The railing along the edge of the bed was cold under his fingers as he stood at its edge. His hands only gripped on the bar the firmer, knuckles whitening and tendons pulling tight across the backs of his hands. Twinges of discomfort shot through the still new scars on his palms under their bandages.
It seemed to him that he knew this room well by now, knew the corners and the faint cracks in the walls and ceiling. He knew the faint smell of antiseptic better than he liked, the dispassionate chill of the room, and the occasional buzz and flicker of the lights. The nurses knew him now, or at least knew of him, and went about their business without trying to ask him to leave, as they had at first.
In truth, it hadn't been that long - only a couple of days. But each day seemed overly long, every hour was distended, and still somehow managed to blur together into a mess of waiting at the same time. There were too many other things to do, and he couldn't spend each day waiting here, couldn't spare more than an hour or two each day to come stand at the bed's edge and watch.
His fingers couldn't grip any harder, and it was only consciously that he could release them, unclenching finger by finger and letting them rest almost naturally on the beam.
He knew the room well, but not half as well as he knew the form of the woman in the spartan bed; it was for her that he was here.
She lay, hair fanned behind her head and tumbling in front of her shoulders, bangs covering and uncovering half of her face if she shifted in her sleep. One long arm lay on top of the hospital blanket, identity bracelet around the wrist, and needle taped to the elbow, feeding in a slow drip.
She was relatively covered in bandages. Her neck was bound with gauze, the lethal slash of the swordsman's blade that had almost taken her life now covered by sterile things. Where that ended, the patch on her shoulder covering Envy's injury began. Her left cheek was covered in gauze, down almost to the gauze around her neck. And that had only been the beginning, but it had been all the injuries that he had seen happen, before he had sent her with the others to fight the man he couldn't battle. When his sight returned, it had been to see her being carried away by medics, and doctors who refused to tell him what had happened - at least until he explained who he was, and then had roundly lectured him about her condition. She'd fought valiantly, but against an enemy she was vastly unprepared to face, and had spent the last of her energy before being thrown, and cracking ribs against concrete.
The doctors had been keeping her sedated, not that they'd needed to do much - the woman had lost a terrible amount of blood in that underground chamber on top of her injuries, and she'd been running on adrenaline far past where she should have dropped. She would recover fully, they told him, she just needed time to rest.
It still seemed unfair, and he was impatient with such things. I need you too, Lieutenant. Hurry up and heal.
There was a light tap on the door, and a tentative voice called out "…Sir? We should really be going…sir." His eyebrows pulled together, and he had to stuff back irritation that the woman in front of him was not the one doing the calling, before turning around, blank-faced, and walking out the door held open by the underling. He'd be back.
The larger office he'd commandeered when his had not proven spacious enough to hold all the people who were now coming and going was haphazardly organized. Desks were pushed against the walls and electronics sat in boxes or stacked on top of paperwork, files only making it to the bookshelves about half the time. Organization had to take poor seconds to getting Central back on its feet, and there were too many things to address in the day as it stood. His lazy facade had had to slip slightly- but replaced only with the appearance of forced labor; laziness could return along with his Lieutenant.
"Phone call from an external line for you, sir." The Private's words cut through his three-second reverie, and he was already reaching for his phone before the second sentence made it out of the other soldier's mouth. "From Central Hospital, sir."
"Put it through." His voice was sharp in reply, phone already at his ear when it connected. "Mustang speaking."
The voice on the other end of the phone was just as professional as he, and just as harried. "Dr. Haris speaking. Your subordinate is awake."
Mustang's fist tightened around the bar of the phone as he spoke, pausing for several seconds to be sure of the solidity of his voice before he replied. "How is she?"
"She's asked about you, and about her projected discharge date," came the dry reply. A wry smile made an appearance on Roy's face. How very like her, making a coherent appearance in the waking world for the first time and immediately asking about work.
"And what did you tell her?" The question was as valid for him as it was for her - he wanted her out of there as much as she did, he guessed, but he also wanted her to be steady on her feet before she tried to organize the mess that was this office, as he knew she would.
"That you would be notified that she was conscious, and another week at the very least." The doctor's voice gave away a tinge of impatience - or perhaps defiance, and Roy caught himself wondering how much she had protested at the extra week. He leaned back in his chair, the creak of springs and leather accompanying his sigh, and closed his eyes. But there was nothing else to be said over the phone, and he dismissed the man.
"Thank you, doctor. No doubt I will speak to you again soon."
Another week at the least, he thought to himself, but if he was any judge of character, Hawkeye would try and get herself discharged in another day or two, as soon as she thought she could handle the care of her wounds herself, or, failing that, as soon as she thought she would be needed here.
He didn't send his men home early that day, however tempted he had been. Nor did he send himself home early, leaving the other soldiers to deal with things, which had also been tempting. After everyone was properly off-duty, and himself as well, he drove himself to Central Hospital. Park, step out, shut the door. And then he stalled, and looked up at the sky. The sun was beginning to redden towards sunset, but was still too bright to be considered evening - Hawkeye had been up for several hours by now. She would know that he would have to come as soon as he could. He'd thought about waiting until morning to come, and had discarded the idea almost instantly. No, he would come now, assess things while there were no ears outside the door, and then their act could continue in the morning.
He pushed through the glass doors of the entrance, and was halfway up the hallway to the stairs before the nurse on duty at the desk had had time to react. "Um, sir…" Her voice followed him down the hallway, but he knew where he was going, and found himself quickly before her door.
Three sharp raps, and a familiar voice called from within, "Enter."
She looked tired, but she was sitting up straight in the bed, as much at attention as she could be. As he shut the door behind him, she spoke again- "It's good to see you, Colonel."
He smiled, and replied "Good to see you're awake."
She made a noise halfway between a sigh and a clipped laugh, and leaned back against the tilted bed. Leaned back carefully, he noticed. "Sorry to keep you waiting. They tell me I've been out for a few days."
Mustang found a chair and set it down next to the bed, sitting down and resting his elbows on his knees, fingers interlaced. "You have."
Her eyes closed for two beats, then opened again and turned on him. "I've got some catching up to do."
"Tomorrow, Lieutenant- I'll be coming by with something of an escort."
She nodded. Their external façade would begin again the next day, then. He'd be able to slip back into the role he played, as would she, as soon as there was an audience again. This meeting was off the record. "Understood, sir."
He watched her for a few moments before leaning back in his own chair, staring upwards at the ceiling. "How much are they letting you do?"
"Not much." The irritation was evident in her voice. "They did let me get up today, and walk around a little, but they're attempting to enforce bed rest in between excursions." There was a brief pause before she added on, "But they can hardly object to paperwork - my writing hand is fine, and it's not like that takes much strength." A glance back over to him prompted the softer observation, "Which seems to be more than can be said for you, Colonel."
She was reading his mind, as she did so many times - paperwork would be fine, so he would bring it to her. It'd keep her busy, which would put her back into the thick of things, mean a less cranky Hawkeye for the doctors to deal with, and run no risk of her straining herself. It was the best solution he had come up with for another week of her being here- it appeared to be the best solution she saw as well.
The last comment brought his attention from the ceiling back to her, with only the slightest of glances at his bandaged hands. "I think, Lieutenant, that I rather got the lighter end of things." He kept his tone light, but his gaze shifted to the tape around her neck and protruding from the collar of her hospital shirt, as it had so many times before she'd awoken. She lifted a hand to cover her neck for a moment, before letting it fall back to the bed limply. "I didn't disobey my orders," came the solid reply.
"Those orders still stand."
"I thought they would." Her answer was faint, and accompanied by a fainter smile - one that only he would have known to look for.
There was a silence then, as both of them rested in comfortable company. Time like this was precious, when there was nothing to be done, no one watching, no supernatural spies lurking in the shadows. It had been months since this had been possible. Their thoughts were dark places full of logistics and nightmarish scenes, but company made them bearable to think about.
Minutes passed before the man broke the peace, still staring at the floor. "Lieutenant."
"Yes?" He knew without looking that he had her full attention, that those golden eyes were trained on the top of his head, waiting. He looked anyways, and met her gaze.
Any number of things rushed forward, things he could say to her, things he should say to her, things he could not let himself say to her. Things she would not let him say. She had known the risks of the mission going in, and had refused to die more times in a day than most men had ever had to face death in their entire lives. He could not apologize for her wounds. He could not apologize for putting her in the thick of things. That was what she had agreed to, what they had agreed on. She'd follow him to the depths of hell, she'd told him, and she'd made good on that promise.
"Try not to take any more sick leave."
She could guess a few of the things he hadn't said just then- they'd been together for too long not to be able to read each other. But more than that, she knew what he was trying to say - don't get injured like this again. Don't make him wait for her like this again, don't make him worry about her like this again. Her eyes closed, turning forward again as her eyebrows pulled together, and opening them again on the softest of sighs. She had survived, as had he, and worry was the luxury he got now that they'd both made it through. It was still regrettable that she'd gotten herself so injured that she had to be out of commission - this was when he needed her by his side. This was when she should have been right behind him, helping to rebuild Central from the shadows. A bitterly self-deprecating smile appeared on her face- her contributions would be even more unrecognized from the hospital bed, and work even better towards the Colonel's heartless persona. But it wasn't quite right, and she could tell he felt it as keenly as she did.
"I'll do my best not to, Colonel."
He nodded, glancing away. The clock on the wall ticked quietly as silence fell again, but broken quicker by the creak of his chair as he stood. "You should rest. I'll be back in the morning."
She nodded - she could only imagine what her face looked like, how much exhaustion and pain was still engraved there, and stayed silent as he put the chair back in the far corner of the room, returning to the edge of the bed, silhouetted by the fading sunlight through the window. He stood there only briefly, before saying softly, "It will be good to have my well-armed guard back." His hand rested on her shoulder - her good one - for a moment, and then the door was closing behind him. Hawkeye sat in stillness for a minute or two before murmuring into the silence, "Yes, it will."
She had to heal quickly. And as much as she would have liked to roll onto her side and hide her wounds and face in the pillow, she forced herself to lay back, flat, and close her eyes.
He was back at the start of visiting hours. She'd prodded the nurses until they'd given her a schedule of the day, when they thought they might look in on her, and when she might expect visitors. She'd already been through one nurse's tuts over her wounds as the bandages were changed, and had gritted her teeth as they cleaned the wound on her shoulder. They'd offered her painkillers again, which she'd declined as the pain subsided into a warm throb. They'd also offered to straighten out her hair for her, which she'd objected to more forcefully - she had one perfectly functional arm, she could handle at least that much by herself.
So by the time the Colonel knocked on the door in the morning, she was as decent as she was going to get, with clean dressings and new bandages on shoulder, neck, and arm, and ready to play whatever game was thrown at her.
The rap at the door was familiar, and she called "Enter," greeted with the wide grin of Colonel Mustang and some hapless enlisted soldier holding armfuls of paperwork.
"Hello Lieutenant! So good to see you awake again!" His voice was irritatingly bouncy, but that was an art that the Colonel had perfected long ago.
One eyebrow raised, the Lieutenant replied with significantly less vigor, but with all the decorum possible. "Good morning, sir."
"You've been missing so many things while you were recovering!"
"No doubt." Her face was almost deadpan, only a hint of irony evident in her face as her eyes flicked from his grinning face to the look of dismay on the paperwork-carrying man behind him. She could practically read his thoughts - But she only just woke up! She didn't delude herself into thinking that he wouldn't know who she was - everyone did. Or everyone would, now, even those who didn't know her by reputation from the old wartime stories. Focusing back on the Colonel, she said, "Are you going to let the Corporal put those down, sir?"
She could barely see the look of surprise cross the other man's face from the corner of her eye - he hadn't expected to be noticed. The Colonel, meanwhile, had the presence of mind to appear as though he'd totally forgotten about the unwieldy files, and turned to wave the other man towards a table or chair or something. "Just set them down anywhere, Corporal, I'll get them in a moment." As he complied, Roy continued with a blasé, "You can wait outside if you like, I'll just be a few minutes."
The Corporal sent the back of Mustang's head a confused look, caught by Hawkeye as he left, closing the door behind him. He was very new, or he'd be used to this by now.
The Colonel stepped closer, tone still light, knowing that tone carried better than words through doors sometimes. "There's a brief rundown of what's been happening near the top of the stack somewhere - the rest of it is organizational matters and requisition forms, and some of it was just on a desk and I don't have time to look through it." His voice dropped so it wouldn't carry any further than her ears, as he added, "Don't push yourself. Anything you get through beyond the summary is a help."
Hawkeye nodded, replying at normal volume. "Understood, sir."
Mustang smiled- a true one this time, lasting only a second, but long enough for her to see, and turned to the stack left on a chair, and hauled the whole thing, chair and all, to the side of the bed, so the top of the stack was within easy reach of her good arm. Still quietly, he said, "I'll be back later", before adding normally and cheerfully, "Well then, Lieutenant, good luck!" and strode out the door.
Hawkeye eyed the stack and listened to the two of them retreating down the hallway with half a smile on her lips. That Corporal would have things to say about this to his friends, and more so if the Colonel let him go do other things than tag along behind him for a while. But she had something to do, now, rather than wait for the doctor and wait for the nurse, and watch the hours tick by. She'd had enough of that yesterday. Her hand reached out and pulled the top sheet towards her, and began to read.
Mustang was tailed by a highly conspicuous silence from his paperwork-carrier all the way back to the office, which was broken only by the salute and "Sir." as they parted ways at his office door. He walked through the door with a distinctly smug look on his face - as well he might, because his desk was clear of the stack of paperwork that had been there the evening before.
He didn't have to worry about the shift from frustration to smug; it worked seamlessly - he was still the slacking superior who'd found a clever way to dodge work. And if people wondered, there would shortly be a rumour that the Colonel's aide, who'd just been taken off heavy painkillers and was coherent for the first time since the battle had finished, had been given an insane pile of paperwork to work through by that same Colonel. That would be enough of an explanation, and he wouldn't even have to give it himself.
Mustang smiled and leaned back in his chair, fingers steepled in front of him as he surveyed the office of milling people. Milling with less order than accustomed, he noted- Hawkeye was the one who did the directing - but with no more disorder than had become usual, these past days. But if he knew Hawkeye, she'd attempt to start organizing from afar as best she could until she was able to come in to work.
He opened the door to her room the next morning and stopped short, nearly causing the new aide walking behind him to crash into his back. What had been an unsteady pile of paper had turned into several neat stacks of envelopes along the edge of her bed. His eyes flicked from them to her, noting the lines of fatigue still present on her face, sending a stern look her direction before wandering in to let the soldier behind him in through the door.
She returned his look solidly enough - a good enough sign, he thought. If she had the energy to start being stubborn again, she was feeling better.
"Obviously I've underestimated you, Lieutenant."
She shot him a look of her own - mostly an irritated one. "It's not like I have anything else to do here, Colonel."
He dismissed it with a wave. "Yes, yes." Given half a chance, she'd be lobbying for her release, and it wasn't a discussion he wanted to get into just now. "Where did you get the envelopes from?"
Completely deadpan, she replied, "The nurses. I told them you'd reimburse them whatever folders I needed."
He sent her another assessing glance. Perhaps it was a discussion he should be having soon. It had been shrewd; besides which, it meant she was bullying the staff into letting her do her work more effectively. He'd have to speak to the doctors - they might well be more inclined to let her into her own care, rather than deal with an obstinate, stubborn patient who was also commandeering their office supplies.
The nurses had been highly nonplussed at the sudden stack of papers at her bedside, and more so at the woman's request for envelopes and a pen, and the rapid spread of piles of them across her bed as she sorted them. They'd told her she wasn't supposed to be doing work, whereupon she'd had to enumerate in how many ways this was non-strenuous, not stressing any of her injuries, and not even requiring her to move from the bed. They'd subsided, but with the lingering threat of forcing her to stop if she wasn't recovering properly. Of course, they had then told the doctor in charge, who'd come in with disapproval on his face, which she'd evenly stared down. He'd shrugged, and said it was good she was feeling better. So she'd gotten the envelopes and her pen, and had organized the papers by destination. It had mostly been a case of recognizing the type of form, which went quickly enough - she'd seen most of the forms there were to see, these past months. The reports had taken longer - there had been a lot of them coming in, it seemed, and even the Colonel's summary had taken a while to go through. She'd packaged them all neatly and written the department on the envelopes; the Colonel would certainly not bother to remember where they were supposed to go. That was her job, after all.
The man in question had decided the same, it seemed, as he announced, "Why don't you tell the Private here where all those have to go. I'll be back in a moment." and disappeared out the door.
Hawkeye sighed, muttering "Useless," under her breath before turning to the soldier Mustang had left behind, who was looking significantly taken aback. Hawkeye couldn't blame him - between the Colonel's constant nonchalance and her current heavily bandaged state, he couldn't be expecting anything remotely helpful to come out of the current situation. But Hawkeye was used to being underestimated, and there was an easy way out of this particular one: diving in.
"This will actually be relatively straightforward for you, regardless of what Colonel Mustang might be indicating." She lifted a stack of three envelopes, holding them out to the other. "They're all marked with the department that should deal with them; those three go to Requisitions, and these", she indicated another pile, "go to Finance. They're generally stacked by department, and beyond that, by wing, so it shouldn't be too difficult to get them to the right places."
The private was staring at her. Easy to disregard, unless he was confused- but this seemed less confusion staring and more intimidation gaping. She outranked him easily - in principle - and the easiest way to deal with this was always through protocol. "Is that clear, Private?"
"Ah- yes Ma'am! Perfectly clear. Ma'am." came the startled reply, immediately followed by a scrambled gathering of the rest of the envelopes. "I'll… just take these out- could you let-"
"I'll tell Colonel Mustang if he returns, yes."
The envelopes had freed space on the bed, and she flexed her legs under the covers. Sitting was becoming exceedingly tiresome.
There was half a rap on the door, and Roy reappeared in the doorway, looking pleased with himself.
"I just sent your aide off with the files."
"I know- I ran into him in the hallway." He leaned against the doorframe, arms crossed in front of him, still smug. She'd done just what he thought she would - intimidated the daylights out of the newer recruit by being frighteningly efficient. In this case, frighteningly efficient in spite of the obvious injuries she was sporting. "I was just talking to the doctor."
That earned him a quick, sharp look from his subordinate. "And?"
"It seems you're doing better than they'd thought you would, and you're being more obstinate than they thought you'd be." They hadn't actually said the last part, but he'd inferred it, and Roy wasn't above teasing his Lieutenant.
Hawkeye made a face that Roy correctly interpreted as a half-stifled scowl. "Get to the point, Colonel."
He shrugged, apparently lightly, then looked at her more seriously. "If they're convinced that you're not going to relapse, and that you can treat your wounds without injuring yourself more, or alternately, if you have someone who will help you do so, and promise to not do any running around and reopening things, they might just consider letting you out sooner."
"How much sooner?"
"Tomorrow, if they can run over everything with you today." The immediate relief in her face was not lost on him, but his own expression didn't lighten. "You are not to discharge yourself. I'll send a car by if I can't drop by myself."
She looked at him - obviously this was out of concern that she overdo it on her first day out - but no, that wasn't entirely it. It wasn't just that he had little confidence in her judgement of what she couldn't do. She would also be unarmed, exiting the hospital. Central was probably less safe now on a daily level than it had ever been before, and she hadn't enjoyed being unarmed before; she'd like it even less now. She settled back into the inclined bed, breaking eye contact, and replied, "Understood, Colonel."
"Good." He relaxed imperceptibly; he'd half-expected her to decide to be stubborn about her ability to take care of herself, but apparently she'd seen logic in his demand. "Whenever the Private returns, you'll get a couple more things to sort. There's less today, since I want you to actually pay attention to the doctors today."
She sent him a withering look. "You're giving me very little credit for common sense."
Had anyone else been around, he would have feigned injury at that glare, and complained about how harshly she treated him. But his vantage point at the door told him that no one was, so he was free to return her glare somewhat. "You're the one that touts pigheadedness as a virtue, Lieutenant. I don't want to see that you're not recovering properly, or I'll stick you back here myself, no matter what you have to say about it."
She shut her mouth on a retort as steps sounded down the corridor, echoing in through the open door. Mustang raised an eyebrow at her, and turned to greet the approaching figure; the promised files and aide appeared at last in the doorway.
Hawkeye extended a hand. "I'll take those, thank you." The Colonel hadn't been kidding when he'd said that there were fewer; the fat envelope she'd been handed was a far cry from the armload she'd been given the previous day.
The Colonel's raised eyebrow had disappeared, replaced with a smirk. "See you tomorrow, Lieutenant." Without missing a beat, he addressed himself to the Private- "Come along, we'll leave her to her work", and strode off, leaving Hawkeye with nothing to glare at beyond the doorway.
Hawkeye had had an earful from the doctor, another earful from some of the nurses, and a second round from the same nurses before the day was through. She also had an extensive list of things she was, under no circumstances, to do, and another list of things she needed to have in order to make sure her wounds didn't scar too badly.
She was not to test her range of motion, especially no quick turns of the head, not to raise her left arm, use it to lift heavy objects, or light objects- any objects at all, really, for another week at the very least, and she was definitely not to rest anything on the wound. No purses or straps. She was also not to exercise strenuously, in case her rib objected, and she had to change the bandages regularly and as instructed, among many other things.
The main concern was changing the bandage on her shoulder- she couldn't turn her head to look at it, so she'd have to do it in front of a mirror or two in order to make sure it was clean, and replace the bandage one-handed. They had, of course, recommended that it would be best if she had help for this, which had the none-so-subtle hint that this was why she should still be in the hospital, but it would be possible on one's own. Which meant that Hawkeye would do it on her own.
But they were still letting her out, and that was what mattered here. They told her that her superior had been informed that she was to be released the next morning, and that he'd said that a car would be waiting for her.
It was fortunate that the paperwork had been easy to sort, and not much of it, with the constant flow of people in and out of the room, giving instructions or their opinion on her early discharge.
She closed her eyes for the night slightly early - the day had been tiring, and she suspected the following day would be more so.
When she woke in the morning, sunlight was already pouring in through the window. It took a moment before she realized what had woken her - the door was halfway open, and a nurse was entering with something dark in hand. She'd already closed the door behind her before she realized that Hawkeye was awake and pushing herself up to sitting.
"Oh, you're awake- good. I've been sent up with a set of clothes for you, since the ones you had when you were admitted aren't in good shape. Let's get your bandages changed and then you can get changed into these."
It seemed that by "let's", this nurse meant "let me watch you do it, since we're discharging you." The most help the nurse was determined to be was in handing her the bandages- Hawkeye did the rest herself, with only minor guidance (mostly in the form of disapproving tuts) or advice from the other woman (mostly after she'd finished the bandage). Ordeal complete, the nurse nodded.
"Good enough. It'd be easier with someone to help, particularly for that shoulder injury, but you won't do yourself any harm like that. Whenever you get dressed, just head down to the main lobby - your escort is here." And with that, she left, shutting the door briskly behind her.
Hawkeye found herself frowning appreciatively at the efficiency of the nurse-- perhaps they'd been organizing nurses by how much needed to get done, and they'd stuck her with all the fussy ones. Not that it mattered - she was nearly free of hospitals.
Looking back at the stack of clothing she left, she had to laugh, even if it was a dry laugh. They'd sent up a military uniform. She set the jacket aside - that would likely be slightly more trouble to put on than she felt like going through right now, and they had to have sent up a shirt. They had, folded on top of the pants - a plain white button-down that looked to be a size or two too big for her. Her standard black turtleneck was impossible with the bandage on her neck, but whoever'd been guessing at her size hadn't done the best job. She shrugged mentally. Bigger was better than too small, especially given the bandages, and it wasn't like she had any other option.
Once dressed, she inspected herself briefly in the small mirror in the bathroom. The shirt was oversized, although not as badly as it had first appeared. She'd rolled the sleeves up to her elbows to keep them out of the way, and tucked everything into the pants, which, luckily, fit more or less properly. Her own boots had been kept, and she'd tucked the trousers into them by force of habit more than anything. She was at least respectable, if not completely up to par. The jacket was folded over her good arm. She cast a last look around the room; she had nothing left in here to take with her. And walked out the door.
Roy was waiting for her in the lobby, one ankle balanced on the opposite knee, arms crossed, leaning back against the wall. "If he couldn't make it" had been in case of severe emergency only - his Lieutenant was going to be walking behind him again, and he was going to be here from the beginning. He heard a familiar step through the lobby, but only opened his eyes when he heard her greeting.
He took her in in a glance - the bandage along her jaw was smaller, and the bandage on her shoulder was covered by the shirt, but the one tracing her slashed throat was still large, and still easily visible over the collar. The shirt was large, but it couldn't be helped. Her apartment was, of course, locked, so he couldn't get one of her own shirts, she hadn't left anything in the locker assigned to her- her ruined jacket had had a size in it, and he'd gone with that, plus one, for the size he'd asked for. It would do for the day, and she could get her own things later. He stood up with a smile, and turned.
"Let's go, Lieutenant."
She didn't return the smile, but her reply was warm and definite as she followed him outside. "Yes sir."
He stopped for a second before he opened the door to the car waiting at the curb, smile still present.
"I brought someone along to see you," and opened the door to a dog that immediately jumped out, bolted past Mustang, and stretched up Riza's legs, whining. The complete surprise on her face at the first sight of Hayate softened almost immediately to the quieter expression she only seemed to wear around the dog. She crouched down to meet him, stroking his head as he wormed his way to her face, offering a quick lick to her cheek before snuffling at her shoulder.
"Careful, Hayate." The rebuff was gentle, and she murmured at him, "Sorry to make you wait." She straightened with the first unforced smile he'd seen on her in a long time. It was a little sad, but it was there. "Thank you for bringing him, Colonel."
"I couldn't leave him behind. Besides, he's been worried too." Mustang moved to sit behind the wheel. "Any time you're ready, Lieutenant."
Hawkeye rounded the car and pulled the passenger side door open, whereupon Hayate jumped back in and turned in a quick circle as she settled herself, and promptly laid his front paws and head on her lap when she was. Hawkeye stifled another smile - "Looks like I got everyone worried."
"Of course you did." Roy started the car and began to drive, with vague irritation obvious in his voice. "You were completely out of commission for a week, and you didn't think people would be worried? Have a little faith, Lieutenant."
She fell silent, stroking Hayate's head on her lap. He was right, of course, but she'd been sequestered in the hospital room, away from people's reactions, and the reactions were what always drove things like this home. Roy continued to drive, navigating Central's streets with ease. They were going to HQ, unsurprisingly. It was where she should have been for the previous week, rather than recuperating from relatively severe injury. It couldn't be helped. She would shortly have a massive amount of work on her hands, if the previous two day's paperwork had been any indication. She'd have a job to do and a role to play, and that was what she needed to focus on right now.
Mustang shot a sideways glance at his subordinate as the silence prolonged. The determination he saw there was familiar- she was preparing herself for hard work. Good. She would be doing her best - all he would have to do was make sure that she wasn't doing too much.
They had arrived. Mustang paused briefly, before glancing sideways at her, challenge in his eyes. "Ready, Lieutenant?"
The challenge was more than met in hers, the firm gaze all too familiar to him. "Ready."
"Then let's go straighten this place out." The door was shut behind him, and the second slam of her side, and the half-yip of Hayate's excitement followed it. Now, at last, he was walking into Central the way he had envisioned. Proud, tall, and with the even steps of the Lieutenant in lockstep with his own.