The phone on Mustang's desk rang shrilly just as Riza had finished cleaning up her desk. Sighing, she maneuvered around the other desks and picked up the phone.
"Colonel Mustang's office; Lieutenant Hawkeye speaking," she said automatically.
"This is Central Hospital," came the response, and Riza's eyebrows furrowed inquisitively. "You are Elizabeth Hawkeye, correct?"
Riza felt a growing sense of dread, but swallowed it back. "Yes, that is correct," she said. "Has something happened?" There was a moment of silence over the line, and the Lieutenant felt herself faltering.
"The Colonel has just been brought in for surgery," the voice answered slowly. "He was involved in a car accident, and is badly injured. There's a chance he won't make it." Riza's heart stopped, her body going cold.
The line was silent for a beat. "Lieutenant Hawkeye, it would be best if you could come to the hospital. There's some paperwork we'll need to fill out in case we lose him."
"Of course," Riza said tonelessly. "I can be there in ten minutes."
"Alright," the voice said, and hung up.
Riza stood frozen, holding the phone and staring at Roy's seat blankly. Shaking her head, she set the phone in the cradle and pulled on her coat quickly, making her way out of the office and down the dark hallways, her heart hammering in her ears. She couldn't let herself think - need to get to the hospital - about Roy, not yet - he could still survive this.
She all but sprinted down the stairs of Central Command and around the bend. The hospital was only two blocks from Command, and she ran the entire way there, the Colonel's face as she'd last seen it ghosted before her eyes.
He'd been so tired and frustrated...she shouldn't have let him drive like that…
Riza made it to the hospital in five minutes, skidding to a halt and quickly explaining herself to the desk clerk, who redirected her to the Shock Trauma wing. She forced herself to walk to the wing, where she was greeted by one of the clerks there, who gave her the paperwork and gently explained the significance of each sheet. Once she'd finished explaining, Riza stopped her from walking away with a question.
"How is he?" She asked bluntly, desperate to know. The clerk grimaced slightly, clearly not wanting to say it.
"Like I told you, there's a chance he won't make it. He's in surgery right now, so I don't know his current status."
Riza nodded, swallowing her grief.
"I saw them bring him in," the clerk said softly, paling at the recollection. "There was so much blood..." Riza's hands clenched, crumpling the papers in her grasp. The clerk blinked, looking embarrassed.
"I'm sorry. You didn't need to hear that," she apologized. Riza smiled weakly.
"It's fine," she lied. The Lieutenant sat down, distracting herself with the paperwork as the clock ticked ominously.
As she finished filling out the forms and the room fell silent enough, Riza could faintly hear the noises from the walls beyond her - voices murmuring, one low and calm, another moaning in plaintive agony, the high-pitched whirring of some kind of medical tool. She handed the papers to the clerk and tried to distract herself from the disturbing sounds, picking up a magazine.
Her eyes glossed over the pages, not really seeing what was on them, but the blood-soaked, pale visage of her Colonel. She rubbed her eyes and tried to chase the gruesome images away.
Riza could feel the clerk's sympathetic gaze and sighed, wishing she didn't have to be so strong, that she could curl up in a ball and cry like a child would.
Like Roy must have when his parents died, snatched away from him in the middle of a dark, rainy night. She recalled all the times it had rained in the evenings she'd stayed in the office late with the Colonel, how his shoulders had sagged and his brows had creased, lips turned down in a forlorn frown.
Eventually, the exhaustion caught up with her and Riza dozed off, sitting up in her chair with her head resting against the wall.
The magazine slid from her grasp and fluttered to the floor, landing like an injured bird.
"-tenant Hawkeye? Sir, wake up," a soft voice insisted. Riza 's eyes slid open and she sat up stiffly, wincing at the crick in her neck. The clerk from before was standing in front of her.
"The Colonel is out of surgery," she said with a soft smile. "Doctor Xavier should be here in a moment."
Riza blinked, attempting to wake herself up. "Thank you," she said honestly, managing a tired smile at the woman. Checking the clock on the wall, Riza saw that it was 1:30 in the morning.
He'd been in surgery for almost four hours.
Hardly two minutes later, a tall redheaded woman came into the room, her eyes shadowed with exhaustion. She glanced between Riza and her clipboard as the blonde stood up.
"Lieutenant Hawkeye," the doctor greeted. "I'm Doctor Xavier."
Riza nodded, eager to be past the pleasantries, and the doctor looked as if she felt the same, flipping to a page in her clipboard.
"Colonel Roy Mustang was reported to have been involved in a head-on collision with a service truck. The accident was local, and a resident who witnessed it contacted the police and stayed at the scene. He reported that the Colonel was unconscious, but alive, and that he couldn't help him without injuring him further." She paused, letting Riza absorb what she was saying.
"The truck driver, as the report says, did not suffer much more than a concussion and has taken full responsibility for the accident. He claims that he "had been driving for about 15 hours, trying to make the delivery deadline, and had been so fatigued he was not paying attention." The police are holding him under house arrest until Mustang can give his side of the story."
Doctor Xavier sighed, flipping past several more pages of the police report and on to her medical report.
"Which probably won't be any time soon," the doctor commented dryly. "He's got a long road ahead of him." Her piercing green eyes met Riza's over the top of the clipboard, assessing the Lieutenant for a moment.
"The Colonel's injuries are mostly superficial," she began. "Bruises from being jostled about, deep lacerations on his face and arms from the glass of the windshield. The front of his car collapsed in from the collision, crushing him between the steering wheel and the seat. His right arm is broken; both the radius and ulna were badly cracked. Both of his tibias were fractured, and one of his kneecaps was dislocated, as well.
"Due to the pressure on his chest, several of his ribs were fractured, and his lungs are badly bruised. They were slowly being crushed, so he's laboring quite heavily. We have him on an oxygen tube - it's going right into his lungs, as his respiratory reflexes aren't functioning properly. He also suffered some internal bleeding - trauma to his abdomen opened some wounds in his intestines - but they've been stitched up."
Riza bit her lip, feeling weak in the knees. The doctor flipped the page, and her stomach clenched in anxiety. Two pages? Just what else had her Colonel suffered?
"Our worst concern, though," she began again, "is his head injury. From the force of the collision, he was shaken around quite a bit. He has whiplash in his neck...and his brain collided with the inside of his skull several times from the movement. He's...likely to suffer brain damage.
"His cranium is swollen, in response to the trauma it went through. Since it's trapped inside the skull, there's nowhere for the pressure to go...so we had to drill through his skull to relieve some of it." She grimaced as she said that, clearly not liking it any more than Riza. The Lieutenant set her jaw, bracing herself.
"Can I see him?" She asked, even though her body screamed at her to leave, to never see what her Colonel had been reduced to.
Doctor Xavier hesitated. "Well, technically yes. As his medical proxy you are allowed to see him...but he's not very...pretty, at the moment. I'd think you would rather want to wait until he's stabilized," she said uncertainly.
"I want to see him now," Riza insisted. Doctor Xavier frowned, but nodded in understanding. She led the Lieutenant down the hallway and to the door of Mustang's room, pausing as if to say something before simply shooting Riza a sad smile and letting her into the room.
Riza had to walk around the privacy curtain to see him, but she wished she hadn't come in as soon as she did. True to the doctor's words, Roy was far from pretty, or stable.
His bandaged and blanketed form was still stained with smears of blood and filth where it had not been washed away for stitches or bandages, and his body was wracked with shudders of pain as he strained against the casts and braces holding his broken limbs in place. He drew in wet, painful gasps like a fish out of water, the rhythm of which was far from normal and would clearly have caused more harm than good if not for the oxygen already being pumped in and out of his lungs.
"He's having a bad reaction to the drugs," the doctor explained cautiously. "He was heavily sedated for the surgery, but the pain is too much for him to stay under for long."
Riza nodded stiffly, swallowing back her nausea. "Can I...touch him?" The doctor nodded gently.
"Yes, as long as you don't aggravate his injuries. I trust that you already knew that, though."
"I did, but thank you." Riza stepped forward tentatively, placing her hand gently on Roy's bruised shoulder.
"Colonel," she greeted quietly.
Ed stood beside Roy's hospital bed, fidgeting uncomfortably.
"Hey, Colonel," he greeted softly. "I know you probably can't hear me...but I'm here." The man was still, the only movement from him the rise and fall of his chest as the breathing tubes pumped oxygen in and out of his lungs.
Roy's skin was pallid, decorated in bruises and freshly stitched cuts. His left eye was bruised and swollen shut, the skin of his cheek beneath it colored in matching welts of purple and black. His neck was held in place by a thick brace, and some of the cuts on his face and arms were bandaged, along with his head and left arm. The other arm was in a cast,. and his legs were both wrapped in heavy casts as well, bulky beneath the thin hospital sheets.
Ed sat down shakily, his heart in his throat and his stomach heavy as lead. "Please come back to us," Ed whispered. "You're strong, Mustang, you can pull through this..."
The Colonel's fingers twitched briefly, and Edward's gaze snapped up, riveted on Roy's damaged face hopefully.
"Colonel?" He called out to the man, leaning forward in his seat. "Can you hear me?"
Roy was still for a moment, his eyebrows furrowing as he let out a soft moan. His fingers twitched again and he jerked his head to the side, rattling the various equipment attached to his prone form and bringing the worst of it to Ed's attention.
He swallowed thickly, stomach turning as he saw it - a thin, now yellow-stained tube carefully inserted in the side of his temple.
Edward forced himself to look away before he thought of how that had been put in, taking Roy's hand in his own and focusing on his superior's closed eyes.
"You'd better plan on waking up soon, or Lieutenant Hawkeye's gonna have to do all your paperwork," Ed teased.
Roy's muscles tensed and his body shuddered. He keened lowly from the back of his throat, but still did not respond. Ed's fingers tightened around the man's blood-stained, limp hand and he ducked his head down, unbidden tears burning in his eyes.
A warm hand rested on the teen's shoulder and he jumped, sniffling and wiping his eyes, before he turned to face the person behind him. Riza stood in her uniform, a tired smile creasing her face.
"Hello, Edward," she greeted. "It's good to see you here."
Ed managed to reciprocate her friendly expression. "Someone has to watch over the b-bastard while you work," Ed commented, squeezing his commander's clammy hand.
He startled when the grasp was reciprocated, his own hand suddenly clasped by Roy's. He looked to the man's visage, not really sure what to expect, but saw the same slack, bruised face from before.
"It's probably a muscle spasm," Riza said gently. "He's not likely to register what it is, just that the pressure of your hand is a familiar feeling." The teen nodded slowly, unwilling to put his hope to rest just yet.
"But he will wake up," Edward insisted. "I know he will."
The woman behind him was silent for a beat. "He's not out of the woods yet, but there's no harm in hoping," she said.
"How long has he been here?" Ed asked, curious. Riza sighed, finally taking a seat.
He was brought in on Tuesday night," she answered. "So he's been here for four days."
Ed nodded, solemn. "Al and I were on the train back from Dublith when it happened, then." He gazed wistfully at Roy's neck brace. "We just heard about it half an hour ago, when I was going to give a mission report."
The teen's shoulders sagged, and he let go of Roy's hand. "Lieutenant Havoc and Warrant Officer Falman told us. I wish we'd gotten here sooner..."
He trailed off, clearly feeling guilty but not about to confess to it. Roy shifted on the bed, blindly groping for Ed's hand in spastic, slow motions. He let out a soft grunt at the absence of the teen's hand and stilled once again.
Riza had watched the entire display with a heartsick grief, seeing her Colonel so desperate for affection in his weakened, pain-hazed unconsciousness.
"I heard about...what happened to Hughes," Edward said softly. "Havoc told us."
Riza swallowed, her heart clenching. "I'm sorry you had to find out so...rudely," she sighed. "The Colonel wasn't going to tell you...he said he was going to, but I knew he wouldn't," she admitted. Edward's gaze met hers in interest.
"Why wouldn't he tell us?"
Riza sighed, her eyes lingering on Roy's bruised, deeply shadowed eyelids. "He's been very upset about it," she confessed. "It's affected his judgement, and I doubt he'd have had the heart to tell you the truth. He would have lied to you boys, as he's unable to accept it himself."
Edward's forehead creased and he frowned, glancing over at the Colonel's form sadly.
"So..." Ed paused, changing the subject. "I can tell his arms and legs are broken, and he has head injuries..but is that all? Is he injured...beyond the surface, too?" Riza nodded, and the teen's jaw clenched, steeling himself for what he was about to hear.
"Because the front end of the car was pushed inward by the force of the crash, his entire body was pinned between the steering wheel and seat," she said slowly. "Several of his ribs are broken, and his lungs were put under too much pressure for too long, so they're badly bruised and laboring. His insides are mostly okay, just a little hemorrhaging in his stomach, but his neck and face got tossed around quite a bit. He has pretty bad whiplash, and the swelling in his brain is because it collided with his skull from the force of it. That's what the facial bruises are from, too." Riza let out a shuddering breath, feeling sympathy pains for her commander.
Edward grimaced, glancing at the bedridden Colonel. "And...will the swelling...cause any brain damage?" He asked, afraid to know but needing to.
Riza sighed. "They say it's highly likely...but there's no telling until he wakes up." Edward nodded grimly, exhaustion clear in his posture.
Riza felt a swell of love for the boy, coming to such a tragic scene in spite of his obvious weariness. "Why don't you go get some rest?" She asked. "I'll stay here with the Colonel. You look like you need a shower and some sleep."
Ed smiled guiltily. "Yeah, I probably do," he admitted. "Will you call me if he wakes up? I'll be in Central Hotel."
"Yes, of course," Riza agreed, smiling. "Now go take care of yourself. I'll see you later."
Edward grinned and waved as he left, his red coat billowing out behind him before he rounded the corner, his footsteps echoing down the hall.
Riza sighed and turned her attention to Roy, taking his motionless hand in her own, briefly allowing herself a moment of weakness. His skin was cold and sweaty, uncomfortably sticky against her warm, clean hands.
"Hang in there, Colonel," she whispered. "We're all waiting for you."
Edward watched in dreary fascination as Roy was enveloped in Riza's arms, his back and neck supported by her gentle hands. He buried his face in her collarbone, keening lowly.
"R-Riza," he rasped, his voice deep and warped by pain. "I-it h-hurts..."
The Colonel took a deep, shuddering breath, and horribly, started to cry. He sobbed against his Lieutenant's breast like a terrified child seeking comfort from its mother. Riza rubbed soothing circles into his back, biting her lip.
"I know it does...but it will get better, Colonel," she said softly, a tear rolling down her cheek. It hurt her to see him so weak and helpless, floundering with his emotions and incoherent with tortured agony, unable to grasp onto a substantial thought process long enough to hold a conversation.
Edward watched, heartbroken, as the elder man cried with profound emotion; the terror, pain, and self-hatred coming off of his form in waves.
He eventually came down from his emotional fit, albeit slowly, and sunk against Riza bonelessly. The Lieutenant wiped her eyes, hugging the man tightly and burying her face in his greasy, matted black hair.
Edward felt as though he should leave; that he was intruding on an extremely private, intimate moment between two of his superiors and close adult friends, but he was riveted to the spot. He watched in silence as Riza coaxed Roy back against the pillows, sitting with her hip pressed against his and legs hanging over the edge of the hospital bed.
She held his hand and ran her other through his hair, gently mussing the ebony locks before dropping her palm down to cup his cheek. Her thumb brushed away a residual tear with tender care and traced the splotchy yellow-red skin around his bandaged injuries.
The Colonel's eyes slid shut as he relaxed, his worn visage peaceful for the first time in days.
He pressed his cheek further into her touch and threaded his fingers through hers, pulling their palms closer together. Roy let out a contented sigh, mewling quietly, and Riza bent down to press a gentle kiss beside his eyebrow, where bandages did not cover his skin.
Edward turned away and swallowed thickly, his heart aching at the emotional display he'd witnessed. He couldn't bring himself to watch any more and discreetly left the room, looking for Alphonse.
Riza helped Roy step out of the car, the bag of medical supplies slung over her shoulder. Supporting the Colonel's back as he walked with the crutches, she unclasped her keyring and found the spare to his apartment.
She led him through the lobby and to the elevator, silently thanking whoever had invented them only a few decades before for their invention.
Roy slumped against the wall, exhausted, as they waited. He looked completely drained, pale and sweating, his breath coming too shallow and too short to be healthy. Riza clasped a hand on his shoulder, silently encouraging him. His dark eyes met hers briefly, and he looked as though he were considering something, but then the bell chimed and the elevator door opened.
Once more, he hefted himself onto the crutches and hobbled to his apartment door with Riza's guidance. She unlocked the door and held it open for him as he made his way over to the couch.
Riza shut and locked the door and dropped the medicine bag on the table, listening as Roy settled onto the couch with a sigh of relief.
She busied herself making hot chocolate for the both of them and returned to see a more comfortable Roy, who took the cup of hot chocolate gratefully.
"You spoil me," he commented, sipping gingerly. Riza chuckled.
"I do my best," she said. The couple sat together in a comfortable silence as they drank their hot chocolates, and once they had both finished, Riza took the cups into the kitchen and quickly rinsed them out.
She returned, looking over Roy critically. "You need a bath," she said, and he raised an eyebrow.
"I can take a bath with casts?" He asked, confused.
Riza rolled her eyes, sighing. "Yes, just keep your legs and arm out of the water," she said. "You can wash with a washcloth or something. It's just the casts that can't get wet." Roy nodded, understanding. He sat up, grabbing his crutches, and hefted himself up again.
Riza followed the Colonel into the bathroom, where he sat down on the lid of the toilet and unbuttoned his shirt and hauled off his trousers. Smiling sheepishly at Riza, he watched as she ran the water and set the temperature, plugging the drain to let it fill. She helped Roy half-stand, kick off his boxers, and settle into the tub sideways with his cast-covered legs and arm resting over the edge of the tub.
He leaned his head against the wall, quiet as the faucet filled the tub with a thunderous flow of water. Riza shut it off once it reached his chest and mid-thigh, then picked up a clean washcloth and soaked it, scrubbing the oil and grit from Roy's skin, mindful of the sprawling bruises on his shoulders and across his entire chest.
She washed every inch of available skin that was not already submerged, earning an indignant squawk from Roy when she pressed the cloth to his face, wiping down his unshaven cheeks thoroughly and peeling away the bandages to clean around the wounds. Roy tilted his head back over the edge of the tub after Riza had finished washing his face, and she found the bottle of shampoo, squirted some into her hand, and began to scrub it into his hair.
She raked his bangs back from his face, her fingers accidentally catching on a knot.
"Ow!" He protested, pouting childishly. Riza smiled and continued to lather the soap into his hair.
"You complain too much," she commented, and Roy looked back at her over his shoulder.
"'N you love me f-for it," he replied with a cheeky smirk.
"I can't disagree with that," she said, finishing with the soap. She pushed Roy's shoulders away from the lip of the tub and he complied, scooting further into the tub while she grabbed a cup from the counter and rinsed it out in the sink, returning with it and using it to rinse the soap out of his hair.
Once she had finished, she combed the black locks back against his head, keeping his bangs back so that she could brush the tangles out. Roy was content, silently grateful for her devotion to his personal needs.
He couldn't imagine anyone else in his life going as far as to wash his hair for him, no matter how much they cared.
Riza awoke slowly, registering the warm breath tickling her face before anything else. She opened her eyes to a familiar face in an unfamiliar room and remembered the night before.
Smiling, she took in the sight of him. He slept on the shoulder of his unbroken arm, the pillow wedged between his head and forearm, and his face was relaxed. The bruises were beginning to fade and the color had returned to his skin, marking his cheeks and nose a soft pink. His hair, now clean and sleek from the bath the night before, hid the marks on his forehead and brushed against his eyelids in fringes of black.
Riza hefted herself onto one elbow, resting her cheek in her palm, as she watched him shift slightly, his lips curling up in a tiny smile. She raised her eyebrows curiously, wondering what he was dreaming about.
Roy shifted again, then his dark eyes fluttered open and he let out a quiet sigh. Blinking, he saw Riza and focused on her.
"G'morning," he said slowly, his eyebrows furrowing as though he'd had a hard time saying it.
"Morning, Roy," Riza responded, smiling encouragingly. "What were you dreaming about?"
The Colonel frowned at the question, concentrating on his words. "Dreamed...about us," he said, biting his lip in thought.
"And Ed...Edward, with A-Al..." he trailed off abruptly, frustrated.
"Alphonse," Riza finished for him, and he nodded.
"Yeah. We were...having a p-picnic. Peaceful," he said, the tiny smile from before returning. "Al was human again, too."
Riza felt her heart swell for Roy, madly in love with his selfless dedication to those he called family.
"That's wonderful," she said honestly, watching as he rolled onto his back and stretched as best as he could manage. Despite his efforts not to pull anything, he winced as the stitches in his abdomen and his bruised lungs made themselves known.
After Roy had stretched, he hauled himself up into a sitting position. Rubbing his eyes gingerly, he gazed lethargically out the window.
"I'll make you some breakfast," Riza said gently, and he turned to look at her with glazed eyes.
"In...bed?" He asked, blinking inquisitively.
"Sure, if that's what you want," Riza agreed with a smile. "I'll see what I can put together." She stood up, clad only in her nightshirt and underwear, and walked to the door.
Pausing in the doorway, she looked over her shoulder at the Colonel, who had resumed his window-watching with a tired gaze. His jaw was clenched, and Riza recognized it as one of his tics - he was in pain, but didn't want to be any trouble.
She shook her head, making her way into the kitchen and stopping to grab the bag of medical supplies she'd left on the table the night before.
After breakfast was made - a decadent, yet simple affair of french toast with cream cheese and blueberries beside a glass of orange juice and several strips of bacon - Riza set the plate of food on a makeshift tray along with a syringe and single dose of morphine.
Doctor Xavier had given her five day's worth of the drug for the first couple days and if the pain got to be too much for Roy to handle. She'd also given Riza several other less addictive medications and advised to slowly bring him down from the morphine as he healed.
Riza stepped into the bedroom with a soft greeting, but found that Roy had dozed off again and was sleeping with his back against the headboard, face angled over his shoulder and brow creased in unconscious pain. She set down the tray on the side table and crawled onto the bed, gently brushing Roy's hair out of his face and patting him on the cheek.
"Wake up, sleepyhead," she teased. "I brought your food." Moaning, Roy turned his head away and scowled pitifully.
"'M'tired," he mumbled. "Want to sleep." Then he paused, seeming to register something, and his eyes fluttered open. "Food?" He asked, his face brightening. Riza chuckled, picking up the tray and setting it on his lap.
"Medication first," she said, picking up the syringe and vial. Roy pouted, the expression comical on his usually stoic face. The Lieutenant filled the syringe with the proper amount and flicked out the air bubbles, as she had been instructed, and Roy held out his unbroken arm, already used to the routine as she found a vein and injected the drug. The tightness in the Colonel's jaw left and he relaxed visibly, sighing as the drug did it's job.
Riza quickly cleaned and bandaged the injection site, letting him tuck into his meal. It was beyond awkward for him using his left hand, as the cast on his right would not allow the movements necessary for eating, but he managed.
Riza left for a moment, getting herself a plate as well and joining him once more. She felt a wave of pride as he savored the food, clearly enjoying it much more than hospital grub.
"It's delicious," he complimented, grinning widely. "Thank you."
Riza flushed, tilting her head in embarrassed gratitude. "It was no hassle," she said softly. "I just...wanted to treat you to something special."
Roy awoke with a start, weak and nauseous. He barely managed to stagger into the bathroom and skid on his knees before he was bent over the toilet, retching painfully. The lights flickered on and Riza's voice drifted into earshot, her hand resting on his shoulder supportively.
He vomited again, gasping in agony after he had finished, forehead pressed against the cool porcelain seat.
"Oh, Roy," Riza suddenly spoke, her voice terrified. "You're bleeding..."
He cracked one eye open with all of the effort he could muster, and felt his heart freeze at the sight. It wasn't what he had expected - maybe a small tint of pink in the mess of stomach acid and half-digested food - but a solid, crimson pool of blood and bile filling the basin.
"I need to call an ambulance," Riza said, her fingers grasping the fabric of Roy's shirt desperately.
He moaned, shakily turning his head so he could see her, breathing in wet, painful gasps.
"D-don't...go..." he pleaded softly, interrupted by another round of violent illness. He rested his temple against the clammy skin of his bruised hand, drawing in a sobbing breath.
"R-Riza...p-please...stay with me..." Blood flowed down from his lips and he inhaled, choking on the flood of life fluid as it filled his throat. Riza's fingers grasped his shirt tightly before disappearing altogether.
"I'm sorry, Roy," she whispered, voice warped with tears. "But I can't stay with you right now, I need to get help." She left, leaving Roy slumped over the toilet as he fought to breathe, no longer able to vocalize.
He heard the clicking of claws on tile dimly, followed by a whimper, and saw Black Hayate through his dimming vision. The dog approached him, keening softly as he pressed his face against Roy's side in sympathy.
Weakly, the man dropped a hand from the side of the toilet and scratched behind the dog's ears, turning away to cough. He knew there was still more blood in his airway, but he no longer had the energy to do what was necessary to expel the liquid.
Hayate whined and tried to get closer to Roy, crying softly as the man lost consciousness, a last, choking gasp escaping his crimson-stained lips.
Edward's nerves thrummed in anticipation as he paced in the waiting room. Riza sat in one of the chairs, nursing a cup of weak hospital coffee. Her fingers shook imperceptibly, skin as pale as the walls empathizing her red-rimmed, darkly shadowed eyes.
Ed had never seen the Lieutenant so ill at ease, and it only contributed to his nervous, terrified mood. Even when the Colonel had first been hospitalized for the accident, she hadn't been so scared.
Roy had been in surgery for hours now - roughly three - and it was currently four in the morning. Riza had called Ed just after arriving at the hospital, the raw emotion in her voice prompting Edward into climbing into a shirt and pants and sprinting to the hospital.
Now the teen could only wait, holding on to the desperate thread of hope that the Colonel would make it through this sudden, unforeseen illness, the way he had pushed through pain, loss, and near-death just weeks before.
Ed nearly dropped his own coffee - which he had forgotten he was even holding - when a door creaked open, admitting a grey-haired and very tired doctor into the room.
"Miss Hawkeye?" He called, and Riza stood, waiting for what the man had to say.
"The Colonel is out of surgery now," the doctor began, and Riza let a brief flash of relief cross her face. "He's stable at the moment, but still in critical condition. The vomiting, as he was admitted for, appears to have been caused by internal hemorrhaging, as he somehow tore the stitches still there from his accident. He required several new stitches and a blood transfusion, but he should be alright, given time."
Ed sighed, feeling the weight on his shoulders dissipate slightly. Riza nodded, taking it all in with a thoughtful frown.
"I'm not sure what could have caused him to break the stitches...He seemed fine the last couple days," she said softly. "Can we see him?"
The doctor considered briefly before reaching a decision. "Technically, I shouldn't allow either of you to see him until at least 24 hours after his admission, given his critical condition and surgery...but I will allow it just this once," he conceded.
"However, you are not allowed to wake him, under any circumstances, or touch beyond his hands. He's under heavy medication and might react...violently, if awoken." Ed and Riza both agreed with eager nods, following the doctor into the hallway and to the Colonel's room.
Ed had to stifle a gasp when he saw Mustang, still and lifeless on the hospital bed. An oxygen mask covered his nose and mouth, and his red, bruised eyelids were closed.
If it weren't for the gentle rise and fall of his chest as he breathed, Ed would've assumed the man was dead. The soft lighting did nothing to improve the ashen, grey pallor of his skin, and the cornflower blue hospital gown showed his weight loss. Still-healing wounds covered his face and arms, and the cast still on his right arm and leg were the only other color on him.
"It seems he's been bleeding for maybe two or three days," the doctor said. "But he must not have been eating for at least five, to have lost this much body fat."
Riza frowned in concern, taking a seat beside the Colonel and holding his fingers tightly. "He has a habit of forgetting to take care of himself, but he only stops eating like this when he's upset..." She trailed off, a haunted look in her eyes. "I've only seen him do it twice, and I haven't been keeping an eye on him with all of the work I've had to catch up on," she admitted quietly.
The doctor nodded, contemplative. "And you don't know the cause for it?" He asked softly.
Riza shook her head. "I'm afraid not. He seemed to be doing...better, than he was after the accident, anyways."
"Well, he clearly hasn't been," the doctor sighed. "It would be beneficial to find out what caused this...relapse, into self harm, and injury. He might require psychological rehabilitation, as well as the physical rehab."
Ed blanched at the words, feeling his stomach drop. He looked at Riza, expecting shock or indignation, but saw only a sad acceptance. "Relapse into self harm?" He asked, disbelieving. "The Colonel...he's done this before?"
Riza's eyes met his, sad and intense. "Yes, Edward," she said softly. "Roy...has a bit of a history here in the hospital."
Ed stared, wide-eyed at the Lieutenant and then at Mustang, small and sick in his bed.
"No..." he whispered, horrified. "Mustang wouldn't...he's always so strong...and controlled," Edward rationalized. "He's not...he's not like that."
He dropped into the chair at the foot of the bed, head hanging low. "He's not," Ed whispered, a tear staining the surface of his pants.
Riza watched him for a moment, then let go of the Colonel's fingers and stood, flanking Edward. She kneeled down and wrapped her arms around his quavering shoulders. Ed's tears flowed down his cheeks openly at the contact and he leaned into the embrace, crying silently against Riza's shoulder.
"Roy has been like this for a long time," Riza explained softly. "He's got his goals, but sometimes they're not enough. Most of what people see in his behavior is just a mask." She said.
Edward sniffled, pausing to speak. "S-so...how he feels about m-me and Al...?"
Riza shook her head gently. "No, that's not an act. Roy loves you boys and wants to see you fulfill your goals with all of his heart. When we first met you, he told me he saw a chance to help two children where he had failed before. In Ishval...we killed children, Ed. He saw a chance to change himself when he met you boys, and you're the best thing to happen to him."
Edward met her eyes, quietly stunned.
"But sometimes, it's not enough," she said, biting her lip. "Sometimes...the mask cracks, and none of it is enough to keep Roy going. Not you, not me, not his goals...it all seems like something tiny in the face of a storm, and he can't keep it locked in anymore."
Ed nodded, feeling the helplessness Riza was describing and knowing it all too well.
"When Roy breaks, everything he does feels like the wrong thing. He's an analytical person, so he asses a choice by its possible outcomes and finds a worst and best-case-scenario for everything. When he's upset like this, everything seems like it will only end in loss, and he loses himself in his past faults - Ishval is usually the first to come back, then smaller mistakes. But after Hughes..." Riza trailed off and Ed felt the guilty pang in his heart he always associated with the man.
"When Hughes died, Roy lost his most powerful anchor. Maes was the one who pulled Roy back after Ishval, and he was the closest to Roy in these personal matters. So now, his faults extend to Maes's death - he still blames himself for not picking up the phone soon enough - and it tears him apart. He told me he can't lose any of us not too long after it happened."
Ed's curiosity was piqued. "But..if he can't lose us...why does he want to...to die?"
"Roy's judgement, as sharp as it is, is easily clouded by emotion," Riza elaborated. "As much as he tries to be stoic and controlled, he is still human. Beneath his mask, Roy is very sensitive and emotional; and at heart, he's still the lost orphan boy trying to save the world from evil. It's easy to forget that, even for himself, and as a result he expects more out of himself than he can give."
Ed was quiet then, realizing he wasn't much different.
"When his walls are down, he can be very self-destructive, blaming himself for everything - Ishval, my involvement in the military, you and Alphonse's difficulties in missions and in the case of the Tuckers, and so on. It's difficult to assure him that none of us blame him for all of this, because he takes it all on his shoulders as his burden to carry, and his alone." Riza was quiet, seeming to have finished, and sat back on her haunches, letting go of Edward.
"He needs us to give him all of the love he's given us, Edward," she whispered, smiling through teary eyes.
After a while, the two were asked to leave, and both went home.
Edward and Riza both returned to visit the Colonel throughout the week following his admission, watching as his sickly pale skin was slowly replaced by the usual, healthy flush it was - but he still did not wake up, his energy depleted after such a complete exhaustion from the mysterious injury and lack of sustenance on top of his still-healing wounds from the accident.
He was eventually moved out of the critical ward and restrictions were no longer placed on visiting hours, so the Lieutenant arranged a schedule for his team to stand guard outside his room and keep her updated as she filled in for him at the office.
Edward visited occasionally, only sticking around long enough to know the man had yet to awaken before leaving, chasing another lead on the Homunculi and his personal journey.
It was after a week and two days that Mustang awoke, under the watch of Kain Fuery. He awoke slowly, propelling Fuery straight out of his seat and to the Colonel's bedside.
"Colonel Mustang?" He called, overeager. "Are you awake?"
Roy blinked groggily, his dark eyes focusing on Kain's face. "...Fuery?" He asked, his voice hoarse and cracking. "Where...am I? What happened?" He glanced around the room blearily, trying to make sense of his jumbled thoughts.
"You're in the hospital, sir. A little over a week ago, Lieutenant Hawkeye brought you in when you...collapsed, due to internal bleeding," Fuery explained gently.
"I remember," Roy said, expression tight. Fuery shuffled where he stood nervously, not sure of what to do, and Roy turned to gaze out the window blankly.
A nurse saved Kain the awkward silence, breezing in with a light-hearted hello. "Looks like you're finally awake, Colonel," she said with a smile. "We've all been very worried." He turned again to inspect the nurse, then hauled himself into a sitting position, panting at the exertion it took, his arms trembling.
"Don't push yourself," the nurse warned. "Can't have you pulling stitches now."
"I'm fine," Roy snapped, managing a scowl. Kain stood back, a little frightened, as the nurse began to ask him questions and run a basic check-up on him. His responses were clipped and frustrated, his jaw clenched throughout the duration of the check-up.
When she left, he slumped back down against his pillows, face relaxing a little.
"Sir?" Kain asked, hesitant. "Is everything alright?"
Roy sighed, running a hand over his face. "I'm not...in the m-mood to entertain guests," he said. "I'm…I'm in a lot of pain, and I know I've hurt the Lieutenant again."
He dropped his bruised hand to rest beside his hip as he stared moodily out the window. Kain was silent, chewing his lip as he fretted.
"I'm sorry," he offered, hoping to change the subject.
"Don't...a-apologize, Fuery. It's...my fault, not yours." Roy's jaw clenched as he said that, blinking away tears of frustration before they could come out, and Kain felt his stomach clench in sympathy for his commanding officer.
Since the accident, he'd noticed that the elder man was having difficulty controlling his emotions, and the raw, lonely man he really was had finally shown his face to all of his subordinates more than once over the chaotic mess of a month. Everyone was more than a little unsettled by his emotional vulnerability, Kain included.