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the home we built in hell

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They buy a house with the creakiest set of floorboards, windows that rattle with the lightest gust of wind and a door that slams loudly.

Atsumu wakes up and goes across the street when the street lamps are still on to start the rice. He grabs cucumbers and starts peeling them, checking the cork board calendar hammered on the opposite wall to see what kind of delivery he's to be expecting today. 

It's always a good day when he receives tuna. Fish blood and guts aside, he feels alive when he de-heads the fish, scales and fins flying everywhere. Cucumbers: not so much. He has to hum silly songs to chase away the nightmares whenever he's pickling them.

The house across the street fills with light. Steam billows up as he opens all three rice cookers, masking the cuts and burn marks on his hands. His husband enters the shop in a familiar blue uniform, chin cleanly shaven and smelling like soap.

"Yer bento," Atsumu gestures to the bag sitting on the counter. There had been a time where his hands were sensitive to heat but now he handles the steaming rice like it's nothing. He presses some picked plum into the center and wraps the triangle with a sheath of dried seaweed.

A newspaper gets flung to his shop window, the panes rattling. The first time it happened, he'd grabbed the nearest cleaver and couldn't stop shaking until Sakusa pried it out of his hands and made him hot tea. Sakusa called in sick that day if he remembers correctly.

Sakusa drinks his morning tea, finishes all three umeboshi onigiris, grabs his lunch and walks over to the swinging door at the end of the bar seating to press a kiss on Atsumu's mouth. His mouth tastes tart and not covered in blood like the Sakusa Atsumu dreamed of earlier that morning.

"You have an appointment with Dr—"

"Yeah, yeah," He waves it off, shooing him away with a hand as he fiddles with the radio, listening to a car crash along the brewery district. The sun is starting to stream in and he can see a line of grannies outside the front door, "Go now!"

Sakusa only huffs back, leaving through the back door as Atsumu sighs. He fishes open a dented pocket watch with a lion's decal on the front and checks the time before snapping it back. 

He legally shouldn't be carrying the watch if he were to follow orders.

He jerks the blinds up and pushes open the door to greet his first customers with a smile, "Mornin! Welcome ta Onigiri Miya!"

 

Two years ago, Atsumu was honorably discharged with the title of Brigadier General, claiming the want to have a relaxing life catching up on sleep and take over his brother's shop when he broke the news from his hospital bed.

A year into retirement, that statement was a lie. What do you do once you're out of the military? How are you suppose to find something as familiar as fighting and training with your closest comrades who'll follow you into hell and back again like Orpheus?

For the first while, Atsumu would clean every corner and inch of the little rickety house just for something to do while Sakusa continues donning that blue uniform to work. He puts on a brave smile for both of them when Sakusa has to spend days and weeks traveling around Amestris, feeling too lonely in the house.

Sakusa suggested gardening at first but it'd been the dead of fall and nothing will grow with frost on the ground. Atsumu started people-watching at a park for hours on end until Sakusa found him there on his drive home, lips purple and fingers stiff with cold, ear buds crackling with the military channel he illegally tapped into.

"You're lucky I'm off," Sakusa says, shutting off the radio set and pulling him up. Atsumu had only blinked as Sakusa, still dressed in his uniform, drew a full bath and threw him in to defrost like a piece of chicken.

He chatters his teeth as Sakusa tugs his gloves and coat off, reaching for the loofah and soap.

In the back of his mind, Atsumu sees a mahogany table full of papers, the black ink on his reports fading like a sepia picture. He's twirling the phone cable around, laughing and flirting openly with his lover, his stars and moon, his 'Akira-chan' as Sakusa chases after Gluttony on the other end.

"You shouldn't tap into the official channels anymore," Come the disapproval.

"I need ta m-make sure yer o-okay."

He's in Ishval again, hiding in that tower far away from the blast zone with the white coat covering him like a blanket. What would Sakusa do without him covering his back now that Atsumu retired?

Sakusa stops scrubbing. The hesitation was minimal but Atsumu feels a puff of air near his ear as Sakusa reaches for a bucket, submerging it bath water and dumping it on his neck, watching the suds mix.

"Hey lover," The nickname spills out of his mouth as Atsumu wraps his arms around his knees, voice echoing in the bathroom, "Should we getta divorce?"

A bottle slips, splashing into the tub. Then Atsumu is turned around by force, water sloshing up the rim of the tub and making splotches on Sakusa's blue pants, dripping onto the tiles.

When Atsumu dares to look up, Sakusa is livid, the curiously flat eyes that usually showed nothing burning as he snarls.

"If you're tired of me as a partner then yes," Atsumu feels the bones in his shoulders creak, feeling the sharp points of Sakusa's fingertips digging in for purchase, "But if this is some pity-party where your twisted head thinks you tricked me into marrying and taking care of you then no, you're stuck with me until I die."

"'M nothin' without the mili—"

"Bullshit, you were someone before you went into the military," Sakusa hisses angrily, "If you promised all of us you were going to be the happiest retired soldier living in Central then you should start acting like it!"

Then he stormed out of the bathroom, leaving Atsumu in the water. 

Atsumu sat in the tub until the water turned from hot, to tepid to cool. He sat in there, shivering, until the suds disappeared and his fingers pruned before the door quietly opens again and Sakusa is holding a large fluffy white towel. 

He doesn't fight when Sakusa lifts him, feeling the heat from the towel. Sakusa must have waited until it was warm enough from the expensive dryer unit they installed last weekend before going back upstairs.

I'm sorry, the towel hug seemed to say.

Atsumu shoves his face into Sakusa's neck. If Sakusa felt wetness gathering on his collarbones, he doesn't say anything, only holding him in his arms until the evening bled into night.

 

Osamu's shop is still dusty and closed and neither of them sleep well.

Sakusa doesn't sleep in general, finely attuned to wartime and taking cat naps throughout the day even though he knows danger has passed. He finds himself listening to Atsumu's light breathing next to him and walking around the house to jiggle on the locks on both front and back doors and windows, paranoia gnawing the back of his mind.

It's a good day when he wakes up to Atsumu whistling downstairs, hearing the crackle of oil cooking sausages. It's a neutral day when Atsumu is pressing around him like a large house cat and Sakusa is prying his arm away because he needs to go to work.

It's a bad day when he hears soft clicking of metal on metal that takes him back to Ishval.

He slits open his eyes to see Atsumu sitting on a chair, robotically taking apart the pistol that should be beneath Sakusa's pillow with a faraway look in his eyes, blond fringe falling over his black eyebrows. Sakusa's white gloves are nearby next to the radio set that belongs to Atsumu.

There had been a time when they were both chasing after the Homunculi with Atsumu's hair dark as midnight, the only tell tale difference between the twins being the parting of their hair and the presence of stars on the shoulder marks of their uniforms.

"'S'not nice ta stare, Major Omi-Omi."

"Colonel."

Atsumu says nothing. He folds the cloth he was cleaning the frame into a square. Then, like a bull out of a gate, he assembles back the gun with frightening accuracy and speed, a series of clicks as the tweezer in his right hand is tossed to the table, the recoil spring disappearing into the barrel.

He spins the assembled pistol lazily in his hand, like a blond ghost of the sharpshooter he once was.

"I still got it, yeah?"

Sakusa rakes a hand through his hair, "Your roots are showing."

"Sure, yer helpin' me bleach my hair, righ'?"

Atsumu retired a week after the last funeral and posthumous medals and awards were given. Sakusa was there when he turned over his gun and signed papers with the military's retirement personnel.

They had a party with Atsumu's team that night and went home before Atsumu asked him for help.

"I can't stand it," Atsumu had confessed, sitting on a stool as Sakusa saw the naked skin of his neck. It's unblemished and smooth unlike the burn scars Sakusa created further down his back, red and dull to hide the secret of the alchemy that made him feared by all during the war, "I can't stand seein' him when I catch my reflection."

He'd only hummed, mixing the bleach powder with some developer. When Atsumu finally passed out, his pillow tear-stained and hair blond, Sakusa took down all mirrors and anything of reflective nature in Atsumu's bachelor pad and tossed it outside.

When they bought this house, he also did the same. If he wants a good shave, he would need to bring the kettle from the kitchen upstairs and use it. 

 

One of the wordless agreements they have when they moved in together was to shuffle and make as much sound as possible when they move. It's easy to do especially with a house this rickety and old but Sakusa still remembers the time he went outside without saying anything to fetch a ball that had floated downstream for the neighbour's son. 

When he turned around, Atsumu was standing at the back door holding a knife, wheezing and pale in the face, eyes wet.

Sometimes the overwhelming silence scares him too, reminding him of when his sight was taken. 

It's a good thing Atsumu is loud by nature when he's not in missions or acting like the Brigadier General he used to be. 

Atsumu goes up the stairs like he's carrying the entire weight of the world on his back. He cooks like he's trying to announce to the entire world he's making eggs and sausages, banging pans and the cupboards like it's some alt-percussion instrument. He scrubs and cleans and uses too much vinegar to wipe the kitchen counter as if he's trying to pickle it, singing old training tunes and modifying them as Sakusa hollers at him to pipe down.

Sakusa looks with trepidation at Atsumu's slumbering figure as he goes back downstairs to pace around the house. He's been pacing for three hours now. He's been hungry since three in the morning and it's nearly twelve.

Just because he's the Flame Alchemist doesn't mean he has to be good at cooking.

He stops pacing. The house is quiet. He sighs and heads for the kitchen.

When his eggs and sausages are only mildly blackened and he'd fanned out all traces of smoke from the toast, he decides that it should've been enough time for Atsumu to wake up.

He's surprised Atsumu hasn't come down to ask about Sakusa's sudden interest in arson.

He raises his voice, "Tsumu!"

He peers into the living room. Nothing but a half-finished 4000 piece puzzle and an empty mug with a dried tea stain on the bottom.

Bathroom is empty. Bedrooms are empty. He enters the kitchen again, peeking into the hallway to see if Atsumu is standing by the windows with his radio. Nothing.

Sakusa stops moving. He closes his eyes and hears nothing but the traffic off the main road and the tinkling of chimes that was given from Major General Oikawa as a retirement present.

He's about to step outside when he stops short of the back door, seeing Atsumu sit on the rocking chair, staring at something far away and spinning a metallic watch in his hand.

It must be that time of year again.

The first time this happened, two months after they signed papers and were legally married, Sakusa ended up calling in sick for an entire week. Atsumu wasn't eating, wasn't sleeping, wasn't doing much outside of gazing at the river and waiting for something. Sakusa nearly went mad.

It wasn't until Atsumu dozed off on the rocking chair that year when Sakusa's pocket watch fell out of his hand and rolled several meters away, innocently lying open.

He'd walked over to it, feeling the lion engraving on the front, crumpled by the bullet that had blocked its trajectory into Atsumu's chest. 

Sakusa had given that to him before Promised Day started. He rubbed the dent fondly before flipping it around and feeling the breath in his lungs huff out.

NEVER FORGET OCT 13, scratched in Atsumu's penmanship, the clock face still ticking.

Sakusa went back inside and placed an afghan around his waist, standing by his side until Atsumu eventually woke up with one side of his face encrusted in drool.

That evening, he brought a wreath from Yukie's flower shop in town and dragged Atsumu to the cemetery, standing back as Atsumu stared at the tombstone with dull eyes.

Miya Osamu
Oct 5 XXXX- Oct 13 XXXX

So it's been another year. He hadn't kept track, time slipping past his fingers like water as he juggled taking care of his husband and military duties.

"Tsumu," He drags the bottom of his slippers on the floorboards, touching his shoulders first before he runs a hand through Atsumu's hair, pressing a kiss on his head, "Do you want to get flowers?"

Atsumu's voice seems very far away, "...Yeah."

"Okay," Sakusa says, because that's all he can do for him at this time. He looks terrible, like he hadn't slept at all.

"Come on," Sakusa pulls him back inside just in time as the afternoon skies open for a light shower, raindrops splattering their windows. Atsumu sits, docile, in the same chair he uses for root touch ups, tilting his head up as Sakusa presses a warm towel around his chin and neck.

He lathers the shaving cream and gives Atsumu a foam beard before pulling a straight razor out, the handle gold plated and unnecessary and pressing the blade gently against his jaw.

Atsumu blinks at him, not doing anything, not saying anything as the rain continues to fall down.

Sakusa sweeps upward, scraping the foam away to reveal a patch of smooth skin. He does this once, twice, three times, over and over again until the white beard is gone and Atsumu is clean shaven.

He places a hand on Atsumu's neck, feeling the clean skin and faint pulse from his neck flutter against his palm.

Atsumu sighs when Sakusa kisses him, the tension bleeding away as he opens his mouth. His lips are dry but soft, pressing against his again and again like water lapping at a fountain's edge.

Sakusa pulls back to clean the straight razor, telling him to change his clothes.

"Oil."

Sakusa shakes the water off the razor and places it on the counter before following Atsumu through the halls.

Sakusa helps him massage in an oil advertised to get rid of scars on his back. Whether the burns he made are too deep for the oil to work or the oil is a complete scam, they continue to use it for false hope that it'll make everything better again.

But what "better" is, Sakusa doesn't know. Was better obliviousness at Amestris's bloody history? Should he have retired from the military too? Should he have avoided the military all together and ignored his gift at alchemy?

When he's buttoning up Atsumu's shirt, he briefly reminds himself to buy some chamomile tea from the store tomorrow, seeing the dark circles on Atsumu's face.

"Omi."

"Hm."

"Ya should sleep more," Atsumu says, grabbing the suit jacket Sakusa tosses him from the air with one hand, "Yer the one with a job an' all. Three hours per night ain't good fer ya."

"You and I both know that I've survived with less," He thinks of Ishval, of the day he looked up that tower, searingly bright in the desert sun, to see the muzzle of a sniper poking out of a square hole in the tower that saved his life.

He has nightmares— Atsumu does too, of finding his brother in that phone box several blocks away from headquarters and Suna crying at the funeral.

Sakusa's dreams are of the blistering heat, the blast that made his ears ring in Ishval and the silent screech of the hawk flying overhead in lazy circles before it fades to nothingness and he's back in that damned laboratory, carrying an unconscious Atsumu in a fireman's carry with the alchemy circle drawn on the back of his hands.

He could remember turning around every few steps, sweat running down his back even though he saw Lust fade into dust. Atsumu had always fished both of them out of tight situations with sheer stupidity, talent and luck.

Sakusa knows he's not heaven's favorite. If he was, he wouldn't be living in this hell, wishing for post-Ishval days where his only job was to herd Atsumu to meetings and pretend Atsumu's flirtatious personality didn't work on him.

When was the last time Atsumu laughed?

He doesn't remember.

"Tha's not healthy."

"None of us are healthy," He shrugs out of his long sleeve shirt, tugging out a dark button-up fitting of the mood from the wardrobe and making quick work of the buttons. He changes his pants, grabs a belt and tucks his shirt in before spinning around to see Atsumu's tired eyes.

"Ya can't live like this with me, Omi. Ya can't just throw away everything ta live with yer former commanding officer who's jobless an'—" Atsumu's voice catches, "—An' can't even go into the shop."

When they were relocated to Central, he was dragged away by Atsumu on a weekend shift to eat dinner at a bustling onigiri shop. His jaw dropped when Colonel Miya, dressed in civilian clothing, winked as he slid them extra side dishes with his husband, Suna, fluffing rice beside him.

Suna had moved back to Resembool after the funeral. He'd given Atsumu the keys and told him to do whatever he wanted with it at the train station, how he's the best person to take over if he wants to.

Sakusa wipes his tears away and kisses his forehead. They put that thought away and catch Yukie before she closes shop for the day, buying an arrangement of red spider lilies and heading for the cemetery.

Sakusa forces Atsumu to take the umbrella, standing back several meters and looking left and right out of habit. His one comforting thought in that he's getting rained on is that even if his gloves are useless, he can always draw the alchemy symbols on the back of his hands and use the Swiss army knife and lighter he carries with him everywhere.

 

They're not perfect. Perhaps they were years ago before they shared a house, a marriage, a car and their lives with each other. 

Before Atsumu mumbled something about not being able to live without him by his side and tax benefits in an attempt to woo a stunned Sakusa into accepting his ring, before Sakusa gave him a fond yet exasperated smile and wondered how he bought the ring when he's still on bed rest orders.

Sakusa wakes up plagued with nightmares and gets comforted by Atsumu making him tea in the morning. 

Atsumu forgets to eat sometimes, so deep into thought that Sakusa drags him out into town for dinner. They pretend everything is okay again for a few hours as Atsumu pokes every plate presented in front of him critically and tries to recreate the dish at home through taste and memory alone.

"What th' hell is this?" Atsumu opens his mouth obnoxiously. Sakusa can see chunks of salmon and pie crust congealing into one homogeneous mush. "It's so bright! What kinda herbs did they put?"

When the Miya's childhood friend Aran and Kita visit with their nine-month old, Sakusa allows himself to be led out into the backyard as he explains his herb garden to Aran, watching baby Rika crawl around the grass. Kita is sitting on the porch steps with Atsumu, simply watching both of them from the shade.

He nearly vomits when he hears the sound of fireworks popping from a nearby apartment complex, feeling his heart race in his ribs. 

Screams. The Crimson Alchemist is stalking through the crowd. Rubble and rocks are flying. The dust is so thick the sun disappears. The hawk above them is gone. The sniper is out of sight.

Sakusa keeps staring at his husband, the skies too wide as he fights against the urge to sprint and tackle both of them onto the ground. Instead, Sakusa gravitates to Atsumu's side, holding his hand as they listen to several mothers scream at their children for setting off fireworks without buckets of water nearby. He taps his Morse code message.

OK?

Atsumu taps back, YesOK?

No.

Atsumu immediately turns to his friends, chirping about how he's going to make some tea inside, they can come in if they want to or stay outside as Rika unearths all of their planted sunflower bulbs.

Sakusa is sitting on a stool in the kitchen corner as Atsumu grabs four mis-matched mugs out of the cupboard and scoops some roasted loose leaf tea imported from Xing into a glass teapot. Sakusa feels like a bug ready to molt, wanting to hop in the shower and hide in his bedroom and pretend the world doesn't exist.

But he doesn't. He forces himself to feel the stiff material of his black pants on his knees, at the cotton shirt Atsumu bought for him, curling his hands around the cold metal of the stool and feeling each individual bolt and nut screw in.

He takes in a breath, smelling tea, the faint whiff of lemon from the kitchen floors and curry bubbling away in the slow cooker.

He opens his eyes to see the afternoon light hit Atsumu's hair, the wide line of his shoulders straight as ever.

The sun is back again, the dust cloud has disappeared.

"Where did ya go?"

Sakusa darts his heavy tongue out to wet his lips, "Ishval."

Atsumu wordlessly moved to his side to rub circles on Sakusa's shoulder until the timer beeped and he's fishing the tea strainer out.

"What's funny s'that I dream of Ishval more than I do of the Promised Day," Atsumu states, one side of his mouth curling up.

He sips his tea, eats the lunch Atsumu prepares, waves the baby rattle in front of Rika, pretending Kita and Atsumu aren't talking in low voices a room away.

When Kita and Aran leave for their hotel, brushing off the fact that they have a spare bedroom upstairs that's just gathering dust, Atsumu flutters around their bedroom and pull a record from a box Sakusa had curated from his apartment, the first few chords of a familiar Gymnopedie crooning out.

He tucks Sakusa under his chin, smelling like soap. It's in times like this Atsumu seems to have regressed from fading into himself, like he was the man Sakusa shared a battlefield and more with, like he's more of his Atsumu than the Atsumu that lived two years ago.

"Hey, Omi?"

He grunts.

"Kita..." Atsumu trails off, "Kita told me 'bout this doctor."

He frowns, "Is he sick?" Being in the military meant connections and unlimited access to medical research and papers. Sakusa will try his hardest to find Kita the best doctor if he needs to.

"No, he's fine, they're'll fine," Atsumu mumbles, closing his eyes when Sakusa wiggles slightly away from his arms, "He said he's worried 'bout me especially an' told me ta see this guy who runs a clinic."

"What kind of clinic?"

"...Counseling. Fer...fer the war an' stuff."

Sakusa pauses, burying his head back into Atsumu's chest, treading lightly, "I think for what it's worth, you could check it out."

He saw the counselor when the civil war ended and took a simple assessment to see if he was fit to serve in East City. He'd lied most of the way through, knowing that he couldn't stand to sit at home or in a ward somewhere for days on.

Especially because he wanted to properly thank the sniper who saved his life countless of times.

"Come wit' me?"

Sakusa thought of himself as a good soldier who took orders and didn't question his superiors too much. He learned all of his meticulousness through Atsumu mixing analogies about gun cleaning and keeping his desk neat in the same breath.

Perhaps they've been leaning on each other for too long. Seeing someone else would be good. He nods.

Atsumu mouth is stretched oddly against Sakusa's forehead, like he's grinning. He's pulling back when Atsumu yelps and tugs him back down.

"Don' look, I'm ugly."

"You're always ugly," Sakusa says, looking up and wiping Atsumu's tear away, "I'm stuck with a crybaby."

Atsumu's nose is red and running, "D'you ever regret marryin' me?"

He kisses Atsumu's cheeks, closing his eyes and shaking his head, "Do you not remember my vow to you? Not once, never."

Atsumu is quiet. They get slightly handsy with each other, stroking each scar, each burn on their bodies and associating it with a certain battle and moment in time of their life before giving up due to exhaustion.

"...Samu..." Atsumu starts, voice rough, "Samu liked spicy cucumbers."

"Do you want to make them?"

Atsumu snorted. Then he's blinking when Sakusa pulls on his shirt and sweater, looking expectantly at him.

"It's—" Atsumu's brown eyes darts around their room, "—it's nearly two in the morning."

"I'm calling in sick, I'm on my deathbed and only spicy cucumbers can cure me," Sakusa says in a dull tone that makes Atsumu laugh and call him a drama king. 

Sakusa watches and listens to Atsumu's commentary as he pulls cucumbers from the fridge, reminiscing of the time his brother had nearly drowned him in the lake outside Resembool and how their mother had lectured them so much she lost her voice for the next few days. Osamu's name flows freely for the first time in years.

He doesn't remember falling asleep but when he wakes up, there's a plate of onigiri in front of him with plastic wrap protecting it from drying. Atsumu's housecoat is around his shoulders.

Sakusa stands up, slightly disoriented as the clock on the wall shows half past eight. He listens to the house.

He runs upstairs, checking every corner of the bedrooms and peeking into wardrobes like Atsumu is a child playing hide and seek. He thunders down, pokes his head out into the backyard and sees nothing but the row of tulip bulbs that were hastily stuffed into the ground.

This is not wartime anymore, he reminds himself, shoving his feet into sandals and not caring that he looks less than presentable with the housecoat flapping after him like a bat. 

He swings the gate open and peer through the ferns blocking the house from main street to see a blond tugging chairs and tables out, sneezing from the dust floating around him. Sakusa immediately relaxes, watching several people stop Atsumu and inquire if Onigiri Miya is opening again.

"Not yet," He gives them a small grin and turns around to see Sakusa stand across the road.

"Kiyoomi!" He calls, waving. The sun catches the wedding ring on his left hand.

Long ago before he knew the horrifying truth about the country he pledged to protect and the sniper who obsessively cleans his guns for fear of them jamming in a fight, he only knew of the bravado and perfectionist tendencies the youngest Brigadier General in the army wears on his sleeve.

The officiate who stood as they exchanged vows, ignoring the split lip on Sakusa's mouth and how Atsumu's arm had been wrapped in a brace, had blinked in confusion as Sakusa promised to continue to follow Atsumu into hell.

The flame alchemist following the sniper's protection, the major protecting his commanding officer's back in Central, the younger Sakusa who didn't know if Atsumu was still alive or not as they crawled out of the laboratory, the newly appointed colonel accepting the ring in medical bay, they all have one thing in common.

Later, they'll get worse before they get better. Atsumu will come home from Dr. Ennoshita's sessions in tears as Sakusa takes many prolonged lunch breaks to hide in his car, still in uniform as he mulls over Ennoshita's words. 

They'll buy lots of paint and wood stains and replace the counter of Onigiri Miya and build several new chairs as Atsumu channels all his energy into opening the shop.

One day, Sakusa will bring his team to have dinner there. The younger recruits will gawk at Atsumu in awe before Sakusa sharply tells them to stop staring. They'll tease him about his flushed face when Atsumu brings plates over, kissing his cheek and recounting the time Sakusa got rained on and became essentially useless to their mission.

There will be a time in the future where they'll both look back and hope to relive post-Promised Day days.

But for now, he looks left and right before running forward.

Running to the home they made for each other in hell.