Death of Innocence
Author – cornerofmadness
Disclaimer – definitely not mine. All rights belong to Arakawa
Rating – PG-13
Skewed Perspectives series, story #5
Characters – predominately Roy & Kimbley, a little Maes & Riza
Pairings – gen fic but there is implied Roy/Riza, Roy/Maes and onesided Kimbley/Roy
Warnings - angst
Series – manga
Time line spoilers - set in the Ishbal arc so spoilers for anything past 50
Summary – He had crossed his line in the sand. Roy didn't know if he could uncross it.
Word Count- 3037
Author's Note- This was started forever ago for a set of Ishbal stories I was doing for 7stages on livejournal but was never finished. I finished it for fma_fic_contest's innocence prompt
While this is a series, all the stories are stand alones. Story number one in the series is Bitter Fog
story #2 is No Good Reason
story #3 is The Right Temptation
story #4 is Like a Knife
* * *
He thought his line in the sand would be to never to take the life of a child, not knowingly, not standing there eye to eye. Roy had seen the boy shaking. Had the child recognized him for who he was? Had the poor little thing feared dying in flames? Or was the terror in his eyes just for the blue uniform? All Roy remembered was seeing a gun come up, a rifle too big for such small arms. He snapped and the shrill sounds were awful. The taste of barbequing flesh had filled his mouth, assaulted his nose as innocence died, arms pulling into the pugilist position. Soldiers had come to throw the slight charred body in one of the mass graves.
Unsure of how he had even got back into camp, Roy had finally collapsed near his tent, vomiting until he thought he'd turned inside out. Tears blinded his eyes. His nose and mouth burned from the acid and bile he had brought up. Why hadn't he just let the boy kill him? Death would have hurt less.
Feeling hands on him, Roy jerked his shoulders. No one should comfort a monster like him. Looking up, he saw the two faces he wanted to see least. Maes and Riza should be nowhere near him. He would contaminate them just by being around them. "Leave me alone," he grumbled, his voice ruined by the effort of vomiting.
"Roy, you're not getting rid of us." Maes's voice was hard as desert stone.
"Get away from me!"
"You shouldn't be alone," Riza whispered, her face pale as she reached out to him.
Roy turned, wondering where he could run where they wouldn't follow. Maes caught his arm and Roy whipped around, belting him. He rocked Maes back and, feeling Riza coming in to grab him, Roy fled. He didn't want to have to hurt her to get away. Roy ran blindly. He didn't care if he entered enemy territory. It would probably bring relief. He didn't hear his friends behind him. Roy hoped they stayed away. He needed to be truly alone.
Sagging down on the rocks, he wanted to melt into them. The vicious orb hanging in the sky seemed up to the task. What fool had designed their uniforms? Spats over their boots to keep out sand was one of the few concessions to the desert. The material was entirely too heavy and the metal buttons and epaulets heated to the point of blistering. Roy let his physical discomfort wash away his mental anguish, if only for a little while.
Why had things turned out like this? He didn't hate people, certainly not the way people hated him back. It wasn't just the Ishbalans who disliked him. Soldiers wouldn't come around him or any of the alchemists. His moronic idealism, which had lead him here, looked so childish in the face of combat that he was embarrassed by his impassioned speech to Master Hawkeye. His current orders made it clear the military wasn't merely protecting their country. He felt like their mission was one of pure annihilation and he was the tool to do it. His teacher had been right and the thanks the man got was Roy dooming Hawkeye's daughter along with the boy Hawkeye had seen as a son.
Something moved near him. Roy's gut tightened in revulsion. Of all the horrors of the desert, Roy had no idea why this one bothered him so much. The fat, hairy spider scuttled out from its rocky overhang and captured a beetle, dragging it back to the shade. It took all his strength not to fry the damnable thing. Roy knew the Ishbalans ate the arachnids, knew they were a great source of protein, but all he could see were too many furry legs and evil eyes gleaming out of its cephalothorax. All right, at this short distance he was probably imagining the eyes, but he knew they were there, right along with venom-dripping fangs.
People all around him wanted him dead but it was a stupid spider he was afraid of. The people probably deserved to yank him out of his hidey hole and kill him slowly for the things he had done. He deserved to be given over to the parents of the innocent child he had just killed. Innocent, his mind insisted, ignoring the fact the kid was holding a gun and intent on using it.
Why hadn't he listened to Master Hawkeye? Why hadn't the man found words that could have reached Roy? Surely Hawkeye knew what the military could make Roy do. Of course, Hawkeye had railed against him hard and the man had failed to take into account his daughter revealing the secrets the man had hidden on her flesh. Oh, the sheer insanity of that. If Master Hawkeye hadn't died, Roy didn't know what he might have done to his mentor for such a travesty. Roy could only imagine what Riza must feel like, always wondering what would happen if some alchemist suspected her secret or what a man might think when he saw her back. Hell, she couldn't even wear some of the low-cut dance hall dresses, condemned to live life as a frump, a beautiful woman like that. Beautiful naïve Riza, how could he have twisted her into a killer? For that alone, he deserved to die.
Roy heard footsteps behind him. He didn't turn. Instead, he steeled himself, ready to die. It was entirely possible an Ishbalan could have penetrated this far into their territory. He didn't hear a gun cock, so he figured death wasn't going to give him an easy way out of his misery. "Hughes, what do you want? I said I wanted to be left alone."
"Good guess but wrong."
At the familiar voice, Roy turned to see Kimbley leaning against a rock outcropping. He had that insufferable little smirk on his face. Roy sighed. "What the hell do you want, Kimbley?"
"Testy. Have you been out in the sun too long, Flame?"
"Too fucking long." Roy stared up at the hard unbroken blue of the sky. "This is taking too long. I…" He bit off the statement. He wasn't about to talk to Kimbley about his feelings over killing that kid. It would amuse the psychopath and if there was one thing Roy really knew about Kimbley, it was that the man had no conscience. Kimbley killed gleefully. Roy hated having the man around. Kimbley was a perfect example of why people feared alchemists.
"I agree," Kimbley said, coming over to sit next to Roy after carefully checking the flat rock for scorpions and the like.
Roy's eyes widened. "Really? You seem to enjoy the ability to hone your skill." He considered that for a moment. Kimbley had gotten so much better since the alchemists had been in the desert. His improvement was unprecedented and, to be painfully honest, Roy was a little jealous. "You've gotten masterful," he admitted, scowling.
Kimbley's smile was colder than Briggs. "Thank you, Flame. You're improving yours as well but I can't help but notice your skills seem to be evolving to hurt less and take more prisoners. It doesn't pay to be soft. Look what happened to Armstrong."
It wasn't fair what happened to Armstrong but Roy knew Kimbley wouldn't agree. Now he, too, had accidentally killed a child. Roy understood why Armstrong had gone to pieces. Roy was crumbling himself. "I just wish it was over," he mumbled.
"There's way to get this done fast."
In spite of himself, Roy found himself listening to Kimbley. "What?" Why had Riza and Maes listened to him for once? If they had ignored him, they would be here not letting Roy listen to Red Lotus. Roy didn't want to hear what this man might have in mind but, in the mood Roy was in, he didn't have the energy to tell Kimbley to go to hell. Still, if it could bring an end to the bloody hell he was trapped in then maybe he should hear the man out. "How?"
Kimbley turned from him, making a retching sound. For a moment, Roy thought maybe one of those cursed scorpions or that fat spider had found a stingable spot on Kimbley. Oddly, he wasn't moved to help his fellow alchemist. How many innocents would survive if Kimbley were to die here?
The long-haired man spat something into his hand. Covered in salvia, it glittered like crystallized blood. Kimbley displayed the gem cautiously, as if expecting Roy to grab it.
He needn't worry. Roy was too stunned to move. He couldn't believe what he saw. He'd read about the Red Lion legend all his life: the Great Elixir, the Quintessence, and the Red Stone. "Is that really the Philosopher's Stone?"
"Smart man." Kimbley lipped it and the evidence disappeared into his mouth. Had he swallowed it? The answer seemed to be yes, and Roy wondered how it stayed in Kimbley's stomach without sliding into the man's intestines. For one insane, greedy moment, Roy pictured himself digging the stone out of the alchemist's charred body. "Interested in earning one, Flame?"
Roy wanted nothing from this man but he was already imagining what he could do with a Philosopher's Stone. In the back of his mind, he remembered his teacher telling him about the harsh, horrible things that were rumored to be required to make one, how fruitless and life-consuming that path could be. Hawkeye had done Roy wrong before and Roy let that voice fade away. "Earn it?"
"There are those who'll back up the best of us with this kind of power." Kimbley's eyes glinted. "Interested?"
In spite of himself, Roy nodded. "If it helps end this sooner."
"I'll be by your tent tonight with the information. They don't just give them to anyone. I'll have to let them know you might be ready."
Was Kimbley sure about that? Kimbley would be the last person Roy would give such a thing to. That set off warning alarms in Roy's head but he ignored them, too. "Fine."
"We'd better get back to camp. It's not good to sit out in this sun for too long."
Roy nodded, lost in thought. Was the Philosopher's Stone real? Where had Kimbley gotten it and could anything good really come of getting one himself?
* * *
"So you finally got the Flame Alchemist on the hook."
Kimbley cast an uneasy glance at the creature sprawled on his cot. Envy's long hair spilled off the edge of the uncomfortable canvas sling and its skirt had bunched up a little on its thighs. If Envy moved its legs, Kimbley would have a view of whatever equipment – if any - the homunculus had under there. As a shape shifter, Kimbley wondered if the manufactured human had a gender of its own. "He's nibbling at the bait," Kimbley continued the fishing metaphor, hoping it was right. Kimbley couldn't imagine anything more tedious than fishing, though after looking at nothing but ugly rock for so long, he wouldn't mind seeing a lake.
Envy sat up, luckily not flashing Kimbley. "I don't think you'll catch him."
Kimbley massaged his scalp, feeling the desert grit until his fingers. He had already used up his water rations for the day but it was impossible to get clean. Vanity wouldn't let him cut all his hair off. "Why do you say that?"
"The man's disgustingly moral." Envy's face screwed up. "Too bad we can't just kill him."
Kimbley wondered at that statement. Kimbley wasn't sure if Envy was aware that he knew the creature was puppeteering many of the generals. That said, he didn't think Envy was smart enough to coordinate the massive plan on its own. Envy was cunning but not necessarily brilliantly smart. It didn't see all the angles. Besides, a homunculus always had a master. "Why can't we kill him? Friendly fire is easy to organize."
Envy waved him off. "Do you think going to Mustang's tent is wise?"
"No, but he wouldn't come here if I had asked. He surely doesn't trust me enough. Mustang is weak." Kimbley snorted. "Sitting out in the desert, mourning his actions. He'll need to feel in control. Being in his tent will give him that illusion. We can't talk in private in this camp so, going there seemed sensible. At least we alchemists get our own tent, small and smelly as it is."
"That's because no one likes you. People fear what they don't understand," Envy replied. "It's what makes humans so unpredictable." The creature grinned, its smile wide and frightening. "That's what makes war so easy to provoke."
Kimbley shrugged. "I trade off the concept. Why do you even want to augment Mustang's powers beyond the obvious?"
"It is beautiful in its destructiveness, isn't it?" Envy smirked. "Mustang is supposed to be bright. He's young and would be a long-term asset."
Kimbley nodded though he didn't honestly care what Envy's plans were, well a little insomuch as they involved him. The thing that excited Kimbley was tearing Mustang down. The death of innocence and loss of high moral ground was wonderfully stimulating. That was why he had gone after the girl sniper at the camp fire. It helped reveal Mustang's feelings for the woman and that made it more fun. "I'll see what I can do for you," he replied, heading out into the dark.
* * *
This was a huge mistake. Roy knew it. He had no intentions of hearing Kimbley out. Yes, he was curious. Yes, he couldn't help but want to hold a Philosopher's Stone in his hands, but not at whatever price Kimbley might attach to it. What if it was already too late? Roy knew the stone existed. What would these people who had given it to Kimbley do if he turned the offer down? Maybe he should listen. Unfortunately for him, Riza was on guard duty tonight and he had no idea where Maes had gotten off to.
"Mustang," Kimbley's voice hissed from outside the tent flap.
Roy did the only thing he could; he let Kimbley in. Roy stood in the center of the tent, saying nothing. He hated the smug look on Kimbley's face, as if the other alchemist knew he had Roy over a barrel.
"Have you given the proposal thought?" Kimbley asked.
"I don't know enough to make a decision," Roy replied, thinking that would be a safe answer.
Kimbley shrugged. "Probably true but how much do you need to know, Flame? The stone will give you nearly unlimitless power. You can help end this war here and now." Red Lotus closed the space between them, standing too close for Roy's comfort. "I know how you want to protect your men."
Roy nodded. Damn, it was so tempting, but then he would be indebted to Kimbley and whoever these mysterious benefactors were. Roy didn't like that idea at all. "Who are these people, the ones with the stones?"
"People higher up the chain than us," Kimbley's voice dropped in pitch. "People who can make a difference in this world. Doesn't that sound good?"
Roy blinked. What was with that little smile on Kimbley's face? Was Red Lotus flirting with him? What in the hell? This is what he got for not violently quashing those 'Toy Mustang' rumors about how he got from Academy to his rank so fast. All alchemists were given the rank of major upon joining the military but he was a lot younger than most alchemists so people thought the worst of him. "It depends on the difference they're trying to make."
Kimbley laughed lowly. "I just knew you would be difficult, Mustang. I think you and I need to go out tomorrow and I'll give you a demonstration of the stone's real power." He leaned in and whispered in Roy's ear. "I'll even let you use it. Doesn't that sound exciting?"
Damn, it did, but Roy couldn't let himself show it. It didn't even matter that the stone had a grotesque resting place inside Kimbley's body. "I don't know."
"What's to know?" Kimbley's hand brushed along the line of Roy's jaw before cupping the back of his neck. He pulled Roy closer. "It's power, sweet, intoxicating power and it won't be offered so freely again."
Roy jerked free. "I didn't say no."
Kimbley's eyes gleamed. "I know."
Before Roy had to make a choice, the tent flap opened and Maes came in, a flask in hand. The lanky man came to a sudden stop, his sharp eyes sweeping over the two alchemists standing just a little too close together. "Oh…am I interrupting?"
"No," Roy muttered, moving away from Kimbley.
"Yes," Kimbley said. "What did you want?"
"Roy." Maes laughed, rubbing the back of his head. "That sounds wrong, doesn't it? I got something for you, Major."
"Good. I think we're done for tonight, Red Lotus."
"I think we're just beginning." Kimbley gave him a look that made Roy's skin shudder, leaving him half wondering just how Kimbley thought he'd pass the stone to Roy. "But it can wait. Think about it, Mustang."
"Yeah," Roy said, willing the man to just go. Luckily he did without causing more of a scene. Roy slumped onto his cot. He held out his hand for the flask.
"What the hell was that, Roy?"
Roy took a swig before answering. The whiskey burned all the way down. "I think I've caught the attention of those in power."
"Why am I thinking that's not a good thing?" Maes looked back at the tent flap. He settled down on the canvas floor.
"It's not. Thanks for getting here when you did. I needed the rescue." Roy drank deeper this time before handing Maes back his flask. "Sorry for hitting you earlier."
Maes eyed him critically. "You're still a mess."
"I killed a kid, Maes. What else can I be? I know eventually we'll all accidentally kill a civilian, but it hurts."
Maes patted Roy's booted foot. "Of course it does. It's supposed to. It just means you're human."
Roy thought about what he could be with that red stone. "Some days, I wonder."