by Melissa the Sheep
Dedication: For pinstripesuit, who got me thinking about this.
Rating: PG-13 (for chopping action)
Summary: Barry explores the lab. (Somewhat cracky.)
Date: February 18-19, 2005
Spoilers: Through episode 21, with very slight basis in 34
Disclaimer: Fullmetal Alchemist belongs to various people and corporations, who are all far richer and more famous than me because of it.
Feedback: In LJ comments or at sheep4859 [at] hotmail [dot] com
Fannish journal: msheep
Archive: List/community archives and by submission. Otherwise, ask.
Chopping had been Barry's greatest joy in life.
When those army scientists bound his soul to the armor and gave him the task of guarding the lab, they had promised him that he could chop up any intruders. Lust and Envy, who seemed to be in charge too, had even given him a big heavy meat cleaver and a nice long knife so he would have all the tools he needed. After those months in solitary confinement and the weeks in that other lab being experimented on, he'd been absolutely giddy with anticipation of chopping again.
It had been three weeks now since he arrived here, and there had been no intruders yet.
It wasn't as if there was nothing around that could be chopped--the basement was full of chimeras, after all. But Barry had always felt very businesslike about butchering animals, so chimeras didn't sound like much fun.
What Barry really wanted was a person to chop. Preferably a nice, soft lady. Lust was out of the question--he had tried chopping her when she gave him the cleaver, but she was too quick, and checked his move with a long talon pressed threateningly against his seal. She'd made it clear that if he attacked her or Envy, his chopping days would be over for good. Besides Lust and Envy, people were in short supply here.
With nothing to do but patrol and explore the hallways (which weren't very different), Barry was growing bored. So bored, in fact, that he attempted to make small talk with his silent new colleague 48.
"Say," said Barry. "Weren't you in the cell next to me?"
48's head grunted. Well, that was at least something.
Barry tried again. "You're the Slicer brothers right? I always admired your work!"
Another grunt, this one from 48's chest.
"I was Barry the Chopper--did you hear of me?"
Both brothers were silent.
"I really liked to chop women--they're so soft and curvy! Men aren't as much fun, but right now I'd take even--"
"Shut up," said 48's chest.
"Oh, you're not interested in chopping?"
"No," said the chest.
Barry was silent for a moment, staring at his meat cleaver and admiring the sharp blade. He couldn't contain himself for long, though. "Hey, how about cross-dressing? I made a really convincing w--"
48 loomed over him, a screwdriver in hand. The head spoke. "We could hear you through the cell walls the whole time you were in prison, babbling to yourself about meat cleavers and dress patterns."
"If you don't shut up," said the chest, lowering the screwdriver so it pointed at Barry's face, "I will take your armor apart."
"Gah," Barry huffed in annoyance. "I was just trying to be friendly!"
48's chest growled menacingly. Barry folded his arms in a pout and wandered off to explore the dusty hallways some more.
It was amazing what you could find in old storage rooms, Barry thought. There was mostly a lot of dusty glassware and bottles with faded labels and old boring research notes, of course. But in the storage rooms he'd also found all sorts of things that had been left behind when the lab was officially abandoned. He'd found a mannequin arm, half a deck of cards, a teacup with a chipped rim and a broken-off handle, a small teddy bear, a radio that still worked, and even some paintbrushes and dried-out tubes of oil paint.
But the best thing he found was, in a room in the older wing of the lab, a stash of fabric. He immediately noticed that this collection included some nice, supple leather--he clutched the leather to his chest and squealed in delight. He'd always wanted a pair of tight sexy leather pants! They'd been the height of fashion for bad girls (and he'd always wanted to be a bad girl) when he was captured, but he hadn't ever been able to afford a pair. The salary from his job at the meat locker wasn't enough, and of course his chopping hobby left him with no time for a second job that could pay for nice clothes.
His head swam with thoughts of different rises and cuts and pocket styles. As he contemplated the other fabric too, he noted some fluffy white faux fur and decided that a saucy, fur-trimmed vest would be the perfect accompaniment for his new pair of pants. He squealed again, thrilled with his plans for the new outfit.
Giggling with delight, Barry set out to search the old offices, hoping that some of the scientists might have kept sewing kits in their desks in case they popped a button on their lab coats.
Several floors below Barry, hidden away in the oldest portion of the lab, Greed's eyes fluttered open. He lay motionless, conserving his energy, just listening.
Above him, he heard faint clanking, as if someone were walking about in a suit of armor. This was followed by a delighted squeal, then giggling and more clanking. It had probably been the squealing that woke him up, Greed speculated.
He wondered how long he'd been asleep this time. Four years? Five? The lab had been so quiet since the scientists deserted it, and it had been easy to give in to the seal's exhausting influence and just sleep.
There was another clatter of armor, then for a time someone happily humming a little song about sewing and what nice sexy leather pants these would be.
Sexy leather pants? Were those the fashion now? Greed smiled at the thought, and decided that he wanted to get a pair as soon as he escaped. Knee breeches had never really suited him.
Some time later, Barry burst into the room where he'd left 48. "Guess what I made!" he cried.
48 turned around grudgingly to look.
"Tada!" cried Barry, proudly displaying the pants and vest he made. "Aren't they nice? I made them myself. Won't I be the sexiest girl in the place?"
48 was silent for a moment. Finally, the head spoke. " . . . I don't think they'll fit you, 66."
"What?" cried Barry. "Of course they'll fit me! I may be over thirty, but I've worked very hard to keep my figure! I'm the same size I was at high school graduation, I'll have you know!"
"I dare say your current body is a bit larger than that," 48's head said humorlessly.
Barry looked down at his body, and his heart sank. In his delight over the prospect of leather pants, he had completely forgotten that he was a bulky suit of armor. They probably didn't even make leather pants in his current size.
"Now," said 48's chest, "leave us alone."
Head hanging, Barry turned and walked slowly away.
"Are we the only sane people around here?" the head wondered as he watched Barry leave.
"Probably," replied the chest.
After angrily throwing the pants and vest back into the storage room where he'd found the fabric, Barry again wandered the halls of the lab, this time heading downstairs into the basement of the old wing. The architecture seemed even older here in the basement--the walls were stucco, with ornate plaster molding along the ceiling and floor. It looked like stuff he'd seen in history books when he was in school. He kicked idly at the wall, and a patch of plaster crumbled away to reveal brick underneath, rather than the cement walls in the newer parts of the lab.
He continued to kick the wall and crumble the plaster, annoyed at himself for not thinking about the fact that he was a suit of armor. In fact, he doubted that a suit of armor even could look sexy, leather pants or not. At that thought, he gave the wall an extra hard kick.
He was drawing his foot back for another kick, when he paused. Was that a groan he heard from behind the wall? He waited a moment, but heard nothing, so he kicked again.
This time he was sure he heard a groan. Barry squealed. A ghost!
" . . . wish you'd stop that . . . " the groaning voice said weakly.
Barry reconsidered. That didn't sound very ghostly. Maybe it was a fellow prisoner who had also been sent to guard the lab. Or, better yet, maybe it was somebody he could chop!
Excited by that prospect, Barry looked around for a door that would lead to the other side of the wall. There didn't seem to be anything on that side of the hall, except . . . Except for a patch where the stucco was a lighter color and there was no plaster molding where the wall met the floor.
Barry kicked, and the lighter-colored stucco fell away. There was wood behind it, not brick like the rest of the hall. He kicked some more until, sure enough, he revealed a heavy, carved door. Clutching his meat cleaver, Barry pushed the door open, and found a room bathed in a red glow.
"Woah!" Barry hollered, stumbling back into the hallway. "What the hell is that?!"
"An alchemy array," that voice said quietly.
Barry approached the room again, poking his head in and looking around. "And who the hell is talking to me? Are you a ghost or something?"
"On the floor," said the voice, and Barry looked down.
There, in the center of the room, lay a bound man, his hair dark and wild, his face pale, a slight grimace on his face as if he was in pain. He wore knee breeches, a waistcoat, silk stockings, and ruffles of lace at his shirt's throat and wrists.
"Neat outfit," Barry cooed admiringly, chopping momentarily forgotten. "Very retro!"
The man smiled weakly. "Vintage, even."
Curious, Barry reached out to touch the dark velvet of the waistcoat, and the fabric disintegrated at his touch.
The man on the floor did not reply. His eyes drooped as if he were falling asleep. Barry stood and stared for a few moments, then extended his foot and nudged the man's legs. A patch of the breeches crumbled into dust.
"Stop it," murmured the man sleepily.
"Hey," said Barry, nudging him again. "You shouldn't fall asleep when you have a visitor. . . . Especially when that visitor is Barry the Chopper!"
Barry received no reply, so he tried again. "Yeah, that's me! Barry the Chopper! The notorious serial killer! Right here in front of you!"
Again, he received no reply. He nudged the man again. "Hey, I'm talking to you! Doesn't the name Barry the Chopper strike fear in your heart?"
Apparently with some effort, the bound man turned his head and opened his eyes so he could look Barry in the eyes. "No, I'm afraid it doesn't."
"Well, maybe it would if I chopped you up!"
The man opened his mouth to say something, but Barry was quicker. It sure felt good to have flesh under his cleaver again!
Greed groaned as he came to, reassembled in the corner of the room, where the slightly greater portion of his anatomy had been flung when Barry chopped him.
Aside from Envy visiting every few decades to increase his misery in any way possible, this was the first person he'd seen in over a century--and the visit had ended up like this. He was regenerating slowly, weakened by the array and his skull, and several of Barry's chops were still pouring blood into the thirsty array.
His stomach twisted and his head spun. He had no red stones left inside him, but he heaved anyway for a few moments, before his stomach settled again and the room stopped spinning. Being killed had always left him nauseous and dizzy, and it was, he knew now, worse when he was sealed. He was glad that at least they hadn't selected an array that would allow him to die.
He looked around the room. There were faint stains on the walls and floor where his blood and gore must have splattered when Barry chopped him--the blood would have absorbed into the arrays there. In the middle of the floor lay his bonds and the bloodstained scraps of his clothing. At least Barry had, in effect, untied him. That would make it just a bit easier to make his way out of the room, although that was probably still impossible in his weakened state. Just speaking with Barry earlier had made him tired, and having to regenerate didn't help matters.
"Where have you been?" asked 48's head when Barry returned.
Barry danced a clumsy, armored jig in celebration. "I found this guy in the basement and I chopped him up! Man, that felt good! He wasn't as soft as I like, and he didn't scream much, but he was sure--"
48's head cut Barry short. "Did you clean up?"
"Huh? No! Who cares anyway? I figure some passer-by will find it, and the military can deal with it, just like before."
"66," 48's head said sternly, "there are no passers-by in the basement. You have to clean up after yourself. "
"Aww, do I have to?"
"It will rot and people outside will start wondering."
"Ooh, and then they'll come in and I can chop them too!"
48 reached for the screwdriver.
Barry turned to go back to the old basement.
The door slammed open, and Greed looked up to see Barry standing in the doorway. "Don't ever chop me again," he snapped angrily, using what felt like every bit of strength he had left.
"Gah!" screamed Barry. "You really are a ghost!"
"No, my body regenerated after you chopped me up."
"Wow," Barry remarked. "So, um, if you're not a ghost, what are you?"
"A homunculus. My name is Greed." He hoped that Barry would not require an explanation of homunculi. Barry didn't seem the type who would know already, but perhaps he wouldn't care.
Sure enough, Barry didn't care--he seemed still distracted by the delight at having chopped Greed up. Freak. "This is the first time someone hasn't stayed chopped. Ooh, let me chop you again! Please! Please! It was fun!"
Barry didn't wait for an answer before he dashed across the room and brought his cleaver down hard on Greed's shoulder.
The cleaver did not, as Barry must have expected, make a nice squishy chopping sound as it sliced through the flesh of Greed's shoulder. Instead, it made a hard clank and scraped off of Greed's hard, black shoulder. Barry stared in amazement at Greed's shield, then at the chip missing from the blade of his cleaver.
"Like I said, don't chop me again." Greed released his shield, panting after the effort of putting it up. This, too felt like it had taken the very last of his energy. Maybe the seal didn't actually drain his energy so much as it made him feel that it did . . .
"Wow! This is the first time I've tried to chop someone and they didn't chop!"
"You bastard," Greed hissed. "I'd kill you right now if I were stronger." Greed half wondered if Barry was Envy in a new form, playing cruel games with him like a cat plays with a broken-winged bird. After all, he hadn't seen Envy in a while, and he thought it was about time for a visit.
Barry giggled. "That would be hard to do!" He lifted off his head and bowed down to show Greed the empty inside of his armor. "See? No body! Hee hee hee! You'd have to destroy my blood seal, and I'm not telling where it is." He giggled again and waited for Greed's reaction.
"Interesting," said Greed. Envy probably didn't care enough to concoct such a detailed alias. So Barry was for real.
"Aren't you going to scream or something?" Barry demanded.
"I'm not easily surprised." There were a lot of amazing things in the world; he should know, since he was one of them. "But that is really impressive." A little well-placed flattery, and he might find an ally in Barry.
"Aww," Barry twittered like a lovestruck schoolgirl, palms pressed to his cheeks as if to cover a blush. "You're the first person who's ever liked me in my armor body!"
"It . . . seems to suit you," said Greed. He was hard pressed to imagine what sort of human body somebody like that might have.
"I like you, old man!" Barry cooed. "Not many people appreciate me, you know. It makes me feel good! Let's be friends!" Without waiting for a response, Barry reached over and gave Greed an amiable pat on the shoulder. "Hey, friend, would you let me chop you again?"
It finally dawned on Greed then--Barry's violent tendencies might actually be useful. He smiled coyly at the armor. "If you want to chop something, Barry . . . "
Barry leaned toward him eagerly. "Yes? Yes?"
" . . . Would you chop that skull up on the ceiling? "
Barry pouted. "Aww, dry old bones like that aren't any fun to chop. Besides, I think it's too high up for me to reach it."
Greed tried again, a bit more directly. "Listen, Barry. I want to escape from here. Will you help me?"
"Well, I don't know . . . I'm supposed to stay and guard this place . . . "
"Just help me get to the end of the hall," Greed coaxed. Once he was that far from the arrays and his skull, he would be strong enough to make it the rest of the way on his own.
"Well . . . "
"And I'll let you chop me there." His stomach twisted at the thought, but he kept a beguiling smile in place. Another chopping ordeal now would be better than staying sealed--aching and weakened and half paralyzed--until he got another chance at escaping. "I'll leave my shield down for you this time."
Barry perked up, his reservations apparently fading away at the prospect of more chopping. "Really?"
"Really," said Greed. "I promise."
Barry clapped his hands. "Yippee!"
Barry reached under Greed's arms and lifted his torso off of the floor, then dragged him on his heels toward the door. He dropped Greed suddenly a second later.
"Ooh, but you've got no clothes on!"
"You wrecked them," Greed pointed out.
"I'm sorry," said Barry.
"Let's keep going," Greed urged weakly. Already he was exhausted again. "I can go without clothes."
"No you can't," Barry argued. "It's not decent. Look, I've got just the thing! Wait here! I'll be back!" He dashed out of the room.
Greed lay sprawled on the floor where Barry left him, staring up at his skull, too tired to move any more. As he slipped back into an exhausted sleep, he wondered for a moment if getting out was really worth being patient with Barry. When he did get out and started collecting subordinates, he would need to be sure they were less giddy than Barry. . . .
"I'm back!" cried Barry. "See what I've brought you?" He held out a pair of leather pants and a fur-trimmed vest for Greed to look at.
Greed could not help but smile. "Why, Barry! They're wonderful!" If that really was the fashion these days, Greed would be a very happy homunculus. And he would want a lot of new clothes.
"I made them myself," Barry said proudly. Without even being asked, he picked up each of Greed's legs in turn and pulled the pants on, then helped Greed into the vest. He sat back on his heels to admire his work. "Ooh, wow!" he cried. "You look fantastic! It's like they were made for you!"
"Thank you, Barry. Now, back to helping me out of the--"
"My my, isn't this a happy little scene?" a cutting voice remarked from the doorway.
Greed did not have to turn and look to know that it was Envy. Damn it, just a few more minutes and he would have been free . . .
"Barry," Envy said, voice almost syrupy enough to hide the undertone of malice, "were you going to help this guy escape?"
"Nope, he was going to let me chop him!"
Envy knelt down by Greed and stroked his hair in mock empathy. "Oh, Greed--you know suicide isn't the answer to your problems. Besides, you'd just regenerate in a moment. So cheer up! You've got lots to live for!"
Greed snarled. A sunny smile firmly in place, Envy kicked him in the ribs, then turned back to Barry.
"Now, Barry. I don't mind you chopping Greed, but you can't be helping him escape, okay?"
Barry sighed. "Okay. Can I chop him right now?"
"No, come back later. Now why don't you go patrol outside?"
Barry walked away, shoulders hunched in disappointment.
Envy turned back to Greed, gave him another kick in the ribs for good measure, and set to work strapping his arms behind his back again.
"Good thing I thought to bring these," Envy remarked cheerfully. "Nice try at escaping, by the way. I'll have to seal off this wing so Barry doesn't come back--even if I do like to think of you all chopped to pieces."
Envy taunted and kicked Greed a bit more, but Greed was feeling too weak to struggle amusingly, and Envy's attention soon waned. After checking that Greed was properly secured again, Envy departed--probably to seal off this entire wing, Greed speculated bitterly.
Alone again, tired after talking and regenerating and shielding himself, Greed closed his eyes. As he gave in to the exhaustion and drifted back to sleep, he wondered how much longer he would have to stay sealed.
Next time, at least, he wouldn't pause just to update his wardrobe.
[ End ]