Best Kept Secret
Chapter 141: Tools
Disclaimer: I don't own Fullmetal Alchemist and gain no profit from this fanfiction other than much needed writing practice and enjoyment.
"A word, Hawkeye?" Knox said just as she'd gotten to the front door. She paused with her hand a quarter of the way lifted toward the handle. She dropped her hand, and turned to him.
"I was about to go out for some fresh air and to search for anything suspicious."
His expression told her that he knew something deeper was going on. The way she'd told him what she was doing, despite him not asking, probably gave her away.
He motioned to a doorway. Through it, she saw what would be a spacious kitchen if there weren't unpacked boxes stacked on the counters and floor.
She gave a single nod and followed him inside. If she couldn't handle this, she wouldn't be able to handle more stressful situations. Academy always taught her that to desensitize yourself you had to expose yourself to uncomfortable and trying situations. She did mourn the loss of some fresh air though. She would still go out after whatever it was that Knox wanted.
"I want to take care of your wound," he said.
Before her mind could fly into a panic, she grasped onto her reasonable thoughts. He wouldn't know about her breakdown last night. There was no way he could know about that. "I'm fine, really."
"The blood on your jacket and that glass sticking out of your arm says otherwise."
She looked at her arm and saw that there was indeed a two-inch piece of glass in her flesh. Her mind had been so preoccupied that she'd forgotten about being injured at the attack site.
"Oh, right." She removed her jacket and cringed when the fabric moved the shard. The area burned as if someone were putting scalding hot matches randomly into the skin around the injury.
He sat down on the chair in front of her. "Can you roll up your sleeve that high?" Knox asked. Riza grabbed the sweater's sleeve at the hole and ripped it down. "If you have scissors feel free to cut it. What use do I have for this sweater now?
Knox gave a small chuckle, grabbed his scissors, and cut off the sleeve so that her arm was visible from wrist to shoulder. "You wouldn't believe the people that ask me not to cut their ruined clothing. Even when they're ripped and soaked in blood. I should've known better than to think you'd be one of them."
He put down the scissors and went over to the sink. Moments later, he returned with a basin of water and set it down on the table before taking a seat once more. He proceeded to clean around the wound, being wary about hitting the piece of glass still embedded in her flesh. It appeared to be bleeding more than a bullet wound, but she wasn't nearly as weak with this. The more he cleaned the blood, the worse the injury looked.
"How was the explosion site?" I didn't hear anything but I thought the house rattled a bit."
"They set the bomb off when there weren't many people out on the street, which makes me think that their intention was more to scare people rather than kill. I didn't run into any dead bodies, but smoke was covering the area, so I can't be sure how many victims there are if there are any."
"Maybe they set it off by mistake. Too early."
"There was more than one bomb, so it isn't likely they'd set them off all by accident at once. They weren't that strong in force, not like the ones used in the war and other attacks. They created a lot of chaos and smoke, and destroyed the windows, but the rubble and other materials seemed to be miniscule in comparison to the other bombs we've seen go off in the city."
"And these are old buildings with cheap glass windows, so it wouldn't' be too surprising if a smaller bomb did destroy them. This part of the city is being neglected more as the years go on."
Riza nodded. That was true. It was a district mainly for people who retired or wanted to save money. To its credit, before the attack, it was one of the safer places even in its slow deterioration.
"How'd you find the boy?"
"Terrorists left him in the alley with a gun and cyanide pills."
"It appears like he handled something hot in some capacity, but I don't think he worked on it directly or even placed it himself. The injuries would be worse if it went off that way, and the burns are at least a day old."
"I thought that too. But I was truthfully unsure. I was wary about bringing him here. I know you just settled in."
"I'm glad you did instead of taking him to the hospital."
She bit the inside of her lip as he leaned forward and carefully pulled out the largest shard of glass with his gloved hand. More blood came forth and he quickly pressed the cloth to the injury. When satisfied the blood had slowed, he set about searching the wound with a magnifying glass and tweezers. He reached in with the tweezers and picked something out, causing another pinching sensation.
One by one he picked out foreign things in the wound and put them in a small metal plate he'd set beside the water basin. She was thankful for his mostly silent work.
Unfortunately, the silence didn't last long. "And your hands?"
"I made a mistake and cut them," she said without hesitation. Though she was telling the truth and reacted quickly, she didn't expect it to sound like such bullshit.
He looked up at her for a second before focusing back on his actions. "Cut them huh… Do they need tending?"
She was glad he didn't push to know the reason behind the cuts. "No, they've been taken care of. They're just small cuts."
"You have bad luck with glass."
"With all the battle experience you have, do you think I'm dumb enough to think you hurt yourself on a knife? You could cut a man's throat before he knew what hit him and not leave a mark on yourself. And you wouldn't cut both hands with a knife."
She cringed, and he smiled that Knox smile, not joyous but proud of his ability to deduce injuries without seeing them close. There were no apologetic features in his look.
"How do you think I did it then?"
"Could've happened in the field, but you probably got angry and punched something."
She'd let him believe that. "After what happened, could you blame me if I did?"
He shook his head and put down his tools. He picked up a bottle, soaked another cloth in whatever the contents were, and pressed it to her cut. It was a light burn at first, but the further it soaked into the flesh, the worse it burned. She hissed.
"Been shot and not fazed as much, but put a little medicine on a cut and you react."
"A shot doesn't hurt until you realize you've been shot," she said. She'd heard people say that was a myth, but in her experience it was the truth. "And by the time they're tending to it, you're either unconscious or full of medicine."
"You're not the first I've heard say that." He studied the injury. "I think you might need a few stitches."
"Okay," she said.
"Speaking of numbed, do you have pain medicine in you?"
"No, but there's no need for it."
He didn't argue with her and went about stitching up the cut. He didn't speak until he started working. The medicine in the wound hurt worse than the stitching.
"Are you going to turn the boy into the military?"
She sighed. "Not yet, we need him for information. I don't want to turn him in, but I'm unsure of what Roy will ultimately deem we do."
"He'll take your opinion into account."
She had no doubt about that. If she said no to turning him in, Roy would likely go along with it.
"There's a chance that if he is turned in that Bradley will decide to make me…" She couldn't finish and made a fist with her hands, feeling the cuts under the bandages strain with the action. "If I do that again, I'm liable to…"
Knox finished the stitches and put his equipment down on the table. "I know that's haunting you, but let it spur you on as well." He ran his hand through his short hair, the gesture not nearly as impressive looking as when Roy did it. "It can give you even more of a reason to continue. To make sure no one else gets put in your shoes."
It was odd for Knox to try to comfort anyone. Though if someone who didn't know him heard the tone, they'd never consider it as comforting.
"That's what I keep telling myself," she said. "It seems like the more we do towards a positive thing, the more negative we bring to it."
"I don't know much about what is going on with everything you're doing, and I choose to remain ignorant for the most part. But my instincts tell me you're going on the right path."
"I hope so. But didn't we think the same when we joined the military, or at Ishbal when we first got there." She gave a bitter laugh and raised her hand to rub her forehead as if it would stifle the beginnings of a headache coming on. "If I were to say that to some of my friends, they'd tell me I'm downright pessimistic."
"Were they at Ishbal?"
She moved her hand a few inches away from her face and looked at him. "No."
"Then they'd likely have a difficult time understanding your pessimism. Just stay on your path and deviate when you think is best. You'll make it to wherever the hell it is you need to be."
"Should I deviate from my sense of justice too? Like it or not, that young boy was with the terrorist. Part of me says to turn him in while another part says to keep him safe as much as I can."
"You and I both know he wouldn't get justice," Knox said. "And like you said, you need the information. He's useful to you and I don't know why, but I figure if his information gets to Bradley and the military it wouldn't be the best situation."
"He's a tool."
"Dark way of looking at it, but accurate. Aren't we all tools in some way though?"
Yes, they were, and it made her sick to her stomach to acknowledge it.
AN: I love writing Knox. He's one of my fav characters in the series and he always struck me as someone who would understand Roy and Riza better than anyone (maybe even better than Maes knew Roy).
I acknowledge this chapter was shorter than usual, but I decided that I wanted to do chapters based on what I needed for the particular theme of the chapter rather than putting everything in for the sake of a long chapter. It will make it easier to read and help me keep structure. So from now on some chapters will be short (not that 1800 words are short really) and some will be much longer. My goal for next year is to update more frequently. So I'll do my damnedest not to have you wait months before a new chapter.
The next chapter I'm working on right now will be significantly longer. I hope you enjoyed this one, and please leave a comment if you have the time.
Also for those asking, I'm not quitting fanfic anytime soon. I'll probably still be writing when I'm 90.