Marcoh wasn't in his office when Roy arrived, and he wasn't inside the lab. Instead, on the workbench, Roy found a note addressed to him, which was written, strangely, in shorthand but in impeccable handwriting:
Mtng. Rept to armry. Be back by 10.
Then – and this made Roy smile, a little – signed "Tim."
Roy had managed to get a fairly good idea where everything was over the past few days, partially from wandering on the not-so-rare occasions when he got lost-ish on the way to and from one place to the next, and partially from Havoc and the others who, having been stationed as guards in the base for quite some time, knew their ways around. They even knew the alchemists' barracks quite well, since they'd lived there before being displaced in order to make room for the higher-ranked newcomers.
He was pretty sure that the armory was close to the practice courtyard where he'd met Havoc, that first day, because he'd walked past it a few times since and there was a large door nearby that was always guarded or barred. So Roy went, and found, rather to his delight, that today's guard on the door was none other than Breda.
"Please don't tell me that you actually have more free time now," was the first thing that Breda said when he saw Roy.
"Morning," Roy replied. "And no, I've just been sent over here for..." What? "Something. I think. This is the armory, right?"
"Yep," Breda responded. "I hope you have the password."
"Password?" Roy asked, uncertain whether to laugh or not. Breda's face was completely serious, but then again, it generally was – man had a fantastic deadpan. So Roy took a stab: "'Roy Mustang is a doofus?'"
Breda tipped his head to the side, thought, and nodded. "That'll do. What do you need?"
"God only knows," Roy said. "Marcoh just left me a note, telling me to – "
"Captain Mustang!" came a voice from behind Roy. He turned as Breda snapped to attention, saw the insignia of a major, saluted. It took a moment to realize that he knew the Major, took another to realize that this was the petty man who'd stopped him that first day.
"Sir," Roy greeted with as much deference as he could muster.
The Major looked him up and down, then contemptuously returned the salute. "Captain. I'm Major Donovan. Come with me," he said, and nodded to Breda, who stepped aside. Donovan went through the door. Roy followed.
Even just seeing the inside of the room was enough to make a grown man cynical. There were enough weapons to prosecute a hundred hundred wars, it seemed. Lining shelves reaching through to the back of the uncannily deep room, stacked on the high walls, they ranged a spectrum from mundane to extravagant, from knives and handguns to automatic weapons to a series of grenade launchers.
"Colonel Gran requested that I issue you a firearm personally," the Major said almost absently. A change had come over him when he'd stepped inside the room. He spoke now with that peculiar combination of distance and deep satisfaction that Roy had seen any number of times among his classmates as they stepped into a library. A gun, he realized, was, to this man, as a book to him: more serious than a toy, yes, rich like a toy wasn't, but every bit as fun. The thought, combined with the bitter-metallic tang in the air, made Roy a little nauseous.
"He also requested that I make sure you know how to use it," Donovan was saying, casting over the shelves. With a little delighted cry, he dove down and surfaced again with a gun, then turned to Mustang and held it out for his inspection. It was small, black, and menacing. "Nine millimeters," he said, "quite powerful, quite accurate. Seven rounds. It's an officer's weapon," he said, "with quite a noble lineage. Do you?"
Roy, reflecting on how everything was a somebody's something to this man, was caught off-guard. "Do I – ?"
"Know how to use it," Donovan said, a bit of his previous severity returning to him.
"Not so much," Roy admitted.
The Major nodded once, sharply, and held the thing out butt-first. Roy looked at it, looked at the Major, then started to reach for it, gingerly. Donovan grabbed his wrist and forcibly fixed his hand around the gun.
"It's not going to bite you, Captain," he said shortly.
"I know it's not gonna bite me," Roy responded angrily, "I'm worried about shooting you by accident, sir."
Roy was rather proud of the severity of his response, until Donovan said, "Are you stupid? We don't keep them loaded."
Oh. "Oh," Roy replied, but at least it was the most pissed-off sounding "Oh" in human existence. That was some small consolation.
"Come with me, Captain," Donovan said once again, and started to go out. "I'll teach you how to shoot it."
"I have to be back with Marcoh by ten, sir," Roy called after him.
"Don't worry about Marcoh, Captain," the Major said. "These are Colonel Gran's orders."
"What made you think the military was a good idea?" Donovan asked, surveying the targets hung at the opposite end of the courtyard. Someone next to Roy laughed, then stifled his laughter as Roy turned to glare at him.
"Be back here tomorrow," Donovan said. "You can go now."
"What took you so long?" Marcoh asked.
"I had to wash the stench off," Roy said. "I'm sorry."
"For two hours?" Marcoh asked. Roy noticed, guiltily, that Marcoh was still on the Z-vials, even though he'd planned to have moved onto the Rs before ten o'clock. He told himself that he didn't need to feel guilty, that it wasn't his fault – but the sight of Marcoh awkwardly juggling flask and clipboard was enough to make him feel guilty.
So even before he responded, he went to take the notes back from the Doctor. "Major Donovan kept me an extra hour and a half," Roy said. "I thought he'd told you."
Marcoh still looked annoyed, but at least his annoyance seemed to be redirected. "No," he said, "he didn't see fit."
"Yeah. He's ordered me to go in tomorrow so he can teach me how to kill people even better
"He has?" Marcoh asked, the anger rising in his voice. "He doesn't seem to realize that you work for me – "
"It isn't him," Roy said. "It's Gran."
Marcoh's eyes narrowed, and his mouth pressed into a line; but, quietly, said, "Colonel Gran, Captain. He doesn't abide disrespect." The Doctor then sighed through his nose. "Be here by noon, then, and I'll expect you to stay a little later, if that's all right; I'll use the morning to conduct the research you're not supposed to be privy to." He frowned. "I don't know that I'll be able to get you clearance at all."
"That's all right, Doctor," Roy said, even though it was nine different kinds of not right. Lab technique was valuable, he told himself. Lab technique was something worth learning;it wasn'ta waste of time.
"If you come later than noon," Marcoh said quietly, after a moment, "that's all right. I'll understand if you want to get the stink off."
"Thank you," Roy replied.
The Doctor straightened with a weary smile. "Well. I haven't eaten yet. Have you?"
"I haven't," Roy admitted, and realized with a start that he was hungry.
"I know you normally take lunch in the mess hall, but...If you'd like, I can make up another sandwich, and we can..." Marcoh paused. "I haven't had the time to be much of a mentor to you. If you'll stay, we can...talk, I suppose."
It was an appealing offer. Roy smiled, nodded.
There was only a single technician in the communications room when Roy walked in. He looked young and small and out of place in a uniform that was too big for him.
"Excuse me," the dark-haired technician said with an apologetic bob of his head, as though it weren't his room.
Roy didn't know how to respond, so he just sat and placed his call.
"I'm going to sleep," Kimbley announced long after the lights had been turned out.
Roy looked up at his form, dimly lit by the candle at Roy's elbow. "Congratulations."
Kimbley stirred and sat up in bed. "Let me tell you a story, Captain Roy. It's a story of a man, suffering against a horrible affliction. Alas! Terrible it is, his malady; it disturbed his sleep. For this lone man, certainly unlike the rest of the human race, was unable to sleep when the entire goddamn room is lit up like a fucking dance-hall – "
"I have to read this by tomorrow, Kimbley," Roy interrupted. He wouldn't be so adamant if he weren't so close to the end – there were perhaps eighty pages to completion.
"And I have to fucking sleep by tomorrow, Mustang, wanna stop punishing me for your failings?"
"Wanna get off my back? If I don't read this..."
"What, will Lieutenant Colonel Ohh-Didja-Wet-Your-Pants be vewwy vewwy disappointed in you?"
"Don't talk about Marcoh like that," Roy said, surprising himself with his own sharpness.
"Then put out the fucking light, you stupid bastard."
"I have to read."
"It's dark outside, and we're not supposed to go outside."
"Not my problem."
"Put a fucking pillow over your fucking head, Kimbley! Maybe we'll get lucky and you'll die!"
"Not nice, Mustang. Not friendly. Not someone I want to know." Kimbley's wolf-eyes gleamed in the half-light. "What have we been learning since we got here?"
"Good note-taking skills and how to appease petty assholes?"
"What, is your internship not going so smoothly?"
Partially because he didn't want to answer that, and partially because Kimbley had a point, Roy pulled out a piece of paper and, with a bit of thought, sketched an array. It had been a while, and his circle was a little lopsided, and it was not, perhaps, as elegant as he was used to, but he placed the candle on top of it and concentrated, and the flame grew smaller, dimmer, bluer. The light was focused at the bottom of the flame, and Roy could only see his roommate as a vague outline.
"Fucking happy?" Roy asked.
"What did you do?" Kimbley asked with all the airs of a teacher.
"I changed the concentration of gases around the flame, reducing the oxygen level so that it wouldn't burn as efficiently." Then, irritably: "Do I get a gold star, or...?"
"It was a decent thought," Kimbley said, then lay back in bed. When he spoke, Roy could hear the smile in his voice. "If I were you and you were me, I would have used the array to set you on fire. It's a weak man who'll abide insults."