Confutatis

 

 

"I have nightmares that they cut off my hands."

Kimberly, it turned out, was a strange drunk, a ranting drunk, hunched over the table in the empty cantina muttering under his breath in a voice that sounded like sandpaper on the verge of tears, long bony fingers like spiders, shaking, clutching his empty shot glass so tight that the array was flat and distorted against the crystal.

"All those stinking red-eyed bastards hold me down and cut off my hands and throw me in a ditch, and Gran doesn't even get me automail, just carves my arrays into the stumps of my wrists and sends me right back out. Can't hold onto anything. Just touch--" he flicked his wrist, waggled his fingers in mad mime of explosion-- "kaboom. 'Nother." He brandished his glass in desperation. "Mustang, please, another."

Wordless, eyes narrowed through the haze of his own drunkenness and the vague, fascinated disgust of watching Kimberly run off at the mouth like a derailing train, Roy poured him another few mouthfuls. The only stuff they had these days looked like water and tasted like battery acid, and Roy had a sneaking suspicion that one of the alchemists was transmuting it in the back of some jeep, but it had enough alcohol in it to boil away sand and screams and terrible wide red eyes, and that was all anybody cared about by now. It was a drink to make grown men cry, because they were in a war to make grown men go mad.

"Y'ever have dreams like that, Flame?" Kimberly choked out, coughing madly on his last swallow. His hands seemed to move of their own accord, scattering across the table like starved stray cats. His fingers touched Roy's, the salamander array--because he never took his gloves off these days, not even when he slept. "Ever wondered what you'd do if you couldn't snap?"

He had, of course. It was possible to make a spark entirely with alchemy, true, but it was slower, clumsy, strategically unfeasible. He'd considered all possibilities. He'd considered he might lose his hands. Nightmares were nothing--the thought had made him want to throw up. It still did--but so did Kimberly's touch, so did the moonshine churning in his stomach, so did the whole damn world.

"You understand, don't you?" Kimberly whimpered, rubbing his fingers round and round the triangles of Roy's array. "Flame, god, you're magnificent, I hate you..." Roy made to pull back, but those thin shoulders were shaking beneath his undershirt, and he couldn't quite bring himself to. Kimberly, horrible to begin with, had been cracking further and further every day in the field. Roy feared the night his eyes went dead, the night he stopped being human. He'd seen it happen before. And when Kimberly broke--if Kimberly broke, no one who saw those cat eyes become inhuman would live to tell of it.

"Don't you just want to burn it all down, make it all go away?" Kimberly asked hoarsely. "Too many people--just burning in hell--" He slumped over the table like a broken puppet, the back of Roy's hand pressed to his cheek. "Little screaming bags of--water, carbon...ammonia...sulfur...water and sulfur...stupid, stupid, all it is..."

He realized Kimberly was crying, and it felt like a knife twisting between his ribs. Shameless killer, halfway between pitiful and psychotic and marching closer to the latter with every breath he took--spots of warm wetness in the weave of his glove. Slowly his other hand settled in Kimberly's limp hair, above the leather wrap of his ponytail. No words of comfort, not for this monster. Just the touch of a fellow demon in hell, both of them with the power to destroy the world scrawled upon their hands. Sick, both of them, sick and inhuman, the sigils of the devil's research pressed against each other's skin. Roy, drunk, always wanted to resign his commission, turn in the watch, burn the gloves. But he couldn't. He was trapped here in the desert, helpless as the children he slaughtered, helpless as the lunatic clinging to his palms.

Then one of those wandering spider hands crawled up Roy's chest and latched onto the collar of his shirt, wilting and sweat-stained white cotton crinkling between thin fingers, and Kimberly dragged his head down and nearly missed, booze-stinking lips and teeth latching onto the corner of Roy's mouth, and the long-teetering chair gave out and they both crashed gracelessly to the floor, Roy flat on his back and wincing with the mad Crimson Alchemist twined atop him, one long knotted whipcord of a man, moaning. Kimberly had never kissed him before. Kimberly had never even touched him before. But that didn't matter. They were both damned, drunk off their asses with hellfire cupped in the palms of their hands, and every time those deep-scarred arrays touched Roy's skin he arched into them, because then, by some whim of Kimberly's will, he might die, and then it would all be over.

"Burn it down," Kimberly whispered, teeth grazing the side of Roy's neck as those deadly spider hands wrestled with the buttons of his pants, and the blood was roaring in Roy's ears, and the moonshine had long drowned the little voice that might have said no as long cold fingers and the fiery tingle of triangle and crescent wrapped round his cock. "Burn it all down."

 

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