It was past midnight, but Riza Hawkeye lay awake, gazing at the shadows the moonlight cast on the floor of the hospital room. The exhaustion she experienced was the worst she'd ever felt, yet still she could not settle in to a comfortable sleep. The lieutenant had initially drifted off after taking a strong dose of painkillers, but the events of the Promised Day haunted her subconscious, plaguing her the moment she let her guard down.
Although her wound had been sealed, she swore she could still feel the cold air on her exposed throat, the warmth leaving her body in thick red pools that spilled down her neck. When she closed her eyes, Mustang's stared back at her, full of despair and desperation. He would have done it, she knew. He would have performed the human transmutation to save her life had she not interfered. What a fool he could be, ready to throw away everything he had worked for, knowing it would fail, knowing he would lose a part of himself. In the end, of course, it hadn't mattered. They had maimed his hands, pinned him down, and forced him into the circle. And he had been forced to pay.
A thin white curtain separated their beds. The gentle night breeze from the open window caused it to flutter now and then, the shadows on the floor dancing in response. She felt a pang of guilt as she watched the movement of the curtains, a frown forming on her face. It was something so simple, so unremarkable, yet something precious lost to the colonel forever.
Grief and anger welled up inside the lieutenant. They had survived, but the colonel's dreams of leading the country were out of his reach. He had worked so hard, fought so valiantly, but what use would a blind soldier be, one who relied on his lieutenant in order to perform his alchemy? She'd always had to remind him he was useless in the rain. Now he was useless without her all together.
She had never mourned before, not properly. She couldn't remember her mother's passing, and by the time of her father's death their relationship was so strained that it almost came as a relief. This loss was raw. She despised her own helplessness. It should have been me instead, she thought. Her throat stung as she choked back a sob.
The colonel's voice pierced the silence, interrupting her thoughts. Riza paused to collect herself before responding.
"Sir. I apologise for waking you."
She had intended for her voice to be steadier, as befit the stalwart soldier she was, but she could hear the emotion slip into it.
"No need, lieutenant. I..," He paused.
"Sir?" She inquired. Though the curtain blocked him from view, she could picture the pensive look on his face, with his lips pursed and his arms crossed.
He let out a sigh. "It's nothing, I was awake anyway" was his curt response.
She recognised that tone. She'd heard it many times before, when the colonel would call on her late into the night. Sometimes he would be drunk, and she would gently berate him for trying to hide behind a bottle, but she'd bring him some water and food to help him sober up nonetheless. Other times he'd be sleep deprived, with dark bags under his eyes and unkempt hair and his shoes on the wrong feet or his shirt inside-out. Then there were the times it was a preemptive measure, and they would smile and talk and hope to avoid it as long as they could.
"Ishval?" She asked.
They knew what they had signed themselves up for. They were soldiers. They had no right to ask for forgiveness, nor to expect it. The memories haunted them regardless.
"Lieutenant?" He asked again. His voice cut into her thoughts, strangely small all of a sudden.
"Colonel?" She responded immediately, keeping the worry out of her voice this time. She wanted to be strong for him.
"Could you come closer?" His request was barely a whisper.
The ever-dutiful soldier obliged, wrapping a thin blanket around her shoulders as she stepped away from her bed. Her superior looked as pale as ever, bathed in the glow of the waxing moon. Gently, she placed her hand on his.
Touching him like this felt strangely intimate. A sad smile played upon his lips.
"You should sit, Lieutenant." He shuffled to his right, making room for her on the edge of his bed.
She nodded, then, realising he couldn't see it, murmured an affirmative "Sir".
He raised his head slightly as he felt her weight on the mattress, his unseeing eyes somehow finding her face. She placed her hand on his again, and this time he gripped it between his own.
"I thought I lost you today."
She'd never heard him speak in that tone before. It one was one of fear, and resigned hopelessness.
"Colonel..." He'd lost his sight, yet she was still on his mind. The man needed to worry about himself for once.
"First Bradley took you away from me, and then that bastard almost...!" He couldn't even bring himself to say it. The memory was still fresh in his mind, his precious subordinate bleeding out before him, and his need to save her that burned stronger than his flame alchemy.
She squeezed his hand lightly, grounding him back in reality.
"I'm here now. It's okay."
He shook his head.
"Stay with me. It's small, but we can make room. I need to be sure you're all right. I need you to make it through tonight."
"Sir," she protested "As your subordinate, that would be highly inappropriate. What would-"
"Riza." He pleaded.
When was the last time he'd called her that? She couldn't remember.
His voice was pained. He'd been fighting for so long, he didn't want to have to fight for this too.
She pursed her lips, dropping the blanket she'd brought to the floor.
"As you wish sir."
He pulled back the blankets for her, and she settled into the bed next to him. He draped his arm over her waist, and they enjoyed their silent embrace for a few moments.
"I never want you to leave my side again."
"Then I never will, sir."
He placed a small kiss on her cheek, and the two soldiers drifted off into their first peaceful sleep in years.