Wet, warm, pulsing pain. Cold and damp, the concrete floor and walls caused everything to echo dully. Every slight movement reverberated, and played over in her ears. The room faded in and out as the waves of lightheadedness came and went. The thick, metallic scent of blood immediately flooded her senses, overwhelming her to the point of near-sickness.
Brightness all around her, yet the mood was so grim, so deadly. She was somewhat thankful that she was unable to see everything around her. That bastard doctor with his lazy eye and gold tooth, nervously sweating despite the fact he was trying to play off being in control. All of the presidential drones under his command, holding Scar at swordpoint, and the Colonel on his knees, unable to even snap to create flames. All of the dirty, twisted piping above them that seemed to gather at the center of the room. Some sort of etching on the floor that looked like a transmutation circle. None of it stayed for more than 15 seconds at a time. She couldn't bear to watch it anyway. Yet, part of her longed to have her vision once again. If only she did, she could protect the Colonel, as she had dedicated her life to long ago.
Growing progressively worse, the waves caused her whole world to fade and nearly disappear entirely. Yet, the Colonel's voice cut the air so clearly, and so distinctly, that it was enough to her to gauge her level of consciousness. He became her whole world.
"Lieutenant!" his deep voice echoing above all other sound in the room, called to her by her title, "Lieutenant, hang in there!"
Her jacket pulled up against her chest as one of the drones began to drag her across the rough cement. It scraped at her, and her body weighed heavily against her clothing, restricting her already ragged breath for the length of the movement. She could feel her blood smearing on the ground beneath her, and reached her hands to the wound, the pooling of blood in them indicating that she was losing much, very quickly. She fell limply to the ground as she was released, the heavy scent of her blood becoming stronger, and more overwhelming than before. The wound across her neck throbbed angrily with each and every beat of her racing heart. Chills ran through her. The air, the ground, her body, everything felt cold compared to the rich, hot gush of blood that puddled on the ground, and soaked into her long blond hair and the collar of her jacket.
"Can you hear my voice?! Answer me Lieutenant!"
Surging through her was an incredible amount of self-blame and anger. Colonel Mustang's goal, his safety, and his vision were the most important things to her, and now she was being used as his weakness. She had dedicated her life to him, she had trusted her back to him, for the good of all the people of Amestris. How could she have allowed herself to turn from an asset to a liability?
All the meaningless death and destruction they had seen in Ishval, all the people they had been forced to kill with no good reason. Men. Women and children. Elderly and disabled. None of it had mattered to the State when they were sent in. It truly was a war of extermination. "Why are soldiers, who ought to protect citizens, killing them instead?!" Those were her first words to him, the first time that they met on the battlefield of Ishval, not too long after she trusted him with the secrets of her father's work. Now, those secrets were being used for genocide. She felt responsible. Yet, Mustang's resolutions became stronger because of his participation in the extermination. He had made an oath to make it to the top while standing before the bodies and blood of the Ishvalans he had murdered. His success in the military would ensure that they did not die in vain, and that no one else would suffer the fate they had. She believed in his dream at the beginning, and made her own promise that day to support him, and protect him, so that he could make it to the top.
"Answer, Lieutenant!! Lieutenant!!"
That bastard doctor again muttered something about human transmutation. Hawkeye had already seen the atrocities that resulted from it. Edward's missing limbs. Alphonse's empty suit of armor. The countless tales of those who died attempting it. The Colonel had already struggled enough to abstain from it after the murder of his best friend, Brigadier General Maes Hughes. Now, the way Colonel Mustang called out to her struck fear into her very core. The pain and desperation in his eyes said it all.
He wanted to commit the taboo.
Her cold sweat became more intense, and every breath came and went with more labor and heaviness than before. Another sudden wave of coldness overcame her, and she fell quiet, unable to do much more outwardly than breathe. But that look in his eyes was something she could not ignore.
"I won't die," she breathed, mustering enough strength to turn her head to look at the Colonel. She raised her hands to her wound again, as if to hide the bleeding from his sight. She could feel the warmth of the crimson life that was draining from her body. "I've been ordered not to die, you see."
She knew it was a lie, but it was the best she could do. Mustang needed to become Fuhrer. He was the only man she trusted to change the way Amestris was run. "An alchemist is for the people." He would always remind her. Once he became Fuhrer, State Alchemists would no longer be labeled as "dogs of the military". They would no longer be human weapons, used in wars of extermination, as in Ishval. They would be peacekeepers, they would be defenders. All alchemists of the state would be "for the people". The entire military would be. Performing a human transmutation would be the end to all of his ambitions. What would happen to the world then?
Kicking her gently in the stomach, the doctor laughed at her silence, smiling at Mustang with greed in his eyes. "Oh? She's become quiet. I wonder if she's dead?"
"…Colonel…There's no need to do human transmutation."
The doctor continued to coax Mustang toward human transmutation. Hawkeye could stand for no more. Her deep mahogany eyes narrowed and locked onto Mustang's with a determined and fierce gaze, in which her entire soul was present. The Hawk's Eyes. The deep onyx of Mustang's eyes seethed with the desire to avenge Hughes, and now, to avenge her. His fear and anguish, his pain, his anger, from the early years of Ishval, from the murder of Maes, from the reassignment of his team, and from the slow murder of his Lieutenant, of which he was being forced to witness, were almost burning with the same intensity as the flames he was known for. Meeting her gaze, his eyes fought, then fell in understanding. His chest heaved. She had told him to allow her to die.
"I get it. I get it, Lieutenant. I won't do human transmutation."
She was filled with a sense of relief, tinged with sorrow. Right here, right now, she was going to bleed to death. She wouldn't live to see him become Fuhrer. She wouldn't be able to see the changes he would make to this country. She was the next Hughes. Riza had always known what her last words to him would be, but now she couldn't bring herself to say them. She feared the knowledge would set him back from his goal, and instead drive him to the depths of revenge. It was something she could not allow. Her secret remained with her.
"You're abandoning her? How cruel of you."
Riza closed her eyes, shutting out the world. She was ready for death, and this was just something she did not need to hear in her final moments.
"Abandoning? I don't want to hear that from the bastard who just threw away all these presidential candidates like mere pawns."
"They died after being thrown aside by the parents who fed them. Gave them a first class education. And gave them their purpose in life. They should be thankful to me."
"That's why the rug is being pulled out from under your feet." Mustang glared with confidence and determination.
Within moments, the doctor was pulled to the ceiling, slowly being hung by one of Mustang's allies, a chimera. There was a sudden commotion, and in entered May, on the offensive. Seeing an opening, Mustang shoved one of the swords belonging to his captors into one of the drones, breaking free, and rushing for a vile containing the Philosopher's Stone, which had been held by the doctor. He was unable to reach it, being attacked again. Pulling back, he rushed to Hawkeye's side and held her.
"Lieutenant! Get a hold of yourself!" he called to her desperately, yet it seemed her life was nearly gone. She gave no response. "Open your eyes!"
"Leave this to me!" May's voice echoed, as she quickly traced a circle in the ground. Riza opened her eyes to view the commotion, unaware of all that had occurred, only to be met with a bright flash of light. 'No! He couldn't-!' she thought worriedly, fearing the Colonel had gone ahead with a transmutation.
The warmth rushing to her neck ceased. There was no more blood. Lightheaded and weak, but alive. She was no longer dying. After the light faded, she say May. Alkahestry, not human transmutation had saved her life. She moaned.
"I've stopped the bleeding for now. Leave the rest to a proper doctor!"
Once again, a strong pair of arms encircled her and pulled her tight. A sweet cologne with a hint of cucumber. The slight scent of ash. Roy…
"I'm sorry…" he whispered, leaning his cheek against her forehead, and holding her against his chest tightly. He was unwilling to let her go, as if, in doing so, he would be letting her die again. "Thank you…!!"
"Colonel…I'm so…- " She spoke remorsefully, her voice weak and pained. Her eyes remained downcast. She was ashamed to have let him down.
"Don't talk! Just rest!"
"My eye signal…you recognized it well."
"We've been together for a long time, after all." He smiled thankfully, with the hint of a laugh. "Besides, 'If you do human transmutation, I'll beat you to death.' That's what your stare was telling me, right?"
She smiled weakly. They really had been together a long time.
"Thank you…Riza…" His voice had such a grateful cadence, filled with such tenderness. It was a side of him she hadn't seen since she was very young, and he watched over her at her father's house while studying. He gently lifted her chin and turned her head to the side with his fingertips, closing his eyes, to focus on the feeling of her wound. She had come so close to death.
"I thought I was going to lose you…" he said distantly. She looked at him, surprised he hadn't added a 'too' and referenced Hughes. The only person he had been this emotional about had been Maes. He had been his best friend, his confidant. Hawkeye didn't know what to say.
"I'm here, sir," she answered, finally, wondering what had happened to formalities and protocol. Roy ran his fingers up the side of her face, and pulled her head closer to his. Gazing into her deep, mahogany eyes, his expression was unlike one Riza had even seen him express, and his hold on her was needy, yet protective. She felt heat rise in her cheeks. "Sir…?"
His eyes remained fixed on hers, yet he pulled her closer, pressing his lips to hers tenderly, yet with urgency, as if he may never have this moment again. Her eyes fell closed, and she kissed him in return, raising her hand to grip his arm, her longing for him evident for the first time. His eyes remained open, gazing at her as the shared their moment, relieved to have her alive. He broke the kiss, still holding her face in his hands.
"I love you Riza Hawkeye."