as if all the ghosts that have been haunting him for years and years have disappeared and have been replaced with ideas upon ideas of things he can do to make the world better. Suddenly, he looks fifteen again, brimming with hope and determination. The aura is infectious, and Riza supposes that this is why she feels lighter too.
"We have some new plans," Roy tells her. "Fuery said he delivered my message to you."
Riza nods. "He did," she confirms. "And I believe he gave you my answer."
"He did," repeats Roy with a grin tugging at his lips. "You'll be pleased to know I've already got the boys started on the paperwork. The Fuhrer has given his unofficial approval, and we'll have a solid plan by the time we're both discharged."
"I'm impressed, sir," says Riza, unable to hide the lilt of amusement in her voice. "This is the most enthusiastic you've ever been about paperwork."
There's a snort from the hall, and Breda calls out to them again: "It's only because he doesn't have to read or sign it!"
Roy scowls. "You're supposed to stand watch and let us have some privacy, Lieutenant, not sass us from out there." He shakes his head with a petulant frown and turns back to Riza. "When are they letting you out of ICU?"
"Supposedly tomorrow," she answers.
"Good," says Roy. "They have a second bed set up in the room I'm staying in, and they're under orders to let you stay with me until we're both ready to leave."
"Not complaining about sharing this time around, I see."
The Brigadier General snorts. "I enjoy your company much more than Havoc's, so there's not much to complain about really." He pauses. "I'm sorry I didn't sneak away to visit you earlier. They kept telling me you were fine and well on the way to recovery, but after what happened..."
Riza hums, noting dimly that his hand is still in hers. "I'm here now, sir," she says quietly. "And I can promise you that I will be perfectly fine. Try not to feel too bad – I've had plenty of visitors."
"Mm," says Riza with a nod. "Kain and Hayate were here when I woke up, which was rather nice. Edward's been to see me a couple of times, given Alphonse is only a few doors down the hall. And... my grandfather came to say hello."
"Ah." Roy is silent for a moment. "I'm sorry I didn't mention it earlier," he mumbles.
"So you did know."
He nods. "I did." A beat. "Are you angry?"
"No," says Riza, closing her fingers around his briefly to reassure him. "I was... surprised. But not angry. I imagine you both had your reasons."
"I suppose," mumbles Roy. After a moment, he snorts. "Do you know he's been pushing me to marry you for years?"
"Really?" says Riza, quite unsure of whether she's amused or shocked. "What did you tell him, sir?"
Roy shrugs. "Not to jump the gun. He's rather invested in the idea, though."
"So is Edward. And Rebecca. And the boys." She chuckles. "They all seem to think it's inevitable."
"It is, though," says Roy matter-of-factly. "At least I thought so. Unless – you're not sick of me, are you?"
She gives him a look and realizes only a second later that he can't see it. "Of course not, General," she says briskly. "And to think, Edward thought you'd kept me waiting for a confession all these years."
Roy hums. "To be fair, I haven't really given you one of those." He pauses. "Did you want one?"
Riza lets out a laugh. "We don't really need one, do we?"
"I suppose not," says Roy with a grin. "Regardless, you know that I l –"
"Brigadier General Mustang, there you are!"
Both their heads turn towards the door, and Riza has a terrible time holding back a grin when she spots the nurse in the doorway, looking ragged and out of breath. Roy makes a face, suddenly acutely aware of how he has been caught red handed doing exactly what several (several) doctors have told him not to do.
"You were scheduled to see Doctor Bilios half an hour ago," she snaps. "And you were told repeatedly not to wander around, what on earth are you doing here?"
"I'm visiting my aide," says Roy as if it's the most obvious thing in the world, and the nurse fumes at him because, clearly, she has been saddled with searching high and low for him, and even Riza can tell that she is very not pleased.
Riza shakes her head. "I think you should go, sir," she says, putting on a poor performance of pretending she's not amused.
"I suppose I should," sighs Roy. "I'll see you soon, won't I, Major? In a manner of speaking, that is."
"Yes, sir," says Riza with a smile. "And I'm glad you dropped by."
"As am I," he says, giving her fingers a gentle squeeze. "As am I."
1) It's a little early but Tumblr's having a Royai week so I guess it doesn't really matter: Happy Royai Day everyone!
2) I don't know if I like how this came out? I rewatched Brotherhood recently, and at the end, Roy's all new ideas and determined to fix Ishbal, so he's the same in this fic, but I can't help but feel it should be angstier? Idk. I hope you guys like it though!
3) I just finished a semester's worth of clinical placement at a hospital lab, and as someone who's had to order blood and received only half of the order because of shortages, this fic can also be interpreted as blatant advertisement for donating to the Red Cross! One unit of whole blood can save three lives, one of which could be Riza Hawkeye's, so y'all should at least look into it :D