A.N. Another attempt by me to get inside Roy's head--I find that writing about a character helps me understand them better. This turned out a little more depressing than I really wanted. Normally, I hate gloomy stuff like this, but maybe someone out there will enjoy reading it. I don't like the title either.
Roy hated hospitals. He hated everything about them from the antiseptic smell to the doctors to the patients themselves. Sure, he understood that they were necessary and he owed his life to them several times over, but he couldn't help it. Hospitals had a way of making him feel like the powerless mortal he really was, stripping him of his pride as a soldier and an alchemist. Give Roy a battlefield any day because at least there he could do something while here he was reduced to sitting in the chair in the waiting room, arms crossed and eyes fixed determinedly on a spot on the opposite wall.
Roy shifted a little to get more comfortable, watching doctors and nurses bustle past on their way to care for their patients. It took all of his willpower to keep from bellowing that the other patients could wait, his subordinate was dying for God's sake, go help him--!
Roy took a deep breath and resumed staring at the wall. And he told himself that he could handle this. He had been in this position before, waiting for news of friends and fellow soldiers, sometimes good, sometimes bad. He just had to wait it out.
Of course, Roy wasn't the only one who had to wait.
Roy stared at the wall for a moment longer before glancing over. To his right were three empty seats and beyond them a suit of armor sat on the floor, leaning back against the wall.
"You don't have to stay and wait with me," Al said quietly. "I'm sure you have other things you need to take care of."
"Making sure my subordinate is alright is one of them," Roy replied, resolutely returning his gaze to the wall.
There was a small sound of metal clinking together as Al's helmet tilted down, soul-fire eyes staring miserably at the floor. He hadn't moved from that position since arriving at the hospital five hours ago, displaying a degree of patience that Roy had suspected the younger Elric capable of, but never actually seen.
It was a huge change from his state of mind earlier that day when Roy had called the Elric brothers' dorm room to inform Al that his older brother had been shot. It had taken Roy several minutes to reassure a panic-stricken Al that Ed was still alive and then to give a terse explanation of what happened. Ten minutes later, Al had arrived at the hospital to wait for his brother to come out of surgery--a surgery that not even the doctors were entirely sure would be successful.
"How bad was it?" Al whispered.
Roy looked at him sharply.
"The doctors wouldn't tell me anything," Al continued in a low voice, "but you were there. Was…was it bad?"
Roy hesitated, unsure of how to answer. He had always been a straightforward person and that was how he interacted with other people. But Al wasn't an adult like most of the people Roy dealt with on a daily basis. The two of them had hardly spoken to one another and Ed was normally present to do the talking for what little contact they had. And Roy never felt the need to treat Ed differently than his other subordinates because Ed's personality, immature as it was, commanded the same respect as any adult.
Eventually, Roy decided on the truth. What was the point of giving false hope when the facts said otherwise?
"It was bad. The bullet went through his stomach and he lost a lot of blood."
Al nodded solemnly, his expression unreadable as always. "But," Al said suddenly, "you gave him some blood, right? That's what the doctors said."
Roy grunted in acknowledgment, self-consciously rubbing the gauze taped to his left arm. It had been a mild surprise to learn that he and Ed were the same blood type, though a very lucky coincidence.
"They wanted me to give blood too," Al said, sounding regretful. "I had to tell them we were different blood types…they said they might not have enough…"
Recognizing the unspoken question, Roy said, "They took a good amount from me to give to him. It'll be enough."
The two of them fell back into silence, which Roy was grateful for. He never knew what to say in these situations, especially not at a time when Roy could use a shoulder to lean on. Where was Riza's composed, practical outlook when he needed it?
Stupid question. He knew exactly where she was--escorting the shooter to the military prison. Probably getting a background check on him while she was at it, even though Roy could care less who the shooter was or what his reasons were. He'd have torched the man himself if Riza hadn't gotten to him first.
Roy remained silent and he sensed more than saw Al fidget around uncertainly. Out of the corner of his eye, he saw Al's hands twisting around each other fretfully, a harsh contrast to the rest of the armor's absolute stillness.
"When he…when Brother was…after it happened, did he…say anything? I mean, did…?"
"You mean, did he have any last words for you," Roy said abruptly.
There was a long silence.
"…I didn't want to say it like that," Al mumbled.
Roy shut his eyes tightly, ordering his thoughts together before they could show on his face, and brought his mind back to the beginning, back to that morning in his office. He had been briefing Ed for his next mission, casually deflecting the teenager's loud complaints with some clever retorts of his own, when Riza walked in accompanied by another man--a soldier from another base who said he needed a word with the colonel. Things had been so normal, so peaceful.
Then the gun was drawn.
"It happened pretty quickly," Roy said eventually. "Edward was too shocked to say anything at first. Then the pain set in and he wasn't very coherent after that. He…"
Roy faltered at a rapid surge of memories--memories that existed to him as mere moments in time rather than a consistent whole, like Hughes' photos all jumbled together. There was the sound of a gunshot, there was Ed falling to the ground clutching his side, blood seeping between his fingers and staining his gloves. There was Riza tackling the shooter, there were Roy's hands pressed against the bullet wound to keep Ed from bleeding out. Roy could still feel the warmth of the blood on his hands and see the paleness of Ed's skin, the utterly stunned look in his subordinate's eyes when he realized what had happened to him…
"…he started asking for you," Roy continued. "I don't think he remembered that you were still at the dorms, because he kept saying he wanted to see you. He passed out after a few minutes and then the ambulance arrived and brought him here."
There was a pause.
"I should have been by his side," Al said remorsefully. "If I'd been there--"
"It might have made a difference," Roy interrupted, "and it might not have. There's no way to know for sure so there's no use dwelling on it."
Al drew up his knees and wrapped his arms around them, looking off into the distance pensively. Roy heaved an internal sigh of relief, glad that Al hadn't pressed him for more details.
Because he hadn't told Al everything. Ed did have a message for Al, desperately choked out in between cries of pain and anguished sobs. The words were etched into Roy's mind along with a stricken face and a pair of golden eyes overflowing in tears.
Roy was no stranger to hearing the last words of dying men or to carrying their messages to those they left behind. He had done it several times in fact for those soldiers lucky enough to die by his side with just enough time to say what they wanted to say. And Roy had dutifully delivered the messages of every last one of those men. After all, if a man's last words were important enough to voice to the nearest person at hand, no matter how personal their nature, then Roy could not dishonor their memory by failing to get those words to the people they were really meant for.
But Ed wasn't dead yet and Roy refused to jump the gun when there was still a chance that Ed would walk away from this, alive and well. Telling Al now would only put an unneeded burden on the boy's shoulders.
Besides, if Ed lived then it would be his place to say those words, not Roy's.
"Colonel Roy Mustang?"
Startled by the unfamiliar voice, Roy snapped his gaze up to see the doctor in charge of Ed's surgery standing before him. He stood up and heard a metallic clattering as Al stood as well. The doctor's eyes flickered over to the suit of armor curiously, but he remained professional.
"Well?" Roy asked, surprised by how hoarse his voice sounded suddenly.
"The surgery went well."
The knot of tension in Roy's chest vanished, leaving a dull ache behind. He barely heard the doctor as he explained the details of the bullet's removal or Al's anxious questions. All that mattered was that Ed was still alive. After a moment, Roy realized that both the doctor and Al were walking away toward Ed's room and he hurried to catch up.
When the three of them arrived at the room the doctor opened the door for them and Al immediately rushed in. Roy didn't follow right away, held back by an irrational fear that he would walk in and see a corpse instead of his subordinate…
Roy entered the room.
The hospital room's lights seemed overly bright to Roy and he blinked several times to adjust his eyes. The curtains were drawn shut and everything in the room gleamed a pale, sterile white. A steadily beeping monitor was the only background noise, just loud enough to drown out the sound of Ed's breathing. The Fullmetal Alchemist lay deeply asleep on the room's only bed, propped up on two pillows with his automail removed and the thin bedsheets drawn up to his chest. He was still very pale with dark circles under his eyes and Roy could just make out the blood-stained bandages peeking out from under the covers.
Al had taken up a position beside the bed, hovering over his injured brother like a guardian. One of his hands grasped Ed's limp one tightly and the other was in the middle brushing a tendril of hair out of Ed's face. It was such an affectionate gesture that Roy felt like he was intruding on something private. Roy was an only child and so couldn't really relate to their situation, but he had come to understand that Ed and Al's relationship was much closer than that shared by ordinary siblings.
"Thank you, Colonel," Al murmured.
Roy started. "For what?"
Al looked over at him and Roy saw that his red eyes were flickering as though filled with tears. "You saved him," Al said simply. "You and Lieutenant Hawkeye both. I would have lost my brother if it hadn't been for you. Thank you."
A wave of guilt swept through Roy, but he schooled his face into a neutral expression and nodded curtly. He turned to leave then paused, standing in the doorway. Steeling himself, Roy turned around to face Al. "There's something else you should know," he said swiftly.
Al looked at him curiously and Roy drew himself up straight, though for some reason he was finding it hard to maintain eye contact.
"The man who shot your brother was after me," Roy said calmly. "Edward saw him draw the gun when my back was turned and he pushed me aside. It should have been me."
Roy expected Al to be angry with him or at the very least to demand why he hadn't said anything sooner, but Al merely nodded and said fondly, "That sounds like something Brother would do."
Al jumped and turned back to Ed, whose eyes were now open and blinking blearily at his surroundings.
"Brother?" Al said, his voice high-pitched with worry. "Brother, how are you feeling? Are you ok?"
Ed slowly scanned the hospital room, taking in the furniture and machinery that were a dead giveaway as to where he was. Turning his head slightly, he stared at Roy for a long moment before looking back at Al. Then Ed laughed weakly.
"Al…oh man, I thought I was a goner…"
Assured that Ed would indeed live through this ordeal, Roy left to give the brothers some time alone. He stopped briefly on his way to the exit to ply the doctor with a few more questions then left the hospital, halting just outside the door to take a long, slow breath of fresh air. It was only late afternoon, yet Roy felt like he'd been in the hospital for years.
Deep inside, he knew that Ed had been incredibly lucky. From the moment Ed was shot, Roy had expected his subordinate to die. Of course, he'd done everything he could to prevent that, but even so Roy had spent several horrible minutes convinced that Ed would bleed out right there in his office.
Which was why when Ed started calling for Al, Roy had committed the scene to memory, knowing it was his responsibility to remember what could be Ed's last words.
Roy put just a little more pressure on the bullet wound, causing Ed to gasp in pain. Riza had left seconds ago with the shooter in handcuffs, promising to call an ambulance, and the rest of his subordinates were searching headquarters in case the shooter had accomplices. For now, the two of them were alone in the office and Roy was beginning to panic.
"Edward, stay with me!"
"Al, I…I need…"
"Damn it, Fullmetal, don't you dare pass out!"
"…tell him…I need to…"
But Al was back at the dorms waiting for Ed to return and Roy knew there was no way to bring him here in time. And so he asked…
"Edward…what do you want to tell Al?"
Ed's eyes, glazed over with terror and pain, finally seemed to focus when he heard those words. Blood trickled from the corner of his mouth as he began to speak, fighting for every shuddering breath.
"…he…Al, he has to…"
"…get his body back…he's got to keep trying, whatever happens…even if…if I die, he needs to keep trying…keep…keep moving…Al…"
Ed's eyes rolled up, his head drooping sideways, and Roy could just barely make out the last few words before Ed passed out.
"Al…don't…let this…stop you…"
Roy was just thankful he would never need to repeat that message.
A military car drove up and parked against the curb just outside the hospital. It was no surprise to Roy when Riza stepped out of the driver's side, forehead wrinkled in worry. Roy took a deep breath and stepped up to the passenger door under his lieutenant's searching gaze.
"Colonel…?" she began uncertainly.
"He's ok," Roy said gruffly, climbing into the passenger seat and closing the door wearily. The driver side door snapped shut and Roy stared at the empty driver's seat in bemusement until Riza walked around the car and opened the passenger door.
"We're going for a walk, sir," Riza said matter-of-factly, as if he should have known that from the beginning.
Roy blinked. "A walk?"
Riza gave him a soft look and added, "You look like you need it."
Roy glanced around the inside of the military car then back out at the brightly lit sidewalk and chuckled quietly, "Actually, that sounds really good right about now…"
He stepped from the car. Riza shut the door and locked it and together the two officers set off down the street at a comfortable pace. And if Riza chose to break protocol by walking beside Roy instead of a step behind him then he chose not to comment.