Like a Knife

D M Evans

Skewed Perspectives series, story #4

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 centric
Summary – Fed up with war, Roy nearly lets his own flames consume him.
Time Line - Manga verse, set in Ishbal so spoilers for things happening from 58 and beyond.

Author's Note – This was written for chelle86 for the holidays. She wanted something with Kimbley. It was also written for the 7stages challenge. Prompt –SEQ CHAPTER \h \r 1 the surge and thunder. While this is a series, all the stories are stand alones.

"Temptation is like a knife, that may either cut the meat or the throat of a man; it may be his food or his poison, his exercise or his destruction" - John Owen

Roy felt a surge moving through him, a thunderous wave of power as he manipulated the stifling desert air, feeding more oxygen to the flames he had created. There was an urge, a whisper, saying let it all go, revel in the power. That was what it was meant for.

His young body shook, revulsion and joy bounding through him. Roy loved his power but these things he was doing with it, sometimes he wanted just to step into the wall of flames and take away one of the State's powerful weapons. It somehow seemed unfair that the Ishbalans had nothing like him or Silver or Strongarm or Crimson.

Seeing his flames bearing down on a school, Roy diverted them. He knew it was an empty building, probably had been for months if not years but he couldn't bring himself to destroy that icon. Feeling heat encroaching on his side, Roy turned to see flames dancing his way. He simply stood his ground and watched them. They were too close. He hadn't calculated on the sudden wind change. Even though he knew he had to if he wanted to live, Roy didn't move. Maybe there was a God and the shifting winds was His retribution. Roy could snuff them with a gesture, a subtle manipulation but he did nothing. He was just so very tired.

Roy startled as someone roughly grabbed his collar, hauling him out of range. Sweat rolling off his chin, his flesh tingling from the heat, Roy pulled free and turned to face his rescuer, expecting to see one of his men. He didn't know this soldier but she was pretty with long, dark hair and purple eyes.

"Are you all right, sir?" she asked.

Roy wiped his sweating face. "Yeah," he muttered then added, "Thank you," not meaning it but it was expected. Roy was nearly jostled into her when an explosion, a sound like the worst thunder, made the ground shake. When he caught his balance, Roy saw the school was gone and he knew Kimbley had taken it out. His stomach flipped. When he turned back to ask the soldier her name, she was gone.

Disgusted with everything, Roy went back to the camp. He was washing the soot and sweet off his face when a shadow fell over him. Roy glanced over his shoulder expecting to see Maes. He was surprised to find Riza standing there. He didn't really want to talk to her just now. He wasn't fit to be with humans. "Riza, it's not a good time," he murmured, turning from her, not drying his face. The sun would do that all too quickly in this hell.

"There is no such thing here," she countered, not so easily put off.

Roy wished she would just let him scurry away. There was no need to try and comfort him. It wasn't possible in this place. "I really don't want to talk."

Riza caught this sleeve and he turned to face her, surprised at that. It could reveal her feelings for him, not to mention she was handling a superior office, both highly dangerous things. " I want to." There was an insistence in her tone that Roy knew he didn't dare ignore. To do so would damage something, that much he knew.

Roy gave a curt wave and led her off to a nearby outcropping of rock that would afford some privacy. "What did you want to say?" he asked roughly.

"I heard you got close to a fire today. Was it by accident?" Riza's voice didn't shake but the fear shone in her eyes.

He curled his lip at her. How had she even heard so fast? Who all knew? "Why wouldn't it be?"

She took a step closer. "Because I know you. This." Her hand flashed out at the rocks surrounding them. "Is taking a toll on all of us."

Unable to meet her gaze, he tried not to think about all the things he lost in coming to this desert. Roy stepped deeper into the shadows and held out his hand. He needed comfort. She was right. This was too hard. He let her fold him in her arms.

X X X

Kimbley flexed his toes. It felt good to get them out of those damn steel-shanked boots. Not that he could do much walking around bare-foot, not with scorpions about. Once he had checked his cot and certain it was clean, he stretched out to enjoy a little whiskey and shelter from the damn sun. His peaceful escape was interrupted when Envy sauntered in looking disturbingly sexy as a violet-eyed buxom beauty in a uniform. "What can I do for you?" Kimbley asked wearily, reluctantly levering himself into a sitting position.

Envy sat on the floor. He might look like a woman but he sure didn't know how to sit like one, Kimbley decided. "I had to pull Mustang from the fire. It looked like he was going to let himself get immolated."

Kimbley frowned. That was bad news. "I had no idea it was so bad."

"You're supposed to be making friends with him, turning him to our side. I don't have to tell you Father will be most displeased if one of the human sacrifices gets killed in this place." Envy's tone sliced deep.

Kimbley scowled, scratching at one of his tattoos. "Then I suggest you report Mustang and have him sent back with shell shock. Sounds like he's cracking up. That'll get him killed fast out here." He tossed a careless glance Envy's way. "That won't please your boss either."

Envy shook its head, its long loose hair spilling down over its currently feminine shoulders in a way Kimbley found disturbingly alluring, especially knowing what the creature was. "We need to finish carving you know what into this horrible place," Envy reminded Kimbley of the grand plan. "We need Mustang's unique abilities. Deal with calming him down. That's even more important at the moment than turning him to our side. With the right orders given by Gran, Mustang will unwittingly cut the path for us."

"Maybe he just needs to relax," Kimbley replied, irritated that he was being denied that himself. His eyes danced over Envy's current, delectable form. "You look good like that. Go seduce him. Maybe if he got laid every so often he wouldn't be suicidal."

Envy curled its lip, a growl rumbling in its throat. "I thought you said it was likely he was sleeping with those two friends of his. How much relaxing could one man need?"

Kimbley chuckled deeply. "You'd be very surprised."

"Find another way. Seducing anyone isn't going to happen. You have the wrong Sin." A disgusted look twisted Envy's face.

"Pity," Kimbley said, watching the fury ignite in the homunculus' purple eyes. He knew he was pushing his luck. Kimbley had no illusions about Envy's ability to easily kill him.

Envy got to its feet, glaring at the alchemist. "Just do your job," Envy growled then stomped out of the room.

Seeing how deeply, Envy's footprints caved in the sand under the tent, Kimbley lost his delusions that in any form Envy might be desirable. What the hell was it really? Obviously something far heavier than it looked. Kimbley grimaced and wondered if he was ever really going to be able to get through to Mustang. Well, there was nothing to do for it but try.

X X X

Roy didn't want to get up from his cot but he couldn't exactly ignore the knock on the support strut of his tent. It could be something he was expected to take care of, some new order to go deliver more death. "Come in," he grumbled after sitting up and finger-combing his lank hair before giving it up as a loss. Roy grimaced, seeing Kimbley in the doorway. Why wouldn't this man leave him alone? Why did Kimbley always leave him feeling so unsteady and unsure of his own convictions? Roy knew that anything this man was offering came at too high a price no matter how tempting.

Kimbley sat on the footlocker. "Heard you nearly got hurt out there." The 'again' was unspoken but heard.

Roy fingered the red scar on his throat where a bullet had creased him last month. "Not really. One of my men got a little nervous that I was too close to the flames," he said dismissively. This was a rumor, no matter how true, that he would need to nip now. It had already obvious spread like one of his fires.

"Hmm, winds shift?"

There was something in Kimbley's dark eyes that made Roy uneasy, like the other alchemist was trying to maneuver him into confessing he had tried to kill himself. That was one thing Roy couldn't do.

"Something like that, yeah," Roy said, shifting on the uncomfortable cot. "Between me and you, it gets hard to see out there. I did notice you took out that old school."

Kimbley rolled his shoulders. "Just another empty building. Besides, if the Fuhrer has his way, there will never be a use for it."

Roy shuddered, hoping Kimbley didn't notice. "Does it ever bother you? Being used as a tool of genocide?" he asked in a low voice, knowing just how dangerous the question was.

Kimbley's dark eyes studied Roy until the man almost squirmed under the intensity. "There's no real good answer to that, is there?"

"That was probably the best one you could give," Roy admitted, knowing if Kimbley said yes, some would take it as treasonous. If he said no, Roy would wonder about his humanity. "I didn't learn alchemy for this but as you pointed out once before, there aren't many non-destructive usages for what I can do. The same goes for you."

"It's about the power," Kimbley admitted freely. "Sometimes I think you forget that, Flame. Like today."

"Maybe I do." Roy ran a hand through his hair again. He would kill for a proper shower. He had never been this dirty in his life. When he got home, he would soak in a tub for days. "I just wonder how it all came to this."

"Not our worry, Flame. I'm more interested in getting out with my skin. I have no plans of dying." Kimbley's gaze sharpened. "Ever."

Roy cocked his head, thinking on that. It seemed like an odd statement. "What do you mean?"

"I think you know," Kimbley prompted him gently. "We've talked about it before. You've heard the rumors about the red stone."

Roy felt his pulse quicken. This was not the first time Kimbley had brought up the forbidden alchemy and Roy had to wonder at that. What did this man know? "I have no real interest in living forever."

"No, you barely have an interest in living beyond today," Kimbley's words struck like barbed wire.

Roy looked away. "I don't see the point in talking about something that doesn't…can not exist. And you're wrong about me?"

"Am I?" Kimbley's curious scrutiny washed over Roy again. "Maybe you're wrong as well."

Roy turned Kimbley's inquisitive inspection back on him. Did Kimbley actually have a stone? Where could he have gotten such a thing and why would he even hint at it to another alchemist? Could he mean to share it? Did Roy even want him to? "Are you saying you've unlocked the secrets of the Red Lion?"

Kimbley shook his head, his ponytail whipping. "I never said I had a philosopher stone, just that maybe you're wrong that they can't exist. Imagine what we could do with something that could unlock the secrets of immortality."

"I suppose I'd want to know if it could give me eternal youth as well as long life. Imagine being a crippled old man forever. Imagine outliving everyone you ever loved." Roy's face twisted. "I'd rather not have it."

"You are a romantic." Kimbley made it sound like a very bad thing indeed. "The stone is also rumored to enhance the alchemy you already posses. Imagine what you could do then?"

Roy offered up a bitter laugh. "Am I not killing people fast enough for you?" He knew that for many, he was not. Gran wanted him to be doing more. Mostly Roy wanted to get a chance to catch Gran up in the flames by 'accident.'

"Think of it this way, you want out of here, right? We all do. This place isn't meant for civilized people. I want to go home to a comfortable bed and food that doesn't make me retch." Kimbley's eyes glittered. "We're stuck here until the Ishbalans are all dead. If you and I and the other alchemists got a boost and could finish them all off quick and mercifully, we'd all go home. Wouldn't that be better than dragging it out like this?"

Roy couldn't find words for a moment. He wanted to say no, that killing faster wasn't a solution but Kimbley was right. Annihilation was the goal. Maybe augmenting his power, to just end it in one fell swoop would be the best thing. If so, why did it make him feel sick?

Kimbley got up and patted Roy's shoulder, as if sensing he had accomplished some hidden agenda. "You think about it. You know where to find me."

Roy watched him go. He didn't want to think about it. He wouldn't. Roy wrapped himself up in his bedding, insanely cold in spite of the heat. He couldn't stop the insidious seed Kimbley had planted from sprouting. Roy had begun to truly hate that man.