By: Mabis

Ed grumbled as he walked through the hallways of East Headquarters. He had just gotten back from doing some of the Colonel's dirty work; "assignments" were what they were officially called. Ed had wanted to wander around a bit before getting back to Headquarters, but oh no, Al insisted they go back right away. The Colonel would be waiting for them, and they'd been running around enough as it is.

Thus, the two hadn't said a word to each other the entire trip back, and it was one of the reasons why Ed was grumbling now. The other one being that he would have to face Colonel Asshole soon, which always put him in a bad mood.

"You're coming with me to hand in my report, Al," Ed said as they approached the Colonel's office. "Maybe he'll insult you for a change."

Al's only reply was a metallic sounding sigh of exasperation.

"Hello Edward, you're back a little early," Lieutenant Hawkeye said when they entered the office.

Ed looked at her and immediately noticed something was wrong. She was wearing a sling for her right arm, and the arm itself was out of its jacket sleeve and looked heavily bandaged.

"Uh, Lieutenant…" he trailed off, staring at her arm.

"Oh, that's right, you haven't heard. There was an incident when we were transporting Ishbal refugees to their designated camp. There was a large explosion, and there were some injuries on both sides. The Colonel was one of the ones injured, and he's still at the hospital. He wanted to see you as soon as you came back, though."

Ed could only stare at Hawkeye. How could that bastard get hurt? Didn't he just stay in the background while other people did all the messy stuff? Why didn't he just blow up everything like he usually did? Maybe the Colonel was just faking it.

"Come on, Ed, we have to go to the hospital."

Ed was so caught up in his thoughts he didn't even hear Al, and only snapped to attention when he felt his brother drag him from the doorway.

As they were walking down the hallway to the Colonel's room, Ed still wasn't fully convinced that this wasn't some elaborate hoax by Mustang to mock him in some way.

"Oh hello, Fullmetal, I'm surprised to see you so soon," Mustang said as they entered the hospital room. "I guess this means Al didn't let you run around after your assignment was done."

Ed couldn't believe it. That bastard was actually smirking. Here he was, lying on his back in a hospital bed, hooked up to an IV, and quite frankly looking like shit, and that bastard was smirking at him.

"Are you all right, Colonel?" Al asked, when he was next to the bed.

"I'm better than it looks. I just had surgery to remove some shrapnel. Apparently there were bits of it everywhere, but nothing serious."

Ed stayed near the doorway, frowning. Something wasn't right. If the Colonel wasn't badly injured, why was he hooked up to an IV, and why did he look so tired and pale?

"Fullmetal, be sure to give your report to Lieutenant Hawkeye," Mustang said, interrupting his thoughts. "I won't have any new assignments for you for a while, so consider this a vacation. Of course, since you run around whenever you want, this really isn't that different."

The only reply he got was a snarl.

"I hope the Colonel is all right," Al said as they left the hospital room.

Ed snorted. "Of course he's fine. He was mocking me like he always does, right?"

"It doesn't bother you at all that he's in the hospital?"

"Why should it? He said he was fine."

"He didn't look fine."

Just then they passed the doctor and nurse walking to the Colonel's room, and they were barely able to overhear what the doctor said.

"It's not good. There is a chance Colonel Mustang could have permanent nerve damage, paralyzing him from the waist down."

Ed froze. "He lied to us," he muttered. He turned around to face Al. "If he was so bad off, why did he tell us he was fine?"

"Maybe he didn't want us to worry."

"Why the hell would he care about that?" Ed turned around and suddenly felt his gut wrench. The words from the doctor echoed in his mind. There was no way the Colonel could be paralyzed. It just wasn't possible. He would always be sitting behind his desk, smirking at him and cracking jokes about his height.

"Damn it!" Ed wanted to punch something so bad, but nothing was in the immediate area. He wanted to run into the Colonel's room and scream at him for getting hurt, or else start running, far away from the hospital. Anything so he wouldn't have to admit being afraid that Mustang would be stuck in a hospital bed forever.

"You're worried about him, aren't you," Al finally said.

Ed turned back to face Al, this time with a small, understanding smile. "That bastard better get better. I haven't punched him in the face yet."

"I hope you're all rested from your vacation, Fullmetal, because I have another assignment for you."

It was three weeks later, and Colonel Mustang had been discharged from the hospital a few days ago, fully recovered and once again perfectly healthy.

Ed took the folder and snarled at the thought of once again being the Colonel's slave. As he walked out of the office, however, his face lightened. For the first time in three weeks, he no longer felt that uneasiness in his gut that would always get worse when Mustang's condition was discussed. Which meant he could go back to plotting the perfect way to kick the Colonel's ass.