“Sir, there has to be another way.” Roy sighed for what felt like the umpteenth time. This argument was going on long enough, but still his stubborn, beloved Lieutenant wouldn’t let it be.
“As I’ve said, there really isn’t. The stone was used up. And I wasn’t even sure if I would use it to begin with.” He heard the rustle of fabric and imagined that she was bunching the blanket in her hands. The slightly labored breathing to his left sounded as loud as if he was right next to her. Everything seemed louder nowadays, from the talks with his subordinates to the info sessions on his retirement with the military officials. All of their words grating on his hearing that only grew more sensitive by the day the longer he spent in the darkness. It was easy then to hear the slight hitch in her breathing as she struggled to control her emotions. “Please don’t cry Riza,” he whispered, feeling a knot form in his own throat.
“Not sure that’s an appropriate way to address an officer under your command, sir,” she replied, ever stern and graceful in her reminders of propriety. Roy snorted.
“Not for much longer, Lieutenant.” She didn’t respond and he wasn’t sure he wanted her to. His heart gave a dull thud at the thought and all the possibilities but ached in the next beat. “Guess I won’t be able to keep that promise I made to Ed.”
“What promise?” Roy gave a wry smile.
“Oh just that I’ll get back the 520 cenz she owes me once I become Fuhrer and make this country a democracy. Evidently she learned about my secret plans from a little birdie,” he drawled as he sunk back into his hospital pillows. It was Hawkeye’s turn to snort. Roy grinned and found himself blindly looking in her direction, packing on all the charm he could muster. “Good thing I won’t be your superior for much longer or else I would have to consider disciplinary punishment for sharing state secrets.”
“As if you would sir.” They quieted when knock on the door interrupted their banter and it slid open without preamble. “Fuhrer Grumman, sir.” Roy quickly snapped into a salute, as best he could being bedridden and all.
“At ease soldiers,” the man replied, his voice rumbling with a hint of mirth. “Fine predicament you’ve got yourself in Mustang.”
“A fine predicament that lead to your Fuhrership, sir,” Roy retorted. As predicted, his mentor just laughed as a chair scraped across the floor until it was settled between the two beds. “To what do we owe the honor of a visit from the Fuhrer himself?” A couple of pops sounded off from joints, Roy presumed, as Grumman sat down.
“Just that a paper came across my desk the other day of a decorated war vets honorable discharge. Thought you might know something about that?” Roy smiled ruefully.
“Might know a little something about that.”
“Sir, if I may,” Hawkeye spoke. There must have been some visual exchange because she continued in the next beat. “Colonel Mustang, despite his visual impairment, is otherwise fit for duty. With the loss of much of the upper ranks, the military would be remiss to let go of one of its most dedicated soldiers.”
“Lieutenant-“ Roy began.
“I understand that Lieutenant Hawkeye,” Grumman broke in. “But I’m afraid I cannot make an exception for a blind soldier, even one as exceptional as Colonel Mustang.” And there it was, just as he knew it. Because of Wrath and Pride. Equivalent Exchange for something that he hadn’t wanted in the first place. “Unless, of course, there might be a miraculous recovery?” He felt eyes turn on him, and resisted the urge to flinch as a blank white face turned to face him in that white place.
“I’m afraid Dr. Marcoh no longer has the capability to perform such miracles.” He no longer carries a philosopher’s stone.
“Pity.” And that was that. The Fuhrer left shortly after, staying just long enough to inquire after his granddaughter’s health, though her answers were curt. No doubt she was seething at the man for not even trying to fight for his protege who’d given everything up to save this country. Roy laughed bitterly as he imagined her puffed cheeks and glistening eyes. No one would believe it even if they could see the infamous Hawk’s Eye right now, the stony-faced Lieutenant of the Flame Alchemist, pulling off the puppy dog look on her grandfather.
He’d only witnessed it once in his life, a complete accident he would take to his grave for neither had known he was there to witness the family members argue over where she’d be stationed. Grumman had wanted her far away from the most lethal state alchemist of the Ishvalan War. Riza had argued she had also been the most lethal of the snipers in the war. He’d walked away after that, guilt weighing heavy in his chest.
“Sir?” a whisper to his left again.
“Yes Lieutenant?” A pause. Hesitation. Roy braced himself as he waited.
“What will you do now?” Roy hmm’ed. The silence stretched on with nary a rustle of clothe from the woman.
“There are other ways to make a difference. I’ll start there.”
“Then I’ll follow you,” Roy turned to look at her, though he only saw darkness. He heaved a sigh.
“No, sir.” Roy blinked.
“You didn’t even let me finish.”
“I told you once that I’d follow you into hell. I won’t abandon you now.”
“…Even at the cost of everything we’ve worked for?” Roy asked in a quiet voice. She didn’t respond immediately, so Roy fiddled with the sheet, the pads of his fingers swiping over the coarse texture. As much as his heart leapt at the idea of her following him, they couldn’t enact change outside of the system. Amestris wasn’t suited for such a harsh takeover of ideas, not with their own history of violence built into its very foundations. It would devolve into a reign of terror, a civil war with the price of the innocent pinned on his head to join the blood of the Ishvalans on his hands.
“No,” Riza at last whispered, a pained note causing her normally steady voice to become coarse as if it was sticking to her throat. “You’re right.” Roy closed his eyes wishing not for the first time that this swirling darkness would just cease. That he wouldn’t wake up fumbling thinking he was somewhere he was no longer at. A place much whiter and colder with an eerie smile pointed right at him.
The next day, bureaucrats from the retirement office came with the official documents walking him through what his discharge would entail and what benefits to expect. It was much larger than he had anticipated, but he supposed it was Grumman’s way to apologize for not allowing him to stay. After they left the room remained quiet. Only the timely arrival of the rest of the team offering their condolences broke the melancholic atmosphere, and the good news of the Elric siblings' recovery boosted his morale. At least one of them had accomplished their goals. And with any luck so would he.
The blaring sounds of cars honking outside his room woke him up from a nightmare filled with white and red eyes. He lay panting, as the sweat cooled against his skin. Eventually he raised a hand and rubbed it on his face before tossing it out and feeling for the clock; the hands' position was at 10:15. He groaned, rolling over onto the side of the bed heated by the sun beams from the morning. There was a soft pitter-patter as his faithful companion with the unfortunate name of White Bacardi, came into his room. She gave a small whine.
“I know, I'm up. Breakfast is coming.” She gave a small yelp and nuzzled up against his hand, her soft fur tickling the skin. He gave her a scratch and then sat up, stretching out stiff limbs and then moved onto hand stretches to loosen the scar tissue there. Sliding out of bed, he wriggled his toes and then walked to the kitchen, hand trailing the wall. He knelt down and felt for her bowl, which she helpfully nudge into his hand. Scooping her a generous helping of dog food (She's going to become fat if you keep feeding her like that Roy.) he listened as the sound of munching filled the kitchen.
He straightened back up and went about his morning routine, very carefully allowing his razor to glide across his skin, memorizing the areas that he felt the blades go over. He finished washing his face, mentally preparing for the day when suddenly there was a knock on the door. He ignored it. Roy went to the closet, feeling the sleeves of the different shirts when whoever it was started knocking again, this time louder. Bacardi started barking, giving little whines as if wondering why he hadn't yet investigated this intruder. He gave a sigh and found his way to the front door, seriously contemplating whether to open it up, even with White Bacardi whining at him. The choice was taken out of his hands.
“Open up you lazy Bastard! You gonna make me wait out here all day?” He never unlatched a door quicker.
“Fullmetal? What are you doing here?” He felt her hand on his should as she gently moved him out of her way and waltzed into his apartment. Too shocked to protest he closed the door behind her and followed the sound of her footsteps to his dining room.
“Seriously? After almost four years you gonna greet me like that?”
“Yes cause everyone wants to be called a lazy bastard first thing on a weekend morning by a half-pint,” he said, leaning against the door frame. There was a pause.
“It's Tuesday.” Roy didn't need to see to know his ears had turned red.
“Ahem, yes well. You still didn't answer my question.”
“I'm setting up shop in Central. Actually just a block from here.” He tilted his head.
“NO! Alchemy of course.”
“Don't you have to be able to perform alchemy?” He internally winced even as the words left his mouth. Bless her, she didn't even pause a beat.
“Not unless you're consulting. Ya see, if people need expert help figuring out an array or even just an expert on how to make anything with alchemy, I'm your woman.”
“You said you have a place a block from here?” She hmm-ed and he heard her uneven gait as she began to walk around the room.
“Yeah, already put a down payment on it. Hoping to open up next month.” There was creak as she began opening up the cabinets in his kitchen. “Geez don't you have anything edible here?”
“It's grocery day, though you are not welcome to any of it.” He could imagine her glaring pout as he left the kitchen and went back to his room to change. When he came out, he could still hear her bustling around the kitchen, no doubt causing a mess. Roy heaved a sigh, still reeling from her sudden appearance. White Bacardi nuzzled his hand and he smiled thankful for the grounding gesture.
He strode into the kitchen, intent on kicking his unwanted house guest out when he tripped on a goddamn bag that wasn't suppose to be there. An undignified squeak left his mouth before he could catch it and he was falling having missed grabbing the door frame by a hair's breath. 'And so here lies Roy Mustang, former Colonel, died by tripping,' his brain helpfully supplied. A strong pair of arms caught him just as he had given up all hope of surviving this day, and allowed him to get his feet back under him.
“So, saved your life again.” He scowled, pushing her hands off of him. “No need to be prissy about it.”
“I'm not prissy, it's just that someone left a bag in the middle of the floor in a blind man's apartment.”
“Oops, sorry about that,” she sheepishly replied. Huffing a breath he moved to grab his shopping bag from the peg by the fridge. “Need help with that?”
“No.” Bacardi's leash was coarse under his fingertips as he traced it down to the latch. She was patiently waiting by him as he gently reached out and felt for her collar. He rose and grabbed his keys and cane on the first try from the side table. Roy felt her presence before she even opened her mouth.
“Where are you going?”
“Groceries. What you grew deaf instead of taller?” She chuckled as she closed the door behind them and followed him out onto the street. The blasted bag was thumping against her side.
“Guess it can be forgiven since you're blind and all, but I'm not much shorter than you now. So guess that makes you pretty short too.” The cheer dripped from her voice. She was clearly waiting to point that out to him.
“Pretty cheap shot to make fun of a blind man.”
“Pretty cheap shots to have made fun of a growing teen.”
“Touche,” he said with the barest hint of a smile. “It's strange doing this with you again.”
“Yeah it is.”
“You said your shop is around here?”
“Actually, just on the corner across the street.” Instinctively he moved his head towards the direction he thought she was pointing out. His ears burned again when he heard her snicker. Well, guess it was the other corner then. “Look I gotta go, but thought I'd make my presence known to you.”
“Oh gee, what an honor,” he groused and started walking when Bacardi tugged on her leash. She cackled in response and walked in the opposite direction. Roy smiled slowly to himself. It was nice seeing the little hellion again.
“Riza, you know you don't have to call me that anymore.”
“Force of habit... Roy. Just wanted to let you know how things are going.”
“...Sure. How are things? Did Colonel Meyers capitulate?”
“Hmm, yes. I wasn't expecting that from just insinuating his indiscretions. Was it always this easy for you?”
“Don't get cocky Captain. That's when someone just like me will come along and sweep it all from under you.”
“Of course sir... Roy?”
“How are things?”
“...It's okay. Ed suddenly showed up out of nowhere and has been a pain in the ass as usual.”
“I know. She called asking for you and I gave her directions.”
“Traitor. Did you know she's opening up an alchemy consulting business?”
“No, but it sounds like something she'll enjoy.”
“Assuming she doesn't bring down half of Central in the process.”
“Agreed. I'll try to be by some time this week. Work has been busy, with the Restoration underway. There's plenty of paperwork. I'm sure you don't miss that.”
“Yeah, who needs all that paperwork in my life...”
“You'd never get it done... Sorry I've got to go. I have a meeting to get to in five minutes.”
“Of course. Well, okay then I'll leave you to it. Bye.”
There's a pounding on the door again. Roy smooshed his face into the pillow, hoping that if he just shrouded his world in darkness (hah!) it would go away.
Knock! Knock! Bang! Bark! Bark!
Great. With Bacardi going off Roy had no choice now but to swing himself up and see who the hell was trying to bust into his apartment. Swinging the front door open he almost regretted his entire life when, of course, Edaline burst through, jabbering on about contracts and gods knows what else. Shutting the door, he pinched the bridge of his nose, trying to fight off the nausea broiling in his stomach with every pulse of his head.
“Isn't there someone else you can bother with this?”
“You're the closest and the freest,” she responded back, dropping her bag down onto the small dining table in his kitchen with a thunk. Bacardi nuzzled up against his leg and he remembers through the migraine to go and grab her breakfast. When he enters the kitchen he hears the clinking of glass against a bottle. “Late night?” Ed asks. He doesn't dignify her with an answer. Everything in her tone is judgmental and so what if he drank a whole bottle of scotch? Not like she has the right to tell him how to live his life.
He scoops some dog food into White Bacardi's dish and the pooch happily munches away as he straightens up and goes to the bedroom to get ready. When he returns, she's already rustling paper and scratching on it. His stomach gurgles and he switches directions to find the easiest to stomach food to go with his coffee.
“Do you want anything?”
“Nah. Like most normal people I've already eaten.”
“Since when were you normal? You used to go a whole day when you got sucked into your research.” The milk smells a tad sour, but should still be okay with some cereal.
“Well, this isn't research. It's boring paperwork.”
“And you thought to bring it to the one person who hated paperwork more than you?”
“Shaddup.” He slides into the only other free seat, careful to hold the bowl away from the papers that he assumes is spread out. “I just don't get what they're sayin'.”
“Read them to me,” he says, cause it's not like he has got anything better to do today. Edaline begins doing just that, reading each contract, stopping when Roy asks for a clarification. He walks her through the legalese (though how she signed a lease without knowing much is something he decides not to explore). And... it's pleasant, in ways that he never thought spending any large amount of time with the girl (though he supposes he should say lady now) would be. His coffee finished and before he can stand she's rushing off to pour him his mug, with the 2 sugars, a dash of honey, and a bit of vanilla that he favors. Setting it in front of him, he startles out of his stupor when she taps him on the head.
“What, you need me to help you drink it?” He shakes his head.
“Just surprising you did something for me.” He could practically feel her eyes roll at him and he smirked.
“Yeah, well don't expect more of it.”
“Wouldn't dream of it. So now this contract is saying...”
“Apologies. I'm calling to let you know I won't be able to come over for dinner tomorrow. There's an important meeting all day and I expect it to run late. We'll be shipping out in a couple of weeks to Ishval so everything needs to be in order.”
“I understand. Uh, well good luck?”
“You've got any questions?”
“No I think I've got a handle on this.”
“Oh, okay. Tell the team I said hi.”
“Will do. How are you doing today?”
“The same. Ed's been stopping by asking for advice.”
“What kind of advice?”
“Some legal stuff with contracts, though yesterday she brought this array in and was describing it to me over lunch.”
“You guys had lunch?”
“I know, shocking. She's less of a pain than she used to be, and is actually a tolerable lunch guest.”
“Well, I'm glad you have some company.”
“It's okay Riza. We'll figure out another time. Oh before I forget, would you happen to know of any military contracts? Not sure if Ed would want to work with the military again, but it would help with her business' reputation.”
“I don't, but I'll keep an eye out. Hey, I've got to go. Talk later?”
“Yeah, sure. Talk to you later.”
“Rise and shine!” He startles, hands instinctively poised to snap. “Oh don't give me that Colonel Bastard shtick. Your porridge will get cold if you don't get up now. Can't imagine your hangover will thank you if you don't get some food and liquids into you.” And right on cue his head starts to pound. Why was she here? How'd she get it? Roy must have mumbled something intelligible because she responds he was an idiot and left the door unlocked. He's half dragged by a pair of impatient hands, feeling like he's been chewed and spat out by the world. Roy's forced into his seat by the pathetic excuse for a dining table and a steaming bowl of porridge wafts into his face.
“Not sure my stomach will like porridge.”
“Drink some water and eat up. This is a recipe from Xing so it's not the porridge you're thinking of. Suppose to be good for you when you're sick.” Being sick and having a hangover are two different things, but Roy doesn't complain as he follows her orders (and that is a strange notion considering their position over four years ago). At the first bite, a wave of nostalgia washes over him.
“I haven't had rice porridge in years,” he murmurs in awe, savoring the way the watery rice carves a soothing path down his throat.
“Yeah?” she asks, sitting down across from him.
“Mmm... My mother used to make this for me when I was a little kid. Though I had it even when I wasn't sick.”
“Why only when you were a little kid?” The spoons hovers as he lets the porridge cool. He takes a moment, really wondering if he wanted to divulge anything to Edaline Elric that she could possibly hold over him. The thought is quickly chased away when he reminds himself out of everyone, she'd understand.
“They died when I was seven. Car crash. ” She hums which is as good as Edaline sharing heartfelt condolences with another person. Soon there's just the scraping of bowls as they eat breakfast together. Afterwards he shoots up, suddenly remembering that Bacardi hasn't had breakfast yet. She laughs and tells him she already took care of her and took her for a walk. For some reason it warms his heart that she thought to take care of White Bacardi before himself.
“Hey, so this isn't just a social visit.”
“You think you can help me with this consulting gig?” He hasn't really performed alchemy since he retired. Too much of it requires being able to see the reaction. His hesitancy must show on his face because she sheepishly mutters that it's okay if he's uncomfortable. He stops her with a raised hand.
“I can give it a shot. I trust you aren't going to have something that could have a really bad rebound.”
“Who do you think I am? Like I'd shit you up with something as dumb as that,” she cockily replies as she clears their dishes for the work ahead. It's slow going. They take a week figuring out how to best help him understand the array she's working on in between the other work piled on her plate. From her explaining in detail combined with learning to visualize in his mind the array she traces on his palm, he finally feels comfortable enough to activate one with full understanding of what it's suppose to do.
They celebrate with a night on the town, him dragging her to Madame Christmas' when he finds out she has yet to try alcohol. His sisters discreetly greet him, unsure of his company knows their connection. The Madame is at the bar and when he explains, she pours Ed her first cup of liquor. She cusses him out when he shows up the next morning at her place with a pot of rice porridge.
“Captain Riza Hawkeye speaking.”
“Sir, you know military lines are for personnel use only. How did you-?”
“Ms. Marge is such a lovely operator. The military should really give her a raise for the excellent work she does.”
“(Sigh) Of course. What is it you wanted to talk about?”
“Oh well, as you know Ed's been back. And she's been a pain in my ass.”
“Since she hasn't been able to perform alchemy, she roped me into helping with her business.”
“And we've actually come across some really interesting arrays. There's this one that took in ambient energy in order to sustain the reaction until you turned off the array or interrupted the circle-”
“I'm sorry Roy, but there aren't many lines out here to Ishval. I need to make sure it's open in case there are any important orders.”
“Ah, yes. Sorry, I understand.”
“I'll be back in a few months for a status update in Central. I'll make sure to stop by.”
They settled into a routine. She would usually bust down his door (metaphorically speaking; he finally gave her a key when he found her trying to pick the lock. He didn't want to have to replace the doorknob), and then they would make breakfast together and discuss the different arrays they were coming across. White Bacardi had taken to Ed surprisingly fast (probably because this particular human didn't forget to feed her). This meant that he stopped drinking himself into a stupor most nights. Especially after she had burst into his bedroom and threw off the covers as per their morning ritual, and for some reason his drunk ass had decided going commando was a great idea the previous night. He may not have been able to see but he hardly turned his head in her direction the rest of the day.
And it wasn't just mornings. He started going out to the shop, which was quickly gaining a reputation by the day. Those military contracts really did help boost her business and of course her once being the famed People's Alchemist helped a lot. For their one year anniversary, there was a line that went around the block with people bringing in beloved items to be fixed, or even to give them rare alchemy books they'd found cleaning out the attic, asking for advice on what to do with them. Ed whispered into his ear what the object was and what was wrong with it as he activated whatever array she'd drawn out for him. White Bacardi had laid down at his feet, snoring away, bringing a comforting presence to the whole ordeal. It was tiring and by the end he wanted nothing to do but fall into bed.
But the joy in her voice at their success prompted him to drag her to Madame Christmas' before they opened and have their own private party. She punched him in his shoulder when she found out his familial connection, ranting about how all this time she thought he was a man-whore, much to his chagrin. His sisters cackled their delight and immediately started telling her all the tales of Baby Roy-Boy. Even Madame Christmas took to her, delighting in her frankness of opinions and devil-may-care attitude towards propriety. Though when his sisters began teasing how good they looked together, he felt the weight of her stare.
To the tune of Ed's protests, he dodged the Madame around the dance floor, dancing with each of his sisters. He knew what his aunt wanted to talk about, but he didn't feel like exploring that mix of feelings yet. For now he reveled in their success with Ed, allowing himself to be pulled into a jaunty country jig with her for the rest of their evening festivities
“Hello, Roy Mustang speaking.”
“Riza! Finally got you to call me by my name.”
“Yes, well I'm afraid I have to cancel tonight's visit. I hope you didn't already start dinner.”
“Ah, well, yes, but it's not a problem. Least I'll have food for the weekend.”
“Oh, I'm so sorry Roy. General Armstrong asked for a meeting. You know how she is and this sounded urgent. I have to go but I will visit you some time this week.”
“Um, well this week I'll actually be out of town.”
“Yes. Ed and I got asked to consult for the military at Western HQ. She would have turned it down but it sounds like it has something to do with Chimerical research so she wanted to check it out in case. I'm going along since I have a couple of buddies from my old platoon out there who can help us. I'll be back in a couple of weeks if you want to visit then.”
“I'm afraid I'll have to head back out to Ishval before you get back. Maybe next time I'm in town.”
“Sure... next time.”
“I'm sorry again Roy.”
“No! Don't worry about it. This is good if General Armstrong wants to see you personally. This will help you climb the ranks for sure.”
“Are you sure?”
“Positive. What's one missed dinner? You're getting so close Riza.”
“If you're sure.”
“Yes I am.”
“Okay. Well, goodbye.”
It was a late night, one in which consequences be damned. Roy was nursing a glass of whiskey, something to burn inside as the darker feelings churned inside of him. White Bacardi was already in her bed snoozing so he put out breakfast for her in case he didn't wake up in the morning. He knew for a fact he wasn't going to have to deal with an early morning wake up (Ed had declared a personal holiday, which meant she would sleep in), so there was nothing from stopping him from having one too many. The glass was halfway to his lips again when there was a knock on the door. Goddamn it. And he even recognized the knocks. He stood up and walked unsteadily towards the door, unlatching it and swiftly moving to the side as a sopping wet hurricane sped past him towards the roaring fireplace. He closed the door on the storm outside.
“What happened to your key?”
“Left it at home,” she said. Her teeth chattered so loud he could hear it from the other side of the room.
“Go to the bathroom. There's a robe you can put on as you let your clothes dry.”
“Like hell I'll let your perverted ass get an eyeful.” He stared blankly in her direction, waving a hand up and down in front of his face. “Right.... I'll be back.” Roy settled into his spot, relishing in the warmth he felt from the flickering flames. The soft padding of her feet brought him back into the moment. Taking another sip from his cup (he better pace himself now with his unexpected guest) he made room for her to join him on the couch. There was a dip and then a warm body settled right next to his, flushed against his side. He raised an eyebrow at her.
“Just until I warm up. I'm freezing.” The logs crackled and groaned from the heat, as if the fire itself was alive and talking. He set his glass down, no longer feeling the need to continue.
“Thought you weren't drinking anymore?”
“Thought you declared a personal holiday?” A weighted silence passed between them, filling up the gaps. He didn't really want to talk, but Ed kept shifting, nearly vibrating with the need to.
“You know, I never asked. What made you decide to come to Central and start a business?” He felt her shift at his side, burying deeper. There was suddenly a sinking feeling in his stomach. “Is Alphonse okay?”
“Yes, ohmygosh yes he's fine. It's nothin' to do with him,” she blurted shifting away, her hands rapidly waving back and forth he guessed from the shifting of air that hit against his face.
“Ms. Rockbell? Mrs. Rockbell?”
“Yes they're fine too.” He almost gave a small sigh, but there was still a tension lining Ed's body as she settled back against him, drawing her legs up. “It hasn't rained like this in a while,” she began. He tilted his head towards her, to let her know he was listening. “Last time was the spring of 1918. The river flooded. I was excited. Now that Al was mostly recovered and growing stronger everyday, we could really help out. Al was doing amazing of course, just like Teacher did. I was helping with the sandbags in the places Al hadn't gotten to way down the river. There was a shout and one of the little boys who had come, Danny, had fallen into the river. Some of us chased after him, and some ran for Al to get his help. I was way ahead of the other men and actually got ahead of him.”
There was a hitch in her voice.
“I clapped, dropping down, hoping to create a ramp that would get him up on shore.” The silence was damning as he felt her begin to shake. Her breath stuttered for a few moments and she continued on. “Of course nothing happened. He'd passed me while I had stopped and I tried to catch up with him again, but he hit the rapids...” This time she sobbed tucking her head into her knees. He almost put his arm up around her when she shot up and threw one of the pillows against the wall. “Fuck! I'm fucking useless. Fuck...” He listened to the sounds of her sobs his own heart aching. She jumped as he wrapped his arms around her, tucking her head under his chin as he swayed them back and forth.
“You're not useless. You're human.” And she bawled louder, clutching onto his shirt.
“Sorry sir. Looks like the line is busy.”
“I understand. Thank you.”
Since that night, Ed began to come over in the evenings. It's a frequent sight now to find White Bacardi yipping in excitement the moment Ed takes a step over the threshold, jumping up and down as if she was a little puppy again. Roy realized they’d been cooking together for most meals of the day now. He's not sure, but he might be becoming plumper, so he started to exercise regularly again, carefully taking Bacardi out for jogs in the park, lifting weights from a set Havoc had once gotten him for Yuletide (along with a note telling him he better catch up to them), and regular push ups and sit ups throughout the day. His sleep improved too. He no longer lay awake for hours on end, desperately waiting for the thoughts to be silent in his head. He found himself smiling more easily and chatting more openly with Ed wherever they are. Maybe it's why one day over dinner after she finishes explaining a theory of hers, she asks a question of her own.
“What happened the four years I didn't see you? I would have thought even if you couldn't stay in the military, you'd have done something to accomplish your goal?” He's blindly slurping up spaghetti (hah!) when she asks and it takes him a moment to clear his mouth. He shrugs.
“I did, at first. Tried setting up charities with some other people to help Ishvalan refugees. But the moment they found out I was involved, they wouldn't come near it. The other people involved asked that I not step near their efforts in the future. Tried to lobby for better laws for them and for Amestris in general. Lawmakers turned down the proposals at every turn; many of them were jealous of me back when I was still in the military.”
“What did you do?”
“Nothing. Not my fault they don't know how to play the game.”
“So you stole their promotions.”
“Anyways... Tried to run for public offices, and when that didn't work, offered to help those I thought would be good in public office. Hard to do when you're blind because nobody trusts someone who's powerless, not in this country. So I did my best to support Riza and the Team. They rose through the ranks. They were able to get the Ishval Restoration project going. They... they did a damn fine job even without my advice. I couldn't be prouder...” He takes in a shuddering breath when he realizes belatedly that this is the first time he's voiced out his many failures. “Guess the world doesn't need someone like me.” He chuckles. It feels like it's raining again.
“I wouldn't say the world doesn't need you.” Edaline's voice is strong with conviction and he can picture her with that set to her mouth and eyes burning with that fire he saw when she was nothing but a girl in a wheelchair. “And just because you're blind, you still have two good legs to move forward on.”
“Where have I heard that before?”
“That's the advice I give back to you now,” she retorts. He struggles to breath as a wave of affection rises up for her.
“It's pretty damn good advice,” he chokes out.
“You know, most people would've looked at a crippled girl and just pitied her and let her be.”
“Most people wouldn't have harassed a blind man at every moment of the day,” he replies. And if his smile is a little bit watery, Ed doesn't mention it.
It's Yuletide again and Roy is excited for the chance to see the old team after their long-term post out in Ishval. They decided to gather at Madame Christmas' who has closed the bar for the night so they wouldn't have to worry about being kicked out. The girls welcome all of them like surrogate brothers (though Havoc, as per the norm is doing his absolute best to impress his sisters). When the team sees Edaline, they're stunned into silence.
“Damn Boss. You look fine.” There's a smack afterwards and Havoc profusely apologizes. If Roy had something to make a spark, Havoc would be nothing but a crisp bacon. Instead, he settles on darkly glaring at the man over Ed's head, not easily letting go the slip of tongue.
“Let's get this party started!” Catalina shouts (though who invited her he has no clue). His sisters all whoop and he feels a hand on his arm guide him out of harms way, Ed's voice shouting out from beside him. There's music blaring from a record and the alcohol flows liberally. He reservedly only has one small glass and Ed has none. When asked, she says she has to make sure his ass gets safely home. He's touched and only confirms her statement when they address him.
“Where's Riza?” he asks Havoc part-way through the celebrations when he realized he had yet to hear her voice.
“Still at the office. There was some last minute paperwork she said she needed to finish. Something for General Armstrong. Did you know rumor has it that Grumman is finally gonna be steppin' down and is choosing his successor?” He shakes his head. The news should have hurt more. After all seven years ago he should have been the one to be well on his way to Fuhrership when his coup successfully overturned the government. But strangely, it doesn't. Not when he can clearly hear the boisterous laughter of Edaline talking to some of his sisters as they trade stories on the ridiculous requests of their customers.
“I hadn't heard. So who's he thinking of electing?”
“Either General Jackson or General Armstrong.”
“Knowing the old coot, he'll probably choose Armstrong. He always did like an unexpected play.”
“Yeah, that's where I'd put my money.” They fall silent as they let the sounds of the party swell around them. Havoc's lit a cigarette, being careful to blow the smoke away from Roy. There's a clink of ice against glass as Havoc takes a sip of whiskey. “By the way, you and Ed seem pre-tty chummy.”
“What do you mean?” Roy asks calmly, though his palms have broken out onto a sweat where they rest on his cane.
“Just sayin', you guys look close and I have to add, good together as well.” Roy's gaping, a protest on his lips, but before he can reply, Roy catches a whiff of something. Ed, his brain helpfully supplies and he doesn't linger on why he would know what she smelled like (they're around each other enough that it's a completely innocent observation, but somehow it doesn't feel innocent).
“Roy, let's dance!” The music has become some fun Yule tune that sounds entirely too country for his tastes, but she's tugging on his arm pulling him into a dance. He's smiling wide and loses himself in the moment twirling around with her like they're little kids. When his world finally stops spinning he rejoins Havoc at the bar, grinning like an idiot. He's just settled on his stool when Havoc taps his arm to get his attention.
“Hey Chief, just so you know Riza stopped by.” Roy’s smile drops. “She told me to tell you she's sorry she couldn't stay for long, but she didn't want to interrupt your dance. Said she was happy you were having fun.”
“Oh,” is all he's able to say.
“But she also said if you're free on Sunday to join her at Cafe Jolie at 10am, to tell me so I can let her know at work tomorrow.” Roy nods. His stomach rolls, the little alcohol going as sour as his mood. Havoc pats him on the shoulder and walks off, hollering at Catalina for a dance. When he's sure that it's late enough that it wouldn't be cutting into the fun, he goes and tells Ed he doesn't feel well and would like to go home. They make their goodbyes (thankfully it's already past midnight so it's not unusual for people to start leaving). She doesn't ask any questions but makes sure that he's safely inside his apartment before letting him be. He lays on his bed with White Bacardi who woke up and has now joined him, nuzzling into his side. He doesn't sleep until the wee hours of the morning.
They were sitting down across from each other. The hot tea on the table cooling. Roy could feel the wafts of steam as he held his hand over the cup, relishing in the sensations it brought. He felt Riza’s stare prickle along his skin as he finally deemed the drink cool enough and gently grabbed the handle and brought it to his lips. The tart flavor of the tea spread along his tongue and he closed his eyes as the warmth spread down his chest. He reached out his right hand and found the saucer on the table before gently bringing his left hand with the cup down on top with a slight tinkling sound.
“You’re looking well, sir.” Riza spoke. Roy opened his eyes, staring out into the darkness, hopefully meeting some part of her face.
“I am,” he replied. He heard a huff and let himself smirk. “How are things at Central Command?” Her chair squeaked, barely perceptible if it wasn’t for the loss of his sight.
“General Armstrong has been officially announced as the Fuhrer Elect.” Roy hmm-ed as he took another sip. Not surprising. None of the other generals would’ve been able to stand up to a force of nature like Olivier. “She’s asked me to join as her aide and I accepted her offer.” A silence hung over them. Neither mentioned how General Armstrong wasn’t the person she wanted to be the aide to.
“It’s a good step up the ladder. And she’s lucky to have the best aide in all of Amestris on her side.” Roy let a wry expression fall over his face. “When will she be promoted?”
“This coming spring. As well as for myself. I’ll be promoted to Lieutenant Colonel.”
“Took you long enough to catch up to Hughes and I.”
“I was too busy making sure the two of you didn’t jeopardize your positions.”
“Touche.” The sounds of the cafe filtered through his consciousness. The various conversations and the preparation of drinks and meals melded together into a pleasant white noise. He leaned back in his chair closing his eyes once again. Sometimes it was easier to forget he was blind when his eyes were closed. Easier to forget a lot of things really. A soft pressure on his hand jolted him out of his musings.
“It really is good to see you Roy,” he heard her say with a slight tremor.
“Stop that.” The touch left his skin, leaving behind an ache in his bones.
“Blaming yourself, captain.” The quick inhale of breath let him know he was right on the mark. “You’re where you need to be. I’ve never known you to back down from anything and rising to the top is no different.” Her clothes rustled and he felt the table wobble just a tad. He double tapped his fingers on the wood to grab her attention again. “We made a promise to make this country better. To right the wrongs we’ve committed. But the only way to do all of that is from the top and I cannot do that anymore. No amount of wishful thinking or what-ifs will change that.” Roy lifted his head from where he had faced the tabletop. “You chose to carry on with this dream, and I will be forever grateful. I’m sorry that I had to put this burden on you, but Truth knows that I will support you however I can. Just ask.” Roy wished he could see her face, to gauge what emotions were sparking through those red-honeyed eyes. All he could hear was the white-noise around him as the air stilled. A shuddering breath ripped through the air and he relaxed.
“Okay. I’ll make it to the top and change this country.” She doesn't say she needs his help. Regardless, he smiled, small and genuine.
“I believe you will captain.” Her touch was on his hand again and he grasped her fingers.
“She’s been good for you.” Roy loosened his grasp. “Edaline, sir.” The clinking of cups punctuated the space between them and Roy leaned back in his seat.
“I don’t know what you’re talking about captain.” He felt around for his cane, rubbing the top of it. The wood was worn smooth under his fingertips.
“You know sir, ever since you lost your sight you’ve lost a bit of your poker face too.” His hand automatically came up to rub at his face, as if that would change how easily his emotions showed. Her hands came up and cupped his hand in her own. “Neither of those are bad things Roy.” He stared down unseeing to where he knew their hands were joined. A pang went to his heart, a deep ache at the loss in her voice and the quiet strength. He’d always admired her for that ability to pick up the pieces where he’d carelessly flung them and keep moving forward. He hated himself in equal measures for doing that to her as well.
“Shhh… It may have happened if things had worked out differently. But like you said, no amount of wishful thinking or what-ifs will change where we are today. You’re happy for the first time in a long time. Please cherish that. And don’t worry about me. I’ve still got a job to do.” He felt a burning, not due to the hot tea, lance up his chest into his face. His eyes felt wet as he rapidly blinked them away.
He tried to imagine what she looked like now, her heart on her sleeve like it hasn’t been since they were children. Tried to imagine the firm set of her brows, determined in what needed to be done. The swirling amber of her eyes where the fire would burn. The tears settled on the corners. The tremble of her lips as she withheld, and failed to withheld, her breaking heart. It wasn’t the first time she had let him go. But this would be the last he knew deep down.
“I'm sorry Riza,” he whispered. A hand came to rest on his cheek, her chair scraping as she stood to bend down over him. He closed his eyes as soft lips pressed against his own. And then they were gone. The touches and the warmth, the years of shared glances and secret codes. The rumors. The longing. The memories of two outcasts flying through the grassy hills on Roy’s old bike. He let the tears fall and mourned quietly as he heard her walk away.
“I am too Roy. Now go home.” Her steps receded and disappeared into the haze of white noise until even the echo of her military boots were nothing but a ghost in the swirl of his hearing. His breath hitched as he tried to regain his composure, awareness of his setting suddenly flaring to his consciousness.
“Are you alright, sir?” He gasped, having not heard the approaching waitress. Hastily scrubbing his eyes on the back of his sleeve, he took a breath through his nose before turning to the young woman.
“Yes, I will be.”
“Would you like any assistance with getting back home?”
“Maybe just a cab.” The cab came soon after and the young waitress gently guided him to it. Giving the cabby his address, he leaned against the cool window.
“1219 Pine Street. That’ll be 520 cenz.” Roy paused before he reached into his wallet, feeling for the different folds that differentiated each bill.
“Here you go, keep the change,” Roy replied and got out of the care before feeling his way to the front door. The car engine roared away, turning down the corning as the pitch descended ever deeper. Clinking his keys in his pocket, he finally pulled out the right one before entering into his apartment. Shucking off his coat on the familiar coat rack he closed the door behind him, letting it bang slightly against the door frame.
“Welcome home!” a voice shouted.
“Thanks! Is that you Ed?” He asked needlessly. Of course it was her. He could recognize her obnoxiously loud, abrasive voice anywhere.
“Yeah! I’m in the kitchen!” Roy walked confidently down the hall before finding himself in the entryway where a wall of home cooking assaulted his senses.
“Bit hot in here isn’t it?” He grinned when he heard her grunt, allowing him to pinpoint her location. Walking over he stood behind her, taking deep breaths of the steam from the simmering pot. “Stew?”
“I was craving it and thought I should just bring some so you wouldn’t starve.” He pouted, wrapping his arms around her and resting his chin on her shoulder. Roy realized how intimate this is. It's not the first time they've done this, where he sneaks up behind her and holds her, but it's the first time he's recognized the importance of the action. He mentally shakes his head and focuses back in on her.
“I do know how to cook…” he whined. He felt Ed shake her head and chuckle as she continued to stir the pot.
“Yeah, well not everyone has stomachs made of steel.”
“No that would be you Fullmetal,” he replied even as he turned his face into her neck. Her body tensed up as he nuzzled the sensitive skin but then went nearly boneless in his hold as she leaned all the way back on him. A soft hmm left her throat and he smiled pulling her tighter to himself. Her hand came to rest on his arms as he gently swayed them back and forth to a tuneless song only they could hear.
“Are you okay?” He paused their swaying.
“Not really, but I will be.”
“How did the meeting with Riza go?” Roy didn’t respond. “I see. Maybe I should go.” His arms tightened around her as he burrowed further into her skin.
“No don't, please. It's okay now.” He hears the stew bubble in the pot and he relishes in the warm surrounding him and in his arms.
“What will you do now?” She whispered. Roy loosened his grip, letting her turn around. Her ponytail slithered over his bare arm, raising goosebumps in its wake. He felt her stare burn into his face, searching for his thoughts on the matter.
“I think I'll stay right here,” he says smiling and grabs her hand. When she doesn't pull away but moves closer to him he dips his head and lets his forehead rest against hers, completely content.