Spoilers: Ishvar backstory. Roy and Riza backstory. Um, identities of the Sins, but only if you already know who they are. Yeah. I know.
Warnings: Sex. Hee hee. References to sex. Violence. References to violence. Kimbley. He's a warning unto himself.
Notes: Many sentences taken from or inspired by T.S. Eliot's masterful "The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock." Epigram taken from Dante's "Inferno," via "Prufrock." A great deal of what I'll include in this fic was referenced in "Ad Maiorem Dei Gloriam," as there was a positive response to that fic and I've always heard that dipping from the same well twice was good. Wait, bad? Shit. Okay. This entire fanfic was inspired by midnight combined with the dub of episode 15 and the realization that Kimbley was just hanging around Gran's tent, and the half-sensical plotbunny of Kimbley being Gran's protege and the subsequent plotbunny of Roy being Marcoh's. Uh, I should probably stop with the notes now.

Prologue: Desert

A man could go dry out here. He could wither up. He might shrivel until he looked like a dried leaf, until the wind-carried sand pulverized him into dust, picked up the pieces of him and carried them along. He, as they, would lay out there forever, baked into the fallow earth of this kingdom of heat and sun.

That sun cooked him even now. That was a good word – cooked. It cooked him, now, and would devour him later. The wind would devour him. The desert would devour him. He'd pop like a sweet potato in the coals, boiling inside, burst with the steam that couldn't find a way out. He'd die watching the steam of him vanish into the wavering air as the expanding water sought escape. He'd vainly grasp for that water as he died.

No, he told himself; that wasn't it at all. That wasn't how he'd go at all.

The way he would go would be dehydration. That was what would get him. It wasn't nearly hot enough to cook him. He would stay alive if he could only get water –

She'd been like water. To him. She'd always had that velvety feel that still water always seemed to have, that velvety-soft sensation of purity. Even when warm, she'd felt cool – that curious quality, how even tepid water could cool the mouth. Water like a baptism, bringing salvation – water like rain, bringing respite.

But now he didn't have her. She wasn't there when he needed her. He would die.

He had had a choice. He had had a choice to leave, even though it wasn't much of a choice at all. Because he would have burned back there, too. He would have watched his skin go red to brown to black back there, too. It hadn't seemed a choice then, when he'd made the choice, but now...Back there, water. Back there, salvation.

He'd had a choice, he told himself. That should have been enough.

At that moment, he might have wished for a fate, a god, to take the cruelty of choice away.

The sun hung hot, glaring like god's eye. Deus, absconditus, enjoying the little peep-show of mortality. So he glared right back, careless of the heat that vengefully settled on his eyes, scorching them as the wrathful sun punished him for his pride.

"A man could go dry out here," he said. It was meant to be a defiant shout. The sun and wind and sand reduced it to a whisper.

Time thudded into minutes. Minutes were eternity. Time for a thousand decisions in a single minute out here in the honey-dry landscape.

Sio credesse che mia risposta fosse
A persona che mai tornasse al mondo,
Questa fiamma staria senza piu scosse.
Ma perciocche giammai di questo fondo
Non torno vivo alcun, s'i'odo il vero,
Senza tema d'infamia ti rispondo.