To speedfanatic05: I'm glad you liked the bathing scene, I had a little bit too much fun writing it... :)
To AllyGal123: Do you mean Mrs. Waters? I love her! Ed has to meet her. I meant to do that in the last store scene, but I oops'd. Thank you for sharing my story! I'm so glad people like it enough to share it, and even convert their innocent friends! I mean. 8)
To Attackoneverything: HOW DID YOU KNOW?! ;)

Work today shut down for four hours for deep cleaning. It wasn't my department but it directly affected my work load...and I had time to write this entire chapter! Hope you enjoy :)

The next thing I realize, I'm laying on the ground in a daze. Roy is next to me and a furry form above me, growling protectively to fend sounds like someone is yelling?

What happened?

Through sheer force of will, I clear the haze in my mind and turn my attention to what's going on.

Roy and I are on the sidewalk, and other than a pain in my hip, neither of us seem to be injured. Hope is standing protectively in front of us and growling at a man who is standing near a stopped car, talking very loudly and me, I think.

"Are you even paying attention? Are you some kind of goddamn idiot? Why would you walk out in front of a car?! You have to be more careful or you'll get yourself killed!" He glares at Hope, who has turned to threatening snarling. "And you'd better put your god-ugly dog on a leash before someone makes a phone call and has her put down!"

His words spark a fire in my brain and it quickly makes its way to my chest. I jump up in anger, leaving Roy to Hope's care as I grab the man by the collar.

"You'd better worry about me before you worry about my wolf. She saved my life twice and she's a great aid to Roy who is blind and deaf. Now I'm sorry I ran out in front of you, I myself was blind until a few weeks ago, and I'm still getting used to some things." The fear and surprise in his eyes softens my spirit and I sigh. "How did I make it outta the road anyway?"

"Your-your uh, wolf-she grabbed your shirt and pulled you onto the sidewalk." He glances nervously at Hope, who is nudging a concerned Roy for reassurance.

"And you want me to leash her?" Adrenaline gone from my system, I release the man shakily and step back to tend to Roy. "I'm sorry I stepped out into the road. I'll be more careful. But don't ever threaten someone's pet again. You don't know what it could mean to them."

The man frowns and glances at us as Roy asks what's going on. I help him to his feet and use Dorset to explain my mistake and the following small altercation.

"But you're okay?"

Yeah. My right hip hurt when I fell but-

"Didn't Freedom fix that?"

Yeah. Maybe I just landed on it.

His hand touches the hip, presses on it; but there's no pain.

Maybe I imagined it?

I did have a broken hip for two months...

It's okay now, I reassure Roy. Maybe we should just go home.

"Are you going to be okay?" The man asks me, nearly upsetting my balance just through simple distraction.

You gotta learn to use these senses better, Ed!

"Yeah we'll be fine. I'll watch for cars."

"If you're sure." The man watches Hope warily as he slides into his vehicle and drives off, a sudden memory of myself in a vehicle as it drove off...without Roy.

And nearly killed me in the process.

Before I realize what's happening, Hope is leaning on my chest and nudging my face urgently. My entire body weight is leaning against Roy and he's giving me a light shake as he calls out my name.

Why am I shaking?


I can see. I can hear-

I'm not in the alleyway.

Despite being with Roy, despite Hope's helpful encouragement; despite being able to see and hear and having so many distractions-

I slipped.

I got caught in the alleyway, caught in my own mind, suffering in the brief but painful illusion of shattered bone and starvation and heartbreak and hopelessness.

Roy failed. I failed.

He provided all the senses that I need to be free, but still I'm trapped.

I used to think that my mind was strong. As a child I received praise for my skill in alchemy. As a young man I was a marvel of Amestris, a powerful, intelligent and merciful researcher and the youngest State Alchemist ever.

And after the Promised Day, I attributed all of my milestones in coping, all of my developments in sixth sense and chi perception, to my mind. My strong mind.

Ever since being stuck in this new body, being gifted these senses by Roy, I've broken down further and further. And now, after all of this time and effort, I slipped so easily and painfully back to the alleyway even in Roy's presence with his easily noticeable chi.

"Edward, Ed! Hey, what the hell is going on? Answer me!"

Hope is circling Roy and I, but Roy is holding me tightly and trying to calm my needless shaking.

I don't want to pull away from Roy. From the way he's holding me, I wouldn't have much of a chance of it anyway.

But I want so badly just to escape the constant struggles. Every setback that never seems to help me get better.

I miss the coma.

I came back for Roy-

For my whole family, but Roy was the one I would try to beat death for if Truth knocked on my gate and beckoned me to him.

Roy is the one who never grows tired or annoyed or frustrated with every one of my struggles, always encourages me to keep moving forward.

He gave me freedom. He gave me his senses, he gave me his future.

Our future.

I miss the peace of the coma, but maybe I can find peace with Roy and it won't be so bad.

I need more control over my chaotic mind though...

"Ed?" Roy's hand wanders up to my cheek to gently rub new tears away, ones that I hadn't even felt. "Your shaking is almost gone. Are you okay?"

Yeah. I'm fine.

"I highly doubt that."

I was just arguing with myself again.

"What about?"

Does it matter? I have no way of knowing that he can feel the shame in my expression. Either way I'm done and we can go.

Roy looks hesitant, as though there were something he wanted to say; for the sake of my unsteady constitution, he continues on with me with no further questions.

We're halfway down the street before he speaks again, his voice low and full of concern.

"You don't have to be afraid to tell me what's going on in your mind, Edward. I won't judge you, and maybe I can help you through it."

Yeah, maybe he could. Maybe he could continue to keep me at the brink of sanity and normality, but it's not fair to him to be focusing on me all of the time.

He gave up everything for me. His career, his future, his abilities-

Well, he deserves happiness now. I had mine in the coma, and now it's his turn.

I won't burden him with all of my problems, all of my failings and setbacks. I'll hide most of it and he can think I'm really progressing, and maybe I actually will; but right now, I owe him some peace of mind.

So I'll lie. I'll tell him I'm fine, even when I hurt. His happiness is all that matters right now, for everything that he's given up for me.

I just get tired of shrinking back in my own mind sometimes, I tell him with a weak smile as my lie continues. I'm learning to appreciate the senses you gave me but I guess it's just more peaceful in here at times.

His smile should make me happy. It should make the lie okay, but I feel sick to my stomach.

You'll get over it Edward. It'll get easier. As long as he's happy.

I have to admit, I was really worried about Edward there. First we were walking, then we fell backward, then Ed left and then he fell against me, shaking and crying and lost to the reality I had tried to give back to him.

Luckily, he seems to be making progress, even if pride tries to hold him back at every step.

He knows I wouldn't judge him, even if I was a bit harsh in my support when he was younger.

We stop again and immediately I fear the worst, but I remain silent-and sure enough, we begin walking with a mild step down.

Oh, we're probably crossing the street again.

He's actually much better at guiding me in public than he thought he would be. His panic attacks still exist, but they've been lessening the last few days.

Although, if today's episode was a panic attack, it wasn't a mild one.

I just wish he would tell me what was going on in that chaotic mind of his.

Edward filled with relief as he spotted the Central Chiropractic office. He glanced down at Hope and then at the inquisitive yet smiling Roy, his own weak smile strengthening as he entered.

For once giving him a break, the waiting room was clean, quiet, and very peaceful. There were no other patients waiting and the receptionist said nothing about Hope, simply smiled and greeted Roy.

"Good day to you, Mr. Mustang. Have you brought Ed for a surprise visit? Dr. Reed will be so happy to see him!"

Ed forgot that everyone still thought of him as the disabled person, but that lovely title now belonged to his partner.

"Yeah," he answered haltingly. "I'm um-here to see her." At the receptionist's look of surprise, he explained his abridged version. "We had an accident...and we switched senses."

"Oh, goodness! I didn't know that was possible..." She stared at the men for a long minute before checking the book in front of her. "Dr. Reed should be in room 5, awaiting a patient. Do you need help to find the way?"

Ed hesitated due to the knowledge of what letters and numbers did to his eyes, but this business was so peaceful and quiet that he thought he could manage it.

"I think we'll be fine. Thank you."

Ed was never so happy to see that the numbers outside the doors were big, because his mind was distorting the numbers just a bit and if they were small, he would have been screwed.

"Another point against the idiot," Ed grumbled quietly as he found room five and gently pushed in the door. "Hello?"

The red-headed woman looked up from a notebook at a small desk before dropping her pencil-well, more akin to throwing it in alarm-and shrieking.

Oh yeah that helped Edward's nerves.

He didn't even have time to blink before she ran forward and tackled him in a hug, causing him to stiffen in shock. As she pulled away he had to fight against the gasp that threatened to make him look like an unstable psychiatric escapee. Luckily, attention was dragged to Hope, who growled at the woman for her overeager treatment of Edward.

"Oh! Who is this? You-I-I don't know where to start! Edward I thought you had died! Your name was in the newspaper! It's so good to see you again!" She turned her gaze to Roy and asked him what happened, putting another chink in Ed's soul.

"He can't hear you," Edward said to her with an eerie solemn silence to his voice. "After my accident-after everyone thought I died, him too-he switched our senses." He turned his nervous golden eyes up to her. "You''re Dr. Stein, right?"

She stared at Edward in a mixture of alarm and amazement. This troublemaking young man had transformed into a scared child and it startled her, made her want to hug him again and comfort him-and she did, Hope allowing it this time because she could smell no fear from Edward.

"Ehm," Roy said quietly; "Ed? Are we here?"

Attention turned to Roy, beginning with Ed tapping Dorset to his forearm while Dr. Reed watched with sadness, as she hadn't missed the heartache in Ed's expression.

Dr. Stein thought I was dead. Roy why was my obituary in the newspaper?

"Well it wasn't actually an obituary," Roy replied hesitantly. "It was more of a statement about the crash...and how an automail leg was all that was left..."

"How did you survive?" Dr. Reed asked curiously as Ed tried to maintain two conversations simultaneously.

Did all of Central see it?

"The carjacker apparently had automail too," Ed explained uneasily, trying to keep his attention on the present with sight and sound and his doctor in front of him. "I knocked him out before I tried to get out but...I couldn't feel to use the brakes, so I bailed out of the car at the last minute-it-it wasn't fast enough though, the car exploded and I was thrown into a wall and then the canal-"

He excused himself as he felt his stomach churn, felt his breathing growing faster. His hip had a phantom ache and he shifted his weight, taking Roy's hand in his own and squeezing for grounding.

"Hope found me in the canal with a broken hip from the accident," he continued quietly, turning his eyes from Reed's sympathetic gaze to his faithful wolf. "She brought me food and water and kept me alive for a month before leading Roy to me."

"Oh my goodness," she said in awe. "I'm so sorry that happened to you. That must have been incredibly difficult."

"Yeah," he murmured in reply, willing his mind away from the dark memories. He didn't tell her he still was alone and starving in his dreams, or that even daytime couldn't keep him out of his mind. "Since then our senses were switched...and I've been trying to learn how to use them." Without breaking down, he neglected to say.

"It must be wonderful to be able to see and hear again," Reed said cheerfully. "It was two years that you couldn't, right? You must have missed so much!"

"To be honest," Ed admitted sheepishly, "I didn't mind how it was before. Being blind and deaf, once I adjusted, didn't bother me all that much. The thing I'm most thankful for-"

"Ed? Are you-" Roy quieted as Ed reassured him with a squeeze of the hand.

"When I lost my senses, my brother was still just a soul in a suit of armor. I never knew if he was okay or if he made it out of the coup alive-but I got to see him-I got to talk to him and hear him and-and that's the best part about it ever," he sniffled in reflex as the happy tears flowed. "That was all I ever wanted. All I could ever ask for. Now, I just wish I could switch back with Roy so he would be able again. I know he really misses his career..."

Reed smiled softly and gazed at their intermingled hands. "As long as he has you, I'm sure he'll be happy. You two are inseparable, I can tell."

"Thank you," Ed replied, squeezing Roy's hand. "Doctor, I know he's not your patient, but would you mind giving him what you give me? I think it might cheer him up."

"Of course not!" She replied cheerfully. "If you want I'll even work on Hope. I was just reading about animal chiropractic when you came in!" She pointed to her notebook, where several books were stacked neatly.

Ed stared at them in disbelief, unable to read the damned words but he easily identified the dog and cat on the book's cover.

"Wow! Yeah, I think she'd like that."

"Do you want to go first, Edward?"

Honestly, he couldn't wait.

"Yeah. Just a minute."

Sorry Roy. I was talking to Dr. Stein. She's going to adjust me now.

"Good. You've earned it." He pulled Edward into a quick kiss, smiling knowingly as Edward blushed madly and Reed giggled.

"He is such a-such a flirt," Ed grumbled as he shakily climbed onto her adjustment table.

Somehow, he felt his balance was worse with his eyesight.

Within minutes all worries and stress were gone from Edward's mind and muscles as she massaged him, working her strong arms and hands across his tense back. He could hear his occasional moan of pleasure, but didn't care one bit, as he was in heaven.

"Don't ever stop..." his mumble was nearly unintelligible, but it only earned a giggle from his doctor.

Soon though, she did stop, only to begin cracking his spine. With a multitude of snaps and pops, Ed laid limp on her table, eyes closed and breath slow and steady.

"Are you awake, Edward?" She asked teasingly, but her answer came in the form of a blissful smile. "Do you think Roy could have a turn?"

"Oh, yeah...'course." Ed contentedly rose, balance shot from the sudden change in orientation-but Reed was right there and kept him upright. He simply thanked her happily and stood Roy by the table, commanding him to lay on it.

"Um, why? Ed?"

Indulge me.

"Okay..." Ed steadied Roy as he felt the table and slowly climbed onto it, lying facedown as per Ed's request. "Like this?"

Ed wasn't the one to answer. Reed's hands were.

"Oh, oh wow. Dr. Reed?" He sighed in pleasure as she patted his arm in confirmation. "This is wonderful, thank you..."

"All Edward's idea," she replied to deaf ears, but nobody minded. As he received the massage and cracking of a lifetime, Ed contentedly sat with Hope, absentmindedly petting her while watching Roy's shift in expressions.

He wondered if Roy ever just watched him.

These were all good times...good memories that he would treasure. Happy moments to stave off negativity that would undoubtedly plague him later.

Like attracts like, Ed thought as his mind began slowly working again. Perhaps he needed to act happy and that would help him attract happy.

Maybe it would be enough just to make Roy happy.

Soon it was Hope's turn and, like a good pet, she leapt onto the table and laid down, allowing Dr. Reed to work on her body.

While two alchemists stood together against the wall, simply holding hands and enjoying the moment.

It took a heck of an ordeal and some teamwork to arrive, but the trip was worth it-both for the time together, as well as their time with Reed.

Ed had tried, really he did. He tried to think happy but it didn't help him relax for the sudden car horn blaring outside, nor for when Hope accidentally knocked over the chair in the kitchen while playing.

It was loud and it hit Ed's nerves once again. Not enough to send him into a panic, but just enough to chastise himself for not being ready for it.

And Roy, goddammit, Ed would have liked to kill him when he set the early-morning alarm for work on his nightstand.

Roy said he did it out of habit. Ed said Roy did it to prank him.

Either way, both men were up earlier than intended as Roy had to help pull Ed out of a panic attack after getting kicked, and Ed stated that he wasn't going back to sleep because it was too dangerous.

At least for the times that Ed wasn't right near Roy, each stupid little setback went unnoticed by him. Roy didn't sense them and Ed didn't announce them.

There weren't a whole lot, at least. Ed just let Roy believe there weren't any.

No Roy, I don't want to try.

"Ed, come on. It's not that hard."

Easy for you to say. They look like everything but what they are.

"You weren't born with it. You can learn to overcome it."

Roy it's my head, not yours. I don't want to.

"Dammit Edward, you have to put an effort forth. You can't just ignore this problem forever!"

Ed would have liked to, though. He didn't want to try reading again, because it gave him unneeded stress.

And it made him feel like an idiot.

Fine. Give me something to read.

"How about your alchemy notes?"

What? How did you get those?

"Do you really forget all the times I asked you to turn them in, Edward?" Roy deadpanned.

Well how was I to know you were gonna keep them?

"Let's go get them."

"Where are they, in your library?" Ed followed him Roy's study.

Why are they in here? Ed asked as Roy pulled the papers out of his desk and laid them out on its surface.

"I like to read them when I need inspiration."

This chicken scratch inspires you?

"Yeah, to keep my handwriting neat," he joked. "The notes are legible, just barely. They're the mark of a genius though. Come on, I can't read them anymore. It's up to you. Tell me what they say."

Faced again with the truth that Roy relied on Ed for survival, for interaction, the blond knew he had to try at least for Roy.

And Roy knew these notes. It's not like he could make something up.

Surely something his own hand wrote would be easier to read, right?

"Oh hell, this doesn't even look Amestrian..."

"Are you reading it?"

Define reading.

"It's not that bad, is it?"

I think the street signs made more sense.

"Okay, maybe you just need to relax." Roy sat down in his comfy office chair and pulled Ed onto his lap with a squeak of protest.

Uhm, yeah that might help. Ed pulled the notes from the desk and leaned back against Roy's chest to really relax. It hasn't yet though...

"Take your time," Roy said humorously. "It's not like either of us has a job."

"...Yeah. I wish we did..."

After nearly ten minutes of Ed struggling between relaxing and focusing, the words finally began to make sense and take shape on the paper, purely out of familiarity and pattern.

Excitedly he began tapping the Dorset to the arm around his waist, though he was sure he still badly mixed up some letters with others.

It was Edward Elric's handwriting.

"You really can do it," Roy said proudly. "You can read!"

Barely, Ed replied, but he was smiling. I bet I'm getting every word wrong.

"But you're going too fast to just be copying. You understand the text, don't you?"

These are some of my earliest notes. They're so crude and amateur!

"But still brilliant to even advanced alchemists."

Like you?

"I'm assuming that's a compliment." Roy snuck a gentle kiss to Ed.

Yeah, it is. Are we done then?

"You just relearn how to read after more than two years and you want to be done already? There's so much to read! Besides, you only gave me two sentences."

I didn't say it was easy to read.

"And that's why you practice."

Ed groaned in exaggeration, but did manage to get an entire sheet of notes translated to Roy before he gave up.

I'm done.

"Half of that page was drawings. Come on, go to the next one!"

I have a headache.

"I smell a load of crap."

Clearly not, as I now possess that sense. As well as an actual headache. Roy please?

"Ed, it was only a page of words-"

You don't see what I see. You never did. You don't know what that's like. We can work on it later but my head hurts right now.

Roy sighed and hugged Ed around the middle. "I guess I just want more. Guess I'm turning into the impatient one, huh?"

I'm sorry. You could always read your Braille book...

"But that's not nearly as interesting as you."

I love you too, Roy.