((A/N: As is per usual in my fics, this story is NOT for the faint of heart. Look forward to angst, violence and madness, . This fic is mostly done and I will try to edit/write and post around one chapter a week.
First Lieutenant Riza Hawkeye pressed herself back against the cool marble wall behind her, her gun held low and ready. She leaned slowly around the corner and peered down the hallway.
"Clear." She said to the men behind her, stepping forward to move quickly down the corridor, all of her muscles tensed into quivering knots of adrenaline. The men followed her obediently, their hurried footsteps echoing in the empty hallway.
Major Hughes appeared at the end of the passage and he and his men swarmed in from an adjacent corridor.
"All clear this way, Lieutenant." He called to her as she approached. "We have some locked doors, but I wanted to wait for your backup before breaking them down."
"Understood, sir. Lead the way."
He nodded to her and signaled to his men, leading them all back the way they had come. Hawkeye watched the Major as she ran beside him, taking in how tired he looked. To be honest, the Lieutenant herself was fighting exhaustion. They had been searching the destroyed city of Lior for days and had not made any real headway in their mission. They were looking for survivors, and the number that had been found among the bodies so far was depressingly low. Soon, they would have to admit defeat... but until that happened Hawkeye was going to push herself hard, ignoring the ache in her muscles and the fear in her breast.
Colonel Roy Mustang had been ordered to lead sixty armed soldiers into Lior nearly two months ago. General Hakuro's troops had moved on to pursue the majority of the city's population, which had fled north as they realized that they had become too few to stand against Hakuro's army. Mustang's troops were sent in to finish off the groups of rebels that remained in the city, but they had been quickly trumped by the very guerillas that they'd been sent to quell. Sixty trained soldiers—even under the very qualified command of the Colonel—were no match for the one hundred and eighty some-odd guerillas that waited for them within the fallen walls of Lior. Apparently, the military intelligence had been mistaken in the number rebels still left in the city. Terribly mistaken.
On multiple occasions during the beginning of the insurgence, the Colonel had angrily pleaded with the Brass for reinforcements, but his requests were routinely denied. Perhaps it was a political statement to disallow any more troops to be sent into Lior—for the military suppression there was already greatly disapproved of by the general populous—or maybe it was corruption among the higher-ups who simply didn't like Mustang, or maybe it was just human error, or any of the other gossiped theories that spread through the grapevine like wildfire. Regardless, the situation in Lior was bad and now it was too late to do anything about it.
Only six injured soldiers managed to escape from the melee, claiming that the Colonel—grimly recognizing defeat—had traded his own freedom for theirs. Only then—when most of the men sent into Lior were either dead or M.I.A—did Fuhrer King Bradley get off his hands and allow more troops to be sent in on a rescue mission and general clean-up.
Both Hawkeye and Hughes had volunteered to head the first wave of the mission without hesitation, each clinging to the desperate, foolish hope that their Colonel was still alive. They each knew that it was a long-shot. The traded soldiers said that they had each been tortured for information. The fact that they were ignorant of any classified military information pertaining to the fate of Lior was probably what helped Mustang negotiate their freedom. One Colonel is a far more valuable source of information than six lowly soldiers any day, but there was no doubt in anyone's mind that Mustang would not give the information freely. Hawkeye knew that he'd been trained to cope with torture, but there is only so much that a man can take, and he can only take it for so long.
It had been five weeks since the Colonel's capture and—other than the words of the escaped soldiers—there had been no communication with him or any of the other troops in that long.
Hughes stopped in front of a huge set of double doors and holstered his gun, testing the door with his shoulder. He turned to one of his men—a tall, burly man—and motioned for him to come over.
"Help me out here, Simmons. We're going to have to break it down. Lieutenant, I want you, Johnston, and Geller to cover us. If there are any surprises behind this door, I want you to take them out."
"Sir!" They replied in ordered unison as they leveled their guns at the door.
Hughes and Simmons braced themselves and, on the Major's count, they rammed the door. The wood cracked loudly, splintering at the frame and sagging inward off the hinges. Hughes backed up and kicked the broken door the rest of the way in. As it fell open Hawkeye and the other two men flowed quickly into the room, their guns drawn as they scanned the dim chamber for any dangers.
The room was still and silent, no sign of life stirring in the gloomy interior. It was a large, high-ceilinged room that might have once been a meeting hall or an auditorium before the uprising, but now it was a musty, barren chamber that reeked vaguely of death. There was a small stockpile of weapons in the corner, along with cans of food and a few half-empty bottles of liquor. This room had probably been a headquarters for the guerillas, a meeting place where they planned out their rebellion, discussed how to thwart the military that was trying to suppress them, and—from what Hawkeye assumed from the blood spattered on the walls—where they collected their information.
"There's no one here. They must have fled." Hawkeye called to the Major, lowering her gun.
Hughes entered the room and stood next to her, sighing his disappointment. Still no sign of the Colonel—or anyone else today, for that matter—but that meant that he could still be alive somewhere. Until they found his lifeless body, they would try to stay optimistic.
"Alright." Hughes barked to his men, "Collect those firearms in the corner. Geller and Shaw, get them back to the trucks. At the very least, we can make sure that the rebels wont be able to use them if they come back."
The men hastened to their tasks without complaint, although their fatigue was apparent. Hawkeye exhaled and massaged her temple, fighting off a headache that was blossoming behind her left eye. They were all tired, but none of them would even think of stopping. Out of the fifty-three men who had been missing—excluding the Colonel—only thirty-two of them had been found and only eight of those thirty-two had still been alive. They could not give up when so many of their comrades were still unaccounted for, no matter how exhausted, disheartened, and frustrated they had become.
"We'll find him, Riza." Hughes said softly, sensing her concealed distress. "We still have several more buildings to go through after this one. He's bound to be in one of them."
Hughes did not, Hawkeye noticed, say whether or not he thought that the Colonel would be alive when they found him.
Hawkeye nodded and watched the men gather the weapons from the disorderly pile, unloading the guns and strapping them together so that they could be easily carried. One of the men paused in his work to wipe his brow and his eyes wandered over to the other side of the room.
"Sir!" He said, a sudden urgency filling his voice. "Someone's here!"
Hughes instinctively flicked out the knife that he packed up his sleeve and Hawkeye raised her gun, ready for anything. The soldier who had spoken, however, made no such defensive move. Instead he stumbled over the pile of weapons to the opposite corner of the room, which was partially hidden by an overturned table. Hughes went after him and Hawkeye followed close behind.
There was a body on the floor.
The motionless figure was half curled on his side like a beaten dog, the curve of his spine prominent beneath the thin, tattered skin of his pale back. He was shirtless—exposing multiple lacerations and contusions marring his thin torso—and his pants were so torn and bloodstained that it took Hawkeye a moment to identify them as part of a military uniform. His entire body was caked and smeared with dark, sticky clots of half-dried blood and he smelled like a slaughterhouse. He was bound and gagged, his frail, bruised arms pulled behind him and tied firmly at the wrist. His hands themselves were wrapped thickly in dark swathes of cloth, completely immobilizing his fingers. The rebels must have learned early on that this particular prisoner—like all alchemists—was especially dangerous with his hands.
Major Hughes went down on his knees beside Colonel Mustang's broken form and rolled him over onto his back. Mustang's eyes were dull and half-lidded, staring blindly at nothing. His lips were dry and cracked, bleeding sluggishly onto the already blood-soaked gag that was cutting into the corners of his mouth. His face was covered in deep gashes, bits of broken glass imbedded in his ruined flesh. His nose had been broken at some point and was healing crookedly and that—coupled with his dead, darkly circled eyes and the fact that he'd lost a massive amount of weight since they had seen him last—made him scarcely recognizable, but both Hawkeye and Hughes had known him almost immediately.
"He's alive." Hughes breathed, checking the limp man's pulse. Quickly, he pulled out his knife and cut through the gag, pulling it out of the Colonel's mouth and throwing it aside as he cupped the man's face in his hand. "Colonel Mustang? Sir, can you hear me?"
The Colonel gave no response, did not even raise his glazed, lifeless eyes to look at the man who was talking to him. He was as silent and motionless as any dead man, aside from the shallow, rattling gasps coming from him that could only loosely be described as respiration.
"Come on, Roy." Hughes pleaded, striking Mustang's cheek firmly with his open palm in an attempt to snap him out of his daze. "Talk to me, buddy."
It was not Hughes' words, but more likely being struck that pulled a response from the catatonic man. Mustang flinched away from him and curled himself instinctively into a ball as soft, broken words lurched slowly from his damaged mouth.
"H-hydrogen... nonmetal; atomic mass of one point zero zero seven nine four. Helium... noble gas; atomic... atomic m-mass of four point zero zero two six zero two. Lithium... alkali metal; atomic mass..."
One of the first things you learn when being instructed on how to cope with being interrogated by the enemy is that—no matter what—they can find ways of making you talk. Always. If you are being tortured you are eventually going to say something, even if you are the strongest, most tight-lipped person in the world. Military personnel with classified information have always known this, and have devised ways of thwarting their torturers if they were ever captured and "swayed" into speaking. Many soldiers memorize songs or poems, planning to recite them ad nauseam while in the cruel hands of their captors, to keep their mouths busy and their minds detached from whatever terrible things were being done to their bodies. Mustang, apparently, had chosen to recite the elements of the periodic table in an attempt to keep his military secrets.
"Roy, it's me. It's Maes." Hughes said to him desperately, running his thumb gently across the man's brow.
"Beryllium... alkaline earth metal; atomic mass of n-nine point zero one two one eight two..."
Hughes sat back slightly, looking down at his superior and best friend as he tried to conceal the sick horror on his face. Lieutenant Hawkeye was familiar with the expression "the light's are on, but nobody's home," but she had never before witnessed it in actuality. The Colonel was alive... but every soldier crowded around him could see that he wasn't really there anymore and had probably been absent for a long time, now. His dull eyes were not just blank, they were empty as if he had forgotten everything except for what it means to be in pain.
The Major made his face carefully expressionless and flicked his knife out again, slicing through the bonds that held Mustang's arms behind his back. He removed the ropes silently then unbound Mustang's hands from their cloth prisons. Several of Mustang's fingers looked as if they'd been broken and each of his nails had either been pulled back or ripped out entirely, leaving his fingertips raw and torn. The Major slipped one arm around the Colonel's shoulders and slid the other under his legs, lifting him from the ground carefully.
As the Major lifted him though, a dark, terrifying scream tore itself from the Colonel's throat. It had been impossible to tell from the way he had been curled on the floor, but now they could all see the sickening angle at which his right leg was hanging. It was clearly broken badly and the pressure that Hughes was putting on it was more than even the barely-conscious Colonel could ignore.
"N-NITROGEN!" He shrieked, writhing in Hughes' arm as the Major frantically tried to adjust his grip so that he wasn't hurting him. "NONMETAL; ATOMIC MASS OF F-FOURTEEN POINT ZER... ah—"
The Colonel stiffened for a moment then fell limp in the Major's arms, his haunted eyes falling shut as he lost his frail grip on consciousness. His face went ashen and slack, his head lolling back like some kind of frightening doll that had been carelessly tossed aside by its sadistic owner.
There was a shocked, disturbed silence following in the wake of the Colonel's agonized cries. Slowly the Major straightened and carried his damaged burden over to the big man who had helped him break down the door.
"Take him to the medic, Simmons." He said quietly, his voice scarcely loud enough to be called a whisper. "Shaw. Geller. Finish picking up the weapons and go with him to the trucks."
No one moved. Everyone in the room was looking uncomfortably between the half-dead Colonel and the clearly distressed Major.
"MOVE IT!" The he barked at them angrily, making the men jump as they turned to obey. "Lieutenant, you and your men are with me. We still have people to find, so let's move out!"
"Yes, sir!" Hawkeye replied as she and the men saluted him. He was right. They had work to do and, as much as she just wanted to help take the Colonel to the medical van to see if he was okay, there were still soldiers out there depending on them. The Colonel would have to wait.
She and Hughes exchanged a significant glance and, with a tilt of her head, she signaled for the troops to follow her, exiting the room and trying to display a feeling of confidence in her determined stride. She could not let the men see how shaken she was, or how close to tears Mustang's tortured body had made her. She banished the harrowing image from her mind and pressed forward. Forever forward.
Maes Hughes jerked his head up in response to Lieutenant Hawkeye's soft voice. He'd been half-dozing in a hard, uncomfortable chair in Central Hospital's waiting room.
"Any news?" She asked, handing him a paper cup full of bad hospital coffee.
He shook his head, accepting the cup gratefully. "No, nothing."
She sighed and sat down next to him, sipping at her own coffee. Hawkeye had been reporting to the Fuhrer on their findings in Lior. There were still two more groups of soldiers remaining in the city, looking for the handful of men that they had yet to find. Brigadier General Shanks from Western headquarters was in command, arresting any rebels they came across and sending home the wounded and dead as they were found. Hawkeye and Hughes had come back to Central with most of the wounded, their part of the mission complete.
Maes had stayed in the medical van with Roy all the way back to Central, never taking his eyes from his friend's battered form. Though Roy had regained consciousness on the long drive back from Lior, he was still unresponsive. He started ranting about the atomic elements again as the medics worked to stabilize him, but other than that the man was silent and closed off to Maes' encouraging words. The medics had done their best, but there is only so much that a field doctor can do for a patient out of the back of a van.
Needless to say, Roy had not been doing well when they'd finally arrived at the hospital.
He'd been in surgery for hours now and no one had come out to update them on how he was doing. Of the twelve wounded soldiers that they had brought back, one had died on the road and another was not expected to make it through the night. The Major had been filled in on the conditions of all the other soldiers, but there had been no word from Roy's doctors and that worried Maes deeply.
Still, Maes knew that he'd be the first to be informed if anything did happen. Roy had no real family and had long ago signed Maes on as his medical proxy—the person who makes medical decisions for him if he is somehow unable to make them for himself. Maes was ready and willing to do his duty to Roy... if only the fucking doctors would let him know what was going on!
Hughes raised his head to look at an approaching figure that he'd caught out of the corner of his eye.
"Major Hughes?" The figure asked, returning Maes' gaze over the top his clipboard.
"Yes," Maes said quickly, jumping to his feet and sloshing hot coffee all over the back of his hand. Hawkeye stood next to him, her hand resting very gently on his arm as if to calm his suddenly rapid heartbeat.
"I'm Dr. Jacobs." The wizened man said, shaking Maes' hand with a professional sort of warmth before turning to shake Hawkeye's hand as well. "Colonel Mustang is out of surgery now. We've just wheeled him into Recovery."
"How is he?"
The doctor paused for a beat, sending a sharp dagger of fear plunging into Maes' heart. If a doctor hesitates to tell you something, it is almost always something bad.
"Well, I'm not going to lie to you." Dr. Jacobs said with a sigh, "He is doing much better than when you brought him in... but that's still not very good. We nearly lost him twice during the surgery; he went into cardiac arrest and crashed for a while, but we got him back. He's stabilized now, but we'll be watching him closely for the next few days."
"But... but he's okay now, though. Right?" Maes asked, reaching over to squeeze Hawkeye's hand subconsciously.
"Well, yes and no. He's stable, but he's not out of the woods yet. There was a lot of damage done to him. He's malnourished, dehydrated, and anemic. Once we get some more fluids into him I think he'll improve quite a bit, but until then I'm going to remain a little guarded."
Maes nodded, taking a deep breath and running a hand through his hair. Well, it could be worse. At least he was alive and stabilized.
"How bad are his injuries?" Hawkeye asked, her voice—as always—almost completely unreadable.
"Pretty bad. His leg is the worst of it, though. It's broken in three places and we had to put in some pins to hold it together. There was bone protruding from the wound just below the knee and the area was festering badly. We think we got a handle on the infection, but we still might have to resort to amputation depending on how he heals."
Maes felt Hawkeye stiffen beside him and leaned a little closer to her, hoping to give her at least a little comfort.
"His pelvis is fractured." The doctor continued, flipping through the pages on the clipboard as he started to list off the Colonel's injuries. "And his jaw. He has three broken ribs, a cracked skull, and six broken fingers. His left shoulder was dislocated, but we aren't too worried about that. Luckily, he has no major organ damage... although his heart is still laboring a little, so we'll be keeping an eye on it. He has some nasty burns on his back and some lacerations, but most of them are comparatively minor. There was also some bad anal tearing... apparently from sexual assault."
"Oh my god..." Hughes moaned, half-turning away from the doctor in sick horror. It was hard to stand here and listen to everything that Roy's poor body had been subjected to, but to hear that he'd even been raped made Maes stomach turn with anguish and rage on behalf of his friend.
"We did a rape-kit and sent it in to the lab, just to be sure that he didn't contract any sexually transmitted diseases." Dr. Jacobs said quietly after pausing briefly to allow Maes to collect himself. "He's covered in bruises and other superficial wounds, but I'm sure you knew that. There are some other, older injuries, too, but those are already mostly healed."
Jacobs stopped again and fixed Maes with a very serious stare, the older man's watery blue eyes piercing in their intensity. "To put it frankly, his recovery is going to be long and hard... and I'm not just talking about the physical part. The medics who brought him in said that he was catatonic. This is not uncommon among torture victims, but you need to understand that his psychological injuries are just as serious as his physical ones. He might snap out of it tomorrow, or he might never snap out of it. As his medical proxy, he needs you to help him through this. Can you do it?"
"Yes. Yes, anything." Maes said sincerely, his throat tight.
"Good. Then we will do everything we can for him as long as you promise to do the same."
"...Can we see him?"
"Yes, but only one of you can go into the Recovery room at a time. We'll probably get him his own room later tonight, but for now we want him under close observation."
Maes looked down at Hawkeye inquiringly. She smiled at him faintly and tilted her head to the side as she looked up at him. "You go ahead, sir."
He thanked her and Jacobs led him down the white, sterile hallway of the hospital to a dimly lit room that smelled like antiseptic and metal. Of the six beds in the room, four of them were occupied. A bed on Maes' left held one of the injured soldiers that the Major recognized from the medic van, but could not remember the name of. He was sleeping fitfully, mumbling like a child caught in a nightmare. The doctor led Maes away from him, to another bed on the far side of the room.
"I'll give you a few moments alone with him," the doctor said quietly, patting Maes on the shoulder and turning to leave the room. Maes scarcely noticed his departure, too entranced with the motionless body spread before him.
Roy looked dead. The dull, greenish lights above his bed drained away what little color remained in his face and gave him the cold appearance of a corpse. His sliced cheeks were taped with gauze, but bright spots of blood still seeped through the white fabric. His eyes were closed and darkly bruised above the clear oxygen mask that covered his mouth and nose. Roy's arms were at his sides, placed gently on top of the off-white hospital sheets that had been pulled up to his chest. His hands were heavily splinted and bandaged to the point that they scarcely looked like hands anymore, highlighting the presence of the IV line that ran from his wrist up to the clear glass bottle on the rack beside the bed.
His respiration was slow and steady, offsetting the soulless beep... beep... beep... of the machines he was hooked up to. He looked small and frail, a disturbing caricature of the strong, powerful man that he had once been.
Slowly, Maes lowered himself into the chair beside the bed and reached forward to rest his hand against the side of Roy's head. The Major wound his fingers through his best friend's black hair for a moment, then lowered his face into his other hand and valiantly fought back the urge to burst into tears.