Chapter Twelve

Roy wanted badly to hold Riza's hand until she woke up from sedation. There were any number of reasons he couldn't; the least of which was they were in a military hospital. He was afraid of falling asleep, fingers interlaced and getting caught. The warm fog of painkillers kept threatening to stitch his eyelids shut, even though the chair he had pulled to her bedside wasn't comfortable. He wasn't sure yet how much trouble he was in for burning Thorne but he suspected that Thorne attempting to kill him and both Hawkeyes would spare him the consequences of overreacting.

Riza murmured a bit, lying face down on the narrow hospital bed. He did reach for her hand, stroking the back of it. Her eyes fluttered open then squeezed shut again as she moaned.

"How bad is it?" he asked softly. "I can go get a nurse to give you something." He wrapped his hand over hers.

A few involuntary tears leaked from the corners of her eyes; some leaking over the bandages where they had fixed her cheek. "It hurts."

Roy glanced towards the door, seeing no one about, then got up. He leaned over and whispered in her ear. "I love you," before kissing her cheek. Roy settled back down, not happy with how the room spun as he moved. "Give me a moment and I'll go get the nurse."

Riza's fingers quested after his and he took her hand. "How bad…"

Roy wet his lips. "The doctor told Hughes and Avaron you'd make a full recovery. That's what they told me…but it was bad." He reached over and curled the fingers of his other hand through her hair.

"Glad I showed you…before it was destroyed," she rasped out, involuntary little shudders from the pain racing through her, probably making bigger quakes of agony deeper inside her unless Roy missed his guess.

His fingers tensed then went back to their soothing motion. "It doesn't matter. All that matters is you'll recover. That's what I care about."

Riza's eyes fluttered shut for a moment then opened again. "Father would be…disappointed."

"He'd want you alive, nothing else matters." Roy assured her, his hand not stilling as it move over her hair. "He shouldn't have used you anyhow. You're a person, not a book, should never have left you with something like that to explain all your life."

"Did …what he thought right," she defended her father. Riza let her eyes shut. "My uncle?"

He squeezed the hand he held. "Alive but with lots of stitches."

"Keddrick?" She packed the single word full of hate.

"I didn't kill him but I wanted to…he's never going to be the same again." Roy grimaced. It had been the first time he saw what severe burns looked like and it had sickened him. Even if Keddrick didn't spend his life institutionalized for being a raving lunatic, Roy had destroyed his life. Hughes told him one arm had to be amputated. "I burned him."

"I remember." Her voice stored volumes of pain.

"Let me go get the nurse." Roy tried to get up but her grip tightened.

"Stay with me," she begged and he settled back. "Keddrick said he killed you." Her eyes misted up. "I thought you were dead."

"He tried…I don't remember much of it," Roy admitted. He hated that the trauma had erased half a day from his mind.

"How did he mistake that? Did he hurt you?" Riza rasped, her voice sounding dry. Roy fished an ice chip out of the glass the nurses had left on the night stand, cautioning him that Riza wasn't allowed water yet.

"He shot your boy in the head," Maes said, coming into the room with Avaron on his heels.

Riza's eyes widened as Roy pressed a chip into her mouth. "But…"

"But his head's too hard and the bullet didn't go in." Maes grinned.

"That's not what the doctor said." Roy pouted. "He said the angle was just right and the bullet went in and skidded under my scalp all the way around to the other side." He traced the path on his bandaged-swathed head. "They had to cut the bullet out. They shaved my head," he said in a very loud whisper to Riza.

"Real shame, too. You had such pretty hair," Avaron said, coming over to put a hand on Roy's shoulder.

"Like silk," Riza put in. "You have to hurt so much."

"I feel great," Roy assured her. He really did. Outside of his emotional turmoil over Riza getting hurt, he felt like he could walk on clouds.

"The miracles of pain killers. He's been absolutely silly ever since they drugged him," Maes said. "And that's why I'm here. He wanted to be with you when you woke up. They said no. He has to stay in bed. His nurse went ballistic when she found him gone."

"Like you didn't distract her so I could escape," Roy said, giving his friend a knowing look.

"I was distracting her because she's incredibly beautiful," Maes said, a happy expression on his long face.

"Fickle, isn't he, Avaron?" Roy asked, slumping in the chair sideways as the painkillers worked on his sense of balance. Avaron just smiled at him.

"I like that in a man. Last thing I want is someone who's already picking out wedding rings," she laughed. "Now, you go back to bed. I'll sit with Riza. We heard voices and told the nurse Riza was awake. The doctor will be in any second now and if you don't want in trouble, you'll be back in your own room by then."

Roy sulked but he got up and kissed Riza's cheek again. "I'll be back when I can."

Maes put an arm around his shoulder. "Riza will be sick of all of us doting on her before long. Seriously, anything you need later, Riza, Avaron and I will get it."

"Thanks," she mumbled as Maes steered Roy out of the room and towards the elevator.

"Now to return you to your room and I'll be a hero. Maybe I'll help your nurse chain you to your bed to keep you out of trouble," Maes said, his topaz eyes gleaming.

Roy rolled his eyes. "I feel fine."

"Well, with as much drugs as you have in you, I'm sure you're flying in the clouds, buddy. Your entire scalp was laid open. Your nurse said they flapped your scalp up over your forehead at one point, gruesome stuff, this medical work." Maes shuddered.

"I can't believe you're flirting with my nurse while I'm lying there with a bullet in my head," Roy grumbled, deciding that was a better topic than what the surgeons had done to him.

"They dug it out and you're fine." Maes waved him off. "Besides, I'm in love. She's perfect. Only, she lives in Central. She's just here on a training program. What will I do when she goes back?"

"You say they're perfect every time," Roy moaned as the elevator popped them off on his floor.

Maes pushed up his glasses. "I mean it this time."

Roy looked unimpressed. "You always say that, too."

Maes propelled Roy down the hall, stopping at the nurses' station. "Found him for you."

The honey-haired young nurse eyed them sourly. "You're not supposed to wander off, Major Mustang."

"He won't give you any more troubles, Gracia, now will you, Roy?" Maes said, patting Roy's back.

"I'll be good," he promised without enthusiasm.

Her eyes narrowed. "Well, good. Please go lie back down and I'll come with your pain killers in a moment."

"Yes, ma'am," Roy said and shuffled off toward his room.

"I'll make sure he stays there until you get there, Gracia," Hughes said, herding Roy along.

She beamed at him. "Thank you, Maes."

"Thank you, Maes," Roy mumbled under his breath. "I should warn the girl how fickle you are."

"Look who's talking. Go lie down." Maes pointed to the hospital bed. "Be a nice patient and roll up your sleeve for her."

"The shot doesn't go there," Roy said, getting back into bed. He kicked off his thin, hospital-issued slippers. "It goes in my butt."

"Keep that covered until she gets here." Maes held up his hands to ward off the image of Roy's backside. "She must be the world's greatest nurse to find a target that small."

"I was shot in the head, don't pick on me." Roy pouted to mask the smile that was trying to form. Hughes always could lift his spirits.

Hughes snorted. "Your head's too hard. You'll be fine."

Roy laid back, his head twinging. The hint of humor fled as darkness swooped back in. "He almost took her from me, Maes. Even when she heals…everything's different now."

Maes sobered. "I know, Roy. Avaron and I will stay with her as much as the hospital will let us. We won't let anything more happen to her and we'll do what we can for her. You can trust us with that, Roy. All I want you to do is rest. You were hurt and you need to recover."

The prospect of doing nothing but lying around didn't appeal to Roy. "This will bore me stupid."

"I'll take a break from the hospital and pack up everything from that room in Hawkeye's attic. It's not like there's anyone there to stop me. I'll bring you the books and you can read those exciting tomes to your heart's content." Maes made a face.

"You kid but they are exciting to me," Roy assured him. "Thanks, Maes, for everything."

"That's what friends are for," Maes replied.

"Are you going to go out there and coo at my nurse or are you going to wait until she comes in here and I have to see it?" Roy grumbled, trying to find a position that didn't make his head throb.

"Decisions, decisions." Maes rubbed his chin. "Why don't you shut your eyes, Roy and try to rest?"

Roy shut his eyes and the horrors of the day replayed on his lids. Tears leaked out around the dark, thick fringe of his lashes. He felt Maes' hand on his back. "It'll be okay, Roy. I know it doesn't seem like it now but it will be. Riza will get better. She's not going to go anywhere."

Roy simply bundled the bedding against his eyes and cried until after his nurse gave him another injection and the drugs sucked him under.


"Doesn't he look exotic?" a familiar voice rang through the empty officers' common room.

Roy glanced up from his journal, blinking owlishly as his eyes adjusted to distance after reading for hours. Riza leaned on Avaron's arm as she slowly walked into the room, clad in her bright Xing robe; he assumed it was because her usual clothing fit too well and rubbed her bandaged back. Maes was behind the ladies, a dreamy look in his eye. Roy unfurled from the couch where he had been stretched out in front of the fire.

"Hey, you're wearing the lizard thing," Maes said, eyeing the red and yellow silk.

"Dragons!" Roy's lower lip pooched out as he looked at the ladies. "They're dragons. Riza, I didn't think you were allowed up yet."

"I'm bored," she said, as Avaron helped her to sit gingerly on the couch. It took her a moment to ease down.

"I would have come help you down here," Roy said, sitting back down, moving some of his alchemic books to give her room.

"And how would you explain that fraternization? Do they allow you to go to female officers' rooms?" Avaron asked.

"No," Roy said, his eyes drifting to Maes.

"They found me in the hallway. I was just coming back from seeing Gracia before she went to work. She is the most-" Maes enthused until Roy cut in.

"I do not want every detail, Maes. Save it to bore me to sleep tonight. I want to talk to our guest." Roy waved a hand at Avaron who had a huge grin on her face. "What's so funny?"

"Just thinking how good you two look together like that in your Xing outfits." Avaron waved a hand at the brilliant colored silks. "Though Roy has the black silk slippers, so he wins."

"He has relatives that keep him well supplied. I have to wait on traders," Riza replied, eyeing Roy with a strange look in her eye. "You look just like Father surrounded by your books."

"They're his books and I'm making the best possible use of my time off," Roy said, his defensive wall coming up. Why was it every time he tried to study someone acted like it was strange.

"Which one now? That spellbinding book on sulfur?" Maes executed a huge eye roll.

Roy glowered. "Hawkeye's journal and it is fascinating."

"Riza, you grew up with an alchemist, I don't know why you want to sentence yourself to another one," Avaron said, dropping into a chair next to the fire. "No matter how cute he usually is."

"Usually?" Petulance edged into Roy's voice.

"You look stupid bald," Avaron replied with a dismissive wave.

Roy smoothed a hand over his head. The mass of bandages had been reduced to a single one around his stitches, leaving the dome of his head exposed, dark and fuzzy.

"She has a point," Riza said, patting the raven fuzz. Her smile made the small bandage on her cheek wrinkle.

"Shallow women." Roy sulked majestically.

"Better hope you don't go bald, buddy. They'll desert you," Maes laughed, sitting across from Riza.

"Well, at least you have a nicely shaped head," Riza said. "Minus the big rut that bullet carved into it."

Roy rubbed his head again. "That's something, I suppose."

"Oh good, I'm on the unbandaged side of Riza's face. Hey you two, look here," Maes said and something flashed in their eyes when they did.

"What the hell?" Roy growled, rubbing his eyes to clear the spots.

"Smile this time." Maes clicked the camera again. "Damn it Roy, you never smile."

"Where did you get that camera?" Roy asked through gritted teeth.

"I needed a new one after the last one got mysteriously destroyed," Maes said, pointedly, narrowing his eyes at Roy. "But they're so expensive."

"So I got him one. I need pictures for the story the Central Tribune wants on you two," Avaron said, reaching over to pat Maes' knee. "They loved the story on all the intrigue, which thank you for letting me write, Riza."

"At least someone should get something out of my pain," Riza moaned, trying to shift into a comfortable position.

"There's a story?" Roy looked like a vinegar jar with eyes.

"They're offering Avaron a job as soon as she graduates," Riza said, pointing at the camera. "Now smile for Maes."

"You have no idea what you're asking," Roy replied, grimacing at Maes who took the picture anyhow. "You don't know what he's like with that camera."

"I'm suspecting there's no real mystery as to what happened to his last camera," Avaron said with a laugh

"Roy claims he knows nothing." Maes pocketed his new prize before Roy was tempted to show it to the fire. "I pretend to believe him."

Roy started to say something then stopped as he tried to get to his feet. General Householder came into the common room.

He waved Roy down. "At ease, everyone. It's nice to see you again Miss Lagana." The older man inclined his head to her. "I need to speak to you and Cadet Hawkeye, Mustang."

"We can come to your office right now, sir," Roy said, hoping he didn't look too guilty because he was sitting next to Riza.

"No, no, we can talk here, there's no one here," Householder stood near the fireplace. "This actually impacts Miss Lagana and Lieutenant Hughes as well, since they were there when it all happened."

"I would have shot Thorne if I had to," Avaron assured him.

"Yes, and given that he was trying to murder Hawkeye, the opinion of the town is that you would have been in the right," Householder said. "There will be no actions taken against you either, Mustang. However, given the severity of Mr. Thorne's burns and his family's position in this town, we think it best that you be stationed to another base."

Roy barely reined in a sigh, utterly relieved. "Understood, sir. Where to?"

"Central for now, under General Gran," Householder said. "And Cadet Hawkeye, your uncle has withdrawn his objections to remaining at the Academy. I'll assume that you wish to return once your wounds have fully healed."

Riza nodded, her body going limp with relief. "Yes, sir, I would."

"Then once you're fit to travel, you'll return to Central as well." Householder turned to Hughes. "Lieutenant Hughes, seeing how well you work with Hawkeye and Mustang, I'm transferring you back to Central with them. You make a great team and you shouldn't tinker with things that work."

Hughes blinked at him in shock. "Oh...thank you, sir. I really appreciate that."

"I'll miss having you kids around. I'm sorry things had to come to such a tragic end," Householder said, going around the couch. He leaned over the back between Roy and Riza adding in a whisper, "You two be very careful not to get caught. Gran isn't a romantic like me."

Roy blanched and Riza stammered out a 'yes, sir.' They watched as the general left. Roy slumped in his seat.

"It worked out good, right?" Avaron said, not sure why everyone seemed to shaky. "You all look pale."

"You have to understand, Avaron, Roy could have been in a lot of trouble for attacking Keddrick," Riza said, squeezing his hand.

"He was trying to kill you. He tried to kill Roy. I don't see the problem," Avaron said then frowned. "No, of course I do. Money talks. He might have been able to buy his way out of this and put the trouble on Roy's shoulders."

"Exactly. This is the best possible scenario," Riza said. "But you and I need to be more careful," she added to Roy who nodded.

"Riza, you look so tired. I'd walk you to your room if Householder hadn't just yelled at us," Roy said, touching her undamaged cheek.

"I should get to bed." Riza looked over at her girlfriend. "Avaron?"

Avaron nodded. "Is that the only door into this place?" She pointed to the egress Householder had departed through.

"Yes, why?" Roy asked.

"Come here, Maes." Avaron stood at the back of the couch. "Between the two of us, no one can see what's happening on the couch."

Roy smiled at her. "Thanks."

Behind the shield of their friends' bodies, Roy and Riza shared a soft kiss. "Never want to lose you," he murmured.

She rested her cheek against his shoulder, the silk soft against her flesh. "You won't."

His lips met hers again, the kiss bittersweet but what they both needed. Riza would leave in a moment with her friend. He'd distract himself with his alchemy but at the moment, her returning to her room and his studying felt like they were events to take place weeks away and all there was, was the kiss.


Challenge Prompts Used -

Quote - "The wise learn many things from their enemies." - Aristophanes

Picture - The Color Red and Rays of Reflection

Word - Tutelary