Some Relevant Information :: You may know me for my more serious works. I have been told they are deep and full of character development. This story is not as deep, and it has a generous sprinkling of adult content. You have been warned, so I make no apologies. Also, for those who are concerned about chapter updates this is a three chapter story, but I completed it before I started posting chapters. If people like this, I'll post the rest.
I – Concupiscence
It's already morning. She's been awake.
She feels like she's always been awake. Before clocks started to count away time and the minutes and seconds became a measured medium, Riza Hawkeye was awake. She rests her chin on her knees and tells herself she will never need comfort. This is a soldier's rest. This is enough.
The sky outside her tear-stained windows is still grey and hollow. Her dream still plucks at her. It's the same dream, creased and shriveled with age, and it takes her to bed every night. She could live to be a thousand and still sleep with familiar demons—red sand, metallic blood, and a sword biting into her throat. She pulls air through her teeth and lays a hand against her neck.
Nightmares don't make her scream like they used to. They are her constant companions, and she has learned their ways and habits. Her Colonel is lying in the bed beside her, still sleeping. His bare chest rises and falls, measuring, like the ticking of time trapped in a bottle.
She searches his face for sanctuary and finds places she doesn't know. Roy Mustang has long dark eyelashes and lightly etched laugh lines around his mouth. She wants to open his mind and understand where he lives inside his beautiful mask. She thought they knew each other once. Maybe she simply forgot, and he disappeared when she wasn't looking. He is far away, and she is in her bedroom, hugging her knees and wondering about mistakes.
She has never had him to herself just to look at before. It isn't enough.
His eyes are liquid, sliding beneath the skin of his lids. She wonders if he still sees the world in perfect shape and color when he dreams, or has it begun to morph—the details slurring and the edges running off the page—until the haunted past becomes even more grotesque.
She extends her arm, pushing away the inky petals of his bangs, wishing he was closer than this. They can share a bed while living on separate islands, and she doesn't wake him because she doesn't yet know what blind men dream about.
The train hissed, expelling a breath of thick black smoke. The conductor leaned out of his window and shouted to the attendant at the station. The engine rumbled slowly to life, like a giant black wasp waking from sleep. The wheels began to churn, and the steel titan coughed another cloud of heavy, ashen smoke. A whistle sounded. The train roared exuberantly. It thundered from the station dragging a gust of wind behind it.
Riza Hawkeye held tight to the wrapped bouquet in her arms and tried her best to shield it from the onslaught of smoke. The florist in Central had helped her carefully select a dozen stargazer lilies, sprinkled them with baby's breath, and wrapped them in delicate sea green tissue. So far the exotic pink flowers had made the journey untarnished, and she was determined to keep them that way.
Black Hayate whimpered and tried to take refuge between her legs, nearly knocking her over. She stumbled gracelessly over her trembling dog and kept a tight grip on his leash while juggling her fragile parcel. The whole train ride had been a traumatic ordeal for him. He had spent the majority of the trip cowering beneath her seat, and it had taken a great deal of cajoling to get him to come out again when they arrived at the station. Hayate would never get used to train rides, but she would not leave him behind while she went away. He hated being left alone in her apartment even more than traveling.
When the wind died down, she hastily smoothed out her skirt and tried to pat her hair back into place. It was all too fitting that on a day when she actually tried to do something fancy with it, cosmic events would conspire to thwart her efforts. She scratched Hayate behind the ears until he stopped whimpering and his tail started thumping happily. He, at least was easy to please, which was more than she could say for her fellow passengers.
Only a handful of people had disembarked at the Resembol station. Far from the bustling, churning mass of the Central Train Station, Resembol's train station was a small wooden building with the tracks flush against the platform under the open sky. The air was warm and balmy, the sky a perfectly wet summer blue, and they were probably going to be late.
Her colonel yawned and stretched, the embodiment of catlike ennui. "Well, we made it."
"And now I can finally have a smoke." Havoc already had a cigarette in his mouth and a lighter in his hand.
The three of them were the only nicely dressed people on the platform. Mustang and Havoc had both chosen dress shirts with starched, ironed pants and suit jackets for the occasion. Havoc had even trimmed up his beard and combed his hair. It was hard to tell if Mustang had applied any extra effort. His hair always tended to look purposefully foppish.
"I thought you quit," Mustang groaned and fanned the cigarette smoke away from his face.
"And I though you quit being nosy bastard," Havoc grumbled back. "Seems like we've both gotta deal."
He lit his cigarette and puffed it resolutely while his superior officer glared at him from beneath beetled brows. Riza sighed. It had been a long train ride, and she had made the two men sit together under the pretense of taking care of Hayate. Now they were both at each other's throats. The heat and the uncomfortable dress clothes only made matters worse.
She looked around. A man leading a cluster of bleating sheep crossed them platform in front of them, eyeing them suspiciously. Two children skipped past while their mother shouted at them not to go too close to the tracks. A stray cat prowled around the building watching Hayate warily. Her dog raised his ears, but remained obediently at her feet. A delicious country breeze rippled the fields that sprawled out before them, carrying the scent of lilacs, fresh hay, and farm animals.
"Aren't we supposed to have a car?" she asked.
"I seem to recall Lieutenant Havoc saying he could take care of that." The Colonel shifted the bottle of wine that was to be a gift for the Rockells from one arm to the other.
Havoc bit down on his cigarette and glowered. "I did. It should be here. I'm going to wait in front."
He strode off as fast as he could move with the aid of his cane, still dragging on his cigarette and muttering a mutinous soliloquy that contained the words 'ungrateful' and 'entitled.'
Silence descended like a plague in his absence. The Colonel glanced at her. Their gazes brushed together briefly and blundered around haphazardly, like moths bumping each other in the dark. The black depths of his eyes held a hint of question, but she couldn't begin to address it. Not here on the train platform. She studied the intricacies of the pavement and tried to tell herself she was only imagining things.
"I think I'll go and wait with Havoc," she murmured.
She walked away from him. Hayate trotted after her.
The Second Lieutenant had found a seat near the front door of the station overlooking the dirt and gravel drive. His cane stood propped against the bench, and he was leaning forward, steepling his hands above his knees in contemplation. He stared out at the tumbling hills and tree-speckled horizon, tapping his foot occasionally. The embers of his cigarette glowed an angry red.
She sat down beside him and arranged the flowers on her lap. The lilies bent their spotted heads and fanned waxy petals over her skirt. Hayate sat at Havoc's feet, soliciting a scratch.
"I don't know what's with him," Havoc said without taking his eyes off the horizon. "It's like getting his sight back last week has made him annoyed about everything. Can we re-blind him?"
Riza could have told him. As of late, a series of accidents had befallen her and the Colonel that involved a great deal of kissing. She wasn't sure which of them started it, but every incident had the same intensity of a car crash. Each time, it would flare up out of nowhere and burn hotly. Then there would be a hasty clean-up. The straightening of her rumpled uniform. The fixing of her hair. The arranging of her face into smooth lines of plausible denial.
When she told Rebecca about it over coffee, she referred to it as their kissing problem.
It started after the Promised Day. As the smoke cleared and the rubble settled, her sightless superior officer had held to her tightly. She knew he was terrified that if he released her for even a moment, she would disappear into the blackness, and he would never find her again. He had cleaved to her, warring with relief and despair, and for once, she was too stunned to move at all. Emotions ran like wild horses, too impossibly fast to catch just one and put a name to it. Everyone was bruised, bloody, and shaken to the core.
She had almost died. He had almost died. Everyone had almost died. They had escaped annihilation, but only just. Edward was limping over to his fully corporeal brother and embracing him like a waking sleepwalker, only just realizing the nightmare was over. The hole through headquarters yawned wide. Bodies in blue. Bodies in white. Hundreds of new gravestones. The clouds pulled back and the sun shone on it all.
The medics had to pry him apart from her, insisting that they both needed treatment. She could barely stand, and blood was streaming down his arms from the deep wounds in his hands. But he did not let them load her onto a stretcher until he had kissed her.
The world had taken on a fuzzy quality. She knew she was about to pass out, but she remembered the way he had kept her in his arms, touching the angles of her face until he found her mouth. He traced her lips with calloused and shaking fingers. Then he had brushed his lips against hers—A promise. An apology. A prayer. They didn't need words between them after that.
There were more kisses after the first. When she was released from the hospital, he had laid a cool kiss over the scar on her neck. She had kissed his eyes, his hands, and then, boldly, his mouth. They had made love in the darkness of her bedroom while the rain tapped against the windows and the wind howled like a wounded beast seeking succor in the night. He held her with the same desperation—the fear of losing precious things in the dark. There may have been tears on her cheeks. She couldn't have said whose. She couldn't have said if it mattered. They were both blind that night.
In the morning he asked her to marry him.
She twisted the sheets in her fingers and told him no.
That night never happened again.
Her memory gnawed away at the details. Too much thinking had blurred together the touch of his skin, the fire of his mouth, and the curl of her toes until she almost could have dreamed it. In time, his scent faded from her sheets. In time, reality reared its ugly head and the specter of the Promised Day lost its phantom hold on them. He left on various missions for extended periods of time. He didn't often take her with him.
If the others in his group found this odd, they never remarked on it. They had their own hurts to attend to without fighting through the layers of dissonance around their superior officer. Blindness was constructing a cage around Colonel Mustang, and he lingered in his separateness with an expressionless placidity that he wore like a mask. She had refused the proposal she never thought she would refuse, and now she was an outsider as well. Nobody was allowed in.
He changed after his visit with Dr. Marcoh, and it was more than just regaining his vision. The fire of purposed burned bright in his eyes again, and he approached the world with the wide-eyed wonder of an infant. He had an unquenchable need to see and re-see everything he had missed—flowers, street signs, clouds, books. Most especially books. He became an avid and unquenchable reader almost overnight. He started planning for the future with a new fervor. He dished out orders, he drew up maps, he guzzled coffee, and he talked about his dreams.
He looked at her as if he was seeing her for the first time. It was a look that left her feeling stripped naked but not ashamed. There was something reverent, curious, and frightened in that look, and he was devout in the way he stared at her. She would catch him watching her doing mundane tasks like fixing a stapler or sorting through a tome of incident reports with the same ardent concentration he gave to his books. As if she might suddenly do something amazing, and he couldn't afford to miss it. And then, at times, she caught a glimpse of something else. He had a certain look that sent a resonant thrum through her body—deeper, darker, and hungry.
It had been barely a week since his return from Marcoh's clinic. In that week, the kissing had started again, but it was an entirely different animal than before. This kind of kissing no longer felt like two broken people trying to pick up all the pieces of their shattered souls. It wasn't about death or fear or guilt anymore.
It was decidedly more problematic.
He would catch her in an empty stairwell, just an innocent hand on the small of her back, and then they would fasten together with a crushing intensity that left them both gasping. He would tangle his fingers in her hair and force her mouth open with greedy, insistent kisses that sent an electrical thrill through her and drove her to fight for dominance, to rake her nails down his back and wriggle her hips against him until he groaned. She loved the way his eyes would dilate, the way his arms would start to shake, and the way his tongue would demand entrance to her mouth, kissing her hard enough to leave her lips pink and bruised.
On the stairs. In his office. In deserted aisles at the library. In every dark corner they could find. They were like teenagers swept up in a hormonal tidal wave and still scared of being caught.
As of yet, they hadn't crossed any lines of no return. His wandering hands always stayed just barely within the realms of propriety. They never discussed that rainy night in her bedroom when they had sought solace in each other. They both knew this was different, and it would be different when it reached its natural conclusion. This was fire, and they would both burn.
This was the reason she had put Havoc between them on the train. This was the reason the Colonel was more restless than usual. This was the reason their gazes frequently bumped but never held. Perhaps the trip to Resembol had been a mistake. Perhaps this was all just playing with matches.
But the Colonel had insisted vehemently that he needed to pay a visit to the Elric brothers now that he had his sight restored. It went beyond any of his personal problems. He needed to see Alphonse in his body and see that Edward had gotten his arm back. He had gotten caught up in their quest, and he needed to see its completion with his own eyes. He made all the necessary arrangements for a trip to Resembol and picked Havoc and her to accompany him. He wouldn't hear objections.
So they were here. She was glad to have another opportunity to see the brothers and give them her congratulations now that nobody was covered in blood. Her bouquet of flowers seemed like small thanks for saving the world. It was silly when she thought about it, but she knew they wouldn't take her gift that way.
"The Colonel is dealing with a lot of things right now," she told Havoc neutrally. "He just got his sight back and had to reevaluate his life all over again. I don't think he ever expected to pursue his dream to become leader of the country again. Perhaps it's all just a little overwhelming."
She tried again to get her hair to lie flat, but the wind kept plucking little pieces and tossing them in her face. Havoc stubbed out his cigarette with his foot.
"I just learned I can walk again," he said. "Doesn't make me act like a dick."
"Give it some time. You know he values your friendship."
"That's a Hawkeye answer if I ever heard one," Havoc grinned at her. "You are always so calm, even when he has his tantrums. Doesn't he ever frustrate you sometimes?"
Not in the way Havoc was talking about. It had been almost two days since their last accident on the stairwell. She was about the engineer one herself.
"I try to be patient," she said. "It's not always easy. It also helps if I don't call him a nosy bastard."
His grin widened. "Yeah, I guess that was pretty stupid, huh?"
She nodded with a smile of her own.
"Hey, so . . ." He stretched out his legs and looked at her hopefully. "You wouldn't mind if I ride shotgun then? When our car gets here, I mean. I don't really want to have to sit with him anymore. I've had about as much as I can stand."
"I—I guess. . ."
She didn't want to sit with the Colonel either, but she didn't feel like discussing her reasons, so she was forced to concede. The drive to the house was, what, two hours? That only meant two hours of uncomfortable silence. Oh bliss.
Havoc was oblivious to her discomfort. "You're so great, Hawkeye."
Roy Mustang was in Hell.
The car had finally arrived, and then he had found himself relegated to the back seat across from his lieutenant with a squirming dog, a bottle of wine, and a bouquet of lilies between them. There were two horrible elements about the situation that conspired in tandem to drive him mad. He didn't know which would snap him first, but it was an undeniable fact that he would probably snap before they reached the Rockbell house. At this point the dog would be the only casualty he might mourn.
The first element was the awkward silence between Hawkeye and himself that neither of them could breech, beyond a few pleasantries about the nice weather and the spacious interior of the car. Havoc had promptly fallen asleep in the passenger seat, so he was no help in this regard. The driver was a terse little acorn of a man with a rigid face and white hair growing from his ears. He could not be prevailed upon to speak more than was absolutely necessary, and he was also half-deaf, so anyone speaking to him had to shout to be heard. That only left Hawkeye, and he didn't know where to begin with her.
The second element was the cut of her sundress. More specifically the plunging neckline. More specifically her ample cleavage. To be honest, it wasn't that much cleavage, but he had more than enough imagination to supply the details the dress did not reveal. He knew he was as good as openly staring, and he knew she had probably noticed, but he couldn't seem to stop himself. It really wasn't fair of her to wear that dress and expect him not to stare. Or maybe she wanted him to stare. Maybe that was the entire idea. It was impossible to tell with her.
He had endured the first hour perfectly fine. They had made a decent attempt at conversation, but eventually their back-and-forth about the recent activities of the Elrics felt strained and half-hearted, so they had given up the pretense. Hawkeye had taken out a gun from a mysterious place on her person and started cleaning it with somewhat forced intensity, and he stared resolutely out the window.
But then he had gotten bored with looking out the window at different versions of the same rural scenery, so he had made the mistake of looking at her. She had made some comment about the heat and shed her shawl. The white sundress beneath was a creation of Satan. It bared the entire expanse of her neck and shoulders, and framed the rest of her in a way that was entirely too pleasing. All at once the car was too hot, his clothes were too tight, and there wasn't enough air. His treacherous memory supplied him with torturously accurate recollections. His fingers itched.
In the past he could have lived. He probably would have looked, but he could have lived. When he was blind, it was difficult to reconcile his memories of their brief brush with intimacy, but he put them aside and tried to limit his interaction with her. He wasn't a slave to his lusts, and he had other occupations after all. Everything changed when their relationship had taken a turn for the torrid.
When he saw her again, he knew that distancing her was out of the question. How could he have forgotten her depthless amber eyes, her knowing half-smile, or the graceful way she moved about the office? All at once it became quite impossible to ignore his dangerous memories when he could see her again. He came back from the trip to Doctor Marcoh's clinic a man possessed with new purpose. Everything took on a hue of perfect clarity. When he kissed her and she responded with equal fervor, he knew he would have her. Whatever it took. Protocol was no longer sufficient reason to hold back.
And yet. And yet. They had spent so long carefully evading the fire that it was difficult to jump in headfirst. There were so many barriers to be brought down. Tangled emotions—love and hurt, trust and fear. Kissing her had a way of seeming both natural and unreal at the same time. He still struggled to wrap his mind around the thought that he was actively pursuing his lieutenant, romantically and sexually. Hawkeye, who always dutifully stood two steps behind him and watched his back. Hawkeye, who had been through wars with him. Hawkeye, who had wiped sand and sweat from his eyes while ordering him to get back up. Hawkeye, who he had seen almost bleed to death beneath Central headquarters.
He knew he had always wanted her, but he had always held himself at arm's length. And now, they were making out in his office while trying to go on pretending nothing had changed because she was still Lieutenant Hawkeye, and he was still The Colonel. There was an unspoken fear that if they became something else, they would lose what they had, even if the pretending was futile. They couldn't stop their clandestine accidents any more than they could have stopped the sun from rising.
He was entirely serious about marrying her. Perhaps he shouldn't have asked so soon, when they were both still licking their wounds from the Promised Day, but he had panicked when he realized the gravity of what they had done and how she might construe it. She needed to know she meant so much more than relief in the dark. He wanted to tell her so many flowery and romantic things. Love poetry and such. Instead, he had just blurted out a proposal and once it was said, he couldn't unsay it. Her response had been fearful and withdrawn, as he should have known it would be. But he would ask her again. And again. Whatever it took.
A hint of a blush was stealing over her features, but she was comporting herself with determined stoicism. Then there was that damnable piece of hair that kept slipping loose from her bun. He could easily lean over and tuck it back into place. And then maybe a bump in the road would cause him to slip. And then he would ravage her. Make her yell his name, and make her say yes. Yes. Yes. Yes.
He clenched his hands into fists, and tried to make himself look out the window again. Now was neither the time nor the place. It would have to wait until the three day trip to Resembol had come to a close. Then he could take her to dinner at a nice restaurant. He would make it a proper date like she deserved. Of course, he would try to be a gentleman. He would open doors for her and kiss her chastely on the cheek, but with any luck they would end up in another deliciously compromising position. His place or hers. It made no difference as long as they could progress to more than just kissing.
Gods, no other woman had ever driven him this crazy. He wanted to be sweet and tender. He wanted to take things slow because she was important to him and he couldn't screw this up by being overzealous. But it was monumentally difficult, especially because he could swear she didn't want to go slow either. The last time, in the stairwell, she had been the one slipping her hands beneath his shirt and teasing his lower lip with her teeth.
He exhaled slowly and touched a finger to his temple. Green hills dotted with horses, cattle, and sheep rolled past. Sunlight streamed in through his window, heating up the car enough to make him throw off his jacket. The road was getting increasingly rough and bumpy. Hayate crossed the car and climbed onto his lap as if sensing the tension that was running through him. He pet her dog and watched his breath condense on the window.
When they finally arrived at the little yellow house, the sun was starting to droop lower in the sky. Havoc woke with a snort when the car shut off. Hawkeye's gun disappeared, and once again he found himself wondering where exactly her holster might be. Hayate started wiggling and barking when he saw Den sitting on the front steps, and as soon as Roy opened the door he bounded out.
The two dogs circled each other with excited barks and sniffed at each other tensely, tails held stiff and legs rigid. In a matter of moments it was decided by unspoken canine code that Den was the dominant dog. Hayate assumed a position of submissiveness. She licked him once, and they were pals.
Hawkeye paid the driver while the family gathered on the porch.
Pinako Rockbell still looked the same as when Roy had last seen her long ago. Same short statue, same impossibly vertical hairstyle, still spry and lively for an elderly woman. Her ever-present pipe was in her mouth, and the afternoon sun glinted on her glasses. Her blue-eyed granddaughter stood beside her in a floral print dress with her hands clasped in front of her and a warm smile on her face. Winry had grown into a pretty young woman with a sweet, unguarded demeanor. Remarkably, Edward now stood taller than her. His guarded scowl and crossed arms were her perfect foil. He still wore his hair in a braid, and his shirt bared both of his flesh-and-blood arms, almost indistinguishable from each other already.
With them stood another teenager of about Edward's coloring with a kind, heart-shaped face and large golden eyes. His clothes hung off his spare frame, but he was looking healthy and tan. It was to him that Den returned when she had thoroughly inspected Hayate.
"Alphonse," Roy said as he approached. "You have no idea how good it is to see you."
The younger Elric smiled. "Thank you, Colonel. I'm glad you have your eyesight back."
Was he? For some reason he couldn't quite shake the feeling that the Elrics would think less of him for using a Philosopher's Stone to restore what the Truth had taken away. This was the other reason for his visit that he hadn't revealed to anyone. He needed to know he had Edward and Alphonse's acceptance and approval. He didn't know why the acceptance and approval of teenagers was necessary. It just was. He didn't want to explain himself.
He didn't want to overwhelm the Rockbell household by bringing his entire group of subordinates and eating them out of house and home, so he had chosen the allies he had brought with him carefully. Havoc was a nice buffer for disapproval, as he also had what was lost to him restored with the same Philosopher's Stone. He also hoped the Elrics would be glad to see his progress, just as he was glad to see theirs. Everybody needed to be reassured they were recovering after the Promised Day. Hawkeye was nice to have for so many reasons.
He climbed the stairs and extended his hand to the elder Elric. "Edward."
Edward took it, brusquely. "Colonel."
His handshake was strong. It felt disconcerting to be shaking The Fullmetal Alchemist's right hand for once. The kid—though he was hardly a kid anymore—tipped up one corner of his mouth, betraying his indifferent façade. Roy never thought he'd see the day when Edward Elric was genuinely happy to see him.
"You just keep getting uglier every time I see you," he grinned.
Roy laughed. "Likewise."
He turned to the owner of the house and bowed respectfully. There was something unnervingly unreadable about her expression behind those glasses, but he thought she looked pleased to see them.
"Miss Pinako, I hope you accept this as a small token of my gratitude for letting us stay with you." He held out the wine.
She took it and inspected the label, puffing thoughtfully. "The boys have told me so much about what you did for them, Colonel Mustang. I would say I don't need gifts in exchange for hospitality, but I can't say no to this vintage."
"We'll drink it tonight." She smiled and looked past him. "Pretty thing here must be your lieutenant."
He nodded with his teeth clenched behind his benevolent smile. He still hadn't forgiven his lieutenant for the dress.
Hawkeye moved beside him and took Pinako's hand. "I'm surprised you remember me."
Introductions and greetings had to be made all around. Roy gave Winry his most charming bow and complimented her dress. Then everybody's dress had to be complimented, and then everybody had to remark upon how nice everyone else looked. Edward and Alphonse had to congratulate a suddenly shy Havoc and introduce him to Pinako, who told him frankly he could do without the beard. After prompting, Havoc told them about how well his recovery process was going, proudly declaring he wouldn't even need the cane in another two weeks.
"Oh Miss Hawkeye," Winry beamed when Hawkeye handed her the bouquet of lilies. "These are so beautiful! I'll find a vase for them."
They embraced, which was fine. Roy could handle Hawkeye putting her arms around someone else without reacting. It was just a little blonde girl. He was less than pleased when his lieutenant turned and put her arms around Alphonse to hug him tightly and tell him again how wonderful it was to see him in his own body. The boy turned red as a pomegranate and said his hello to the ground. Since when did she hug people to greet them? Was it strictly necessary?
What the hell was wrong with him? Thankfully, she did not bestow the same treatment on Edward, so he didn't have to think about it any further.
Pinako began making efforts to herd the group inside. Nobody obeyed her until she mentioned that dinner was almost ready. This earned her their full attention.
"The kids wanted stew, so I hope that's okay with you," she said.
Havoc rubbed his stomach and grinned. "You bet. Especially after nothing but cold sandwiches on the train."
The little house seemed three times smaller with seven people and two dogs filling it. A full spectrum of voices talked and laughed and argued. Dogs clicked around on the wooden floor, following each other from person to person. Coats had to be hung and suitcases had to be put away in the spare bedroom. Winry found a vase for the flowers and set them up on a counter where they wouldn't be disturbed in the chaos. Then they all helped find more chairs until there were seven places at the round kitchen table, the placement of which had to be argued over most vociferously by Edward, Havoc, and Winry.
"It'll be a little crowded, but that's just fine," Pinako announced over the din. "Now, everybody wash up."
He followed Edward to the sink and tried not to watch her, but it was embarrassingly hopeless. She looked at him, and her amber eyes arrested him with the truth. It had all seemed so simple when he was planning the trip to Resembol. Everything was simple when it was theoretical. He could survive keeping his distance. He had managed to be around her for years without staring. Or grabbing her. Or making amorous professions.
How had he survived for years?
He couldn't remember anymore.