But what are we really guilty of?—the blood memory of what
we can’t forgive ourselves for.
— M. L. Smoker, from “Equilibrium,” New Poets of Native Nations
He wakes up with a mouthful of sand and his heart beating against his teeth, a battering ram attempting to break his skull apart. His eyes feel molten, liquefied, dripping down his cheeks — like those of the little boy that haunts his dreams. Everything burns within him, a searing white-hot pain, scorching like the earth beneath. His own flesh dissolves before his eyes, meat turning to sinew, to muscle, to bone. His heart boils within his chest, spitting acid to every vein. It hurts and he cannot soothe the pain. Roy presses the heel of his hands against his eye sockets, curling onto himself. Trying to be smaller so he can disappear without leaving a single trace. He breathes against his knees. Sand, heat, blood upon the dunes. Ishvala, casting her furious gaze upon his scorched hands: You shall never leave this place.
Please, he begs. I wanna go home. I don’t wanna be here. He’s a child again. The uniform is big on him and the gloves slip from his fingers. Their blood coagulates beneath his fingernails. Whose blood? He wants to ask. A thousand bodies point their fingers. They’re little more than ash and over-burned meat. Liquefied eyes that stare right at him. Right through him. They say:
He awakes. His scream wakes Edward up almost immediately. He only knows because he can feel him moving between the sheets, frantically trying to reach the bedside lamp. Roy turns his back on him, ashamed to his very core. Swings his legs out of the bed and then doesn’t move, unable to muster the strength. So he looks at his hands, still bloodied and burned and raw. Feels the sweat pooling in his back, in his armpits, behind his ears and his knees. His heart beats madly against its cage; a battering ram attempting to break his chest. Break it, he thinks. Let me rest.
Let me rest.
He’s still staring at his fingertips when he feels Edward’s arms curl around his torso. His metal hand is a cold, stark reminder that he is no longer on that dessert. That he is here, in their house in Amestris, and yet he shall never escape. He shall never leave that place. He bends over, trembling from head to toe, and rests his face upon his hands. Edward hugs him even tighter, pressing his face against his shoulder blades. His cheek is wet.
“Shh.” He says. Roy doesn’t understand why until he feels the tears dripping down his chin. “Shh, I’m here.”
I wish you weren’t.
Edward presses his forehead against his back and gently kisses his skin. Roy feels his mouth turn to ash. Leave, he wants to say. Leave. Don’t touch me. I will burn the heart out of you. Turn your kindness to dust.
“I’m here,“ he repeats. His voice is rough with sleep, heavy, and his words roll all together over his skin. “I won’t let you go.”
“You should,” says Roy. His own voice sounds hoarse and broken. He can taste his tears, now.
“No.” Edward places his metal hand against his heart. The sudden coldness startles him. “Never.”
“I...” He thinks about the blood upon the sand. A thousand pointed fingers. A goddess’s ire.
He gives up. He doesn’t have the strength to fight this tonight. Trembling, he curls against Edward’s arms, letting his heart beat out the words he cannot pronounce.