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For the tenth time Percy put his hand to his pocket to check the shape of his glasses inside, because he had no doubt that Vax could pick his pocket as easily as breathing, could have done even when he’d had his sight.  At the moment Vax could be an inch in front of him and the man was so skilled Percy wouldn’t so much as feel the air move around him.

There were two spare pairs of spectacles  in his pack, but they were older, less well-designed versions.  These were his best design, and even if it was true they would be useless to him from now on, he wasn’t sure he could bear to hear the sound of them shattering, or whatever prank Vax had in mind when he’d tried to get hold of them.

He shifted on Trinket’s back, doing his best not to clench his fist and pull the coarse fur.  No point in making the bear hate him as well.  The bear seemed to tolerate him.  Perhaps that was why they always left Trinket with him when he was useless to them.

He was useless to them.  He was useless to anyone.  He wished he could convince himself that as long as he could think, he could at least advise, solve problems, conduct negotiations.  He could surely still think things through, see the long term repercussions, keep the others from rushing into something that would blow up in their faces later just because it made them feel like wonderful people today.

But he couldn’t read .  He wasn’t sure he could exist if he couldn’t read.  And every time his mind came near the idea of not being able to design, not being able to create -- he’d been working on fixing the parallax issues in the sights on Bad News, sketches half-finished -- no, he had to blank it out.  Following those thoughts to their conclusion would break him.  That would be what shattered him.

He checked his glasses, and made himself do it calmly.  He’d lost it for a little bit there, and they’d showed him what they thought of his fucking cowardice.  So now he was holding on.  He owed it to his bloodline and he owed it to the others.  They deserved better of him; you took care of your people whatever happened to you, that was what it all came down to, after you stripped away the castle and the position and the name.  You took care of your people because you were the one who could.  If he were a better person, he’d be doing a better job of it.

All right, so, what could he do?  He could still see in his mind, still clearly picture the way things looked. Would that last?  Would he eventually forget how, imagination going the way of image?  No, focus on the known issues before worrying about possibilities.

Wires, he thought, trying to treat it as a problem outside himself, something to be engineered around.  A range of thin wires radiating out from his body, communicating his surroundings like an animal’s whiskers.  No one could get too close then.  But it would look so damned ridiculous.  And they’d think because he was blind that he didn’t know it looked ridiculous, so in addition he’d look a fool.

The others were laughing.  

Percy hadn’t heard a smash, but he checked his glasses, just in case.  No, still there.

Gods, he must be a really dreadful person.  A blind white-haired man riding a bear ought to be hard to ignore, but they were doing their best.  His trying to keep them from walking open-eyed into disaster all the time only annoyed them, and obviously they stood him at all only because he shot so well.  Used to shoot so well.  

They clearly liked the nymph.  At least she would make a useful ally --one with the power to blind people!  If he were a good person, he’d be properly glad about that.

He could hear, which ought to have let him keep track of everything, but he found he couldn’t quite picture what was going on.  He kept losing track.  Somehow he kept getting breathless and distracted.  Perhaps that was the way it went, the way even interior sight started to fail.  

He gave up on the wires idea and tried to calmly focus on fixing the familiar parallax problem, keeping the design visible in his mind.  He’d been working on that for some time; it was tricky, keeping things accurate at a distance; move your head a little bit and everything shifted.

And the nymph spoke.

He was not getting his sight back.  

He was never getting his sight back.  

He kept breathing and didn’t scream at all.  He deserved what happened to him; Dr. Ripley and Keyleth had both told him so.  He deserved this.

Maybe Gilmore could give him blindsight like a scorpion.  Maybe Allura could enchant magical glass eyes for him.  Maybe this was all a nightmare.

Instead of getting his sight back, he was being turned to wood, as a sort of protection.  If only he weren’t such an awful person, he’d be more grateful.  

His wooden hand reached for the stiff rough breast of his wooden coat, then stopped.  It wasn’t as if he needed them anymore.

 


 

Even as they all wandered away from dinner it kept niggling at Vax: something was not quite right about what Percy had said about making a deal with that little asshole with the drawing fetish.  Well, wasn't Percy always up to something?  Probably part of whatever he'd been after with that nymph.  That couldn’t have been just about making Keyleth feel bad.  Although he’d done that of course, the shit, trying to make it seem like it was somehow her fault that he’d gotten himself blinded.

If he had even been blinded at all.  Vax wasn’t so sure.  He’d kept his glasses on for a while afterwards, hadn’t he?  A blind man didn’t need glasses.  And when Vax had offered to take them he’d hidden them away pretty fucking fast, so obviously he’d known he wasn’t going to be blind for long.

That kind of thing was where Percy always went wrong, the arrogant prat.  It was like the whole shitstorm in the tomb.  Percy kept telling people it was an accident, and poor Vex had totally bought it.  But Percival Fuckface Whatever de Rolo was the smartest man alive.  Even when it looked like he was going wrong, that was only because he was running rings around you.  Percy didn’t have accidents .  Percy was like a fucking god when it came to plotting and planning; if something happened, it was because Percy wanted it to happen.  His only weakness was that he thought just because he was so fucking clever, everyone else must be stupid.

Vax still wasn’t sure exactly what the tomb business had been about.  For a while, he’d thought Percy was working for the Raven Queen, that somehow he’d made a deal to deliver Vax’s soul.  Now Vax knew Her, and She wasn’t like that; She wouldn't deal with a creep like Percy.

Vax wished like hell he had a tenth of that man’s brains.  Then maybe he’d have a hope of seeing through his schemes.

He paused to look back for Keyleth.  She was busy with the little fuzzface, who really just should have let her pet him in the first place.  Who wouldn’t want to be petted by Keyleth?  

Maybe he should wait for her.  They could...  The thing was, they always seemed to end up staring past each other awkwardly, or if he managed to think of something to talk about, somehow it always turned into a conversation about something else, something he couldn’t quite follow.  Keyleth was a lot wiser than he was.  

Thank fuck for that, because if she hadn’t showed him what Percy was really like, pointing out what a dark amoral greedy fucker he was back in Whitestone, Vax probably would still be blinded by the man’s charm.  He’d liked Percy so much at one point; that was almost the worst part.  

At least most of the others seemed not to be taken in anymore.  Take today; nobody had bothered feeling sorry for de Rolo.  Hell, even if he had really been blinded, that was hardly going to slow the fucker down.  Percival and his fucking arrow catching and his fucking smoke monster.  You could do anything to him and it wouldn’t make a dent.  He’d have thought six moves ahead of you and be ready with a pompous lecture about being better than everyone else because of having five names and no scruples.

Grog knew about Percy, of course, Grog had been the one who told him the truth about that time Percy had tried to steal the crazy skull and use it for himself and fuck the rest of the world over.  And Scanlan, without being brilliant like Percy, was so shrewd; looking back, Vax wondered if the gnome had ever trusted Percy in the first place.  At least there was somebody who could out-charm de Rolo, and with nothing like the man’s good looks.

Charm and good looks and money, that was what Vex had trouble seeing past.  And then there was Pike, who was so radiantly good that wherever she looked she got dazzled by her own goodness reflecting off other people.  But they were both tough as fuck all the same, a thousand times stronger than Vax would ever be.  Whatever it was Percy was planning, when he finally showed his true colors and went full Clarota, they’d probably be able to handle him.

And for now, Vox Machina needed the bastard; Vax saw that very clearly.  If they ever really did manage to fuck up those dragons, it would be because of something Percy came up with. Until then, Vax would just have protect everyone else by keeping one eye open.

 


 

Pike set the ocarina down on the convenient table by her bedside and wriggled with a sigh into the comfort of the bed as the candles automatically snuffed themselves into darkness.  Whatever else there might or might not be between her and Scanlan, he’d made such a wonderful room for her.  And she was with her friends, for just a little while longer, which she was so grateful for, just for herself, as well as for the chance to help Percy today.  And oh, she was so grateful that it had been Percy who had been struck blind and not anybody else.  

He’d looked a tiny bit on edge when she first arrived, and she’d almost started to get worried, but then she’d seen nobody else seemed to be scared or anything and she’d realized that of course he was fine.  Percy was just so smart and so practical.  Nobody else could have stayed so calm.  Nobody else could have kept his sense of humor so perfectly like he did, and just have fun with it.

And that meant everybody else could just relax and give him hell like always, the way they all did to each other because they were all jackasses and all knew how much they loved each other.  

There had been some times when she’d worried about Percy an awful lot, but not anymore.  He was strong, and he had his family to take care of him.  Including her, for right now.  She smiled to herself and made a prayer to Sarenrae of the memory of how really glad and grateful he’d looked when she finally got around to fixing his sight, like he just couldn’t wait to put his glasses back on and see them all clearly again.