Edward swore, creatively, and Lieutenant Hawkeye had to bite back a laugh. Despite the seriousness of their current situation, that boy just made her want to smile.
The teenager picked himself up off of the ground where he'd fallen, brushing the excess snow from his knees and grumbling under his breath. Hawkeye shifted Mustang's right arm a little tighter around her neck to compensate for the sudden lack of Edward's support. The colonel wasn't reallythat heavy, but the deadweight of an unconscious man was an awkward burden for a petite woman to bear alone.
"Sorry, Lieutenant," Ed mumbled, grabbing for Mustang's left side again. "Damn this ice!"
"It's all right, Edward. Look, we're nearly there," she tilted her chin to gesture toward the mountainside.
They'd spotted an opening in the sheer rock face that had looked promising from the road far below. After the arduous hike up the icy path, they both prayed the cave would be large enough to fit the three of them inside, out of the swiftly falling snow.
"Right," Ed nodded, and his golden eyes shone with determination.
Hawkeye knew he had been hit, and hard, during the fight, but had no way to check how seriously he had been injured until they got to shelter. She couldn't see any blood, though, so that was comforting. If he was in any pain at the moment, he was hiding it well. He seemed to be walking rather stiffly, though, like his automail was not quite functioning properly. She hoped it was just due to the cold and not indicative of a serious injury...The first aid kit they'd brought along was rather limited, and she sincerely doubted there was anything in it for automail repair.
The two limped on, half dragging Mustang between them, who moaned softly when jostled but still did not wake. Hawkeye could hear Al's faintly clanging footsteps on the path below them; he'd taken less time than she'd thought he would, and she hoped that was a good sign.
Finally, the cave was before them. It looked fairly large, although it was hard to see clearly in the gathering darkness.
"Let me check it out first, Edward. Can you look after the colonel for a moment, please?"
Without waiting for an answer, Hawkeye slipped away from Mustang's side, drawing a gun from her holster and approaching the cave mouth cautiously. She moved slowly, squinting in the failing light, examining the interior of the cave to ensure nothing, and no one, lay in wait for them. The cave was deeper than it looked, but she was able to ascertain that it was empty in less than thirty seconds.
"All right, we're clear," she called over her shoulder.
Edward was closer than she thought, having inched forward with the colonel while her back was turned. The look of concern on his face seemed to indicate that he didn't like the idea of letting her out of his sight. When she turned to face him, though, he quickly assumed a slightly bored look. Again, Hawkeye bit back a chuckle. The kid prided himself on being a master of deception, and yet he wore his heart on his sleeve.
"At least we'll all fit inside," he grumbled as Hawkeye helped him lower Mustang gently to the ground inside. "But we'll freeze to death in this cold anyway if Al doesn't scavenge any of the supplies from what's left of the car."
"I actually heard him coming just a moment ago; he sounded like he was pretty close behind us. So whatever our chances are, we'll know shortly…" Hawkeye trailed off, looking down at the defenseless colonel in her arms. Ed smirked.
"Don't worry, Lieutenant; the bastard's much too stubborn to let such a stupid injury keep him down for long. He's only been unconscious for a few minutes, really. I bet he'll wake up once all the work is done, just you watch. "
Hawkeye smiled wanly up at him, already running her hands through Mustang's hair to feel for the lump she knew was there.
Leaving Mustang to Hawkeye's capable hands, Ed headed back outside to gather some kindling for a fire. (Limping, Riza noted.) The mountainside was in a rather heavily wooded area, and he returned a few minutes later with a huge armful of (mostly) dry branches.
While Ed coaxed a tiny flame from the damp wood, Hawkeye focused on getting Mustang's soaking wet outer clothes off of him. In addition to the snow caked on the outside of their clothes, slowly melting with their own body heat, they had to contend with the now-cold sweat left on their skin from their earlier altercation, and so Hawkeye was more than a little concerned about hypothermia. Especially given that the snow outside showed no signs of slowing, and the temperature was steadily dropping. Being half naked next to the struggling fire had to be better than sitting around in clothes that were wet through, she reasoned. And Al would be here soon, with the blankets from the emergency kits, and hopefully also with the extra clothes from their luggage.
Given Mustang's completely limp body, removing his clothing was harder to do than she had thought, but Hawkeye was nothing if not efficient. She soon had him down to just an undershirt and boxers, both of which were slightly damp, but not nearly as bad as his outer clothes. Wringing his jacket and pants out as best she could, Hawkeye then handed the clothes off to Ed to hang near the now merrily crackling (though still woefully small) fire. He had jerry-rigged a clothesline of some kind when she wasn't looking, and already had his signature red coat draped over it. She eyed him, appraisingly.
"I don't suppose you can use alchemy to get the water out of these clothes, can you?"
"Nah. I mean, I could try, but since the water's not actually part of the makeup of the material, it would be a pain in the ass trying to do it without ruining the clothes. And I can't guarantee that I wouldn't light something on fire…Best not to risk it, when they'll dry by the fire anyway," he said, unintentionally revealing how just exhausted he was. Mentioning the effort that went into an alchemical reaction told her as much, and she furrowed her brow in concern. Al chose that moment to make his appearance.
"I, uh, I brought the things I could salvage from the car, Lieutenant," he said shyly, pausing just inside the entrance.
"Thank you, Alphonse. So, did any of our clothing make it?" she smiled up at him hopefully. His face fell.
"I'm sorry!" he cried out, sounding distressed. "Brother's bag was alright, and most of the stuff from Colonel Mustang's, and—and here's the survival kit with the emergency rations and blankets…" he trailed off. "But…but almost all the things in your bag were destroyed, Lieutenant. Those icicles went right through it, and this was all I could save."
He held out a pathetic little bundle of cloth. Her spare clothes were completely shredded. But her cosmetics bag, which held little more than a toothbrush and some spare unmentionables, had survived intact. She accepted the small bundle from him gratefully enough.
"It's all right, Alphonse. I can make do with this," she said as she fished one of the colonel's shirts out of his battered duffel bag, which Al in his consternation had dropped at her feet. She was sure the colonel wouldn't mind.
Somewhat mollified, Al turned to hand Edward his things.
While they were distracted, Hawkeye stripped off her own wet clothes, quickly pulling on the shirt she'd filched from Mustang. It wasn't much, but at least it was dry. Geez, it was freezing in here. She edged closer to the little fire, stretching out her hands over it. Meanwhile, Ed was changing into his spare clothes as quickly as humanly possible, and Hawkeye watched him surreptitiously to check for any obvious injuries. His leg seemed to be in poor shape, as he was allowing Al to help him dress, leaning heavily against his little brother for balance. Aside from the minor cuts and bruises she'd expected, though, he looked fine. Winry would be pissed about his battered automail, but at least he wasn't seriously injured.
Hawkeye, hands on hips, turned back around and studied the colonel again. She'd glanced him over while undressing him, but found nothing more alarming than the head wound they'd already known about. He might very well have a concussion, and as he hadn't yet regained consciousness, she was starting to worry about him.
His pupils dilated at the same rate when she gently peeled back his eyelids, though, and she couldn't exactly ask him questions until he woke. All she could really do at the moment was keep him warm and dry, and hope for the best. Re-dressing him would prove more difficult than undressing him had as she was about to ask the boys for some assistance, Al thumped Ed lightly on the back and headed outside again, presumably for more firewood. Ed sighed softly, and then came back towards Hawkeye and Mustang.
"Need a hand with that, lieutenant?" he said flippantly, eyeing his superior officer.
As Ed plumped down on the floor next to the colonel, he glanced up at Hawkeye, who had just pulled Mustang's extra things out of his duffel bag. Suddenly noticing her state of undress, Ed choked on his tongue and promptly turned scarlet.
On the inside, Hawkeye was rolling on the floor laughing hysterically at his facial expression. But she kept her composure, and coolly handed him Mustang's spare pants without so much as a giggle at his expense. Well aware that Mustang's white dress shirt exposed more of her body than young Ed had ever seen, she wasn't exactly surprised to see the blush suffuse his cheeks. Perhaps she should have buttoned the shirt up a few more buttons, she mused as she set to work.
Ed studiously avoided looking at her as they struggled to tug the dry clothing onto Mustang's limp body, his cheeks still glowing.
Oh, if only Mustang were awake to appreciate this situation. He'd get a kick out of the teen's embarrassment for sure; probably tease the poor kid for weeks. Hawkeye was used to thinking of herself as one of the guys, so she really had no issue standing there in very little more than her skivvies. (Aside from the fact that she was freezing, of course. But there was no way she'd be wearing Mustang's spare boxer shorts—that was just far too intimate for her to contemplate right now.) Her other male comrades had seen her in less at least twice. But Edward was still such an innocent, and not nearly as accustomed to military life as the rest of her team, what with the communal showers in the barracks and the conditions in the camps during the Ishvalan war. Modesty had no place on the battlefield.
No doubt Mustang's face would be just as red as Ed's was now, though, if he knew what Hawkeye was planning to do.
But before she could broach the topic, Ed had leapt up and grabbed for his battered suitcase again. He was rummaging frantically through it, face still faintly pink, when Al walked back in, carrying about a cord of wood in each arm.
To his credit, the younger Elric did nothing more than squeak inarticulately when he spotted Hawkeye. Although he did quickly busy himself with building up the fire while carefully keeping his eyes trained on anything but her bare legs.
Really, these boys, Hawkeye thought as she smirked behind their backs. Their concern for her modesty was both endearing and amusing.
"Here," Ed said suddenly, and he shoved something at Hawkeye, eyes still averted. With some surprise, she found herself holding a pair of soft pajama pants. "They should fit you okay, since you're…almost the same height as me," he mumbled, carefully avoiding the "s" word. Hawkeye was touched at his thoughtfulness.
"Thank you, Edward," she smiled softly at him and quickly pulled the pants on, to the relief of both Elrics. They were light-colored cotton pajama bottoms, and she realized with a start why Ed always wore dark clothes when she spotted the automail oil stains on one pant leg. Not that she gave a damn about a few oil marks; it was sweet of Ed to offer them up at all.
Ed held up one of the emergency bedrolls with an expression of distaste.
"So...This is it? How is this flimsy little thing supposed to keep anyone warm?" Riza smiled and took it from him.
"It's the material it's made of, Edward. They're designed to keep the damp out on this side, see?" she pointed to the oilskin-like black cloth on the bottom, and then flipped it over. "And then the inside part traps and reflects body heat," she said, gesturing to the shiny silvery material. "Between them is a special insulated material that prevents the heat from escaping. It's more efficient than regular blankets, and lighter to carry in these emergency packs because it folds up so small."
"Neat!" cried Al, who had been listening to her intently. Ed rolled his eyes, but still smiled at his little brother's enthusiasm.
Hawkeye unrolled one of the bedrolls, nudged Mustang onto it with Ed's help, and then contemplated the situation. She knew what they would have to do, and she also knew Ed was not going to like it. Come to think of it, Roy probably wouldn't be all that thrilled either once he woke.
"Listen, Edward," she began, "This is going to be a little uncomfortable, but…" Ed looked up from the fire, where he had been adding more wood. Judging by the set of his jaw, he knew exactly where this was headed. He was a genius, after all.
"I know. We'll freeze otherwise, and it's not like we can afford to be shy." He sighed as he rose, rubbing his shoulder port with his good arm and looking incredibly young for a split second. Then he met her eyes, that familiar look of determination glowing out of the depths, and said firmly: "But I get his back. "
This time, Riza couldn't hold back the laughter.
Al looked from one to the other, completely lost.
A.N. I know the whole "we have to huddle together for warmth" bit has been WAY overdone...but I just couldn't help myself! :D Happy 2011 everyone!