Roy strode forward, trying not to stumble too much. He imagined that he could feel Hawkeye's eyes on his back and no matter how much his head hurt or how dizzy and nauseated the blow had made him, he could not let her see him fall. Not after what she had sacrificed to keep him standing.

He stopped briefly by the group of men who were encircling Edward's sprawled body, guns still drawn on him even though he wasn't trying to fight back anymore. He just lay there, curled in the mud, whimpering like a sick dog, occasionally moaning Al's name from the depths of his sorrowful mania.

The burned half of Ed's face was still steaming a little, the ruined flesh already starting to swell up from beneath the layer of charred skin, cracking it with clammy lines of red. Roy couldn't see the injury very clearly from this angle, but it was obvious that there was no saving a good portion of his face. His left eye was basically gone and what little was left of his ruptured, deflated eyeball would have to be removed. Roy looked down at him for another moment, just listening to his soft crying, then turned and continued on his path toward the stronghold, trying to tell that sick feeling in his stomach that he didn't feel sorry for him. It was his own fault.

"Velasco, Caldwell, Thompson. You three come with me," he ordered over his shoulder to some of the soldiers guarding Edward. "Medics have been called. The rest of you make sure that Fullmetal gets the care he needs, but don't take your eyes off of him even for a second."

"Yes, sir."

He didn't reply, just kept going forward, leaving both Ed and Hawkeye behind and not daring to give in to the temptation to look back at them. He had work to do still. Once the medics got here they would all go back to camp, but in the meantime Roy walked as steadily as he could toward the conquered stronghold in the distance. He knew without even going one step closer that they weren't going to find any survivors within that destroyed building, but his station as the leader of this army insisted that he check. Anyone found alive would be taken prisoner, used to help in the peace negotiations with Drachma... and he needed all the help that he could get.

The battle was over, but the war raged on. That thought suddenly weighed heavy on his soul, though he'd known all along that this skirmish was nowhere near then end of this trial. He just wanted it to be over. He just wanted to go home and go to bed and go to sleep and not have to think about anything... to not have to picture Alphonse giving him that final salute... to not have to walk passed the crater where chunks of his body were still smoking... or to see the madness flashing in Edward's eyes... or see Hawkeye lying in the mud, bloodied and in pain...

No, he couldn't think about that. Not now.

Roy grimaced and placed his hand against his own abdomen, gripping the fabric of his jacket as he unwillingly thought of her wound. His jacket was soaked with her blood, the wetness already going cold in the frigid air. His own stomach hurt sharply, probably from when Hawkeye had fallen against him. Maybe she's elbowed him in the gut as she'd been thrown back by the gunfire—his mind was a little fuzzy at the moment, so he couldn't be sure. He'd likely have a nasty bruise there in the morning, going from how much it hurt.

More worrisome than that though, was how much his poor head was spinning. He felt pretty certain that he had a concussion, though he couldn't be entirely sure until he saw the medic. Whatever the case, every step he took was becoming more and more difficult. He was woozy and nauseated and felt like he couldn't quite think straight. His mind was going a mile a minute, but in a lurching, chaotic way: each thought disappearing almost as quickly as it manifested.

Then again, such fragmented disruption of thought could very well be caused by the loss of one of his dearest subordinates, his wife's serious injury, and the fact that another of his closest allies had tried to kill him in a fit of anguished insanity.

A bubble of sudden, inappropriate laughter threatened to force itself from his throat, but he quelled it quickly.

God, what a ridiculously shitty day. He almost couldn't believe that so many terrible events could happen all at once. Things couldn't possibly get any worse than they already were, could they?

He shook his head and rubbed his sore and suddenly blurry eye. No point in dwelling on it. There would be time for that later...

His skull abruptly gave a particularly excruciating twinge and he grimaced, putting a hand to the bloody side of his head.

"...Fuhrer Mustang?"

He opened his eye again to see Private Thompson standing close to him, looking into his face worriedly.

"Are you alright, sir? You look pale..."

Roy grunted and lowered his hand. "Fine, Private. I just..."

But then he trailed off, looking around. He was standing on the bottom steps of the wide stone staircase leading up to the stronghold, the men around him searching for a way in amongst the heaps of misplaced earth and the bodies of Drachman soldiers that had been thrown from the top of the modest fort during Fullmetal's attack. Bewildered, he looked back behind him, where he could see Havoc and Breda far, far in the distance, helping a medic load Hawkeye into a van.

"...How did I get here...?" Roy said quietly to no one in particular, looking around.

When had they walked passed Alphonse's body...? The boy's torn remains lay far behind them, in the crater where he had been blown apart. They must have walked by it on the way here... Roy must have seen the bloodied pieces of what had been left behind... but he didn't remember.

And the medics helping Hawkeye; surely it would have taken them more than a few short minutes to get here...?

"Sir?"

Roy swallowed, his stomach churning as another sharp bolt of pain shot into his skull. "I think I blacked out..." he muttered. "I don't remember getting here."

Thompson stared at him for a moment as if in mild confusion, but then his dark eyes widened slightly. "Sir, your ear is bleeding..."

Roy blinked, then brought his hand up to his ear. His gloved fingers—already stained with blood—came away wet with yet another coat of bright red.

"...That's probably not good..." he managed woozily before the encroaching darkness that was beginning to throb at the corner of his eye completely overtook him.

The shock of cold mud against his side made him gasp. The world had turned sideways and he was suddenly on the ground, Thompson and the other men shouting in dismay as they rolled him over onto his back.

"Ah, shit...! Fuhrer? Sir...?"

Roy looked up at them blearily, all three of them kneeling next to him in the mud. The sky beyond their anxious faces was beginning to darken as the afternoon wore on to evening, a few rogue snowflakes drifting downward like specks of dust in a dimly-lit attic.

"I think I'm more badly injured than I'd first assumed," he informed them calmly, though even his own voice sent shards of cold glass stabbing into his temple.

And... goddamn... his stomach was really starting to hurt.


Riza watched him for as long as he could, until he was far out of sight and the haziness of her eyes had become too pronounced for her to focus on his retreating form. She blinked and her gaze cleared a little, forcing warm tracks of moisture out from beneath her eyelids.

He would be alright.

She had made a promise to help get him to the top, and now he was there. He didn't need her anymore, she rationed. He had achieved what he had set out to achieve—what she had sworn to help him achieve—and now the rest was up to him.

He was going to be fine.

Everything was going to be fine.


Heymans Breda looked up as two men stumbled into the compound, heading toward the medical tent. It was Mustang, staggering forward with the help of one of the men he'd taken with him to the stronghold. The lieutenant's stomach sank.

"...I'll tell him," he said to Havoc gravely. Havoc quietly agreed. Fuery and Falman didn't say anything at all, just stared after their Fuhrer for a moment silently before turning their gazes back down to their mud and ice-encrusted boots. Heymans swallowed and jogged forward quickly, the cold air he breathed in doing nothing to soothe the tightness in his chest.

Mustang looked up as he approached. His eye was hazy and looked as if it was struggling to focus on him as he came near. There was dried blood trailing from his ear and down his pale neck where it soaked into the collar of his uniform. Heymans' stomach clenched even tighter with sudden fear.

"Mustang, are you okay?" he asked urgently, taking him by the arm. The soldier leading him relinquished his own hold and let Heymans support him.

"Yeah... yeah," he murmured. "Ed just must've hit me harder than I thought."

"He's having black-outs..." the private supplied, still eyeing his Fuhrer with concern. "And he keeps losing track of what's going on. Fullmetal might have cracked his skull."

"I'm fine..." Mustang insisted, though he didn't sound too sure on that. He tried to take a step away from Heymans and abruptly lost his balance, but luckily the lieutenant was still holding onto his arm and quickly hoisted him back onto his feet. Mustang wavered and grabbed Heymans' arm in return, leaning his brow against the bigger man's shoulder for stability. "...Just lemme lean against you for a minute," he groaned finally. "The world is spinning."

Heymans agreed immediately with a startled grunt and wrapped an arm around his back to support him. The man was shaking and breathing hard and his skin was entirely too pale, almost greenish. He looked like he was trying not to vomit.

"Go tell the medics that he's here," Heymans said quietly to the soldier, nodding in the direction of the tent. "I'll bring him in a minute; I need to speak with him first."

"Yes, sir," the man saluted, casting one last glance at his superior before turning to obey his order.

Silence fell between the two remaining men for a moment. Mustang was still panting; his hike back from the stronghold had obviously taken a toll on him. His face was sheened with sweat from his exertion, but he was still shivering in the cold air. Heymans frowned at that. If he didn't know better, he'd say that Mustang was suffering from heavy blood-loss rather than just a bumped head... his head wound didn't appear to be bleeding that much, though. It looked as if it had already stopped, as had the blood-trail from his ear. The front of is uniform was bloodied as well, but all of that was likely Hawkeye's...

"Where are Fullmetal and Major Hawkeye...?" Mustang suddenly asked without raising his head, his voice muffled against Heymans' shoulder.

Heymans' throat went dry. He cleared it with a nervous little cough. "The medics just started working on Ed. They have him in the tent right now."

"And Hawkeye?"

When Heymans didn't say anything, Mustang raised his head and looked at him. His gaze was woozy and confused. It was the gaze of a sick child seeking reassurance.

Oh, this was going to be hard...

"...Breda?"

Heymans cleared his throat again, steeling himself. "Sir... Hawkeye, she..."

"Fuhrer Mustang."

Both Heymans and Mustang looked over to see Fuery slowly stepping over to them, his eyes bright with tears.


It was heartbreaking to watch them, even from this distance. Kain Fuery toyed with the filthy cuff of his uniform absently as he saw Breda put one arm around Mustang and hold him, no doubt comforting him against the heavy sorrow that had just been dumped upon him.

Kain, Havoc, and Falman were all standing back a ways, too far to hear what they were saying over the breathy moan of the snow-flecked wind, but they didn't need to hear. They already knew what they were talking about. Mustang had his face buried against Breda's shoulder and the lieutenant's face was tight with grief...

He shouldn't have to do this alone.

Kain straightened from his post of leaning against a stack of empty crates and strode forward, not looking at either Havoc or Falman as he passed them. His eyes were trained on Mustang's trembling form as he raised his head and looked at Breda, speaking his name. Breda began a reply, but Kain gently interrupted him.

"Fuhrer Mustang," he called out softly when he was close enough. They both turned to look at him, their faces a ghostly kind of pale in the looming evening. Mustang's face was smeared with blood and mud, his wet hair clinging to his soiled eye patch. He was the very antithesis of what he had been mere days ago: well-manicured and pristine, whole and well, a newlywed, the fearless personification of a world power...

And now he was this: trembling, dirty, and alone, looking as if he could barely stay on his feet under his own power. Kain's eyes flooded at the thought, wanting nothing more than to comfort him, as Breda was.

"She went very quickly, sir..." he began, his voice shaking with the need to reassure Mustang even the littlest bit, even if he had next to nothing to offer him in the face of the horrible tragedy that had struck him. "The medics said that she was calm the whole time, and probably wasn't feeling much by the end... She just..."

But then Kain trailed off, his sincere condolences cut short by a horrified look from Breda. Mustang just stared at him for a few beats blankly, but then what little color the frigid winds had gifted his grayish face with vanished, blanching his skin to a sickly bone-white.

"...She died?" he breathed.

Kain balked, his sick stomach plummeting even lower as he immediately realized his mistake. Oh god...

Breda hadn't told him yet.

Mustang turned his horrified eyes over to Breda for confirmation and he gave him a small, sad nod. Yes, your wife is dead.

The Fuhrer didn't do anything for what seemed like a long time. He just stood there, still partially leaning against Breda, staring into space... perhaps watching the snow fall around him, the quantity of which had been steadily increasing for the past several minutes and now acted as a kind of veil that enshrouded the three of them, curtaining them off from the rest of the world. The silence was unbearable.

But then he nodded, slowly, expressionlessly.

"I'm sure that you and Havoc did what you could," he said quietly, patting Breda on the shoulder briefly before stepping back from him a little unsteadily. Then he turned and headed toward the medical tent, toward where he knew Ed must be, drawing his gun as he went.

"Sir, don't!" Breda begged him, knowing—as Kain knew, as Havoc and Falman knew as they came running up behind him—exactly what was on his mind. But Mustang didn't stop. There was a terrifying glint in his eye that whispered of murderous, unspeakable things and he continued forward, his finger already taut on the trigger. Equivalent Exchange, that gaze said. A life for a life.

Breda went after him and grabbed him by the wrist. Mustang twisted and struggled hard, so Breda reached an arm around his waist to drag him back away from the tent. As Breda yanked him backward, Mustang abruptly gasped and his legs gave out from under him. He doubled over in Breda's arms, cursing and panting, his eyes shut tightly as if he were in a great deal of pain.

It took Kain a moment to understand why.


"Sir, are you bleeding...?" Heymans asked tightly as he pulled his arm away from Mustang's abdomen, his sleeve suddenly marred with dark spots of fresh blood.

Mustang raised a hand to the dried blood caked to his earlobe. "Thompson said that it stopped..." he panted woozily, something in his voice suddenly alerting Heymans to the fact that he wasn't all there at the moment, as if he was on the verge of another blackout. He didn't look good, for reasons that he was sure had nothing to do with his dead wife.

Mustang's ear had stopped bleeding, but that wasn't anywhere near where this new blood was coming from. Heymans gently pushed Mustang back a little and, clearly not in his right mind, the Fuhrer didn't fight him. Heymans pulled up the man's uniform to reveal his bloodied stomach and stiffened as he gazed upon the perfectly round hole that had torn itself into the right side of his abdomen.

What the hell...?

"...Sir," Heymans began, disbelieving, "I think that you've been shot."

Mustang looked down at himself and, to Heymans' unsettled surprise, he grinned like a madman.

"Breda, I think that this has literally been the worst day of my life," he said, his voice trembling with dark humor and perhaps mild delirium. "E-every time I think it can't get any worse..."

He chuckled to himself quietly, his eye suddenly shining a little too brightly. But then his eye closed and his shaking ceased. He fell limp against Heymans' chest, blissful unconsciousness taking him once more.

Mustang's staff didn't waste any time in picking him up and rushing him into the medical tent, just hoping that he'd stay out cold long enough for the medics to properly sedate him, drugging him before he could see Edward's own unconscious body lying on the surgeon's table beside his.