Kimblee stood under the awning of the office block and stared out at the rain. He frowned. The rain was pouring down so hard, he was expecting to see fish falling down with it. The sky couldn't have waited until after he got back to his place to open up. Now he was stranded. He'd been waiting for an hour for it to let up, but it had only gotten harder. He was finally contemplating swimming out into the mess when Archer stepped out of the building with an umbrella in hand. Lucky, he thought as he stepped over towards Archer.
“Heading home sir?” Kimblee asked with a friendly smile.
Archer gave him a bland look. “Shouldn't you be gone already?”
“I would sir, but the weather is keeping me pinned.”
“What a shame. You'll have to spend some extra time in the office. For once.”
Kimblee kept smiling, though his expression was a bit stretched. “Sir, that's not nice.”
“The truth is not nice,” Archer replied as he opened his umbrella and held it over his head.
“But you're nice enough to keep your subordinate dry right?” He asked, keeping in step with Archer.
Archer paused and gave him a hard stare. “Why would I do that?”
“Don't you think that it's fate that you came along when I needed you?” Kimblee asked, trying to keep under the umbrella by crowding closer to Archer.
“No,” Archer replied flatly, stepping back.
“But...you're my superior officer, you're supposed to take care of me.” He argued.
“I don't take care of fools who can't take care of themselves.” He walked away from Kimblee.
Kimblee hissed as a torrent of cold water instantly soaked his back. He jumped awkwardly to catch up with Archer. “What if there's something in it for you?”
Archer never slowed his pace, though his eyes did slide over Kimblee. “Such as?”
“I'd hardly consider a meal at one of those dives you frequent to be a bribe worth the inconvenience of walking you home.”
“Hey! I don't eat in dives,” Kimblee snapped. He'd had enough of crappy food in prison. These days he only ate in places with good food. Some of the joints might not look like much, but they served great food and he was happy to patronize them.
“Nor do I,” Archer said.
Kimblee growled. “Fine. What if we eat there?” He jabbed a finger at the outline of the Officer's Club. Only Officers dined there and only the highest of ranks could actually afford it. While Kimblee might not have a higher rank than Archer, he was still a State Alchemist and he could afford to throw away a few hundred in “research funds” to rub elbows with the military elite and eat haughty cuisine.
“Have you ever eaten there?” Archer asked, slowing his step.
“Maybe,” he said elusively. “Have you?”
Archer frowned. “No.” He'd often contemplated it, but he could never quite justify the expense. If he were to go, he couldn't just go and pay for himself, he'd have to buy drinks for whomever he wanted to make an impression on.
Kimblee grinned. “Let's do it then.”
“We're under-dressed. And you're half-drowned.”
“So? I'm the Crimson Alchemist. They're not gonna throw us out.”
Archer looked at the building and then at Kimblee before giving him a sharp nod. “Let's go.”
“That's the spirit but...” He pulled the umbrella out of Archer's hand. “I'm holding this,” he said as he held it up, making sure they were both sheltered before he headed towards the Officer's Club. “Let's go make an impression.”
The heat woke Archer. He turned towards the source of the unusual warmth and cracked open his eyes. Shock drew him out of the comfortable haze of sleep as he stared at Kimblee's face on the pillow next to him. The man was shirtless and definitely pants less as he became aware of the leg tangled with his own. He slowly moved his leg away from Kimblee, trying to get out of the bed without waking him. He freed himself and sighed in relief when he got some distance between their bodies. Archer slipped out of the sheets and headed for the bathroom where he closed the door quietly behind him and leaned over the sink. He glanced up at his reflection and noted that his eyes were not bloodshot as he expected and he didn't feel any pain that would be associated with a hangover. There was a dark mark on his collarbone. He tsked as he turned on the water to splash it across his face. He thought back to last night.
Walking into the Officer's Club had been like stepping straight into a dream. As soon as they'd stepped through the doors, Kimblee's entire demeanor had changed. The slightly mad, lazy, impertinent man was suddenly replaced by an intelligent charmer who wore a calm handsome smile with no hint of Kimblee's usual mocking. He'd secured them an excellent table and ordered an expensive bottle of red wine. As they'd sat waiting for their meals to arrive, Kimblee started an oddly insightful conversation on the state of their office politics. Given Kimblee's habit of sleeping through most of his day at the office, Archer had been surprised by Kimblee's grasp of the situation.
While they were enjoying their food, an officer had approached their table. As it happened, it was a General who had known Kimblee before Ishbal. He had invited them to join him in the lounge afterwards for drinks. Kimblee had cheerfully accepted. Archer had been eager to join them, but Kimblee made him stay and order dessert first. Despite his desire to move along to the lounge to make a good impression on the General, he'd taken the time to slowly savor the mint glacé and chocolate torte that he'd ordered.
He remembered looking up to find Kimblee watching him intently. At the time, he'd asked if there was something on his face and dabbed at his lips with a napkin. Now, he realized why Kimblee was watching him. It made him feel quite naive that he only now realized that Kimblee had been watching him hungrily. But the alchemist's previous behavior had given no indication to such feelings. It was only that strange new Kimblee that had looked at him with lust in his eyes.
Once their dessert was finished and the last of their wine was gone, Kimblee had finally allowed him to retire to the lounge. They were introduced to a few other officers and offered expensive cigars and brandy. Archer rarely smoked, but he had accepted the cigar. The smoke that surrounded their table as the men puffed on cigars and spoke of politics felt like a partition that was dividing him from reality. Watching Kimblee smile and laugh as he worked his strange new charm on the men around the table only furthered the feeling of a dream. He had felt as though he were falling under some sort of spell.
The sweet smoke, the alcohol, and the look in Kimblee's golden eyes wove around him, making him look at the man in a new light. Everything he'd known about the man was what he'd read in his file. While it had mentioned Kimblee's various achievements before the Ishbal war, they seemed incongruous with the Mad Bomber that he had enticed to his side. He could easily see how the man that kept smiling in his direction could earn such honors. He'd also realized how a war and imprisonment could change him into the person he had to coax work out of each day. He had to admit that he was intrigued.
As the evening wound down, Kimblee had called for a car so they could avoid any more walks in the rain. He hadn't just called for a simple taxi though. Somehow, he had conjured up a stretch car with supple leather interior and a glass roof. Archer had spent the ride looking at Kimblee, who had smiled as he stared back. Archer had half-expected this new Kimblee to disappear once they'd left the club, but he did not dissipate in the cool night air. He continued to linger, holding the umbrella over Archer's head as they'd stepped into the car. Once they'd arrived at Archer's apartment, he'd found himself inviting the man in.
He had brewed coffee and he only got through a half of his cup before Kimblee had pinned him to the couch and kissed him. While it was wildly out of character for him to engage in such acts, Archer had not only allowed him, but had clung to him as if trying to unlock his secrets with his lips. Things had heated up. Clothes were shed. Bodies moved together. At some point, they'd made it into the bedroom. The strange atmosphere had fueled their coupling long into the night. That was how he'd ended up tangled in Kimblee's limbs that morning. Archer could hardly believe his own behavior, but there was no taking it back now and no sense in denying what had happened. Truthfully, he was still curious about Kimblee and the new side that he'd shown him last night. The officer in him reminded him of the inappropriateness of their actions, but he felt another part of him approve.
Archer shook his head as he left the mirror to use the toilet. He had no idea how he should handle this situation. He only knew that he wasn't going to run from it, but he was going to stall the inevitable confrontation as he went through his morning routine. He showered, shaved, brushed his teeth, combed his hair, and ended up staring at his reflection once again. He realized that he was trying to put things off and sighed. He was not going to be a coward and hide in the bathroom. With that thought in mind, he opened the door and stepped out into his bedroom only to find it empty. Had Kimblee just gotten up and left? All of his time spent in the bathroom had left plenty of time for Kimblee to collect his things and slink out of the apartment. Archer frowned.
“Hey, don't you have anything to eat around here?” Kimblee demanded from his bedroom doorway. “I'm starving.”
Archer turned to find Kimblee standing in his doorway completely nude. The shock overrode any embarrassment. “I have a well stocked pantry,” Archer said, trying not to stare at Kimblee's body. Was that a bite mark on his shoulder?
“It's all stuff you have to cook,” Kimblee complained. “You ever heard of cereal?”
“I have hot cereal. You can have oatmeal or cream of wheat.” Archer turned to his dresser, pulling out a pair of boxers and an undershirt. Unlike Kimblee, he was not comfortable enough to stand around in a mere towel much less nude.
“I don't cook,” Kimblee replied. “Things tend to...blow up.”
Archer paused with his boxers halfway up his legs. “Blow up?”
“You need only boil water,” he said as he caught himself and finished pulling up his boxers. His undershirt followed. Once he was semi-dressed, he turned to Kimblee again.
“Not even water?” Archer insisted.
Kimblee gave him a frustrated glare. “No.”
Archer picked up his damp towel and returned it to the bathroom, where he hung it over his towel rack. “What about that competent man that I met last night?” Archer asked. “Can't he cook?”
“He can't either,” Kimblee said, as if they were speaking of some other person.
Archer let it slide. “What do you eat?” He walked to the door, waiting until Kimblee stepped aside to head to his kitchen.
“Things I don't have to cook,” Kimblee said, trailing after him.
“You really are hopeless,” Archer said as he poured out last night's coffee and started a new pot.
“You didn't say that last night,” Kimblee said as he leaned against the counter and grinned.
“You seemed different last night.”
“I was.” Kimblee shrugged. “You seemed to like it.”
“I did. It was...refreshing.” He opened his cabinet. “Would you like oatmeal or cream of wheat?”
“Eh? Oatmeal I guess.”
Archer got out a pot to boil water. He tossed in raisins and oatmeal and added sugar and cinnamon while Kimblee watched him curiously. Once it was ready, Archer scooped it out into bowls and handed one to Kimblee.
“This actually looks good,” he said.
“You were expecting slop?” Archer pulled down two fresh coffee mugs.
“Well...yeah. That's what most places serve. Prison. The mess hall. They serve slop and call it oatmeal, or grits or mashed potatoes. Hell if I can tell the difference.”
“Well, I do not serve slop,” Archer said as he poured his coffee.
“I can see that. I appreciate it.” He stole one of the cups of coffee and loaded it up with sugar before taking it and the oatmeal over to Archer's kitchen table. He sat down and waited for Archer to join him.
After pouring some cream into his own coffee, he carried his breakfast to the table and sat across from Kimblee. Once Archer had seated himself, Kimblee dug into his oatmeal like a starving man. Archer ate at a slower pace, trying not to stare at Kimblee.
Kimblee finished the oatmeal and sat back in the chair, sedately sipping his coffee. “You're not kicking me out.”
“You're not kicking me out. I figured you would have kicked me out by now, maybe told me not to tell anyone,” Kimblee said.
“There is no sense denying what happened. It happened. And you said that you were hungry, so I fed you.” Archer sipped his coffee and watched Kimblee. “If you want me to kick you out, I can.”
Kimblee laughed. “No. I'm pretty comfortable right here.”
“Too comfortable,” Archer said. He slowly scraped his bowl, eating the last of his oatmeal.
Kimblee watched him. “Maybe. Is that bad?”
Archer pushed his bowl away and looked back at Kimblee. “Not particularly. The chair was feeling a bit empty.”
“But not just anybody can occupy this chair.” Kimblee leaned forward curiously.
Archer shook his head. “I'm very particular about who occupies that chair.”
“Finally, I meet some of your ridiculous standards,” Kimblee said triumphantly.
“No,” Archer said, earning a very disgruntled look from Kimblee. “You surpass them.”