1For No Good Reason
Skewed Perspectives series, story #2
Disclaimer - not mine, all characters belong to Hiromu Arakawa et al, Square Enix and funimition. I don't make a profit
Rating - PG-13
Pairing - None, Roy & Kimbley with some UST
Summary - Roy is shaken to the core after a bullet very narrowly misses him.
Time Line - Manga verse, set in Ishbal so spoilers for things happening from 58 and beyond.
Author's Note- Thanks to Evillittledog and Mjules for the beta. Written for the 7stages challenge. The prompt is 'So Shaken as we are'
story #1 is on FFN under the title 'Bitter Fog'
They wrote in the old days that it is sweet and fitting to die
for one's country. But in modern war there is nothing sweet nor
fitting in your dying. You will die like a dog for no good reason.
In the newspapers, battles seemed so orderly, so clean and bloodless. There was none of that in real life. It was messy and noisy. It stank. Blood, piss and shit pouring from torn bodies, the reek of burning flesh, clothing and hair all mixing into a nauseating perfume of the battlegrounds.
Roy tried to separate himself from his surroundings. He couldn't even look at his partner in this attack. Armstrong, his face wet with tears and sweat, stood next to Roy. Armstrong's arm acted mechanically, sending rock shrapnel at the enemy trapped in a valley. Roy superheated the air inside those hollow rock missiles. They exploded and hundreds of sharp shards tore through the Ishbalans.
Pity for them overwhelmed Roy. He and Armstrong were on one side, and Kimbley and Gran on the other; the Ishbalans were trapped like animals. Kimbley's explosions left Mustang's ears ringing and he couldn't help but wonder how Gran kept from being anemic with all the bullets he forged from his own iron.
There was no escape for the Ishbalans. The only relief Roy felt was in the fact that there were no children in the dozens of people who lay dead before him. This phalanx must have been a decoy so the women and children could escape. Roy's eyes burned and he'd tell anyone the tears were from the acrid smoke of his alchemy. He was sure Armstrong would say the same and to hell with anyone who pointed out that Kimbley and Gran weren't similarly irritated. They were barely human as far as Roy was concerned. Maes had clandestinely told Roy how Gran had murdered a general, though Maes seemed to agree that it was for the good of their military. Roy hated seeing that kind of change in his friend. He and Maes both had hard killer eyes now; Riza, too, which destroyed him inside even more.
"Flame!" Armstrong bellowed and Roy instinctively snapped his fingers, feeling the rush of someone charging him. God, one of these days he'd accidently burn down his own men if he wasn't careful. He dragged his rough glove over his forehead, wiping sweat from his eyes. He hated this place. Their uniforms were hot enough and his flames made everything worse. Sweat stung his neck suddenly and he rubbed at it. Roy smelled like a dog three days dead. Why hadn't he listened to his teacher? Because he was an idealistic fool and yes, he was a little greedy to for the money a State Alchemist could make. Roy's head snapped up. Had he just heard something he should have been paying attention to?
"All clear," Armstrong repeated the call, his bulk sagging.
Roy peeled off his perspiration-soaked gloves and brushed his damp fingers over his burning eyes.
"Roy," Armstrong said softly.
Roy glanced over sharply. Armstrong was rarely improper and almost never called him by anything other than his code name or his rank. Something was wrong. "What?"
"Your neck, you're bleeding."
Roy wiped at his neck, wincing. It hurt and on his fingers blood mixed with the glistening perspiration. "What the hell?"
Armstrong came over and poked a beefy finger through a bullet hole that pierced Roy's collar. Oh god, the bullet had skinned him and he hadn't even really felt it giving a metallic kiss to his jugular. Roy had come within a hair's-breadth of dying. His knees went to smoke and Armstrong steadied him.
"Sit," he commanded and Roy nearly fell down.
Roy knew he wasn't hurt that badly but the shock of it overwhelmed him. He pinched his nose shut and swallowed hard, trying to keep from vomiting.
"Medic!" Armstrong bellowed then dropped a meaty hand on Roy's shoulder. "You might want to put your head between your knees, Roy."
Roy shook his head. That would be too humiliating. "I'll be okay."
Gran and Kimbley crested the hill. "Armstrong, what's wrong?" Gran asked, his dark eyes cutting over to Roy.
"It's nothing," Roy said. He refused to look weak in front of these men. "A bullet grazed me."
Gran came over and examined Roy's neck, his mustache twitching. "Doesn't look bad but you'd better let the medics have a look."
Roy nodded, his eyes going to Kimbley. He couldn't tell what he alchemist was thinking but somehow he didn't like it. He was just as glad when the medics arrived.
"You're moving awfully slow when it comes to winning the Flame Alchemist over to our side," Envy said, drawing idly in the sand with a stick, bored out of his mind. Even the glorious battles raging around him had grown less exciting. Envy sat outside his own tent - using his Colonel Swain disguise which is how Wrath had orchestrated him behind here - bored with the whole 'pretending to be military' routine.
"It's not easy without showing our hand too early," Kimbley replied, massaging his scalp, his raven hair loose around him. "Besides, Mustang is such a goodie, you'd think he was a virginal girl."
"Then I suggest you pop that cherry," Envy replied nastily.
Kimbley snorted. "There's an image for you." He didn't like the sudden snugness of his trousers at that idea. He didn't want the weakness of lust. Kimbley preferred girls anyhow but with Mustang it was hard to see the difference. He cried like a girl. "Mustang got shot by a sniper today."
"How bad was he hurt?" Envy scowled, tossing the stick aside. Wrath had an interest in the Flame Alchemist. Envy didn't want to see the man hurt. It could mess up the plans.
Kimbley's slender shoulders rolled. "Just a scratch."
"Now is the opportunity to make friends with Mustang." Envy got up, went inside the tent and rummaged in his footlocker. "Go play the sympathetic fellow alchemist."
Kimbley nodded. "That bullet could have put a chink in his armor. One problem." He raised a hand and a finger. "His two friends." A second finger joined the first. "Mustang is rarely alone."
Envy pulled out a good bottle of wine from the locker and came back outside. He morphed into General Gayal's visage since a mere colonel wasn't quite enough for this job. "You take this. I'll take care of assigning some night duty to these friends of his."
Kimbley looked at the label and whistled. "You have all the best toys, Envy."
"Goes with the name." Envy grinned.
Roy's neck throbbed but he couldn't rest. He was half tempted to get up and go look for Armstrong just to have someone to talk to. Suddenly Riza had a sniper detail and Maes got tagged for guard duty, both on the one night he really needed them. He felt like he was coming apart and now it seemed like the fates were plotting against him.
"You in there, Flame?" Kimbley's voice came through the canvas.
Yes, the fates were conspiring against him. Roy thought for a moment about not answering but figured his lamp was casting shadows and Kimbley obviously knew he was in his tent. It wouldn't help if Kimbley thought Roy was avoiding him. "Yeah."
Kimbley seemed to take that as an invitation. "I just wanted to see how you were doing." He hefted the bottle, his pony tail swinging. "Brought you a consolation gift."
"I'm fine, just a scratch," Roy said, knowing that he didn't have room to complain. He could have lost a limb like the Silver Alchemist had. Roy touched his neck. Hell, he had nearly lost his life. That sent a shiver through his body.
Kimbley's eyes narrowed and he sat on the floor next to the cot since there were no chairs or any other things of comfort in the tent. "You nearly got your head shot off. A little more to the left and that would have been the end of you. You're too good for us to lose that way."
There was a strange note of sincerity in Kimbley's voice and it put Roy off kilter. What did the man want? It wasn't as if Kimbley was a friend of any kind to him. "Thanks," he mumbled, not knowing what else to say. Kimbley seemed honestly upset that he had been injured. "I guess it shook me up more than I thought it would." Roy's fingers strayed to his neck and the soft dressing the doctor had wrapped around it.
"The hell with that. We're not made of rock. If a bullet took a bite out of my neck, I'm sure I'd be shaking, too," Kimbley said, his dark eyes slotting. "I brought a little something to help you feel better." He put his hands over the cork. There was a soft pop and the cork was gone.
"Where did you get real wine?" Roy eyed the bottle suspiciously, wondering if there were exploded bits of cork in the alcohol now.
"I have my sources," Kimbley said, looking around. "Of course I forgot glasses. You have something?"
Roy got up and opened his footlocker. He pulled out two metal cups. "Best I can do."
"So long as it holds liquid, we'll make do." Kimbley poured the rich red wine into the mugs. "Here's to not dying." He clinked his mug to Roy's.
Roy took a sip. The wine was delicious so he took a deep swallow. "Thanks. This is good." He took another sip, deliberating on the vintage. "I could use this."
"Thought you might. Where's your buddy?" Kimbley asked. "Didn't expect to find you alone, to be honest."
"Hughes?" Roy's eyes narrowed. What did Kimbley want with him? "Guard duty."
"Too bad for you. Tonight's not a night to be sitting here alone thinking about the what if's. You should have gone down to the camp fires with the rest of the men." Kimbley's dark eyes seemed filled with sympathy and that made Roy nervous.
Roy drank more wine. How the hell did Kimbley understand him so well? "Thought about it but I just couldn't get myself moving."
"Well, then it's a good thing I came along." Kimbley smiled broadly. "More wine?"
"Please." Roy held out his mug. "This is really good stuff."
"Like I said, good sources. You know, Flame, those sources could be yours, too." Kimbley splashed a generous amount of wine into the mug for Roy.
"What do you mean?" Roy couldn't help but be suspicious of the man. He wasn't sure why exactly he didn't like Kimbley. It wasn't like the man had ever done anything to him. Well, that wasn't exactly true. Roy did know part of the reason he didn't care for Kimbley. He didn't like how easily Kimbley killed. Death should never be that easy.
"You and I, we're on the way up, Flame. Major is just the first step for us. We could be lieutenant colonels right now with just a little effort," Kimbley pointed out.
Somehow this felt different than the ambitious plans Roy had often discussed with Maes but he couldn't put his finger on it. He took another hearty swallow of wine while he mulled that over. "Effort always seems to mean killing more people," Roy mused.
Kimbley shrugged, reaching up to let his hair out of his pony tail. He massaged his scalp, looking very at ease. "They're more than ready to kill you."
Roy shook his head. "It's a war. I can't blame them for trying to stay alive."
"You can sit there with a bullet wound to the neck and say that?" Kimbley looked honestly surprised. "You almost died for no good reason and they'd have left you like a dog on the side of the road if the Ishbalans had their way.
Roy fumbled with the dressing, his neck seeming to throb at Kimbley's words. "I guess I can say it. They don't want to die either."
"Damn, Flame, you're too soft for this." Kimbley slapped Roy's calf. "Why the hell did you want to be a State Alchemist?"
Roy drained his mug again before answering and Kimbley was spot on with more wine. "I wanted to protect my country. I believe in Amestris and I wanted to protect her."
Kimbley snorted. "Save me from the idealists. Bet you're regretting that now."
Roy hung his head, feeling the pull of his wound as he did so. "Only sometimes. This isn't...I'm not afraid to die, Crimson, but this isn't exactly what I imagined." Roy wondered at the spark in Kimbley's dark eyes at that but the wine was hitting him like a freight train, mixing with the pain pills the doctor had given him. Roy felt very comfortably numb.
"And the State Alchemist's stipend had nothing to do with it?" Kimbley gave him a disbelieving look.
Roy looked away ashamed. "I wanted to do this before I knew how much they made but...it was tempting," he replied, a little too drunk to be anything but honest. "My teacher was one of the greatest alchemists I've ever seen and Hawkeye lived so poorly because all the money went into research."
Kimbley nearly dropped the bottle as he finished it off between his mug and Roy's. His mouth gaped with shock. "Hawkeye? That little girl's an alchemist?"
Roy shook his head, cursing his loose tongue. "She's his daughter. Hawkeye died with barely enough left to bury him and left Riza in my care. I'm doing a fantastic job of it," he said bitterly, gesturing at the canvas tent that was his home. Roy wove on his bunk then curled one hand around the lip of the cot to steady himself. "So was it the money for you?"
"Oh yeah, and the power that comes with research. I'm a realist, Flame, not like you." Kimbley levered himself off the floor and sat next to Roy on the bunk. He leaned in conspiratorially. "What if I told you there were ways of melding my realism and your idealism?"
Roy squinted at him, draining the last of his wine and wishing for more. "What do you mean?"
"Research into ways of making us stronger. If we alchemists were stronger, we could end the war that much faster," Kimbley said then seemed to consider his next words carefully. "With less lives lost. That should make you happy."
Roy considered that. It sounded good. "How?"
Kimbley's lips pressed very near Roy's ear. "Things like the red lion."
"The philosopher's stone?" Roy blurted out. "But it doesn't exist. We're not even supposed to be researching it!"
"A little louder, Flame. I'm not sure the Fuhrer heard you all the way back in Central." Kimbley rubbed his ear. "And why not the stone? It's not technically forbidden like human alchemy. It could make us into gods." Kimbley added that last under his breath, so soft Roy barely heard it.
"I don't want to be a god." A quiver raced through Roy at the idea. It repulsed him and yet...no, he didn't even want to think about the temptation. It was wrong.
"Not even to save lives, like that pretty young lady's? What is this war doing to a sweet thing like her?" Kimbley asked and Roy's lips trembled.
He put a hand over his face, taking in a few deep breaths, trying not to think about the killer's eyes he had allowed Riza to develop in this hell. "I..."
Kimbley put a companionable arm around Roy. "Hey, forget I mentioned it. It's just wine talk, you know?"
"I can't protect everybody," Roy said hopelessly, his fingers straying once more to his neck.
Kimbley patted him on the back and got up. "You just concentrate on keeping yourself alive. We need you, Flame. We're out of wine. Maybe I ought to let you get some sleep."
Roy just wanted the man to go and take all his tumultuous suggestions with him. "Yeah. It's all catching up with me. Thanks for the wine." Roy didn't want to appear ungrateful.
"Anytime, Flame, and remember, if you need me and my friends, just say so. You and me, we're going places," Kimbley reminded him and left Roy in his tent.
Roy kicked off his boots and curled up on the bed purposely not thinking about Kimbley or Riza or the gunshot wound and most definitely not about red stones and the power of god. He all but threw himself into the wine warmed arms of sleep.
Kimbley barely noticed the lizard skittering after him. The damn things were everywhere and hardly worth noticing but this one started shaking and heaving once it was a fair distance from Mustang's tent. It ballooned into Envy. "That is a neat trick."
Envy sneered at him. "It seems like you're making headway with the Flame Alchemist."
"Yeah a little near death experience and some judiciously applied alcohol, and I think I have him at least considering things our way. The stone is a temptation," Kimbley said, happily.
"Always has been," Envy replied with a sense of satisfaction.
"But I could do without you spying on me." Kimbley eyed Envy spitefully.
"What don't you want me to see?" Envy grinned viciously. "That if you had a little more wine, you'd have done more than talk?"
"You really are a vulgar creature." Kimbley gave the Homunuculus a long look. "Guess it's just as well you didn't handle this yourself. You'd never succeed in convincing Flame to do anything."
Kimbley left Envy sputtering. He knew this was a dangerous game he was playing but hell, that was half the fun. He'd win Flame over or one of them would just have to die in the attempt.