Ha ha, it's been a while, ne? Sorry about that, but writing in general's been going a little slow for me. Thankfully, thanks to a certain someone Archer got added to the character list here at and I felt the need to update. So - tada! And just b/c it's been so long it's a long chapter.

Thanks for reading, reviewing and putting up with my lateness!

Chapter 23

"Destruction of property, failure to report an intruder, injuries to your fellow soldiers and suspected counts of murder are just the top of the list. I have half a mind to have the both of you discharged and thrown in prison for the rest of your miserable lives," Bradley paused and glared at the two men still in shambles sitting in his office. They were covered in dirt and Archer was still bleeding through the makeshift bandage Kimblee had thrown on while they were sitting in the hall. The Führer laced his fingers together and leant forward. "However."

Both men took a breath awaiting their punishment: One dreading the response with every fiber in his being and the other waiting for an opening to blow something up and sprint.

"Since I have just announced to the committee your promotion to Colonel, Archer, I feel that would make my decisions look faulty and incapable." The elder man watched Archer's eyes widen and he smirked. The poor little puppet had no clue. Kimblee's eyes had gotten pretty wide themselves and Bradley allowed himself a small smile. "Therefore, as far as I'm concerned this was merely an accident involving a misplaced gas line."

"Sir." Archer saluted and elbowed Kimblee's arm to get him to do the same for both of their sakes. This was a one time offer of forgiveness and he would not screw it up! "We are truly grateful for your judgment."

Bradley leant back in his chair and smiled warmly despite the ice in his voice. "Now when you leave, I expect you to not let this nonsense happen again, is that clear?"

"Sir!" Archer repeated and waited for his dismissal, still rigid at attention.

Bradley looked up from his cup of tea at the two men who were causing more trouble than they were worth. It was a good thing he had plans for them. "Throw that chimera woman in a cage in that lab of yours while you're at it and I don't want to see her out again unless she's been tamed, understood?"

"Sir!"

"Dismissed."

Archer dropped his arm and turned on his heel to swiftly leave the room, Kimblee quick at his heels. The moment he was out of the door and heard it click shut behind him, Archer fell into the nearest chair and let out the hiss of pain he'd been holding in. Even the sheer relief that he wasn't to be court marshaled could make the ache in his shoulder dissipate. He pressed the fabric farther into the wound to try and quell the blood flow. "Damn, that was lucky."

Kimblee silently agreed and blew a bit of loose hair out of his face. It was amazing how getting yelled at in an office can calm previous righteous fury. That and Archer was looking particularly pathetic sitting in that chair with dirt on his uniform and blood seeping through the torn undershirt they had used to cover his shoulder. Even his hair was falling out of place. "We should get that looked at."

"Yes, I am feeling a tad light headed." Archer stood slowly and began his walk down the hallway. He shifted his eyes over to Kimblee to try and judge the man's face. It was drawn into a frown and his gold eyes were dull from exhaustion. Archer couldn't help the sting that pinched at his chest; 'drained' was not an expression that should grace Kimblee's face. The words stumbled out of his mouth before he could help himself. "I'm sorry."

"For what?" Kimblee shoved his hands into his pockets. He smothered the tiny bit of excitement that started to bubble upward. There was a small chance Archer was only scared about being murdered, so the Alchemist chose to remain skeptical. "Be specific."

Archer sighed and rubbed a hand through his hair. Was he sorry he kissed Marta? Not really. Was he sorry he didn't return Kimblee's affections? Possibly, but just as unlikely. He wasn't really sure he was sorry about anything he did specifically. It was like a jumble of everything together that caused this inevitable feeling of guilt. "I'm sorry you're hurting."

"That's it?"

Archer sighed. "It's complicated, I guess."

"Complicated? There aren't that many things you could be sorry about." Kimblee stopped in the hallway and for the moment was thankful it was empty. He wanted to do some yelling. "You're not sorry for playing with my feelings even though I like you so very much?"

Archer blinked. "Wha-"

"You're not sorry," Kimblee cut him off and felt his own voice rising with his anger, "you kissed that woman even though you're in love with me?"

Two and two were not equaling four at the moment. Archer lifted an eyebrow- when did he ever tell Kimblee he loved him? "What are you talking about?"

"You don't have to hide it!" Kimblee growled and gripped his fists together so hard they were bleeding. He was pissed at Archer; he was pissed at Marta, and he was pissed at himself for getting so corny and emotional. "Tucker told me all about it! I don't get you! Are you that desperate to hide your feelings that you'd make out with that, that thing!?"

Archer gaped. That information was confidential! Archer was going to strangle that Chimera. "Tucker told you? That bastard…I'm going to kill him."

"No." Kimblee stalked over to Archer and lowered his voice. "I'm glad he told me since you won't. It's nice to be filled in. Why didn't you just tell me? Believe it or not I would have understood."

"That hardly excuses him for telling you about my erectile dysfunction! It was not his place to do so!" Archer hissed.

"Your what?" Kimblee's eyes shot open and it was like his entire emotional slate was wiped clean. That…was not something the alchemist expected to hear. "You can't get it up?"

Archer paled, and this time it wasn't from the ever increasing blood loss. It was becoming increasnigly clear that Tucker may not have told Kimblee about his problem in specifics. Archer couldn't help the stutter. "Wh-what did Tucker tell you?"

Kimblee spoke very slowly as a grin wormed his way on his face. Archer was slowly and steadily turning red as a beat; it was adorable. "He said you loved me back but didn't want to date me for fear of getting thrown out of the army. Somehow I think what you actually told him is way more interesting."

"I-" Archer began to respond but started to notice little black spots. Ah yes, what wonderful timing – and for once he wasn't being facetious. Passing out would solve his dilemma quite nicely. Archer blinked again and realized his vision was fading completely; and all he could see where two very amused golden eyes. Which, was much better than dull, depressed eyes. Amused, they were actually quite pretty. "Don't feel so good…"

Archer hit the ground with a thud and Kimblee rolled his eyes. Like something as insignificant as medical attention was going to deter the alchemist from this juicy bit of information.

But first he had to get the man out of the hallway. Kimblee tried not to enjoy carrying Archer over his shoulder too much.


Tucker was sweating through his fur.

The tension in his lab couldn't have gotten any thicker if you had filled the room with pea soup. He had a crazy special ops snake chimera sitting on the bed created for her all those weeks ago (her heavy restraints giving Tucker no comfort), a cage full of Archer's chimera huddled together in fear of Marta, Archer himself sitting on a stool shirtless and wounds wrapped absently petting his favorite chimera (who he had let out) and Kimblee sitting cross-legged on a table looking for all the world like the cat that ate the canary.

Maybe his little experiment hadn't been such a good idea after all.

"Must we hold this conversation here?" Archer nearly whined as his face continued to remain red. Ms. Marta was sitting no less than a few yards away from him and this conversation involved her. It was embarrassing enough on its own! Damn that Kimblee. Sensing his bad mood, the small chimera laid down on the ground under the table.

"Nope." Kimblee glared. He'd gotten shoved around enough; it was his turn to be in charge, dammit! Kimblee turned back to the giant lying Chimera and tilted his head to try and get a better look at that upside-down head. "Now, why don't you tell us what Archer really told you about his feelings concerning me, Tucker?"

Tucker looked over at Archer's scowling face and swallowed thickly. "I don't…"

"Speak."

"He likes you but he can't get it up for you. He's scared of not being able to perform in bed should you get together…" Tucker whispered softly. "Not those exact words, but close enough."

"That explains why Archer kept pushing me away, but not the Marta thing." Kimblee waved his finger. "Care to explain that?"

"I don't actually know…" Tucker shied away closer to his equipment. Maybe if he was quiet enough, he could sneak back to Nina when Kimblee finally looked away. "She was never mentioned."

Marta, in the meantime, was rolling her eyes. Couldn't they have just killed her? Did she really have to sit here and listen to this relationship garbage? Marta would have expressed said opinion, but she was gagged. And there were pink pillows on her bed. Pink! Marta pulled against her straight jacket and sighed at yet again being unable to budge the thing. Life sucked.

"Your turn." Kimblee turned on the table to face the ever-increasingly adorable, sulking Archer. The man was so out of his element injured and embarrassed that the Crimson Alchemist couldn't help but feel giddy. "If you like me so much, why'd you kiss Marta?"

Archer glared. He wanted to respond "It's none of your business" but in fact, it was very much Kimblee's business. Archer mumbled out a small reply too quiet for anyone to hear. Kimblee slapped his hands together with an evil grin and Archer gulped fearing for both the cute chimera under the table who was well within reach and his own personal safety. It seems his good mood was misleading. Archer answered a smidgeon louder this time. "She," he paused for the right words, "excited me."

Kimblee grinned; jealousy be damned this was just too funny. Archer could have competed with a tomato for brightest red. "Be more specific."

"Dammit, Kimblee!" Archer hit the table with his fist. "I haven't felt a thing for anybody in years and when I saw Ms. Marta I got excited and I acted on it. And now that I'm thoroughly embarrassed about having to admit that, are you happy?"

"Not really." Kimblee muttered and indulged in a bit of sulking himself.

"For the love of." Archer buried his head into this arms and winced when his wound pulled against the sutures. (Tucker was yet again proving his usefulness despite his latest disaster with Kimblee). "The attraction was purely physical. I had a reaction and I was weak. What more do you want?"

"To know why I didn't do it for you and she did." Kimblee huffed childishly. "We both love war and killing things. I could have sworn that did it for you."

Archer looked up at Kimblee and slid his eyes over to Marta in the cage. She was now also red (Wouldn't you, if you were being talked in such a distasteful fashion? She was still a lady.) and embarrassed. "Kimblee, she's flexible, deadly and blonde with pert breasts. You're missing those last two."

Tucker snickered in the corner softly to himself. Kimblee's face was hilarious. The chimera shut up however when the Alchemist glared at him. He definitely needed an excuse to sneak out of the room and tend to his Nina.

"So you're saying if I had tits and blonde hair you'd do me?" Kimblee questioned.

"No" Archer sighed and rubbed his face trying to imagine Kimblee in such a fashion. "That would be just weird. You'd make a terrible woman."

"Then what do you want?" Kimblee muttered.

"Right now?" Archer looked up at the other man. Maybe, a little honest might do him some good. Injuring his own price was a small price to pay for the emotional roller coaster Kimblee's been riding; insane or not. "I just don't want you to leave."

Kimblee bit his lip and looked over his shoulder at Tucker and Marta. One chimera was still snickering and the other looked like she had found a whole new reason to want all of them dead. Maybe it was time for a little bit of privacy. "Oy, show's over. Get out and drug her on your way."

Archer watched with just a slight bit of amusement as Tucker hurried out of the corner with a needle towards Ms. Marta's confines. She struggled but was out like a light moments after being injected while the big alchemist escaped into a back room to his precious Nina. Kimblee must have done something to scare the hell out of him while Archer was unconscious. "You couldn't have sent them out for the embarrassing part of this conversation?"

"This is the embarrassing part." Kimblee lifted an eyebrow. "Guy your age having trouble getting it up's nothing special. Guy with your pride admitting he needs somebody…" Kimblee shrugged. "Little different."

Archer laughed despite himself. This entire situation was insane. "I guess."

Kimblee pushed off the table to sit on a stool next to Archer. He kicked the stool next to him to send the dog-chimera scurrying off to the other side of the room before giving Archer a pointed look and waited for him to continue speaking. Those blue eyes wouldn't meet his face, but they did soften slightly.

"It's been a long time." Archer started slowly. "Since I've enjoyed the company of well, anyone." Kimblee continued to look strangely thoughtful and Archer wondered if the apocalypse was coming. The newly promoted Colonel continued regardless. "And now that I know how nice it can be to 'hang out' as it were, with someone whose company I enjoy, I fear going back to a life of solitude.

"I guess in a way," Archer continued, "if we were lovers I could avoid that loneliness but the truth is, I'd much rather have the friend."

"And friends with benefits is out, because?" Kimblee waved a hand in the air.

"I explained that. Don't make me say it again."

"Fine." Kimblee leant forward and looked at Archer again. Fact is, Kimblee wanted to be selfish. "What if I were to say we either stayed together as lovers or not at all?"

"Bargaining are we?"

"It's been a long time for you, but I've never felt this way about anyone." Crimson tilted his head back. Archer still wouldn't look at him. "And we all know I'm a selfish prick."

Archer looked the other man over from the corner of his eye. "You're bluffing. You wouldn't leave."

Kimblee looked at Archer and smirked. "You got me."

"I figured as much." Archer was tired. Between Marta, the Führer, Kimblee and the rest of the mess going on today he just wanted to go home and take a nap. Maybe when he woke up things would make sense: Kimblee would be his friend and drinking companion and they'd be off to war together. Not arguing like teenagers over their feelings.

"I was going to rape you today."

Archer paused and very slowly looked over at the Crimson alchemist. A calm had washed over the other man and Archer was suddenly reminded that Kimblee was indeed more than a love-sick fool: he was a homicidal bomb alchemist. It was funny the times people chose to remember traits of other people they had locked away in their minds. "Excuse me?"

"Before Marta over there attacked, I was looking for you." Kimblee started to peel off his jacket. "The plan was to convince you I could keep our relationship a secret from the army and then proceed to bang you into a desk accordingly."

It was almost frightening how calmly Kimblee was talking. Considering how their emotions had covered the entire spectrum in the last twenty-four hours he shouldn't be too surprised. Maybe someone spiked their water with something… "And if I still refused?"

"Like I said, I'd just do it anyway." Kimblee shrugged. "If you really want to know, the only thing that's keeping me from doing it now is your shoulder wound."

"How comforting." Archer sighed and rested his chin in his hand. "So what made my bum so interesting again?"

"It's attached to you?"

Archer laughed. Kimblee's eyes had been so wide and almost innocent when he replied that Archer couldn't help himself. The Colonel wasn't sure if he wanted to laugh or cry at the moment. A war-obsessed Colonel with no sex drive and a homicidal, lunatic of an alchemist – together. "We are the most screwed up couple on the face of the planet."

Kimblee paused before letting a small smirk join the corner of his mouth. He stretched his arms out languidly and let one fall around Archer's shoulders. "So, we're a couple then are we?"

"Do I have a choice?"

"Not really."

"Than yes, I guess we are."

It wasn't completely the reaction Kimblee had wanted, but sitting here quietly in the lab surrounded by freaks of nature and bloodied floors, it was good enough.