94. From Yesterday
"I'm lucky," Riza Hawkeye's voice slurred weakly.
Roy Mustang twitched, confused—no, downright perplexed. Here they were, banished to a small concrete bunker just outside Central City, kilometers away from badly needed medical care. He had Hawkeye's head in his lap, cradling it from the freezing ground beneath them, and though he was looking directly at her he was fighting to keep his gaze off of the sizeable gash on her forehead which had, by then, grown to be clearly infected. Her body, despite having lost what he was certain was a significant amount of blood, was warm and clammy to the touch. He knew she was running a fever. He knew that the gash on her head was not being properly treated. Somewhere in the back of his mind, he knew she was most likely going to die in this bunker, maybe even lying like this.
Apparently, she also knew her projected fate.
"Why would you say you're lucky, Hawkeye?" It was almost physically painful to keep his voice from growing in anger. He would've thought she was far from lucky.
She was looking up at him, amber eyes slightly clouded, when the smallest smile crossed her face. "We're soldiers," she replied calmly.
He was beginning to wonder if the fever was getting to her, and that he was speaking to a delirious woman. "I don't understand." He gently smoothed the hair out of her face, frowning. Yes, he thought. She was certainly delirious. "We are soldiers, but that isn't…new…" Then again, maybe he was delirious, for arguing with a dying woman.
"No, no," she mumbled, the small smile flickering for a moment before returning. "We're soldiers, and we never get to choose…" She was looking at him again, the same glazed-eye look that was starting to give him an unpleasant case of the shudders. "Never choose where we are…who we're with…"
He waited, figuring she would continue. When she closed her eyes, he gently shook her. The thought of her face, pallid and still, scared him. If she'd just open her eyes and keep talking, even if she was just babbling nonsense, then he knew she'd still be with him for another few minutes. If they could keep going like that, then maybe, just maybe, she could get out of this alive.
"When we die." She finished unceremoniously, apparently unaware of the nearly five-minute gap between her statements.
Maybe she wasn't so delirious: she seemed to recognize the open-mouthed stare she was getting, and she struggled to find the right words. "Soldiers die all the time," she elaborated weakly, "in training…in the field…in war and combat…" Hawkeye paused, her gaze suddenly clear, but only momentarily, "but almost always alone."
He was flabbergasted by the clarity with which she was speaking. "But…"
She was still looking at him, smiling contentedly, "but I won't."
Mustang still felt like he didn't understand. What was lucky about dying? What luck was there to be found, no matter the situation? No matter how she died, it didn't change that at the end of the story, she was dead. What difference did it make?
"I'm with someone," she whispered. "Someone…that I care about. Somewhere safe…that's more than most of us will have." Hawkeye gently touched the hand that was cradling her shoulders, trying to smile. "So I'm lucky."
Almost five years later, Roy Mustang had never told her about that quiet night in the old concrete bunker as she lay dying in his arms. She had been lucky, just as she'd proclaimed in her delirious stupor. Help had arrived just hours after that one-sided conversation. He'd asked her, just once, if she remembered any part of that night in the bunker. Her earnest response had convinced him of just how precarious a situation she'd been in—she didn't even recall the bunker they'd holed up in for almost two full days.
But he'd never forget what she'd said that night. I'm with someone I care about, she'd whispered, so I'm lucky. She'd found peace in something so small in the wake of what had seemed like certain death. Though he'd never work up the nerve to tell her, he found peace in her calming words that night, as well. If nothing else, he knew he would always remember what she'd said between the words: I'm lucky, because I'm not alone.