AN- a Roy-centric little...thing...that I got the urge to write. written, spell-checked, and reread in about...25 minutes. So yeah. I still have a hellish amount of hmwrk/collage crap to do, so I had to rush to write this before my muse vanished. (It does that a lot). Um. This is actually...pretty short...not even 2 full pages on microsoft word. Aand...there's no Royai. First time for everything, I suppose.

A Pleasure to Burn

"What is there about fire that's so lovely? No matter what age we are, what draws us to it? …What is fire? It's a mystery. Scientists give us gobbledygook…but they don't really know. Its real beauty is that it destroys…"

There are disturbing parallels between Roy Mustang and the Devil. He is as aware of them as anyone. How could he not be?

How many people have you killed today, Mustang? he demands of himself regularly. How many men, women, children, innocent lives not meant for you to fuck with did you steal?

Every day, after every fight—every time he returns from the front lines and drops, stinking of the battlefield and so damn tired, onto his cot—he contemplates that question. It doesn't matter how exhausted he is (even when he hasn't gotten more then an hour or two of sleep in the past week because his dreams were so bad, even when he's running on empty) or how sickened, he makes sure to answer. He has to. Has to tally up the scores, make sure he hasn't forgotten a single soul. Has to spread on the fresh layers of guilt, carefully and without holding back. He will not be punished by his superiors for this war—will probably even be rewarded—so he fashions up a punishment of his own instead.

It seems that he's the only one who feels the need.

Some of Roy's fellow soldiers, well…they go around with their heads up high and pride simmering in their chests. They are warriors, in this great military, fighting for this great country! They never seem to have any doubts, about any of this.

Sometimes, Roy wants to ask them what it is that makes them so confident, so sure. What excuse have they found that works so well? (He's pretty sure he's tried them all.) Maybe it's just their love for their country that gives them such peace of mind…but what is a country, really? Nothing but dirt...murder for dirt? Is that fair?

Or maybe orders from their superiors are enough...after all, Roy knows people who find that orders are the only excuses one needs. But...are those enough to rationalize Ishbal? Superiors are humans too, even if no one dares admit it.

Perhaps these strong-willed fighters get their real go-ahead from God, but if that's the case, then Roy missed the memo. No God ever told him what he's doing is ok; it's the Ishbalans who believe so firmly in a Higher Power, anyway. Not him.

As far as Roy can tell, he is killing people—

(killing is such an innocent term…what he is doing is slaughtering, destroying, burning. No surprise. 'Those who don't build must burn'…and Roy always was pretty damn pathetic around building equipment.)

--because other people told him to. That isn't right, isn't fair—who gave those men spewing orders the right to sign the death warrants of other human beings?

Roy desperately wants to ask those other soldiers what their secret is, but he doesn't, because he knows they would think he was only mocking them if he tried.

Instead he sits, addled with torment, tugging his gloves off because lately he gets nauseous just looking at them. The array sewn onto them stands out, its lines blood-red against the white cloth. White…so white. So damn white, and clean, and pure. He wants to pick the strings that form the array off, one by one, and mash them into the dirt. He never wants to use his goddamn alchemy again, never wants to feel the heat rush from his fingers when he snaps.

I'm not gong to fight anymore, he tells himself, determinedly. I'll do what Armstrong did, I'll refuse to fight. They can demote me, arrest me, hell, they can shoot me…but I'm done here. Done.

His stomach spins the minute he comes to this decision; he feels the light-headed rush, the excited thrill. It's over...for him, it's over…!

He's made that decision five times in the past four days.

It's not as if he ever changes it, per se…he doesn't make a conscientious effort later on to go back and change his mind.

But when they come, impatiently calling for him, he gets up and joins them silently, walking out of camp without a word of protest. The coward's lament: he never says a thing.

Oh, he wants to—wishes he could—but when push comes to shove, there he is: slipping on the ring containing the Stone, snapping his fingers, forcing his lips into a sick smirk to show just how much he loves this, enjoys this, oh yes, it's exciting and a pleasure and what those desert rats deserve. He lives for this, his smile—

(only not a smile, but rather a weak attempt at pushing the lips upwards)

—assures everyone. Lives for this, like Kimbly. Lives for this, lives for fire, lives for alchemy—

(he used to really live for alchemy. What ever happened to that?)

--lives for flames and murder and destruction and oh…

It really is such a wonderful thing, burning.

How many people have you killed today, Mustang?

The Ishbalans will fade away into oblivion and be forgotten, except by one man who will continue to poison himself with their memories, with their names, forever.

"…And as before, it was good to burn, he felt himself gush out in the fire, snatch, rend, rip in half with flame, and put away the senseless problem. If there was no solution, well then now there was no problem, either. Fire was best for everything!

"Montag only said, 'We never burned right…'"

AN-- Title, quotes at the top and bottom, and the line 'Those who don't build must burn' all come from Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury. I may be one of about 5 people in the entire country--or at least in my high school--that actually LIKES that book, but the minute I randomly chose to reread it today, I got hit with the idea for this.

(EDIT 10/15/06-- might be using this as a writing sample for something, so i went back and cleaned it up.)