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Stars, hide your fires; 

Let not light see my black and deep desires.

-William Shakespeare, Macbeth



Miles can’t sleep.

He lays on his makeshift bed, head pillowed on his hands and tries to quiet his mind, but it’s impossible. Thoughts, fears, and worries chase each other, melding into one continuous yammer that gnaws at his nerves with ratlike teeth. 

He gets up. 

Shrugging on his coat, he pads silently out of the room, casting a quick look back at the sleeping forms of his men and the Fullmetal Alchemist before closing the door behind him. They’ll be fine. He’s only a door away.

He goes to the nearest window, peering out into the night. The wind outside howls, lashing the glass and driving the snow down in an impenetrable sheet. So ferocious is the storm that it obscures even the glow of the moon; the darkness is near absolute.

He wonders how Fullmetal’s brother is doing. 

Nigh-immortal as he seems, that armor isn’t made for this kind of weather. His joints can still freeze, the metal can become brittle from overexposure, and that isn’t even mentioning visibility. Miles has no idea how an empty suit of armor can even see, but he had been desperate, trusting blindly in the brother’s own faith that he could accomplish his goal.

But can he?

Pinching the skin of his brow, Miles tries to massage the tension away. It’s pointless to worry about this. He can no more change the past than he can stop a boulder rolling down the mountain; he has to trust in the boy.

But where one worry dies, another springs up in its place: Major General Armstrong.

Central had taken her – no. She had gone of her own accord, however unwillingly. How could she not? No one can reject a personal summons from the Führer without raising suspicion. 

Are they going to question her? Court-martial her? Kill her?

Miles grits his teeth against the fear that grips his heart. Stop worrying. She, like Fullmetal’s brother, is beyond his reach. The Wall of Briggs is known for her strength and unconquerable spirit, she will be fine.

... but she, unlike the brother, is not immortal. 

Fuck. No, he can’t let his thoughts descend into despair. With the Major General gone, it falls to him to protect the men of Briggs from Central’s influence. If Scar’s party can be intercepted before they are within view of Briggs, perhaps they can-

“Trouble sleeping?”

Miles starts, then curses inwardly. The shadow of malevolence at his back has crept in as silently as a ghost. Turning, he faces the man who has set all his misfortunes in motion: Solf J. Kimblee.

Too deep in thought, he hasn’t heard the man approach. Foolish. Letting the Crimson Alchemist sneak up on him like this could have been fatal, had the man so chosen. 

As it is Kimblee is only staring at him. Miles notices with relief that his hands are still gloved, covering his arrays.

“Something like that,” he replies. 

He doesn’t like the way Kimblee is watching him. Usually the man has his fedora tipped low, obscuring his eyes – but tonight it is absent. Pale irises gleam up at him, darkened to stony blue by the shadows. Abruptly Miles realizes that he isn’t wearing his goggles. 

He stiffens. Stare as he might, Kimblee will not intimidate him. Squaring his shoulders, he tucks his arms behind his back. “Can I do something for you, Mr. Kimblee?”

Kimblee holds his eyes for another moment, then shifts his gaze somewhere beyond Miles. “No, not particularly.”

Miles bites back a sigh. So, Kimblee is here to annoy him. Well, he doesn’t have to abide it. He turns his back on Kimblee to stare at the window, refusing to be driven back into his bed. The flurry outside turns the window into a dark mirror, allowing him to watch Kimblee’s reflection as it approaches.

“Is the storm abating?” 

Kimblee is right next to him, close enough that their elbows brush. Miles can feel heat baking through that point of connection, radiant and insidious as a chemical burn. Kimblee is doing it on purpose. Pushing Miles.

“No. If it doesn’t stop soon, we may have to postpone our search for Scar and the girl," Miles says stiffly. "The snow will have already obscured his tracks. I fear he may have used this opportunity to retreat back down the mountain."

Kimblee shrugs, unconcerned. "No matter, he will return. He's come here for a reason." 

The silence falls between them, heavy and uncomfortable.

“It's unfortunate that the Major General is not here to help coordinate the search. She seems like a shrewd woman." 

"She is." Miles keeps his breathing slow and even. Kimblee is probing. 

"Are you worried about her?” 

He looks to see Kimblee watching him intently, a wolf sniffing for weakness. He dares not lie.

“Yes.” Miles presses his fingertips to the window. “The storm came suddenly. I hope they cleared the mountain before it did.” Cold leaches through the glass into his fingertips, his warmth fogging the pane in misty circles. “To get caught in the middle of this weather would be fatal for anyone.”

It’s enough of the truth that it slips from him easily, but he feels the weight of Kimblee's gaze like a finger probing for cracks. Two long seconds pass. Then-

“They departed shortly after we made it into town.” Kimblee says. Miles glances out of the corner of his eye and sees that the alchemist is no longer watching him. “I am certain they will have made it safely.”

It had all been coordinated, of course. They had removed Miles neatly, preventing him and the Major General from communicating any further. Like the pieces on a board, Kimblee is moving them as he wishes. Toying with them. Putting Central into place to checkmate Briggs – but why?

Anger flares in him, burning with fiery intensity. He slides his hands into his pockets where they curl into fists. Calm. Remain calm. Getting upset will accomplish nothing.

“I am sure the Führer will have questions for her. He as well as I find it very odd that General Raven should disappear inside Briggs without a trace.”

Kimblee’s voice is light, deceptively conversational, but Miles can feel the shrouded threat like a blade at his throat. Damn Kimblee. He knows.

“It’s no stranger than your miraculous recovery in the hospital,” he says before he can stop himself. 

This time when he meets Kimblee's gaze he sees suspicion openly on that face, but does not back down. Tension sparks between them, a live wire of excruciating, terrible energy.

Kimblee knows too much. 

What should he do? Can he draw his gun before Kimblee can use his alchemy? And if he does, can he handle the remainder of Kimblee's men? If he kills all of them, he'll have to raise the alarm at Briggs without those Central bastards finding out-

Inexplicably, Kimblee laughs. "I suppose not."

Miles blinks at the sound, tension dissolving into confusion. Kimblee's moods are as mercurial as the mountains; he never knows which step might cause an avalanche.

Kimblee's gaze flickers to Miles. "You know Major, you fascinate me."

"I- what?" he splutters, drawing his shoulders up instinctively against Kimblee's flat, reptilian stare. "Why would you say that?" 

"Am I not allowed to be fascinated by you?" 

Fascinated? He doubts it is anything so wholesome. "I remind you of your time in Ishval, do I?" 

Kimblee strokes his chin, thoughtful. "Perhaps. But that isn't why."

"Tch." Irritation flares, raking Miles' insides with sharp claws. "Speak plainly, Mr. Kimblee. Your hate for Ishvalans is legendary." 

“Hate Ishvalans?" Kimblee feigns confusion, a little smile playing on his lips. “I don’t hate them.”

Miles rounds on him, annoyance flaring into rage. Kimblee’s pretense is an insult too grievous to be borne. “Don’t lie to me. After what you did in Ishval-”

“I’m not lying,” Kimblee cuts him off. The smirk has fallen from his lips, his face a pale mask. His eyes are dark and serious, rooting Miles to the spot. “I never hated you Ishvalans. I don’t hate anyone, though I doubt that you’ll believe me.”

Baffled, Miles can only stare. “Then why?

It makes no sense. Kimblee's hands are stained with the blood of hundreds; men, women, children who had died like lambs at the slaughter. Even his own superiors. How can a man perpetrate such evil without hate in his heart?

"Because it was my job."

Kimblee's answer falls between them, flat and heavy as a stone. 

That’s it? The answer is so underwhelming that his brain reels like the ground has shifted beneath him.

"I am a soldier, my job is to take lives. The fact that they were Ishvalan didn't matter, I would've done it had they been Drachman, Xingese or even Amestrin," Kimblee continues, "the military gave me orders, and I followed them."

Inside Miles feels frozen, numb with shock. Kimblee speaks about human life as though it is nothing, like he’d been exterminating ants or weeding his garden. 

"Now, I will admit that I take a certain pride in my work." At that, a small smile curves Kimblee's mouth. "Any job worth doing is worth doing well, after all. But I never killed out of hate."

Miles can’t take it anymore. He erupts.  "Hate or not, you're still a monster!"

Kimblee laughs again, a low rich sound. "You're not the first person to call me that." He looks strangely delighted, as though Miles has offered him a compliment. “But I think you hate me, Major Miles. Isn’t that right?”

He leans forward, close enough that Miles can smell the faded spice of his cologne. Blue eyes peer through lowered lashes.

“I like that look in your eyes," Kimblee whispers. "It's the most honest thing I've seen here at Briggs. You want to kill me, don't you?"

Miles forces himself back, banging his leg on an old pallet. Pain sings along his nerves. It brings him back to himself, gathering the scattered edges of his thoughts.

"Go to bed, Mr. Kimblee. You're not making sense," he says, hoarse with tension. Kimblee is insane. Has to be, to try provoking a reaction when Miles's men sleep scant yards away!

Kimblee ignores him, advancing.

"You've got better control of it than Scar, but I remember how you were in the hospital." Kimblee murmurs, baring his teeth in a hungry grin. "The blood of Ishvalans runs hot. I, of all people, should know." He wiggles his fingers obscenely, and it is easy, far too easy to imagine them red and dripping in the darkness-

Miles's hand shoots out, clamping around Kimblee's throat. "Shut your mouth!" 

Kimblee only laughs, a sound that goes choked and whispery as Miles tightens his grip. "That's it, Major," he rasps. "Show me how much you hate me." 

One gloved hand creeps to Miles' wrist, but Kimblee does not fight back – instead he trails his fingers up Miles' sleeve almost ardently. 

Miles slaps his hand away. "You're one step away from meeting your end here, Kimblee," he breaths, trembling with barely-leashed violence.

Kimblee smiles. "Survival of the fittest, right, Major? If I die tonight it's because I wasn't strong enough." His eyes gleam, black with amusement. "That's why your kinsmen died, isn't it?"

Miles breaks.

Both hands are at Kimblee's throat now, squeezing. Beneath his palms is the rigid column of Kimblee's windpipe, but it’s the warm muscle of Kimblee's neck that his fingers sink into. 

Kimblee struggles silently, eyes wide and rolling. His hands clutch Miles's wrists, but without resistance, clinging as though they are the harness of a fairground ride.

And all through it his mouth stretches in a wide, terrible grin.

As Kimblee's struggles lessen, sanity returns. No. If he kills Kimblee now, he will have to kill the others too. And if he fails, Central will surely send an army to execute him and his men. He is one of the only ones who knows the truth of Scar, the notebook, the girl and her alkahestry. He needs to survive, at least long enough to plan a coordinated attack.

Miles forces his hands open, dropping Kimblee to the ground in a crumpled heap.

Kimblee bends forward, hands on his knees. Miles watches, absurdly grateful for the viciousness of the storm. The moaning of the wind and the rattling of the windows is loud enough to obscure the alchemist's desperate coughing.

Gradually Kimblee catches his breath. Miles braces himself silently, preparing for the worst. There’s no way he can avoid what is coming, but he doesn't think the alchemist will kill him. Kimblee reminds him of a feline in the worst way; he prefers to toy with his prey before eating.

But when Kimblee looks up, his expression shocks Miles.

"There you are, Major," Kimblee says, face twisted with savage delight. "I'm glad I finally found the real you." 

He gets to his feet shakily, tugging his clothes into order. And then Miles sees it: the placket of Kimblee's pants, grotesquely distended.

Kimblee notices him looking. "Come now, don't make that face," he purrs. "Just as that is the real you, this," he cups his crotch lovingly, "is the real me. I can't help what I like."

"You're sick."

Kimblee closes the distance, startlingly quick. One gloved hand flashes out, and Miles gasps as a firm grip descends on his-  on his-

"Looks like we aren't so different after all, are we Miles?" Kimblee murmurs, squeezing his erection. 

This can’t be happening!

Miles gapes, open-mouthed. He isn't – there’s no way- 

But he is. His cock throbs fitfully in Kimblee's grasp, a bolt of sensation jerking him forward as Kimblee presses the heel of his palm down in one sweet motion. His mind stutters. The world shifts on its axis, spinning away from him in wide, loopy circles.

Kimblee falls to his knees. Miles registers it dimly, as well as the hungry expression on his face, but it’s only when Miles feels a tug on his belt that everything snaps back into place. 

"What are you doing?! " he hisses, incandescent with panic. This has to be some kind of nightmare. "Get up!"

"I'm only doing what we both want." Kimblee reaches for him again, but Miles retreats, backing up until he hits a wall. 

"No. This is crazy," he shakes his head, sick horror pooling in his stomach as Kimblee comes after him, crawling on all fours like a huge, pale lizard. "Just go back to bed, and I'll pretend this never happened-"

"Ah, ah, ah, I think not." Kimblee slides to a halt in front of him, waggling a finger in chastisement. "Not unless you want the Führer to hear about your attempt on my life."

Fuck. He's played right into Kimblee's hands. He can read it in the smug curve of Kimblee's thin lips, the upturned tilt of his eyes. Anger and fear war within him, tangling like a knot of snakes into one frenzied, clammy knot.

Hands alight on Miles' knees, creeping upward. 

"But…" clever thumbs stroke inward, dipping towards the vee of his thighs.  "Give me this, and no one has to know." 

Miles is trapped. Panic claws at his insides, fraying his thoughts. 

"How do I know you're telling the truth?" he blurts out. Shit. He isn't considering actually doing this, is he?

Kimblee tilts his head. "I suppose you don't." His predatory smile mellows, becoming something softer, more amused. "You don't trust me. But rest assured Major, I'm a man of my word."

Miles swallows. The pounding of his heart is thunderous, eclipsing even the storm. As he stares down at Kimblee, he feels as he had the only time he'd dared to walk the ledge at Briggs: seized by the terrible urge to jump.

"Fine." He hears his voice from a great distance. "But if you tell anyone -"

Kimblee is already fumbling with his belt, pulling it open and pawing at the breasts of his coat. "I won't." He jerks Miles's pants open roughly, hauling himself forward with the belt loops.

When Kimblee goes to pull his pants down, Miles smacks his hands away. "No. Leave them on."

Kimblee grins crookedly. "As you wish."

Fingers dip into his underwear, tugging him free. Before he can register the cold Kimblee is on him.

Oh, God-

It's all wet heat, pressing tongue. Suction so powerful he thinks Kimblee must be descended from those ancient vampires of legend. He groans in spite of himself, winding his fingers into the slick, black waterfall of Kimblee's hair. Whether it’s to pull Kimblee closer or hold on for dear life he doesn't know, all he can feel is tension drawing tight behind his balls, prickling gooseflesh up his arms.

He presses the back of Kimblee's head, forcing him down. Shudders at the rippling sensation around his cock as Kimblee gags on him, but does not resist. Kimblee swallows around him for what feels like forever, wet grunting sounds escaping from the base of his throat. Fuck, how can he do that-

A hand taps politely at his thigh. Kimblee’s shoulders are shuddering. The contractions around Miles' cock are become quicker, more desperate – and reluctantly, he lets go. 

Kimblee pulls away, gasping like a man surfacing from deep water. Drool drips in gleaming runners from the corners of his mouth, but Miles doesn’t care. He's thoroughly distracted when the wetness on his cock chills instantly in the freezing air.

"Never fear, Major." Kimblee pants dazedly, swiping the back of his hand across his mouth. His lips glisten, red from abuse. "I have somewhere warm for you to put that."  

There’s a soft jingling sound as Kimblee's pants crumple to the floor. Miles is suddenly and shockingly presented with the sight of Kimblee's ass as the man prostrates himself on the drab concrete.  

"Kimblee, what the hell are you doing?" 

Miles finds himself parroting this question over and over, as though he can fool himself if he asks it enough. But he knows exactly what Kimblee wants. Has since he’d seen the avaricious gleam in the man’s eyes.

Kimblee blinks up at him as though he thinks Miles is daft. "I'm sure a man as intelligent as you can figure that out, Major." With a hand he pulls on one cheek, exposing a tiny, pink hole. "Now will you hurry? It's a bit cold down here."

Kimblee is deranged.

"With no lube? It's not going to fit!"

Miles can barely understand the words coming out of his own mouth. They aren't refusals, but weak excuses. Why? He should just stuff the muzzle of his gun into Kimblee's talented mouth and pull the trigger.

"You might be surprised." Kimblee's eyes pierce him, rapacious with need.  

He's on his knees before he knows it, shuffling forward to slot himself between Kimblee's feet. His cock lurches hungrily as he rubs it along the cleft of Kimblee's ass, where the skin is soft and moon-pale. 

Every argument crumbles into obscurity as he presses the head of his cock to Kimblee's hole. 

Instantly he knows it won’t work. Kimblee hisses as he presses himself forward, and he echoes the sound as the sensitive skin of his glans threatens to split. It’s too dry.

He pats the pockets of his coat, reaches into one and withdraws an ampule of golden liquid. As he pops off the lid, Kimblee looks back over his shoulder. 

"You came prepared? I'm impressed at your foresight."

"No, this isn't lube!" Miles grimaces, smearing the thick oil on his cock. It’s so very greasy. "This is bear fat oil. We use it to keep our skin from cracking." He tips a drop onto Kimblee's asshole, watching as the flesh contracts, then lines himself up again.

"My my, you men think of everythinnnnnnngh!" Kimblee's voice stutters into a strangled groan as Miles begins to push inside. 

Shit, it's a tight fit. Even with the oil the friction borders on painful, and he has to ease himself in with quick jabs and another drop or two more. When at last his groin meets the swell of Kimblee's ass, they're both shaking.

He breathes. The tension beneath his skin is terrible, threatening to burst.

To buy himself time he plucks at the tie holding Kimblee's hair, sending strands of black cascading over the swell of Kimblee's white coat. Now the body beneath him could be a woman.

He slots his hands around the crest of Kimblee’s hips, feeling the liquid glide of muscle beneath his fingertips. The man is surprisingly slim; when Miles extends his thumbs they slip smoothly into the dimples of Kimblee’s lower back, nestling against bone. 

That isn't the only thing he can feel. The longer he waits the more he notices – God, he can feel Kimblee breathing. Feel the furious heaving of his lungs from inside, working like bellows and reverberating sensation straight through Miles’ cock.

"Move, damn you." Kimblee's voice, choked and desperate, no longer teasing. "Move! "

Miles does.

He hunches over Kimblee, burying himself into that warmth over and over. There's no finesse in it, no care; he's rutting against the body beneath him like a beast in heat, heedless of Kimblee's pleasure. 

Still the man moans and writhes. One particularly loud wail rises over the keening wind, and Miles darts a nervous glance at the door. 

"Be quiet!" he hisses. If they were to be discovered -

"Make- me-" Kimblee pants.

With a growl of irritation, he winds his fingers into Kimblee's hair, wrenching his head back. 

"Ah!"

Kimblee's ass spasms around him, but the sounds pouring forth from the alchemist's mouth are louder than ever. 

Miles hauls Kimblee upright, pulling free to turn and slam him against the wall. He pushes Kimblee's legs roughly to his chest, hooks his arms below Kimblee's knees, then slides his cock home in a thrust so powerful it punches the air from the alchemist’s lungs in a harsh ‘pfuh! ’.

Perhaps he's made a mistake. Now he can see every line around Kimblee's pinched eyes, the shadowed hollow of his throat that flexes and relaxes with each groan. See the nostrils of that aquiline nose flaring with greedy breaths. Blue eyes glow at him in the darkness, narrowed in what might be pleasure.

Suddenly, Kimblee lunges. Their mouths meet in a violent impact, teeth squashing against lips in a starburst of pain. Miles tastes copper.

He pushes Kimblee away viciously, slamming his head against the wall. Again his fingers are at Kimblee's throat, digging and squeezing at the reddened flesh.

"Yes," Kimblee shudders, arching against him. "Yesssss-" his voice trails into a low gurgle as Miles compresses his throbbing arteries.

It's fascinating to watch. Kimblee's eyes widen, his movements dissolving into frenzy as his body fights for air. Yet the man himself never does; though he clutches at Miles, his grip pulls instead of pushes, as though he can make Miles heavier through sheer force of will. 

Just as his eyes began to roll over white, Miles releases him.

Kimblee gasps and wheezes, quaking with the force of his breaths. His pulse pounds beneath Miles's fingers, a frantic tattoo like the chugging of a runaway train.

"Good," he croaks, the corners of his mouth wobbling in a manic smile. "So good."

"You're absolutely insane," Miles pants. He's never been so hard in his life.

"Once more, scarlet-eyes." Kimblee bares his teeth in a bloody facsimile of a grin. "For your kinsmen."

He just doesn't know when to quit.

As Miles's hand tightens again, one of Kimblee's hands flies to his crotch. It works below the hem of his crisp white shirt in a frantic flutter of motion, wringing hoarse, rasping moans from Kimblee's abused throat. Soon he's silent, bucking and rolling beneath Miles like a wild horse.

Driving into him, Miles relishes the way Kimblee's body undulates. It so fucking intense, he isn't going to last – and suddenly Kimblee's ass is spasming around him, rhythmic squeezes that wring his release from him in a low groan. 

Everything comes undone. Miles shoves himself into Kimblee as far as he will go, grinding the man’s hips down onto his own as he pulses heat endlessly into Kimblee’s body. He’s lost. The stars could fall, the heavens break open and pour divine judgment upon his head right now, and Miles wouldn’t care. Nothing will ever feel as good as this moment. 

As the tide of pleasure ebbs, he releases Kimblee's throat, collapsing against him and letting the last aftershocks of orgasm rock through him.

Kimblee's raspy breaths shake his body, sound in Miles' ear like peals of thunder. Miles's own breathing is hardly any quieter. He puffs white clouds into the curve of Kimblee's throat, resisting the hypnotic urge to brand the flesh there with his teeth.

He softens, slipping free of Kimblee with a wet squelch. Gradually he registers that this is Kimblee he's pressed against and pushes himself back, letting the other man slide to the floor in a boneless heap.

He tucks himself away. On the ground Kimblee shivers, looking beatifically undone. Even in the dim blue light Miles can see him clearly, all mussed hair, blood-reddened lips, eyes rapturous and bright with involuntary tears. 

Spent now, his senses came creeping back. 

With dawning horror Miles realizes that he's just assaulted a State Alchemist, a known criminal, the long arm of the Führer himself. It doesn't matter that the man had begged for it. What matters is that Miles had bowed to his demands.

Kimblee is getting to his feet shakily. Miles takes a step back, anxiety churning in his gut. He watches as the alchemist puts himself back together, pulling up his pants, tucking in his shirt, drawing the folds of his coat around him. Kimblee bends, collecting his hair tie from where Miles had dropped it.

Shrewd eyes hold his as Kimblee straightens. 

"Thank you, Major." Kimblee's voice is a ghost of itself, cracked and hoarse from abuse. His grin is wicked. "I quite enjoyed myself."

Miles doesn't understand Kimblee at all. How the man can stand there, thanking him with a straight face for what he'd done – it defies all rationality. What's more Kimblee sounds sincere, if the darkening spot at his crotch is anything to go by.

Is it possible for a man to be born without scruples? 

As Miles watches Kimblee sweep his hair back into a low ponytail, he questions. Has Kimblee been twisted irrevocably by the war, or does his depravity run soul-deep? 

In the end, does it matter? 

As Kimblee smooths his hands over his hair, Miles stands rooted, uncertain. Should he stay? Leave? Do as he’s been wanting all along, and go back to bed, pretending this never happened? 

A bead of blood shivers along the swell of Kimblee's bottom lip. Miles watches the tip of a pointed, pink tongue flick out, gather it, then disappear. 

Something in his gut lurches.

Kimblee notices him staring. "See something you like?"

Miles can only shake his head. "This was a mistake." He stuffs his hands in his pockets, suddenly chilled. 

"Come now, don't be like that," Kimblee says with a small half-smile. "We both enjoyed it, did we not?"

Snorting, Miles looks away. Outside the storm has begun to lighten, the snow falling in dreamy swirls instead of blurred lines. The wind has died, and in its absence the silence is hideously loud.

Kimblee straightens his collar with a brisk snap. "Well, come to me again if you should feel the urge. I think we could have a lot of fun together." His tongue darts out again, snake-quick. "We're kin of a different sort, you and I." 

Miles starts, revolted by the very thought. "What the hell does that mean?" 

In a flurry of white, Kimblee crowds close, splayed across his chest like a lover. "It means that you and I are the same, Major." A gloved hand teases the ruff of his coat. 

Miles shoves him back. "You and I are nothing alike, Kimblee." 

"Are we not?" Kimblee's eyes are calculating. "The law of Briggs, Major: the strong survive. And as a natural extension, the strong take what they want." He digs the tips of his fingers to his neck, rubbing the reddened flesh in ecstatic remembrance. Eyelids fluttering, he shivers. "Oh, yes. We are exactly alike."

Miles can think of nothing to say. He feels inexplicably hollow. For the first time he thinks he understands how Fullmetal's brother must feel; a solid, yet insubstantial shell.

Warmth drips down his chin.

"You've got something just there." 

Miles looks in time to see Kimblee stripping off one of his gloves. At the sight of that black tattoo alarm leaps through him, galvanizing his heart – but before he could stop it Kimblee sweeps his finger across Miles's chin.

That pale fingertip comes away dark. It disappears between Kimblee's lips, and Kimblee sucks it with obscene relish.

A wet pop. "Delicious." Kimblee's eyes, sharp and knowing, glint with amusement. "Thanks for the nightcap. Good night, Major Miles."

And then he saunters away, as smug as a cat who has gotten the cream.

As the door creaks shut behind Kimblee, the strength drains from Miles' legs. He staggers, fumbles for the wall, and holds on for dear life.

What have I done?

His groin pulses warmly but his gut twists, acid bile burning his throat. Oh god. He had fucked Kimblee. He had fucked the Crimson Alchemist, Butcher of the Ishvalan War-

Stop!

Stomach flopping, he swallows back the sour gush of saliva that fills his mouth then gasps, open-mouthed, sucking cold air in greedily until it cools the blood racing through his veins. His heart slows. Focus.  

The stone beneath his hands is bracingly cold. He presses his forehead to it, willing its gray impassivity to leach into him. He must be calm. 

Kimblee had won tonight because he had worked his way beneath Miles's skin; bared the darkest parts of him to the light. He's far cleverer than Miles had given him credit for. 

But not clever enough.

At Briggs, any mistake that doesn't kill you is a valuable lesson. He knows it, the men know it – but Kimblee, however much he touts it, does not truly understand it. If he did, he wouldn't have let Miles live.

Miles straightens slowly, shuffling to the window like an old man.

Kimblee has made a grave error in letting him live, but he won't know it until the moment a bullet plows through his forehead, Miles will make certain of that. 

He breathes deeply, then blows out a breath that fogs the glass. As it fades he peers out at the black sky, beholding a velvet night that glitters like chips of ice. The storm is over.  What’s done is done, he can't turn back. 

Miles steels himself, shoring off the memory for another day.

Now, he must plan Kimblee's death.