Chapter: 1. Hindsight
Fandom: Fullmetal Alchemist
Pairing: Roy/Ed, with bonus Havoc/Rebecca, Hawkeye/Awesome, and Al/Cats
Word Count: 3,190
Warnings: language, MAJOR spoilers for Brotherhood, blind jokes are not very PC are they, eventual explicit sex
Summary: Roy adjusts to a life of legal blindness, and Edward avenges three years of short jokes.
Author's Note: Also known as The fic where Roy has an akita, because DOGS. Extra-mega thank you to eltea for beta-reading awesomely. ♥ This chapter is a bit dark (geddit?), but hang tight for Ed being… Ed. XD ETA: This fic inspired a fanmix, with all the blind jokes you could POSSIBLY WANT! :D (Originally posted here!) ♥
Marcoh can work magic, but he can’t perform miracles.
“Don’t apologize,” Roy says when the bandages have dropped away, and the darkness doesn’t lift. “I’ve had time to get used to the idea that I’d never see again. Anything more than that is a gift.”
It seems just, after all—that the souls ripped out of the Ishvalans, granted to Laboratory 5 by a subjugation ensured by Roy’s own hands, would fall short of saving him. There’s no bitterness in this; he doesn’t regret asking that the majority of the Stone’s power would go to Havoc’s injury. Even if he’d known then what he does now, he wouldn’t have made a different choice.
This isn’t going to be easy, but it is fair.
He has to believe that.
He watches the faintly pale square of the windowpane intently, trying to distinguish a shift in the light as the hours slide past. Sometime in the afternoon, he turns at footsteps in the doorway, trying to parse the overlapping smears of gray. He can’t.
Riza wouldn’t have hesitated, but there’s a frigid and irrational spear of humiliation in Roy’s chest. He doesn’t want to call out a guess and be wrong.
The footsteps proceed towards him again, briskly and close together—short strides? Their owner flops into the chair by the bedside and shifts with a whisper of fabric before settling. Roy has his suspicions, but it stills feels like it would make him vulnerable if he voiced them.
“Damn, Colonel,” Edward says.
Ten points to Roy.
“You look like shit.”
“If I call now and stop the train,” Roy says, “we can send you on the diplomatic mission of the century with Scar and Major Miles.”
“Oh, ha,” Edward says. He’s uncharacteristically quiet for a moment, though Roy can hear him fidgeting. “How are you doing? Honestly.”
“By your reckoning,” Roy says, “I feel about as good as I look.”
In the silence, he wonders which expression Edward is wearing. He gets a very strange and terrible jolt in the core of his chest at the thought that he will never again see Edward Elric abuse his features by pulling some exaggerated face. It seems somehow devastating that after all he’s suffered through and waited for, he can’t watch Edward grow into the beginning of Hohenheim’s jawline; that he can’t reap steaming ears and a clouded brow with well-timed wit; that he can’t mock the fashion sense or lack thereof which has rallied so many around a tacky blood-red coat.
“Huh,” Edward says, and his tone is noncommittally mild. “Well, I made you a list of visual things you should think about now while you still remember them.”
Roy’s palm itches, and it takes him a moment to realize that, for once, it’s not the healing wounds or the layers of gauze—it’s the vividness of the memory. It’s a fistful of rough white linen and the surprisingly insubstantial weight of a child lacking two limbs and a mother and a hope in the world.
This is Edward returning the favor. This is Edward grabbing his shirtfront and hauling him to his feet.
Roy forgot, somehow—forgot that Edward Elric has been crippled since he was eleven years old. Disabled is not a word commonly applied to alchemical prodigies and hand-to-hand powerhouses, no matter how many hands they actually have. Edward has long since turned his weakness into a weapon. Ed fills a room so vibrantly that it’s difficult to think of him as anything lessened, but the fact of the matter is that he’s a double-amputee.
Or he was. And to Roy’s mind’s eye, he’ll stay that way, because Roy won’t ever see the right arm that he’s recovered.
“What kind of ‘visual things’?” Roy asks.
“Spider-webs with drops of water on them,” Ed says. “Weird sunrises that go that ice-creamy color of orange. How forests look uniform from far away, and then you get up close and realize there are, like, seven million different shades of green. Dust motes in sunbeams. The way really old book covers crumble at the corners and along the top and bottom of the spine. Those stupid little gold stars on the military uniforms, which you’re going to have twenty of once you overcome your bizarre and disgusting addiction to hospital food. The way Lieutenant Hawkeye’s dog always looks like he’s smiling. And… roaches.”
Roy blinks his confusion. He wonders if that habit will eventually slip away. “Roaches?”
“Yeah,” Ed says. “If you only remembered good stuff, it’d be stupid, and kind of fake. So roaches. And trash day in the bad parts of Central, if you want.”
“I don’t,” Roy says.
“How about cat vomi—”
“Al’s already trying to figure out how many cats he can own before they arrest him for being a crazy motherfucker,” Ed says thoughtfully. “I think I’m doomed. And I’ll describe Al in detail for you sometime. Probably in a couple weeks, when he’s had time to fatten up—right now he kinda looks like a skeleton. The cutest and most amazing skeleton ever, obviously, but it freaks me out; I’m always thinking his ribs are just going to poke through his skin, and he’ll bleed to death.”
“I don’t believe there are any recorded cases of that in the entire span of medical history,” Roy says.
He can hear Edward’s smile this time, and he can tell that it’s thin and slightly crooked. “Yeah, well, Elrics are special.” The chair creaks, and thick-soled boots scuff on the linoleum—he’s standing up? “Take it easy, Colonel. Al’s just, like, two halls away, so I might as well stop by every now and then.”
“That’s terribly generous of you,” Roy says.
Now Ed must be grinning. “You’re damn right it is.” By the rhythm of the steps, he’s sauntering towards the door, possibly waving over one shoulder as though nothing has changed. “I’ll see you later, though I guess you can’t say the same.”
Roy’s useless eyes go so wide that he worries they’ll pop out. “You—”
Edward laughs brightly, which means that he probably doesn’t hear Roy shouting, “At least I can reach the top shelf, you little shit!”
“The trainer wouldn’t take any money,” Riza says, and Roy forces his hand to stay steady as she guides his wrist. Thick, soft fur greets his fingertips, and he resists the urge to cling to it. “I gather that her family has a great deal of military ties. Hitomi—” A softer tone of voice, clearly directed at the dog. “This is Roy. You’re going to be taking care of him now, understand? Here, sir.”
She lifts his hand again and positions his knuckles in a moist spot of air—the dog’s breath? There’s a damp touch, gentle but not tentative, which must be the dog’s nose. It sniffs at him, interestedly it seems, and he tries to remember what last he ate and whether it would appeal to a canine.
He needs to stop thinking of it as the dog. It’s not a tool so much as an ally in the war against his own infirmity.
That’s somewhat funny, after all of his lofty dreams to end war in Amestris once and for all. He’ll be fighting this one until the day he dies.
“Good girl,” Riza says—to the dog, although Roy experiences an extremely brief moment of bewilderment. “Pet her, sir. Scratch behind the ears a little—there you go. As a working dog, she won’t need as much affection, but it’s good to get properly introduced. Say hello, Hitomi.”
The dog barks, and Roy flinches.
“Give me your hand, sir,” Riza says, which is just peachy, since he doesn’t know what direction to move it. With undaunted firmness she catches his wrist again and turns his hand palm-up. “Hitomi, shake.”
The dog’s paw lands squarely in the center of his hand, and he starts in surprise again—not just at the suddenness; the sheer quantity of textures is unexpected. There’s coarse fur and leathery pads and blunted nails and grains of dirt. Hitomi’s paw is steady and warm.
Roy curls his fingers around it and obediently shifts his hand up and down.
“Very good,” Riza says, and Roy isn’t quite sure who she’s talking to.
They take short walks with Riza and Hayate until they develop a system of cooperation.
Roy has to start being honest with himself. It’s not cooperation; it’s one-sided dependency. Yes, he feeds Hitomi, houses her, cleans up after her, and stands still with his mouth shut while Riza picks the hairs off of his uniform every morning, but the dog does not need him the way that he needs her. Her functional existence is not predicated on his presence, whereas he can’t so much as walk down the street-shaped dimness without her shoulder against his knee.
He carries a leash at first, loosely in one hand, but within the week they’ve silently agreed that it’s superfluous, and they simply walk in step. She nudges him to the left or peels off to the right and waits for him to follow; she stops at intersections and checkpoints, growling softly if he keeps moving, barking in small emergencies; she always maintains the same pace so that he’ll know that the terrain is uneven if she slows her stride. Soon Riza is assuring him that the two of them are more than capable of walking alone, and she’s right.
During the day, Hitomi sits or lies down on the floor beside Roy’s desk, and every now and again he can hear her curled tail brushing across the carpet. When incoming reports contain sensitive material, Riza reads them to him in a low voice; the rest Fuery records and rewinds so that Roy can listen to the tapes at his convenience. He expands Falman’s duties to include human fact-checker, because Roy can no longer flip a page and check. He turns his desk around to face the detectable brightness of the window, even though he hates having his back to the door; if he can’t feel the warmth of the sunlight on his face, it might as well not be there. Riza tells him he’s going to get a strange tan around the uniform, and he shoots a perplexed look in what ought to be her direction.
There is a strong possibility that Amestris is not prepared for a legally blind general, let alone for a Führer who can’t actually see what he’s signing into law. No one raises the question, but Roy’s ears have grown so sharp that he can sometimes hear the things that aren’t said aloud.
He has to drag himself out of bed Sunday mornings. Saturdays he listens to the reels and reels of tapes, either at the office or at home, taking notes on sheets of unlined paper that he holds at a consistent angle with his other hand. He’s not sure why he bothers; he won’t be able to read them later. It makes him feel better somehow. He tries to convince himself that transcription aids his memory, but mostly it’s another obsolescent habit. Mostly he can’t let go. Mostly there is a part of him still waiting to heal.
Riza makes him take Sundays off. She lies in wait at the office to chase him out if he arrives, and she’ll call him at home and know if he’s working. He’s given up trying to outmaneuver her, so on Sundays, his fingertips walk along the nightstand to shut off the alarm, and he sits up and squints for the sun. He can hear Hitomi rousing and then panting, soft sounds audible over the rustle of the sheets; together they pad down the stairs to the kitchen for breakfast. He makes educated guesses about the volume of cereal he’s poured into the bowl and listens intently to the splash of the milk. There’s something terrifyingly fatalistic about the prospect that this will be normal someday—someday soon, perhaps.
They stroll, somewhat aimlessly, and Roy tries to pinpoint their location by the street crossings and the noises. It doesn’t matter where they go; if he whispers “Home” to Hitomi, she’ll lead them back. On Sundays, when he is left to his own devices, he tends to wonder what would happen if he whispered “Anywhere but here.”
They sit in the park, Roy on a bench with wooden slats, Hitomi by his knee. He strokes absently at her soft triangular ears; no point in getting a newspaper, obviously. It’s strange, the tiny things he has to ask for now—the things he simply cannot find for himself in the darkness. It’s strange how much quieter it is in his head without all of the information that he used to acquire with his eyes.
Someone is walking down the path, but he’s probably wrong. The individual hesitates, so perhaps not. The individual steps up to the bench and sit down next to him, and Hitomi does not react, so perhaps he’s learned a thing or two.
“Good to see you,” Edward says.
“Someday,” Roy says, “when you are drunk, asleep, or otherwise defenseless, I am going to cut your hair and slather the paltry remnants with maple syrup and used chewing gum.”
“I mean it,” Roy says.
He imagines that Ed is smiling to himself. Moments fall away; the breeze ripples through the grass.
“You look different,” Edward says.
“Consider that mirrors have lost meaning,” Roy says. “Consider that appearance has lost meaning.”
“Do you shave just by feel?”
“Despite my best efforts, I have not yet mastered echolocation.”
Edward sounds vaguely impressed. “You’re… more independent than I expected from you.”
“I’m blind,” Roy says. “I’m not a different person.”
“Yes, you are,” Ed says.
There’s nothing to gain from this argument.
Roy listens to the wind shaking the leaves on the trees, to Hitomi shifting her paws against the dust and gravel at the edge of the path, to Edward Elric stretching until his spine pops alarmingly.
“I dream in color,” Roy says. “In thousands of colors, many of which I don’t think I remember from before. I’m not sure they ever existed in the first place.”
“I figured you might,” Edward says.
“Were you whole in your dreams?”
“Yeah,” Ed says. “And usually Mom was around, although sometimes those were the worst ones. Depended on when I woke up.” He draws a breath and blows it out. Roy wonders if he still wears his bangs so long that they flutter away from his sighs. “Now I dream about alchemy. Guess you can’t win with the human brain. It knows what it wants, and it knows what it wants back.”
Faintly Roy hears the clank-clatter-grind of a chain, of rubber on pavement, and of slender metal spokes. Part of him wishes he’d learned to ride a bicycle back when he was capable of doing it; another part is glad he didn’t add one more thing to abandon.
“What have you been up to?” Roy asks.
“This and that,” Edward says. “I don’t know. It’s weird. You ever feel… just… lost?”
“Technically speaking,” Roy says, “I can never be entirely positive that I know where I am. To that extent, I think I’m always lost.”
“Aren’t you a ray of sunshine,” Ed says. “I don’t think ‘lost’ is even the word I want. ‘Misplaced,’ maybe. Because… well, fuck, Colonel. After what we did? After all of the shit we went through? The life I’ve got now is too fucking small.”
“I never thought I would hear you utter those words.”
“Shut up. You know what I mean? I can’t… sit… on a farm fence and stare at clouds all day. I can’t hang around watching Winry tinker with other people’s automail. Honestly, when I decided to take my and Al’s fates into my own hands and play God, I walked out of that life forever, and I couldn’t cram myself back into it now if I tried. Do you ever feel like that?”
“Every day,” Roy says.
Edward slumps against the back of the bench. “I can’t believe my life peaked at fifteen.”
“That’s up to you, isn’t it?”
Ed snorts. “Not really.”
Roy runs his fingernails down the back of Hitomi’s skull, and she gives a quiet snuffle of approval. “I know what you mean,” he says. “It’s not that I want another crisis, because that would be ludicrous, and the human cost of the last one was almost too much to bear. But there’s no denying that the danger gave life an entirely new significance. Going back to paperwork and budgetary approvals feels like…”
“Flatlining,” Edward says. “Like that was what real life is, and now we’re dead.”
“That’s a bit dramatic,” Roy says.
“It’s just physics,” Edward says. “We had a huge amount of potential energy at the top, and then it was kinetic as we were hurtling down through that trajectory, and then we hit the bottom and stopped.”
“I suppose we need to overcome our inertia,” Roy says.
“I was agreeing with you.”
“You were mocking me.”
“I was not.”
Edward sighs and gets up, either brushing off his clothes or… Roy doesn’t care to come up with an alternative explanation for that sound. “Well, either way, you’re a depressing invalid.”
“That’s rich,” Roy says, “coming from a midget with one leg.”
Edward snickers. “You want me to walk you home?”
“It’s a good thing you’re still a colonel,” Edward says. “It’s the only rank that doesn’t have any I’s.”
“The only one other than ‘sergeant’,” Roy says. “And ‘corporal’. And ‘major’. And ‘general’.”
“Fuck you,” Ed says.
“I can still set you on fire without seeing you,” Roy says.
“And I can still kick your ass with a metal foot,” Ed says.
Neither of them moves to execute their respective threats.
“I heard you can differentiate light and dark,” Ed says.
“To a degree,” Roy says. “I can identify light sources. I think I’m improving marginally, but it’s all still fairly muddled. You’re a darker gray blob against the less-opaque background, but I wouldn’t say I can make out your silhouette.”
“‘Blob’?” Ed says. “That’s rough. I haven’t gained that much weight… yet. I keep forgetting I don’t have to eat for Al or for nearly as much automail anymore. Do you have any idea how bad I would look fat?”
“I wouldn’t be able to tell,” Roy says. “I suppose your steps might be noticeably heavier, and your voice might change if enough fat cells accumulated in your throat—”
“That is fucking disgusting,” Ed says. “All right, Mustang—I’ll make you a deal. You prevent me from getting fat, and I’ll turn you into my personal anti-blindness science project.”
“That sounds terrible,” Roy says.
“I’ll be over for dinner tomorrow,” Edward says. “See you then.”
“I’m going to file a discrimination suit,” Roy says.
“No, you aren’t,” Ed says. “You’ve got a blind spot for me.”
“It’s a pity you’re such a small target.”