Ratimg: T for mentions of violence/smex
Spoilers: slight(for the conflict)
Characters/Pairings: Mustang, Hawkeye, Armstrong, Kimbley
Too lazy to make a fake, hehe...
Night Before Battle
Roy Mustang sits at the edge of the army camp as night falls. When the blue of the sky bleeds into red and gold, and finally black, he is there to watch it. He has his ring on his finger, the ring with the blood-red stone that he polishes over and over without end. There are often ashes stuck to the simple gold band. Occasionally a small splat of blood almost too small to be detected by the human eye. But Mustang always sees these marks, and wipes them away. It’s nice to be able to clean something, he thinks. It’s just his ritual. They all have their rituals.
As Mustang is cleaning, Hawkeye is also cleaning. Her soft feminine face grows gradually harder in the light of the lamp she brings out with her, and places it where the glow throws itself as far as Mustang’s feet. (She is thoughtful like that, for the Major.) Her hands busily rub the scuffed old cloth against the barrel of her sniper’s gun until it shines. By the time she finishes, she looks at least ten years older. It’s a curious metamorphosis.
Before she leaves, she pauses to read and judge Mustang’s face. She’s not sure why she does it; perhaps she’s waiting for the crack-up. It hasn’t happened yet. Some of the others may be closer, like Major Armstrong. Though he is the largest one of the bunch by far, and probably the toughest looking, he is preparing to be sent home. He can’t understand why it is so vital for him to perform acts in the desert that would get him arrested and brought to trial for murder in any other time or place. Out here, genocide won you medals, and so he is refusing to fight. Riza thinks it ironic that a man who looks like him could be, in actuality, so soft.
Thoughtfully, she comes up behind Mustang and rests a hand on his shoulder.
“You shouldn’t stay up so late, soldier. You have a big day ahead of you.”
His mouth moves into a bitter smile.
“That’s a nice way of putting it.” He glances at his ring for a moment longer, and then slips it in his pocket. It will be there for him to wear tomorrow, when he steps out on to the streets of the Ishvar settlement and sets them on fire.
He nods and follows her towards the tents. She holds up her lattern like a beacon, and it creates patterns of needed light on the sand and canvas. By now the sky and their surroundings are the color of ink. Mustang can hardly see her face as she pauses in front of her own quarters and opens the flap. He salutes her as she ducks and vanishes inside.
He can see her silhouette moving as she sets down her lattern, and he briefly thinks of what it would be like to join her. That is, if it weren’t a time of war. He jerks abruptly away towards his own tent when he sees her hands fumbling at the front of her jacket, knowing the memory will revisit him moments and moments from now, in some other night, or perhaps early morning, along with a certain unquenchable thirst.
When he enters the tent he shares with Kimbley, he turns his face away from his bunkmate. He hopes beyond hope that Kimbley is already sleeping, but it's not so.
“Hello Flame,” Kimbley says in a low, pleased growl. He’s about to enjoy his favorite hobby besides exploding (Ishvarites, rats, buildings, other men- it doesn’t matter to him). Mustang-baiting, that is. And night before battle bating is too fun to ever pass up. He sits up with a smile and holds out his hands.
“Like my array? I put it right on my hands. It makes the job easier. I don’t have to wear gloves, like you have to.”
Mustang unbuttons the top of his shirt and begins moving his pile of alchemic notes off of his bedding and onto the floor, trying not to pay too much attention.
“You should put your array on your hand too. If you want, I’ll tattoo it for you. It’s real quick. I bet you’ll be able to take down those Isvarian rebels faster than you have been-”
“No!” Mustang breaks in. His voice has an edge to it. Kimbley can tell he’s hit a nerve. Wonderful.
“You won’t have to worry about the damn gloves anymore, getting ripped,” he adds.
“Stop pretending you’re trying to help me!” Roy snaps.
“Sorry, sorry. Forget about it.” Kimbley holds up his marked hands in mock-surrender, and lies back down, smirking. He’s gong to sleep well tonight. Tomorrow there will be screaming and smoke and the wonderful sound of the ground going up in bits. He rolls onto his side and sighs, content.
Mustang lies down as well, but his eyes are wide open. He’s thinking of the tanned faces and their red eyes, angry, blotted out, falling , being covered in drifts of sand. He’s thinking of a blonde haired sniper who should be somewhere else. Perhaps waltzing on a dance floor even, looking ever so young instead of all too old, and he with her, nodding at all the beautiful women as they swirl by. (He would take Hawkeye home though, take her home and not let her go.) He’s thinking of the first night before battle that he ever spent. He had vomited in a corner of the tent, shaking like a leaf in a strong gale. He’s thinking of what tomorrow will bring. Ash and blood and bodies that Gran will send him out to count afterwards for the official military records to be filed in triplicate. He’s thinking of the real reason why he and the rest of them are here. A reason he’s not sure about.
Is he part of the cure, or part of the disease? He wants things to be black and white but they aren’t. Nothing is ever so simple, the night before the battle.