Title: For King and Country
Beta: fishuu
Genre: General
Summary: Drabbly, animeverse. The calm before the storm. Roy reflects on the nature of duty and loyalty, and the sacrifice of a dream.
Warning: Spoilers for Ep. 48.
Comments: This should be titled The Attack of the Run-On Sentences. Written for fma_fic_contest prompt "stream of consciousness." Tied for 2nd. Feel free to leave feedback, positive or negative. Thanks for reading.

The thing about playing a chess game against yourself is that no matter what the outcome, you always wind up losing in the end.

Roy closes his eyes, blocks the board from view, and thinks of all his men trekking north to stage a coup (a disturbance, a distraction, a diversion, and the only word he refuses to let himself think is death, because there's no room in this world for hesitation once the stakes are stacked high enough to kill for, to die for), all for his sake, for his goals, so that he can risk it all and maybe come away with a victory that's a loss.

Because he knows there's no way he'll make Fuhrer after this, and it's unfair that he's asking them to give their lives for a cause that's dead, but in the end, he's an alchemist and he understands this language of cost and sacrifice, the principle of equivalent exchange. Give and get, push and pull, and prices most of all, because this is one game in which he has to be the one to give so that everyone else – so that the entire damn country – can live, or maybe just breathe again past the iron stranglehold of the military.

(But maybe it's for himself, too, so that he can breathe past the vines slowly tightening around his lungs and his heart and his chest, because Maes – )

And sometimes you have to forfeit the game. Sometimes you have to surrender, lose a king, to gain what's lost for the greater good. Maybe that's the price, after all, for all he's done, for the desert sand and the fire and the gritty blood smeared across his hands, and it's not nearly enough to atone for his sins but maybe, just maybe, it's enough to see them all through to the end.

It's not about dreams or successes. It's about the future and duty, because in the end, when the day of reckoning is knocking on the door – in the end, someone has to do it, and if nobody else will, then it has to be him. It has to be him because he's the only one who knows about the homunculi, about the military, and he's the only one who can do anything about it all. If not him, then nobody else, and it's duty. It's always been duty and loyalty – loyalty to the country, loyalty to a dead man, a best friend lying buried two meters below the ground.

And he wonders. He wonders if Maes would've approved, then shakes his head, and tosses back the rest of the tumbler. Feels the whiskey burn its way down to the pit of his stomach. Warm, like bravery and courage and the sun all rolled into one, and he thinks, maybe – maybe he can do this – and then he laughs because it's not a question of maybe, it's a question of when and where and how, and those have already been decided for him. He looks down at the board, notes the way the pieces are set up, and smiles a humorless smile.

A path to victory may not exist, but the board's set, and all he can do is wait for the checkmate.