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He refuses to wear the sunglasses.

Havoc assures him that it looks cool, and that if Roy wasn’t already such a, ahem, “babe magnet”, he would definitely be one now. On his right, Breda stifles a laugh, and on his left, Hawkeye quietly sighs.

 

There’s a bump in the road, but Roy continues to hold the glasses steady in his outstretched hand, waiting for someone to take it from him.

At his feet, Black Hayate whines.

 

“You don’t have to wear them, sir.” Hawkeye says, and they disappear from his grasp, a chain replaced with another as she molds his fist around the handle of a cane. “But you’re keeping this.”

“Fine.” He leans back into the seat, and smells the gas expelling out from the car, the leather of the seats, and Hayate’s fur.

 

The scent of lavender, and gunpowder, comes from his left.

He shakes his head, grips the cane tighter.

“You’re making a mistake, Colonel.” Havoc sings from the driver’s seat, shifting Roy’s focus back to sound. “Those sunglasses make you look so good.”

“Havoc.”

“Like, really good, Colonel. Hella fine, one might say.”

“Havoc.”

“Girls love—”

Havoc.”

“Yes sir?”

“Shut up and take me home.”

“Yes sir.”

 

Roy lets Havoc drive him home, lets Breda open his door for him, lets Hawkeye take his arm, and guide him in. He lets Havoc and Breda clean up the corridor, tuck in the chairs, and close the cupboards.

He lets them do everything that he should be able to do by himself, as he sits on the couch, lets Hayate curl up beside him, and stares at a wall which he cannot see.

And then they leave, Breda with a clasp of a hand, a gruff goodbye. Havoc with an overwhelming scent of smoke and nicotine, and a slap on the shoulder.

 

They leave, but Hawkeye stays.

 

The next day, when he wakes up, and she’s still there, Roy doesn’t say anything. He maneuvers through his home, and doesn’t comment when he walks into Hayate’s water bowl, and the water splashes all over the floor. She doesn’t say anything, either, when she wordlessly passes him a towel, and he gets on his knees to soak up the spill. Roy doesn’t ask her why there’s suddenly another toothbrush in the cup in the bathroom when he goes in after breakfast, and she doesn’t offer an explanation when he comes out. They don’t say anything about anything throughout the entire day as they play chess, take Hayate out for a walk, listen to the radio, and allow themselves this chance to rest.

 

And he definitely doesn’t mention anything when she tells him goodnight, and he says it back, and he hears a door— not the door that leads outside— close.

Does he say anything? No. Because just as Roy knows her better than he knows himself, she knows him better than she knows herself.

 

Saying anything, would make everything change.

 

And when he wakes up the next morning, after barely sleeping at all, she presses a mug of coffee into his hand, made just how he likes it. When he goes back into his room, there’s an outfit already waiting for him, hanging on his door. When there’s paperwork, still, paperwork, she reads it aloud to him, and lets him sign it on his own.

It’s nice being able to lean on someone, when you need help standing.

He doesn’t need to say anything, because it’s unspoken that he needs, and wants, her here.

She doesn’t say anything, because it’s understood that she needs, and wants, to be here.

So, he doesn’t ask when she’s going home, and he learns although he doesn’t need his cane when she’s by his side, she still makes him use it. She stops leaving out his clothes, but tells him when his shirt doesn’t match his pants. Or his socks. Or his shoes.

 

And when she barely sleeps through the night, and falls asleep on the couch, he takes a blanket, and drapes it over her.

 

 

By the ninth day, he feels that enough time has passed and it’s safe enough to ask. He’s eating his omelet that she’s made, and as she sits down across from him to eat her own breakfast, Roy clears his throat.

 

He tries to push her scent of gunsmoke and lavender away.

 

“So. Lieutenant.”

“Yes, Colonel?”

 

“I would like to know the situation.” Hayate lets out a small bark, and nudges Roy’s leg. Roy cuts a small piece of omelet, and lowers it beside him, feeling Hayate’s tongue as he eats from his hand.

 

“What situation?” Hawkeye states nonchalantly. “Do you mean when do we go back to work, sir?”

 

The smell of his eggs begins to push away the other odors, and he takes a small bite. “I’m doing enough work from home.” He begins to grumble, and then shakes his head. “No. Not about work, Hawkeye. You, being here, in my house, for over a week. Are you living here now?”

 

There’s a pause, and then, “Don’t be ridiculous, sir.”

 

Another nudge to his thigh, and a small whine. Roy takes a bit of food into his hand, and sneaks it underneath the table. He smiles as Hayate gobbles it up. “I wasn’t trying to be.”

Soon, there’s just the scraping of forks and knives against empty plates, clinking of once full glasses, and they stand side by side, at the sink, while she washes and he dries.

“If you’re not staying here,” Roy says. “Then why are there bags of dog food in the lower right cabinet?”

“I’m not sure they’re needed.”

“What do you mean?”

“Do you really think,” Hawkeye presses a plate into his hands, “That I didn’t notice you feeding Hayate half your meal?”

He laughs, and then she laughs, and he decides that it’s a sound that he wouldn’t mind hearing more often.

 

 

By the thirteenth day, not that he’s counting, Roy realizes that he’s become used to the aroma of gunpower and lavender. It seems too sudden, too fast that it’s gone. It used to be everywhere, on the couch and the chairs, even on his sheets and all his clothes. On Hayate, on himself.

Now he can’t smell it, not the faintest trace, and knows that it simply means that he’s just become accustomed to it.

But that doesn’t stop him from missing it.

There’s the sound of the key turning in the lock. The door opening, closing. A shout of ‘hello’, and a bark, and footsteps. The rustling of paper bags as they’re set down on the counter, and the unhooking of a leash.

 

At least, with that, Roy manages to set down his braille lessons before a small body knocks into his legs, then climbs up onto the couch and licks his face.

 

“No, Hayate.” Hawkeye’s words don’t match her tone, which is laced with amusement. “Bad dog.”

Hayate ignores her, and Roy scratches his ears. “How was the market?”

 

“Good.” The smell of fresh ginger and bok choy waft towards him, and his appetite grows. “I hope you’re hungry. I thought that we would have vegetable stir fry tonight.”

 

He pauses, and turns his head towards her, tries to estimate on the space where her eyes would be, and pretends like his could meet them.

“Could I help?”

There’s smile hidden in her voice. “I thought you might never ask, sir.”

 


 

Her hand is on his, and his is on the spoon, and together they lazily stir the skillet. The onions and peppers sizzle, and the smell is heavenly. He closes his eyes, leans forward, and breathes it in deeply.

 

“It smells delicious.”

“It does.”

“Can I taste it?”

 

Hawkeye laughs. “Not yet. We haven’t even added the sauce.” Suddenly the sizzling grows louder, the sound of liquid being poured slowly, and the steam rises to his face. The smell warps to include sesame, sugar, ginger, and soy. “Just little by little, while we stir.”

He doesn’t say anything about how their hands continue to touch when she lifts the spoon, tells him to blow, and lets him taste. And he definitely doesn’t say anything when she laughs, again, when he tells her that it’s already better than his aunt’s.

 

(But he smiles all the same.)

 

Hawkeye hums under her breath, after she’s tasted it herself. “I think we need more carrots. And more garlic. You okay to keep on stirring?”

 

He nods, and her hand squeezes his gently before it’s gone, and he hears her walk towards the refrigerator.

He continues, just the way she’s guided him.

 

And then Hayate barks.

 

Hayate barks, and Roy jumps, and he doesn’t know if his hand touched the pan, or the stove, or the vegetables, but it really doesn’t matter because somehow, he smells the burnt flesh before he realizes that it's his.

Blood starts to pound in his ears, and his heart beats faster and faster. His hands begin to tremble with the shocks of pain radiating from his palm grow.

 

And with it come the screams.

And with it comes the smell-- that horrible, familiar smell.

 

He tries to say her name, but he can’t speak. He can’t breathe. His legs give out, and as he feels the pain intensify and the screams grow louder, and the smell overwhelms, he finds that he’s surrounded by darkness.

 

He can’t see why can’t he see where are we how can you expect to see my condition when it’s this dark in here it’s all dark the lights where are the lights it’s too dark

 

 

 

He lets it take him.

 


 

He smells the gunpowder.

“Sir, listen to the sound of my voice.”

 

He smells the lavender.

“Colonel, listen to me.”

 

He’s trying, he really is. Roy opens his eyes but he’s still surrounded by darkness and, somehow, it’s deafening.

“Roy.” He hears her voice, steady and safe. “Breathe. In, out. Feel the floor. It’s tile, not sand. Feel it, Roy.”

 

He does. It’s cool to the touch, and he presses his body against it, trying to feel it through his clothes, and squeezes his eyes shut.

“Breathe. In, out. Yes, that’s it. Good. In, out. You’re in your kitchen, not in Ishval. We were making dinner, do you remember?”

 

He’s trying, he really, really is. A gentle hand brushes his hair, slick with sweat, off of his forehead, and he focuses on breathing, just as she ordered.

 

“Riza?”

“Yes?”

“Why…” Roy tries to swallow. “Why can’t I see?”

 

“Breathe.” Riza commands again, although, this time, her voice cracks. “In through your nose, out through your mouth. Do it with me. In, out. In, out.”

He realizes that although he can’t see her, she is everywhere. The smell of gunpowder and lavender, the sound of her voice, the touch of her arms, holding him against her as they lay on the tiled floor of his house. She surrounds him, just like the darkness.

It wasn’t that long ago that he was holding her in his arms, the smell of iron engulfing him as she bled, and he couldn’t do anything but call her, and beg her to stay.

 

He was useless to her, just as he was useless to Maes.

 

But she stayed with him there, and here with him she stays now. Riza holds Roy, and she holds him close, holds him tight. Breathes with him, in and out, in and out, and just hearing her breathe, helps.

 

(She is everywhere, he thinks. She is everything, he understands.)

 


 

“Thank you.”

They’re sitting side by side on the couch, her hand intertwined with his newly bandaged one, and her head lies on his shoulder.

He knows it’s unprofessional. And criminal. And wrong— but it feels just right.

At their feet, Hayate snores.

“What for?”

He doesn’t know. For being kind, and brave, and strong. For believing in him. For being by his side since he was a boy, and when he became a man. For watching his back, for being his eyes, when he needs her to. For anything, and for everything.

For being her.

But Roy doesn’t say anything. He knows her better than he knows himself, and knows that the words aren’t necessary. So, instead, he shifts in his seat, and rests his head on hers, breathes in her scent, that gunpowder and lavender, and thinks that the combination shouldn’t work, but it does.

 

He thinks that, somehow, it smells like home.