(Lucrecia POV. Two scientists in courtship.)
She wasn’t nervous, and he wasn’t eager.
In the darkness, his movements were immediate and certain. She felt his hands on her as she might have felt a mathematical equation being unraveled. So business-like, the fingers working neatly at her blouse. So formulated, the dry kiss scraping her forehead, the absent stroking at her arm which, she supposed, was meant to be comforting.
The same man in every action, Lucrecia thought. Then, immediately after, this will not do.
The hands faltered, then fell away. She detected his unspoken question and congratulated herself on small victories.
"If you are having second thoughts-"
"I’m not," she interrupted, as softly as she could manage. Even now he spoke in imperatives, as if his confidence condemned any empathy. So cold. She could almost see his mind working in command prompts, not understanding the theory behind human connections, merely carrying out the method. No… she knew him better now. Hojo understood perfectly, just didn’t care. Didn’t see the necessity. Lucrecia had a mild urge to be sick which had nothing to do with nerves.
He was still standing in front of her, head slightly tilted. She imagined the patronising smile playing about his lips and felt suddenly vicious.
She wanted to break him.
"Will you humour me?" She moved closer and breathed into his ear, enjoying how he tensed noticeably, his apprehension inducible after all. Did he feel vulnerable, like all those he mocked? "Just…stand still for a moment. Stand still."
There was a half-hearted light coming from the window, and by it she could see his features squint into confusion. He was not accustomed to being ordered, not even by Gast, but even he knew that power play shifted in certain situations, didn’t he?
"Very well," Hojo said after a moment, and smiled again to hide his discomfort. Unsuccessfully. "Do what you will."
Slowly does it. Her fingernailes tangled into the knot of his tie, pulling it out with deliberate delicacy. At least he wasn’t wearing his labcoat; she would not have been able to cope. In her hands were slithers of Vincent - the remnants of his passion slipping between her fingers as she let the tie fall to the wooden floor. The button at Hojo’s neck, then, as she recalled the one morning she had caught the Turk unshaven with his collarbones exposed, his eyes sunken but still alert. A few more buttons, still moving languidly, and she was able to slide a careful hand into Hojo’s shirt, hearing him draw a sharp breath and immediately check it, as if ashamed.
"Lucrecia…" came the choked utterance. She waited, but for once the acid-tongued man seemed at a loss for words.
So far so good. She untucked the shirt and allowed the garment to join the tie on the floor. He was so thin underneath, she discovered with a small internal jolt. Tracks of bone deepened by the interplay of sepia and shadow - the dip between his clavicles, the visible lines of ribs, the mesh of veins threading under the skin of the antebrachiums. Not like the other man… Vincent the perfect anatomical specimen, muscles and flesh, warmth and expression, heart pounding against his thorax as if willing freedom from the body. She laid her ear against the skeletal form in front of her, pleased to note there was heat and power in this heart also, reaching out to her in pulsatile motion. Yes…desire spoke in rhythms. Human after all, perhaps? Human after all!
"Just what are you trying to achieve?” His voice was softer now; left to her mercy he could not produce his usual arrogant drawl. She traced his shallow breaths with a palm against the costal arch, her head still pressed at his sternum. His body constructed of angles, corners, edges one could cut oneself on, a world from the enveloping safety of Vincent’s form…
"Relax…" Lucrecia whispered into his neck. The scientist did not carry the scent of formaldehyde or decaying flesh - he smelt like ironing starch and sea salt and distracted nervousness. She wrapped her arms around him, felt along his saw tooth spine and prominent shoulder blades, reached up high enough to remove the hair band holding his ponytail in shape. Embrace. The first time she had caught him by surprise - having spread his arms in victory he had not expected her to rush into them. This time, he was possibly even more awkward. They said the clothes made the man, so did Hojo’s perception of himself change, now half-exposed in the hug of a woman who he cared almost nothing for?
She waited until she felt him obey, until gradually his posture slackened and his breathing half returned to normal. Finally, the moment of truth. She unwound herself from his torso and reached up to his face. Her vision had adjusted to the darkness enough to see him clearly - his high forehead imprinted with cynicism beyond his years, thin lips lined at the edges prematurely, and eyes… deep, dark eyes which absorbed rather than reflected emotion. Could she learn to read his expressions, get beyond the masks of scorn he put up to defend himself? Could she learn to stop seeing Vincent’s pain, Vincent’s eyes - the Valentine eyes - raw with confusion and the hurt of betrayal?
He was watching her, still suspicious, though sufficiently softened. Yes…she could adore this man yet. She must.
"I…" Lucrecia’s lips brushed against Hojo’s. Analytical. Experimental. "I love you…"