Roy didn't have much of a green thumb, but he did enjoy making his front flowerbeds look presentable after a long winter.
It was the perfect sort of Saturday, the kind that showed winter never really lasted forever. Even that stubborn pile of snow that sat under Roy's front porch all winter finally melted to make room for spring.
Roy couldn't have been more grateful for winter's end.
He grabbed what must have been the fiftieth chrysanthemum by its delicate stem and plucked the orange bloom from its tray, considering the small bed before him to find the perfect placement. The spot he was eying was a bit too close to another orange plant.
"A little to the left," Ed suggested.
Well, that did place it closer to a patch of white asters . . .
Wait . . .
Roy looked up to see the boy still in the chair on the porch, blanket draped over his lap to ward off the slight chill in the breeze, face tilted up to catch more sun and eyes peacefully closed. A small smile was struggling not to take over his face.
"When I want to ask for advice on the most visually appealing arrangement for this particular set of flowers, I'm not going to ask the brat that wouldn't know color harmony if it slapped him in the face."
"That's hurtful, Mustang," Ed drawled. "You could make fun of my handicap or something, but you go right for what really stings. I used to coordinate perfectly."
"Like a drunk clown," Roy agreed, digging a small hole for the petite flower a little to the left. "That silly red coat didn't go with anything."
"I wore it with black," Ed sniffed, pale fingers smoothing the blanket in front of him. "Black goes with everything."
"Pairing anything with black is a cheap fashion trick. It takes skill to actually coordinate color."
"Coming from the man that wears a solid blue uniform every day of his life. With black boots."
"There is only so much one can do within the limits of military regulations."
"So really, you were just jealous that I got to wear whatever I wanted."
"If Hawkeye would have allowed it, I would have burned that red disaster to ashes."
Things had been better. Ed had come a long way since the incident with Envy. It was as if the conflict itself had given Ed back that fighting spirit that had been wrenched from him in the basement. His physical therapy was progressing well, and despite being without his automail arm and leg and being immobilized for several weeks with his other injuries, his spirit was lighter than it had been since his return from Drachma. The panic attacks were still something they had to deal with, but the accompanying flashbacks had lessened considerably, and the emptiness in his eyes finally reobtained that spark of life and humor that had been missing for months.
It was still a struggle to get him to eat and shower, and Roy wondered if the nightmares would ever abate for the boy, but Ed was better. He would take better over the hell Ed had been through any day.
And it wasn't just Ed changing. Since Archer was found dead, there had been movement in the upper ranks. It was subtle, and it was quick, but Roy's team didn't miss anything. As it turned out, the very night the team was admitted into the hospital, the Fuhrer had left on sudden family business much too convenient for Roy's liking. He returned two days later and things started to change. Higher-ups were transferred, the most notable of which being Brigadier General Olivier Armstrong. Her sudden promotion to Major General and transfer to the North wasn't odd in and of itself, except that the previous General in charge of Briggs had suddenly retired, though where to, Roy could find no trace. He suspected the man was dead. All of the men under his command that were higher than Lieutenant were either transferred, or also "retired."
Roy and his team had been completely cleared with absolutely no explanation aside from the entire incident being "classified." Evidence surrounding Ed's disappearance and the occurrence in the slums had vanished without a trace, right down to the basement Ed had been found in. The whole thing had been set on fire, with local officials calling it accidental. It was inherently frustrating, but Roy had learned something very important over the past few months.
He could chase red herrings all day long, but he would never get anywhere he wanted to be if he didn't prioritize the people in front of him. He had allowed Ed's case to distract him from Ed and the people that mattered most to him, and he wasn't going to make that same mistake twice.
So while he longed for justice, Roy decided that for now, he would be content with peace.
"The only thing disastrous here is why you haven't asked Hawkeye out yet."
As peaceful as things ever got with Edward Elric involved, anyway.
"I—you—Fullmetal, I will set you on fire if you—"
"Now now, Mustang, that's no way to talk to your son," Ed chastised, that irritating smirk still on his face.
The casual way he said it was always enough to give Roy pause.
The adoption had certainly added a new element to the household dynamic. It had been incredibly strange at first, and Roy knew the boy had struggled with it just as much, if not more, than Roy had. Ed had even asked him in one of his more vulnerable moments if this changed things, but Roy was quick to assure him that no, nothing would change except the fact that Ed was no longer a ward of the state. He had a home now, he had someone to look out for him, and all that changed was his mailing address.
Ed had then replied that this was ideal, because Ed was by no means going to refer to Roy as "Dad."
"Cat got your tongue, Mustang?"
Roy glanced up in time to see the humor leave Ed's eyes and his brows draw together in a small frown. Roy had learned that this meant the boy was listening carefully to something much too quiet for Roy to pick up himself.
"Ed?" Roy asked, dusting garden soil from his hands. "What is it?"
The frown melded into awe and he stood up, the spare prosthetic Winry had fitted him with wobbling under his unimpressive weight. With memory as a guide, he reached out and snagged his crutch from its resting place against the porch railing and started an awkward hobble down the front steps.
"Ed, hang on!" Roy called, hurrying over and grabbing him by his elbow.
Ed flinched, but stopped. "Mustang, do you hear that?"
Roy stopped and listened for a moment, but all he heard was the faint rumble of a car and his neighbor Mrs. Cook, the sound of her water hose and her off-key whistling carrying over her backyard fence.
"Fullmetal, I don't hear anyth—"
He heard it, too.
It started faint, but unmistakable, slowly building in volume until Ed wondered how Mustang could have kept from hearing it.
The metallic crash, clang was a sound he had become very familiar with over the past few years.
It sounded like a walking trashcan.
Ed still felt Mustang's grip on his arm, warm and steady. He took a step forward, his prosthetic leg shaking twice as much as his flesh leg. It wasn't automail, and without his sight to help calibrate, Ed imagined it was much like playing jump rope in the dark while inebriated. He felt the pressure against his stump as the metal met concrete, then maneuvered his flesh leg after it. He'd been cast-free for almost three weeks now, but his foot and hand were still plenty sore from their past trauma. A wrong step could mean a world of hurt and possibly another visit to the hospital, and Ed was interested in neither.
Mustang followed him, his steady pull guiding him down the sidewalk. Then after a few steps, Mustang halted, and Ed trusted him, so he stopped too.
The sound was close now, close enough that every rattle sent his heart quivering in his tight chest. He didn't know when his whole body started shaking, but he was afraid his leg might go out from under him at any moment.
It was feet away, and then inches.
And then it stopped right in front of Ed.
Ed's numb fingers loosened, his crutch clattering to the ground. Mustang let go of his arm just in time for him to get swept up in a metallic embrace.
He curled around the familiar chest plate, face buried in familiar steel that smelled like oil and rust and home.
"Alphonse," he whispered. "You're back."
The suit of armor made a hollow, thick sort of laugh. "I'm back, Brother."
Ed sobbed. "You're back. It's been months . . . you're back."
"I'm sorry it took so long," Alphonse murmured, gauntlets holding Ed tight.
"It doesn't matter. You're here now."
"It's good to be home."
Yes. Now it was home.
Ed couldn't stall it any longer.
He sat in the chair at the kitchen table, his flesh hand resting on the scared wood and nervously running over its familiar cracks and divots.
He could hear Mustang on one side and Alphonse on the other, both of them talking like Ed was blind and deaf.
"Are you sure this is the best place for this?"
"Of course. Fullmetal's always been more comfortable here than anywhere else."
"Yeah, but if something goes wrong—"
"I've already called Silas. He's headed here as we speak. If something goes wrong, I'd rather it be here than in a hospital."
Ed felt like a live wire, ready to snap at a moment's notice. His heart was pounding hard in his chest, making it hard to breathe. He was on the verge of a panic attack and trying hard to fight it off. He breathed deeply, hand moving from the table to his blanket, drawing it tighter around him.
It wasn't entirely rational, but Ed knew that this was going to hurt. Alchemy had hurt him a lot the last few times he had tried it and though logically he knew that this wasn't going to be anywhere near the most painful experience of his life, his body responded with a visceral urge to fight or run, and the inability to do either fed back into the fear.
Alphonse had what he thought was a cure for Ed's damaged eyes. When he'd called Ed in the hospital, he said that he might have a lead, even though he hadn't been in Xing for more than a couple of hours. He told Ed that he'd saved some girl from slavers in the desert and she'd promised to help in an effort to repay him. When he'd called back almost three months later, he said he'd learned all he needed and was heading back.
And now here he was, weeks later with no Philosopher's Stone, no healing elixir, but with a piece of parchment paper and a base knowledge of what he called alkehestry.
Ed had heard of alkehestry, but he didn't know much about it. There was very little research available on the subject in all the libraries he'd been to, but Alphonse had explained it as being very different from alchemy. Alchemy relied on energy from tectonic movements and was, at its core, a science. That's what Ed had loved about it to begin with. It was exact and measured and mostly predictable.
Alkehestry, on the other hand, seemed to be almost an art. It relied on what Alphonse had called the "Dragon's Pulse," or "chi." All Aphonse had told him was that it had something to do with the life force of the earth itself, which translated well to healing.
It sounded like a long shot to Ed, but Al wanted him to try it. He'd do anything for his little brother, even if it hurt.
Alphonse's voice yanked Ed from his thoughts. "Yeah?"
"Are you ready?"
No. No, not at all, no.
"As I'll ever be," he said aloud, hoping his voice didn't sound as weak as he thought it did.
If this worked, he would be able to see again.
He would see Al, those glowing soulfire eyes that were so expressive, despite being trapped in a suit of armor. He would see Mustang, that stupid smirk on his face that always annoyed him so much. He'd see the sun, the blueness of the sky and Winry's eyes, the slow turn from winter to spring.
He'd see Mustang's house and where he was and who was there and he wouldn't have to be afraid of the blackness anymore.
He'd be free.
"Let's do this," he said, gingerly getting to his feet, crutch in hand. He felt Mustang's warm hand wrap under his elbow and helped guide him past the living room and up the stairs. The stairs were a challenge with the temporary prosthetic leg, and the way both legs were shaking, Ed was grateful for the help. Al clattered along behind them, and Ed could feel the apprehension the radiated from the armor in waves.
The crutch hit the bed in the spare room and Mustang helped Ed sit down. He'd had his automail repair in this room, as well as his debriefing. Ed hoped this experience would end up being a lot more pleasant than the last two.
Mustang settled beside him, the mattress dipping and creaking to his left. His hand never left Ed's arm. Metallic armor crouched in front of him and Al's leather gauntlet encircled his only hand.
They sat there, long enough to let the magnitude of the situation really sink in.
Ed might see again. Or he might not.
But there was only one way to know for sure. Alphonse held Ed's last chance in the palm of his hand, and now the anticipation was starting to magnify the fear.
His heart pounded hard, his chest throbbing.
Al's free hand placed something small and pliable in his lap. The alchehestry circle, painted on a piece of fabric and waiting for Alphonse to activate it. It felt unnaturally heavy, like Al had placed a bar of lead there instead.
"Are you ready?" Al asked quietly, the second and last time. Mustang squeezed his arm reassuringly.
Ed took a slow breath. In and out, just like Teacher had taught him.
He took another.
Alphonse only hesitated a moment. Then he activated the circle.
Heat blossomed from the heavy fabric, warm and pleasant like the sun on his skin. He gasped at the sensation, surprised only for a moment before another sensation distracted him.
The heat seemed to swell and roll over him, like a flower blossoming, spinning out from the alchehestric circle in waves. It started deep inside of him, travelling outward to his limbs. The aching in his joints soothed and eased until it almost disappeared completely. Muscles that had long atrophied felt like they had been given new life and strength, and the myriad of scars and healing wounds on his skin tingled and itched as they knit back together.
Then it reached his eyes.
They prickled, tears forming and spilling over involuntarily as the alchehestry did its work. It was like silk running over his open eyes, soft and smooth. The blackness that had swallowed his vision for the past months turned to a milky gray, and Ed slammed his eyes shut in surprise, but the gray lingered and brightened.
Gray shifted to white, and the transmutation fizzled and died.
Ed kept his eyes tightly shut.
He heard breathing, Mustang's slow, steady inhalations and his own ragged gasping. He heard the creak of Al's armor.
A thousand thoughts flew through his mind while a thousand emotions swelled inside of him.
This was it. Everything hinged on this moment.
Ed let out a terse, halting breath.
And when he opened his eyes, he saw.
He blinked and he saw. Shapes were blurred and running together like ice cream left in the sun. Their edges melted against one another, but the colors! The colors were overwhelming, vivid in a way even his nightmares couldn't compare with. Ed didn't know what all of them were, but he didn't care, he could see them.
Ed could see.
"Brother?" the gray blur in front of him asked, two smudges of brilliant, burning red staring back at him. Ed was so absorbed by the image that he almost didn't notice how hesitant and how hopeful Alphonse sounded.
He didn't know when he started grinning like an idiot, but the grin was there all the same, making his face ache at the simple expression, but he didn't care! "Al!" Ed launched himself forward, wrapping his only arm around his little brother's neck. "Al, I see! I see!"
"You can see?!" Al asked, sounding both thrilled and breathless.
Al pushed him back, studying his face before pulling him back into another bone-crushing hug. "You can see!"
Ed's eyes swam, tears sliding down his face, but he didn't know if it was from the trauma of the healing or sheer joy, and he didn't care. "Al, I can see!"
His brother had done this for him. It was his brother that never gave up, never quit. Alphonse had traveled the world on the bare hope that something somewhere would save Ed. Al had given him his life back. He'd given Ed everything.
Ed released Al, turning so suddenly that he almost fell over. There was a shape in front of him, and all he could make out were dark pants, a purple shirt and a pale face with a mop of black hair on top. He wrapped his arm around the man and felt Mustang's familiar arms encircle him. "Mustang, I can see!"
He might have been hearing things, but he could have sworn he heard a thickness in Mustang's voice he hadn't heard before. "You can see," he choked back, the response gentle and awed. "You can see."
Ed buried his face in Mustang—no, his father's— neck.
Ed had made to this point because of Mustang. There was nothing he didn't owe this man, and there was nothing he could do to ever make this exchange equivalent.
Alphonse saved him, but Mustang had made sure that when he got back, there would be something worth saving. And Ed would always be thankful for that.
"Thank you," he whispered, the word turning into a sob. "Thank you for everything."
Mustang snorted a quiet half laugh, half sob. "Anytime, brat."
"That's how it works, Ed," Mustang sighed, probably watching with some distaste as the walls of what was once his guest bedroom were turned into the Elric brothers' personal cork board.
Ed stood with the help of a single crutch, trying to pin a map of Amestris up with one hand while keeping his balance with the other. It was harder than it looked, despite trading in the stiff prosthetic for a new automail leg. He wobbled, overcorrected, then nearly tumbled before Alphonse reached out and righted him.
With a gentleness that only Alphonse could manage, the suit of armor sat Ed down on the bed beside Mustang, plucked the map from Ed's hand and proceeded to pin it properly.
Ed sighed, reaching up with his new automail hand to massage his eyes. Silas still had him on the steroid drops, but with several more treatments from Alphonse's alchehestry over the past couple of weeks, his vision was almost back at twenty-twenty, though he still suffered from plenty of eye strain, mostly after too much reading or too much light exposer, or just when he was tired.
Mustang obligingly got up and flicked on the soft lamp in the corner, switching off the overhead lights on his way back.
Ed smirked, eyes still hidden under his hand. "Thanks."
"Don't mention it."
"But still, no."
He could hear Mustang bite back an impatient sigh. "Fortunately for me, you don't get a say. You can reclaim your State Alchemist certification after you've made a full recovery. And that's an order."
"He's right," Al piped up, adding several post cards to the wall above his bed. Ed opened his mouth to protest, but Al cut him off. "Besides, I'll be able to check out all the books from the library that we need. We can keep researching until you're able to recertify, right Colonel? I mean, Dad? Or,—Roy?" he verbally stumbled while Mustang watched on with that dumb grin of his.
It was still really weird for the both of them, now that Mustang had adopted them. Though Alphonse had never been technically considered a ward of the state, Mustang had asked Falman to draw up some paperwork and manipulate some files, so that now, Roy was his legal parent, too. They were still trying to figure out the nuances, but Al was struggling the most. Probably because Ed had drawn the line at addressing Mustang by any sort of paternal moniker, and Alphonse was still trying to find his own preferences.
But Al was excited about it, too. And if Ed was being honest, he didn't hate it.
He supposed Mustang had been sort of a father figure to the both of them ever since that first time they'd both set foot in his office. Sure, things were different, but at the same time, nothing had changed. Mustang was there for him the way he'd always been.
"Any of those is fine," Mustang informed Al, drawing Ed's attention back to the present.
If Al wasn't still stuck in a suit of armor, Ed knew he would have been blushing furiously.
Ed sighed in defeat. He didn't have the energy to argue the point further. Besides, as long as he could get a hold of new alchemy books every couple of days, he didn't have much to complain about, certified State Alchemist or not.
"Cold?" Mustang asked.
Ed looked up, almost startled that he could see Mustang's face. After so long in the dark, sometimes sight surprised him. Mustang's face was paler than he had remembered, dark eyes rimmed by less dark circles. He looked tired, but content. A lot like how Ed felt, actually.
Mustang didn't wait any longer for a response. He reached behind him farther up on the bed and pulled a blanket from where it had been thrown earlier, draping it over Ed's lap.
It was his blanket, the one he had been dragging around for weeks. Ed hadn't initially recognized it on sight, but he remembered how it had felt under his hand and how it smelled and how it had always made him feel just a little bit safer.
His hands smoothed the blanket over his lap thoughtfully, taking in the rich red of it, almost the exact shade his coat had been. Ed wondered if Mustang had been responsible for that.
With a confidence he hadn't felt in ages, he clapped his hands together and placed them over the fabric. The transmutation buzzed in his mind and through his body as familiar as an old friend. The blanket came alive with alchemy, threads twisting and changing direction until it took the shape of a coat, a black flamel emblazoned across the back.
Mustang and Alphonse watched on as he carefully put his arms through the sleeves, only wincing a couple of times at the awkward movement. The familiar weight settled across his shoulders, heavier than his old coat had been, but it felt just like the blanket he'd wrapped himself in the past few months. It even had the same comforting scent.
"Better?" Mustang asked.
Ed had been to hell and back in less than a year. He'd come a long way, and with further still to go.
But despite all that, between Alphonse and Mustang and Winry and his friends, he had managed to find a sort of paradise at the end of it all.
He couldn't have hoped for a better outcome.
Ed smiled. "Perfect."
Well, there it is :'D
This is over three years of my life xD Almost 174,000 words of minorly-edited angst and parental fluff. Wow, I'm not sure how I feel about this being over. I mean, holy Moses, I'm kind of elated and depressed. This fic has been my therapy through a lot of stuff in my life. I guess I'll just have to start something else ;D
To those of you that have been here since the beginning, thank you for your patience and your support. You guys have waited a long time for this to finish lol. And to those that have reviewed, you have given me the motivation to keep going on this fic when I thought it was too much for me to manage decently 3 To those that have read to the end, no matter when you joined us, thank you for granting me the honor of entertaining you, even a little. I appreciate every one of you guys.
If you would drop one last review here an tell me what your favorite moment was, or a bit of constructive criticism, it would mean a lot to me! Thank you so much for reading. Be on the lookout for a small collection of oneshot/AUs based off of this fic! They should start showing up around Christmas time ;)
And I think one of them will address the fate of that piano . . .