A/N: This is basically a fic about Hughes's thoughts as he fought in the Ishvaal war. I have never seen a fic about Hughes's darker side and wanted to write something with that interesting character take. This was written for FMA Fanfiction Contest for the prompt Cold
Warnings: violence, dark themes
Losing My Religion
When in war, one had to leave their heart home. There was no time to think back on the happy days when enemy troops shot at you, trying to protect their country you were trying to take with force.
Hughes pulled the trigger and shot another Ishvaal.
Dreams gave you energy, some excuse for your actions. To Hughes, dreams meant possible life with Gracia but with an eternal burden he could never repay.
Another one down.
He had been fighting for months, got used to the looming threat. His troop had become a second family to him, lessening the never fading guilt with their corny jokes and empty words of sympathy. Some had already taken their own lives but higher-ups had covered those cases up, blaming it on the enemy's side.
Hughes reloaded the riffle and took aim again, shifting a bit when a guy fell beside him.
"I don't want to die, Roy."
That was what he had told his friend. Back home he was the one to take care of others and had tried to apply the same technique in the field. After a few weeks, he had realized it was no use. In war you had to be selfish and only think of yourself, otherwise you would get killed. At first, he had felt sorry for the Ishvaals. After all, they stood no chance against Amestris Army and their weapons. He had tried to be kind and only harm them scarcely thus preventing them from moving forward to their certain dooms.
On contrary to his beliefs, Ishvaals were as cruel as the Amestrians. He couldn't even count the times he had seen friends die or get injured by the brown-skinned people. The first time had been a true shock for all of them. After a while, he had got used to it. Bombs no longer got him started and the sound of bullets flying through the air was music to his ears.
Battlefield was his life now.
When he had been a teenager, he had been cold to the outside world. He had gone through a phase of complete isolation, when he had refused to talk to anyone, dwelling in his own thoughts and writing short stories about death and the dark side of human mind.
Sipping his coffee, Hughes wondered whether his Mum still had those journals full of dark thoughts. He remembered her finding them one day and sending him to therapist. He had to his parents agony refused to open up to the kind elderly man. He had answered the questions in a sarcastic way, giving the psychiatrist nothing to work on.
Here, he had once again let the teenager in him come out. He took the horrible events such as destroying entire cities like they were nothing more than shopping for milk. He made friends with everyone in his unit but never let anyone too close. He knew it was important to have someone to rely on but selfishness was once again the main motive. It was much harder to leave behind an injured friend than an acquaintance.
Hughes let his eyes rest on everyone around the camp fire. He knew the names of all of them, knew whether they had family or girlfriends. He could strike up a conversation with anyone, talking about this and that but he didn't want anyone to get too close to him. He didn't tell much about his life, interests and dreams. He could talk about anyone else's life but not his own; it hurt too much.
They were all good men and he cherished them all. He certainly hoped they could be true friends after the war ended and they no longer had to be alert.
Suddenly the happy chatter stopped and all the heads turned to the same direction. Hughes mimicked the maneuver.
State Alchemists had arrived.
Followed by gazes, some of respect, some of pity and some of pure loathing, Roy sat down beside his friend, resting his arms on his knees, head bent so nobody could see his face.
Hughes offered the dark-haired man his half-empty cup which the younger one accepted with a nod. After few refreshing gulps, Mustang slightly licked his lips, grease still covering them.
"How many?" Hughes asked bluntly, resting his gaze on Armstrong who walked further, looking ready to burst into tears.
"Three," Mustang answered with just as much emotion, swirling the foul drink before taking another sip.
Just then, Kimbley came to their fire, taking a cigarette from a man with blond hair. The thin man didn't seem to be bothered by the fact hundreds of lives had been lost in just a couple of hours and the same would go on for as long as the Fuhrer insisted.
"Crimson seems to be enjoying himself," Hughes stated and the younger man nodded, his eyes telling the whole story.
Kimbley was born for war.
It was Hughes's way to cope with this life: he had to push his feelings back. Whereas Armstrong had tried to stay true to himself even at the darkest of times, he had learnt to let everything swirl around him. He wasn't one to change the world, so he had to survive the best he could. He didn't allow himself to think about anything he had done: the lives he had taken, the plans he had supervised, the bodies he had dragged. He couldn't think about them here. If he stopped even for a moment, he would end up in a ditch himself.
"I don't want to die, Roy."
That was true; he didn't want to die. He had to hold on one more day and the one after it, keep his sanity and let everything go past him without even blinking.
Hughes contemplated how long he could still keep on the mask before he completely lost himself to the world of no emotions.