Disclaimer: If I owned FMA, there would be a musical episode.

Merces

The quality of mercy is not strained.

It droppeth as the gentle rain from heaven

Upon the place beneath. It is twice blest:

It blesseth him that gives and him that takes.

~Shakespeare

One heavy wood door hung by a single hinge, the other lay on the stone floor within. A shadow filled the doorway and jerked up the length of late afternoon light that marked a straight path into the open building. The soldier made a slow, careful entry past the polished doors, pockmarked and splintered with bullet holes, and rounded the corner out of the entryway into the grand hall with a single arm upraised. There he stopped, standing still save for the white cloak that rippled in the constant desert wind that reached even inside this once holy temple.

The arm lowered; not a single living native soul had been found in this city for over a week and this was practiced, over-cautious habit. No one would hear them here. The soldier turned and stepped back into the yellow stream of light from the doorway; the knife-edge shadow he cast stretched many times his height along the floor behind him.

"It's clear," he called out.

A smaller form slipped around the door and entered. Her shade engulfed him for a split second before shrinking down his uniform with her approach.

"Are you okay?"

A quick duck of one shoulder helped slide the pack to the ground.

"Yes." Her voice was too strong.

"No, please! I beg you, in the name of Ishvala, have -"

Kimblee tossed the confiscated rifle down the alley. The barrel burst in midair, the remains scattering in every direction. Mustang lifted his arm to shield his face from a few bits of shrapnel.

The rebel quailed, gripping Kimblee's bare arm more tightly, but the tattooed palm bore down harder on his chest.

The temple held one piece of furniture besides the woven mats scattered around: a podium-like altar. Mustang gathered some for her to lay on afterwards while Hawkeye spread out the medical supplies from the pack in neat rows onto a clean cloth.

The last thing she withdrew, a red and black banded scarf with the ends tied off in small loops, she laid over the altar. When she met his eyes, he turned around to give her privacy to undress.

He simpered and leaned in closer. A few strands of long black hair wisped over his face in the breeze. "You're either foolishly brave or just a fool to demand I let you go after trying to kill two State Alchemists."

They should be moving on already. Mustang waved the few Amestris soldiers that accompanied them to wait farther back.

"I have a family that needs me! A wife, three young children!" The Ishvalan squirmed at the pressure between the hand and the wall at his back. "I'm sorry, I'm just trying to give them cover to escape!"

Kimblee breathed through his nose, lips drawn in a thin line. "Fine!" he answered, and jerked his hand from the man's chest. The would-be victim slid boneless to the ground, staring up at the alchemist in shock. "Go on! Run, before they get you and your family!" Kimblee shouted, throwing out a pale finger down the alley to the open street.

Without waiting for him to change his mind, the man slid along the wall away from the alchemist until he reached the end of the building, not once daring to look away until he rounded the corner at a dead run.

"You let him go?" Mustang sounded skeptical.

Kimblee walked the direction the Ishvalan had gone with a grin. "Cover fire means they're close. Watch."

He didn't want to watch, but he followed him into the street anyway. Watched as the father gestured for his family to come out of a neighboring house; as Kimblee clapped and touched a wall; as alchemy raced to rip the family to elemental bits when the man reached for his daughter's hand.

"I'm ready," she breathed. What he saw when he turned made his heart plunge. Riza, Professor Hawkeye's daughter, kneeled at the altar with the Ishvalan scarf looped around it and wrapped at her wrists for her to hold on to, wearing nothing but her uniform slacks, boots, and white gaiters. Waiting to be burned.

"Beautiful," he breathed. His narrowed eyes glinted with his fixed stare at the spray of human remains. "One blast, one entire family."

"You didn't have to be so cruel, Kimblee." Mustang turned away from the grim display, his face pulled in a tight frown. He found the madman somewhat more tolerable to look at in comparison.

Kimblee snorted. "Cruel? This is what he asked for. He was reunited with his family and they no longer need him. A fair transaction."

She wanted this to relieve her of that burden on her back. To live with the freedom to be Riza Hawkeye, an individual.

"My patience paid off. Five instead of one. However-"

He spun on his heel to saunter down the path prescribed by the brass.

"-Never let it be said I never showed more kindness than was demanded by fairness, Flame." Kimblee flashed a shark-like grin over his sleeveless shoulder and eased both hands into his pockets. "Think your method is 'nicer'?" he asked, then threw back his head and laughed.

There was the flick of ignition cloth between calloused fingers, the snap of alchemy igniting air, and the whoosh of flame, but he heard nothing else once the stifled, choking sounds began when she fought to smother her screams. The traditional scarf pulled taut but held.

Through the yellow-red light, he focused on the inked skin blistering and pulling tight, bursting and weeping, then charring at the spreading edges.

Hawkeye finally gave in and screamed.

He grit his teeth and moved on to the next portion without letting up the flame.

It blesseth him that gives...

... and him that takes.

AN: Theme: Kimblee and Mustang in Ishval: What is mercy? (500-1000) Challenge given on Thanksgiving (Nov. 25th for the rest of you!). I have no idea what possessed me to write something so complicated with a 1000 word limit. I kicked my own arse here, lol. 992 words total (FF lies about word count). Never have I been so paranoid about word count!

Many thanks to mebh, Disastergirl, and MegamiZe for the challenge (check out their works!), HayakuGaki and GrinningDog for feedback and enduring my writing neuroticism, and EarnestHum0r's Violet Hill – Ishval AMV which provided all the visualization (and soundtrack) I needed.