"Ad Maiorem Dei Gloriam"
Kimbley called him an agent of God.
Mustang always forced a laugh and called him an idiot. Too full of fancy, he'd sometimes say, or counter with an unambiguous God is dead and try to divert the conversation into theology. Kimbley had to be just the right degree of drunk for that to work, so more often than not, Crimson would grin and trace his tattoos as he elaborated.
Look at you, he'd say, burning the heretics to death. It's just what He would do, back in the day. God loves you for what you do, Flame. He loves you for your holocaust.
Every once in a while, though, Crimson was just that right degree of drunk. Then when Roy tried to change the topic, he'd rise to the bait. He'd laugh, then, for ages, that cackle that somehow came before the gruesome smirk that split his face.
God isn't dead, Flame. I am God.
He couldn't help but think of Crimson's accusations every time he left the sanctuary of the barracks. He couldn't help but think of him each time the fire rose, each time he snapped. He couldn't help thinking of every charred body as his holocaust, a twisted sacrifice placed upon the altar of his vengeful God.
He couldn't help but think of a time before Crimson had tainted his alchemy. No; that was wrong: Crimson may have had a hand in perverting his mind, but it was the war that did it. It was the war that made his memories, thoughts of huge arrays to sculpt a cloud, into nothing but his own holocaust.
This was in no way a war. He'd learned that early on. In ten years, they'd call this an insurrection, and in two hundred, a massacre, and both would be wrong and both would be right. Insurrections victimized rulers; massacres, the ruled.
How could they still fight? If only – if only they would realize that if they set down their arms, then the soldiers would run through, one brief, sweeping scrub, and then they would be gone. Roy had wanted them to see that at first, begging them to put down their guns.
Then they had shot the man beside him, and he'd lost his idealism.
It was mutual victimization.
And even though he killed en masse, they killed right back. Roy himself had seen Death in an alleyway, hovering above him with ember-eyes, crushing his hands against the bricks so that he couldn't snap before his gloves were wrestled off. Death had seen him in the streets, seen him kill his son. Death had followed him and learned how he fought. Death had pinned him down and held his hands and cried, cried about a boy who loved sports and God and who would be revenged.
Roy had drawn the very air from the man's sobbing lungs.
The encounter had earned him a commendation, a respite, and nightmares. When Crimson asked why Flame hadn't left their shared room for two days, Roy told him and regretted it when Kimbley began to grill him on the look on the man's face as he died. Crimson slept that night, humming tunelessly through his dreams; Roy lay awake.
He'd spent a good portion of his childhood jumping off of rocks. He'd broken a few bones at first, landing the wrong way or diving into water too shallow – twice his left leg, once his right, once his arm. But he learned, and he adjusted, and by the time he was eight, he had twice the skill and three times the nerve of just about anyone else in the village. It was only he and one other boy who would brave the Devil's Crest, a high and treacherous cliff above a swift river. Even after the other, older and stronger, died in one of his jumps, Roy wouldn't be dissuaded; the ecstasy of flight was too much to resist.
He'd grown out of it, eventually, tired of the ephemeral tumble, but he'd never really stopped wishing for the gust that would lift him into the air, that would sustain him weightless as the entire country spread out before him, glowing in the reddish sunlight.
What do you want to do when you're big, Roy? adults would ask in that particular condescension they reserved for those on the brink of the brink of adolescence, as though they were only beginning to realize that they had limited time before the child would start to talk back.
Fly, he'd say before he cultivated a less ingenuous answer. They always assumed that he meant he wanted to be a pilot of one of the great zeppelins they were starting to speak of in the west, and Roy let them think that, but he had no desire for technologies to support him: he wanted to be borne aloft on winds made tangible.
That was why he learned alchemy. He wanted to fly.
The ancients considered fire holy. You know why?
I can guess.
Because it scourged. It was the ultimate cleansing. Something burned was something purified, and something purified was something sacred. Fire reached for the gods, ever striving heavenward...Fire held rebirth. Fire held destruction.
You're a regular poet, aren't you?
You really fucking need to learn how to smile, Flame.
His teacher gently disabused him of the notion in his very first lesson that he might take to the air. Bringing each new wind to adjust his position or keep him aloft would require a separate transmutation, after all – Lord, but he'd get tired after only a few minutes! Now, about these arrays.
Yet still despite his awakening to alchemy's limits, to his limits, he came to delight in what he could do. He came to love the reactions he could evoke with his skill. He came to love the crafting of the storm, the manipulation of the winds, holding it, driving it, manipulating it, the array as his hand. It felt, on those afternoons, a love message taking form thousands of meters above, that he could embrace the entirety of existence, life and everything it entailed, wind and storms and rain and earth and everything besides, could become it and have it become him in alchemy like flight. Chumeia vita est.
That was his truth when he was young. Alchemy as life. And here was his truth as he grew old: the world was filled with irony.
It was irony that kept him alive out here. It was irony that kept him from lapsing into sleepwalking, into deadness. He found it where he could. Here, for instance, was irony: they had to import sand for construction. Wasn't the sort of thing you laughed at, no; you just sort of sat back and let it flow through you. There was irony in the soldier's corpse they had found bleached in the desert, dead of dehydration. Deep marks on the cap of his canteen indicated that he'd been unable to get it off. It unscrewed easily once they twisted it the right way. See? If he'd laughed out loud, then, looking at the dead man, they would have started to talk. He just had to admire the cruelty of it.
He didn't laugh when the proclamation said that he was being awarded the Silver Cross for exemplary performance in defense of Amestris, as though these children were any threat to his motherland, as though he were in any way defending anything, as if he weren't simply killing for the glory of killing. He just saluted and sat back and appreciated the irony.
You'd make me into your creature, then, Crimson? he'd ask. You as God. Me as God's agent.
Sure. It works. I'm the explosion, Flame. You're just the detonation. You're just the combustion. I'm the root of it all.
He'd snort, scornful. Let's compare the power of our alchemy, Kimbley.
Let's compare our kills, Mustang.
That's no measure of anything.
Isn't it? I think it measures a lot. Oh, sure. If we went one-on-one, you'd probably win. Set my hair on fire or some such shit. I'd be running around like a motherfucker, screaming my lungs out, and you? You'd watch me for about a second and a half, and then you'd get a bucket of water and dump it on my head, which, please note, is at this point still on fire. You'd feel sorry for the poor motherfucker with his head on fire. And then once the fire was out, I'd throw myself to the ground, and I'd kiss your feet, and then you'd start to notice that your legs feel kind of weird, and boom! There's one question settled.
You're fucking sick.
Match and point. See, kills might not talk about who can kick whose ass, 'cause I've seen you on the battlefield and my glorious God! – but it measures what you can do. What change you can effect. That's the difference between us, see. I'll cause change. You'll just be a pussy until you die.
I'll do something.
Ambition from my dear Flame! And here I was, thinking he was just going to sit around crying all the time – 'Oh, please coddle me! I think I wet my pants.'
Fuck you, Kimbley. I'm going to change things.
Yeah? Well, remember, Mustang: be bloody, bold, and resolute.
Just – fuck you.
When he first came to the desert, he'd had no idea. He'd been patriotic back then, he really had, crying the national anthem with trembling heart, decked in green. And he'd been willing to fight for his country, because his country was beautiful. He'd been glad when he boarded the eastbound train, because his teacher laughed, and because the clouds could be sculpted, and because pretty girls liked to give him chaste kisses and more.
Then he killed.
And then he realized that the girls out here might be lovely, but there was no time for kisses when they were fighting for his life and theirs. Besides, the clouds were thin, here, and hazy, and alchemy for the joy of alchemy simply drained energies that could be used for survival. And laughter? Kimbley laughed, cackling as he destroyed homes and all within them, but he was the only one. They were too tired for laughter. They were too scarred.
Every day he prayed for rain. Every day he prayed that the notice would come – Due to unavoidable circumstances in regards to the weather, one Major Mustang, Flame Alchemist, is given a one-day leave – so that there would be no chance that he would die – so that there would be no chance that he would kill. But they were in the desert, and so no rain would come. In his drunker moments, he misidentified that as irony.
Yet he would continue to pray, fervently. If God truly gave favor, was not he worthy above all others? See how he worshipped. See the sacrifices he placed upon the altar, blackened for he of violence. He of all was faithful, and they said the faithful were rewarded.
Question not thy God, they said, for he does not answer.
Ah, he'd said at first: Yes. Yes, I understand. Faith was the foundation. Faith was the everything. In time he would be answered in full.
In time, as he began to feel the grease on his lips in waking and sleeping and everything in between, he began to reply with a resounding Bullshit.
And so when he prayed, his prayers, he knew, fell not upon deaf ears, but upon no ears. Question not thy God, for he cannot answer.
You're far too easy to manipulate.
See? There. It's easy to get a rise out of you.
That's because I'm letting you get a rise out of me.
A laugh that came before a smile. No, Flame; I don't think you are. I think you're just a little boy who can't restrain his emotions. It's cute.
Well, that's funny, because I think you're an asshole who needs to realize that he's not right all the time.
Wow, that was really funny. No, I'm laughing.
There's more than one type of funny.
There're only two things in the world, Flame: things that make me laugh and things that don't.
If you were any more self-centered, Crimson, I swear to God, you'd create your own gravitational field.
Ooh, look who enjoys a turn of phrase! I didn't know you had it in you.
Kimbley swung out of his bed, crossed their tiny room in a step and a half, reached down under Roy's blankets with one hand and for his throat with the other, bringing his lupine face close to Roy's own. You seem to say that a lot, Flame, he whispered.
Roy yelped, grabbed at Kimbley's grasping hand, and pushed at his chest with a fist still wrapped around a bottle's neck. Kimbley used the motion to slip the scotch from Roy's grasp, and stumbled back, laughing, against his own bed.
Oh, yeah, you're real hard to manipulate, Kimbley managed, once he had caught his breath. Then he raised the bottle. Here's a drink, Major. I drink to thee. His throat undulated as the scotch slid down.
That was a joke, you know. God – he snorted, wiping his lips. You really need to learn how to laugh, Flame.
Roy merely rolled over in bed, unwilling even through his drunkenness to share his thoughts – he was too tired to laugh. He was too scarred. The desert winds – they stole the laughter from his lips. They stole his sleep. They stole his idealism.
They'd showed them pictures of what the desert could do, when they first arrived. They'd showed them slides of mummies clad in black or blue rags, sunken eyes staring heavenward. Skin was peeling from their vulture-pecked faces, their contorted, miserable faces. They treated it as a lesson.
What do these corpses teach us, boys and girls?
Never go out without a full canteen.
He liked that, really he did. He already knew not to go out without water, and he still liked it, because it really was just perfect. He'd left life for death, and he dwelled now between purgatory and hell. Out here, alchemy was fire, chumeia mors est.
That was irony.
We create and destroy, Flame.
Thank you; I hadn't realized.
Don't you thing there's a certain beauty in it? Don't you think that it's romantic? We bring forth from our own hands the phoenix, rising in flames, in all magnificence. We create the oroborus, the endless cycle of remaking, metal to death and back again. Don't you think that's beautiful?
I think you talk too much.
God himself could never create as we.
We don't – create, though, Crimson. Look at us. We're bombs. We're fire. We only destroy.
Equivalent trade, Flame. All our destruction will come full circle, and God, when it does, think of the beauty! Think of the phoenix rising from your flames. Tell me, Roy – what will you do when He answers your prayers?
That's never going to happen.
The way you worship? It's bound to. Look at your holocaust. Look at your devotion. God will give you everything. He loves you for what you do, Flame. What then? When you're free of the war, what will you do, Flame? What will be your creation?
And yet, and yet, still he dreamed of flight, of the ephemeral tumble made eternity, made beautiful, sustained in weightlessness and wonder. Still and still he dreamed of everything and everything, of mists of twilight wrapped about him as a shroud as he stood before God's own seat.
He kept his dreams to the nighttime, though, as fancies of an idle mind. He wasn't as once he was: now it was fire that consumed him.
(A/N: Holy god in heaven, I've never written a more pretentious piece of tripe. Flames will be most thoroughly understood. Anyway, I know that Roy comes off as an anal-retentive asshole throughout the dialogue, but he's drunk, dammit, and I'm enamored of Roy being sort of uptight when he was young. I'm also rather enamored of Kimbley being the Machiavellian influence in Roy's life and having a tendency to quote the bloodiest literature out there.)