It’s noon, and there’s blood on his hands.
Not – well yes, in the metaphorical sense, yes , and he knows that, but also , there’s blood on his hands, patchy, rust-coloured stains blooming darkly against his gloves in the places where the fabric isn’t translucent with the sweat gluing them to his palms. They look like meat , like they aren’t even his as he peels the gloves off, hissing, backed up into the single inch of shade cast by the wall behind him. There is blood on his hands, with the sun so high overhead and so hot and so white that it’s bleached out the contours of everything into a harshly rendered blank and it feels like the sky’s staring at you, blind, milky, cataract-blue all day, lined red every night where it’s gut open on the mountains and it feels hungry. Like it’s coming down to swallow you. Which, Roy thinks, they probably deserve. The blood drips from his hands into the dust at his feet, which is when Kimblee happens.
It’s his least favourite thing about the man, for all that they have alchemy, combustion-based , even, in common, is that Solf J. Kimblee is not so much a man as he is an event . Kimblee happens to him, at intervals, coming out of nowhere like he’s been dropped from the blind blue sky above by some higher power. He tilts his head and hums.
“Those do tear you up, don’t they?”
Roy grunts noncommittally, and continues to bleed.
“You’ve never thought of getting them tattooed?” Kimblee is very close, very suddenly, offering up his own inked palms in a gesture that this not even remotely human. Something like a puppet with its strings cut, maybe. Like something not meant to be in the skin it’s wearing, less of a noun, more of a verb, which Roy cannot seem to parse, so he surrenders instead, wiping the blood off against his uniform trousers and shaking his head.
“Wouldn’t do me any good. I’d still need the spark to come from somewhere, otherwise…” He snaps, clear and crisp against the midday haze, trying not to picture what Kimblee would look like with his tongue burned out. It’s not a thought he would’ve had six months ago. Roy shakes his hair out of his eyes, “All I’d be doing is clicking my fingers and asking to get shot.”
Kimblee hums again, atonal and breezy, breath puffing against Roy’s jaw. He is very close, peering at his hand, and before Roy can lower it, Kimblee catches him by the wrist and raises Roy’s palm up for his own inspection. Somehow, his fingers are cool, almost cold, and dry, even in the heat.
“Still. You’ll have no future left if you keep this up,” he says, tracing the lines in Roy’s palm. “Your lifeline is terribly short as it is”
“I had no idea you were a palm-reader, Major. Do I die alone and penniless, too?”
“Ludicrous superstition, of course.” Kimblee purrs, “Nothing to it, but, according to this,” he curls Roy’s fingers in on themselves, presses the hand gently, almost tenderly, back against Roy’s chest and Kimblee says “According to this, you’re going to ruin every good thing you’ve ever had.”
He turns away, one shoulder shrugged into the heat-shimmer.
“You might try replacing them entirely. Automail of some kind, spark pads on the fingertips. Fascinating work being done these days.”
It’s just that fire is the only thing he knows how to talk about anymore.
The light streaming in through the curtains is a syrupy, yellow-gold, not like honey, but like the incandescence of fine soot particles within a flame, which produce a turbulent edge structure and an egg-yolk yellow colour, indicating a temperature range around 1000 C, and increasing as the center of the flame shifts towards white, like the light does around the edges of the curtains.
It should be peaceful, painterly even, the way the light hugs the contour of Riza’s shoulder where she’s lying next to him with the sheets pooled at her waist and the languid, unspooled posture of someone with a good orgasm under their belt sometime in the last twenty minutes, but all he can think is that the flame produced by a complete combustion reaction is blue, like the veins he can just see under her skin, which is a pale soft colour, not like silk or cream, but like ash, just that soft and insubstantial. Riza dozes, with her forearms barred across her face like she’s shielding it from something, the way she used to all those times he caught her sleeping on the couch, a hunched, vaguely feral shape only just visible from the stairwell coming up from the old man’s lab, but her legs shift back and forth lazily against the mattress like the sheets are the best thing she’s ever felt. It undoes something deep in the pit of his chest, and he reaches out with the idiot impulse to do – something, brush back her hair or kiss her or something , but then she shifts, just a little, reaching one arm up over her head, and her scars pull (just a little; she was diligent with the rehab, almost no loss of function or range of movement), and it pulls at whatever it was Roy felt welling up in him and unspools it at his feet. So he just...stares, and put his hand back down.
“Can a man not admire the finest ass ever forged by this great nation? Can he not gaze , reverently, at a woman, in the comfort of his home?”
Riza rolls over, then, facing him propped up one on elbow, staring flatly with her eyebrows raised. “That’s not what you were staring at. Stop. ” She exhales, slowly, sinking back to stare fixedly at the ceiling.
The thing is, making homunculus is easy, it takes almost nothing, just a few solid years of a fight you’ve been having without saying so, or saying anything, at all, and there it is! A whole other person lying in the bed between you, made of:
I hurt you.
I asked you to.
No, before that. You trusted me and I –
Yes, you did. What do you want me to say?
He doesn’t know. He doesn’t know what he wants to hear, or how to stop feeling like this. Riza puts hers away, shuttered somewhere behind her eyes, too deep to see, locked in a box in the attic of a house he should’ve burned down ten years ago. It’s the only time she ever looks like her Father, when she’s putting things away.
She winces faintly as she sits up, cocks her head like a gun. Something pops in her neck, a click like a safety going off. But not like that, because Riza’s not a weapon, just herself, scooting carefully to sit at the edge of mattress with the delicacy of someone too used to sleeping on rooftops to wake up easily in a bed.
“ Anyway.” she says, braced to leave, “I’m getting up now. Coffee?”
He wraps his arms around her waist, cheek pressed into her spine, into the scars, just to show how perfectly fine he is “Stay.”
“I’m not staying in bed if you’re going to be” she gestures vaguely, “like that.”
“You could distract me.” He offers, waggling his eyebrows, still plastered to her back.
“Were you planning on crawling out from under all that crushing guilt first? As is, I don’t know that there's any room for me – what are you doing back there, it tickles!” She twists away, shoving half-heartedly at his head. “Stop, I’m getting up.”
“No, stay.” He tugs, and Riza lets him, settling back against the pillows. She curls into him, back pressed to his chest, and he doesn’t stare, turns his face into her neck so he can’t stare, even though he can feel the urge to coming on like a sickness. Riza reaches her arm back to cup the back of his skull.
“No more,” he agrees, close enough that her pulse thuds softly against his mouth. “I promise.”
Her skin tastes like...skin, something nothing like fire, and consequently nothing he can put words to. It tastes like he could fix all this, all of... everything , if he could just pin it down. And probably it’s just that he wants to kiss her. Riza’s neck is sensitive; it’s a tactic she is reliably susceptible to. Usually.
“What is this?” she drawls, cool and dry like she isn’t tipping her chin up for more.
“A distraction?” He mumbles into her neck.
“Okay,” Riza murmurs, sweeping her hair back with one hand, “okay.”
It is a swift, decisive motion, like everything is she does is a swift, decisive motion, and she’s still wearing that worn-out cotton bra she’d slept in, just that, because her underwear are still somewhere on the other side of the room from earlier, and so when Riza swings one leg up and over his jaw, he can just feel her bare skin brush over his mouth, just barely, like ashfall. She eases down, and Roy groans, a pathetic grateful noise muffled against her inner thigh.
It’s just such a relief not to have to think anymore, to just–
She’s got him pinned, straddling his mouth with her palm braced against the wall, and Roy can’t fucking breathe, can’t get the air down past the feeling welling up in his throat that thank God, thank God, Leto or Ishvalla, or just– fuck –thank whoever that there’s something holding him down. Keeping him here. Keeping him where he’s supposed to be with sharp tugs at his hair as he works his tongue in long, slow passes up and down the length of her.
It’s just that fire is the only thing he knows how to talk about anymore, so Riza feels flash-point hot, but so slick and soft that he knows the metaphor falls down, so this is a better use of his mouth, really. Above him, Riza pants and twists, teeth set against the inside of her bicep. Riza’s quiet. Riza’s always been quiet, only occasionally letting out a thin, breathy sound high in the back of her throat, and he’s obsessed with it. Would do anything for that noise.
He sucks her clit, and Riza’s hand slips from the wall, twists into his hair alongside its match as she grinds down against his tongue, whimpering. Riza curls over him, taut and trembling.
“Roy,” she breathes “I–shit, Roy–my knees, I can’t–“
It’s easy enough to tip her sideways and roll them over, his scarred hands on her scarred back and it feels like nothing, just skin, just like the best thing that’s ever happened to him. Just like the worst thing he’s ever done. Which it isn’t, really. Objectively he’s done worse. Riza plants her heels into the mattress and presses up in a long, perfect arch, and Roy drags his hands over the ridge of her spine one last time before curling them over the points of her hips and dragging her back down.
It’s just that it’s hard to stay where he’s supposed to, just that Riza is so wet, and he’s smeared with it from cheekbones to chin and he keeps slipping out of place, just–and part of him wants to hold her so hard it bruises, just to know that it’s real , that this happened , and another part of him wants to say of course you do, that’s what you do, hurt people –
She’s shaking. Eyes screwed shut, Riza’s whole body is one tight line of strain, shivering and on-edge. He mouths at her apologetically, not so much a kiss as it is an open-lipped smear, sticky and graceless. Under his hand, a muscle spasms, ticklish, flinching back before she’s pulling him back up by the hair again. This, this , he could still do blind, Roy decides, even when her hands start to cramp and they slip from his hair to scrabble uselessly against the mattress instead. But he’s not , so he won’t , so Roy keeps his eyes open as he flicks his tongue over her, even if it is all too close to see much of anything, other than shadows and a vague impression of pink. One of Riza’s hands wraps up over his own, nails dug in and he can taste her pulse, thready and fast on his tongue. Riza comes like it’s been punched out of her, a sharp buck upwards, but he won’t– refuses to stop until she’s pushing him back with shaking hands, twitching and over-stimulated.
“Mmmmmnh.” She hums, cocking–cracking, as she cracks her neck, “Don't say I never did anything for you”
“ Wha –I did all the work!”
“You keep telling yourself that,” she says.
She doesn’t say are you alright?
(He doesn’t answer.)
She shoves him with her foot, and Roy lets her, huddling into the single inch of shade clinging to the edge of the mattress. He rolls over. There are red, half-moon marks from Riza’s nails, sunk in between the tendons stretching down from his knuckles, and a lump under his head, which, extricated from beneath the pillow, turns out to be his watch.
It’s noon, and there’s blood on his hands.