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mikkeneko

The Prisoner's Dilemma

chapter 2. floating in the darkness

How ironic, Roy had often thought, that the self-named Mission of Law had been reduced to filling its manpower with criminals. It had been investigating the quiet disappearance of so many criminals that had led Roy to collide with the Mission in the first place—and when Jacobs had taken him aside, and calmly laid out the options between cooperation, dishonor and exile, or death, Roy had found himself very much of a Realist indeed.

The Realists of the Mission considered themselves free of the idiotic ideology of the Loyalists, and Roy had been able to slide into place among them almost seamlessly. Perhaps a bit too practical of them; they saw his ambition and his practicality, his adaptability and his cleverness, but never seemed to consider the idea that he might turn those very qualities back on them.

Since none of the rebel's eyes were on him just now, Roy let himself take the stairs to the subbasement two at a time, all the while cursing virulently in his head. Damn, damn, damndamnDAMN Edward's theatrics! The little brat had no common sense at all!

Bad enough that he'd screwed up and let himself get captured in the first place (and wasn't the Drachman border far enough away to send him? Edward's attraction to trouble was truly epic,) by this band of screwups. Worse that he'd put Roy and his carefully-nurtured cover in jeopardy—in every sense of the word! If the idiot had stopped for just one MINUTE to THINK about why Roy might be here, then maybe he would have caught on without letting all their enemies on to it as well! Was Edward supposed to be a genius, or not?

And if those two things weren't bad enough, if Edward insisted on carrying on, with his damn idiotic bravado and posturing and theatrics.... because Roy knew his young charge too well to think that Edward would just submit to captivity quietly. He'd angered them enough already, playing havoc with their carefully-laid infrastructure; but if he continued to antagonize them, having placed himself at their mercy...

Roy had been among these men for weeks now, and he'd learned very early on that these men were dangerous, very dangerous. Men like Admiral Jacobs were dangerous enough—ruthless, cold, and calculating, they would happily swap their own mothers for a chance of advancement.

It wasn't through accident that Jacobs had gotten himself into the senior council of Fuhrer's advisors, over the heads and sometimes of the bodies of his rivals. And it wasn't a coincidence that Jacobs had turned to conspiracy and coup, when he'd found his career at the top bracket finally stalled. Jacobs, and his cadre of like-minded men and subordinates, had burrowed deeper into—and under—the Amestrian government than the naive idiots up top had ever realized.

But even Jacobs and his followers, as ruthless as they were, came a pale second when it came to the Loyalists. The Underground Alchemist was none too stable himself—as so many of the half-pay State Alchemists were—but the following he'd amassed were even worse.

Fanatics—or, he supposed you could call them, idealists—who prized personal loyalty to the leader over every other quality... Jacobs and the other Realists were only interested in seizing power in the government, putting the country under martial law. But the Loyalists dreamed of a government where every man and woman from the lowest to the highest was unwaveringly, unbreakably, personally loyal to the leader. And such loyalty, ironically, could only be enforced by propaganda—purges—brainwashing.

Oh, yes, they came out of the cell block loyal—loyal, and with half a mind, personalities and sometimes bodies shattered by the 'debriefing' experience. No doubt that was what they had in mind for Edward—and just what use did they expect to get out of him afterwards, if they broke his brilliant mind in the process? Roy found himself grinding his teeth, and forced himself to relax. Calm, had to be calm.

Roy's landed on the corridor floor with a ringing thud, and he took a moment to compose himself, breathing deeply to disguise his hurry, and straighten his uniform. It was very important that he appear calm and detached, unconcern with their new 'prisoner's fate.

According to the warden, Edward was being held in the second cell on the right—originally subterranean storerooms, now converted into holding cells with the addition of rows of strong metal bars sunk into the rock. Roy had seen one or two, though thankfully not personally. This whole place was a warren of stone corridors, burrowed into the rock with an alchemical unnatural smooth finish. It had taken Roy over three weeks to learn them all, and he still wasn't sure where all the exits were.

His cover was still intact. For that, Roy silently thanked any and all deities that might be attending to this world. Intact, but very shaken. Roy would not have dared, not by any means, permission to approach Edward on his own; it would have immediately been targeted as suspicious. But when his own supervisors (Roy refused to use the word superiors to apply to this lot of slime-grubbers,) had requested him to sit in on Edward's interrogation, on account of his familiarity with the boy's abilities, Roy could almost have kissed them.

Almost.

There would be no difficulty identifying which room Edward had been taken to, Roy realized with a sinking heart. Half of the cells were closed and heavily locked, with dim lights or none filtering through the tiny square windows; but all of them were silent except one. From the third door in the row down came increasingly disturbing sounds; shuffling and thumping, too muffled to identify the causes, and human voices.

What the hell was going on here? The official interrogation wasn't supposed to begin for another fifteen minutes; Roy was early. It was a risk to show this much interest, but the worried urgency that had driven him down here ahead of schedule suddenly seemed terribly justified.

Roy marched up to the cell door, preparing the keys he'd acquired from the warden, but stopped before he touched the lock. It was turned, and the door was open a crack, what kind of sloppy security was that? Orange-yellow light wormed its way around the cracks in the door, mixed with suddenly much clearer voices. Edward's voice, instantly recognizable, high with some kind of tension or stress; then it was abruptly cut off, and covered in a rush of loud, coarse laughter.

The metal door was heavier than he thought, resisting his thrust at first, and then too heavy for him to stop as it rushed open. Roy let it, stalking in just as the metal door hit the stone wall with a shattering crash. Risky to announce your presence so aggressively, but it had its uses; startling your opponents into immobility, and giving you a free moment in which to react.

And he needed that moment, because the sight he opened the door on sent his mouth dry and his hands frozen, even before the echoes of the crash had faded.

The yellow light came from a single gas lamp by the door, and the orange from a sullen bank of coals on the far wall. There were four men in the room, in the dark gray uniform of Amestrian military enlistees. They looked at him with varying expressions of surprise, alarm, and guilt—much like schoolboys interrupted by a teacher in the middle of a prank. But Roy's eyes were immediately drawn towards the fifth figure in the room, skin and hair glowing luridly in the mixed light.

Edward's automail arm was gone, leaving the gaping metal port behind, but Roy had steeled himself for that; it was a necessary evil. His ankles had been bound together with cords, and his one remaining arm trailed a heavy dull chain from a manacle around his wrist, jerking up tautly against the steel bars running the height of the room. Roy had expected that, too; even with his arm gone Fullmetal could fight like a tiger, and the guards had experienced enough of his strength to be wary.

He had been stripped of his black jacket and shirt, and his chest and arm and face were livid with bruises, and dark smears of blood. Roy had hoped that would not happen, but he had prepared himself for the possibility. Fullmetal had a talent for making himself difficult, and his opponents angry; and none of these men were stable in the best of circumstances. Breakouts from military prisons, mostly, or men on dishonorable discharge for unacceptable conduct.

But Roy hadn't been prepared for this, the sight that froze him and drained the heat from his face.

He could see Edward's bruised face and chest clearly, because Edward's shoulders were level with his eyes; and he could see at a glance the heavy leather cords around his ankles, because those ankles were dangling over a foot off the ground, kicking and jerking spasmodically in the free air. They had a rope around his neck, they had a rope around his neck and had him pulled clear off the ground, and metal rattled and screeched Edward's arm yanked fruitlessly against the chains, struggling to raise up to his throat to pull the rope away.

And the look on his face—

"What is going on down here?" Roy cracked out sharply, and for a moment he didn't even recognize his own voice. "Put that man down, immediately! Who gave you permission for this?!"

The look of shock on the soldier's faces converted almost immediately to guilt and embarrassment, and one man's arm jerked as he opened his hands. There was a slithering blur of motion, as the dark rope spun up towards the ceiling, and Edward fell abruptly to his feet; and then, unable to catch or steady himself with his ankles tied, sprawled on his face on the floor. The long, wheezing noise that came from his throat as he breathed once more was simultaneously thrilling and terrifying.

Because at least he was breathing.

Ed shuddered, then rolled until he was on his back, arm stretched out along the chain towards the bar; the rope coiled loosely now around his neck. His chest rose and fell on heaving, gasping breaths, and Roy forced himself to wrench his gaze away as his face began to cycle back down from purple, to a more health red and pink color. The expression on Edward's face still seared him; pain, burning outrage and fury... but behind the snarl, pooling in the whites of his eyes, was fear.

Raw, newborn terror, and uncertainty, seeping in to sap and undermine his defenses. And Roy knew that Edward was strong, Edward could and always had taken care of himself, and that Edward's way of handling fear was to step up the bravado and the defiance... but that wasn't going to work here, not when things were this badly out of control. These people would hurt him, these people could kill him, without blinking an eye; they could even do it by accident, as well as on purpose.

And Roy had always wished that Edward would understand that for once, and not charge so headlong into danger, but he hadn't wanted the lesson to come like this.

Enough. Roy had to take control of this situation, and fast. So far a loud noise and a commanding voice had been enough, but that wasn't going to keep them obedient for long. He inhaled sharply, and then said, in a voice much closer to his usual tone: "Who was in charge of supervising the prisoner? Well?"

Some shuffling and shifting gazes, but then three of them subtly shifted their attention to a fourth, singling him out. At least they weren't all grouping together in defense of each other. Roy focused on the sacrificial goat. "Explain yourself," he snapped, but then, before letting him start: "This prisoner is an alchemist, and as such could prove of great importance to the Mission. He's no use to anyone if you carelessly kill him! Well? What do you have to say for yourself?"

There was some sullen muttering, and shuffling, but then the spokesperson gave in. "We weren't going to kill him, sir," he mumbled defensively. "We only hauled him up a few times, to teach him a lesson—he hasn't even passed out yet. He was giving us trouble, sir, mouthing off—"

"You were not authorized to take such risks," Roy said coldly, folding his arms sternly across his chest. He wondered if he could take the dramatic moment to pull his gloves out of his pocket and don them. "His dead body would be on my hands to explain to the brass, and for what? Are you so weak against the words of a sixteen-year-old-brat?"

"He wouldn't have died," piped up one of the other guards in support of his fellow, and the other two nodded fervently. "We know what we're doing, see? No way that knot would have broke his neck, and he wasn't up there near long enough to strangle. He was still kicking plenty, wasn't he?"

It was probably a good thing, Roy decided, that he hadn't put his gloves on after all. If he had, he probably couldn't he resisted the temptation to incinerate all four of them.

From the floor, Edward made a hoarse sound, then cleared his throat gratingly. "What's the matter, Colonel?" he said, voice scratching unpleasantly against Roy's ears. Edward lifted his head to glare at Roy, one eye bloodshot and near-swollen shut, but still furious and still, Roy could see it, wild with panic. "Can' you... control these apes, huh? Maybe you're... upse' they started wi'out you?" He gave a ghastly laugh.

Safest to ignore him, Roy judged, and maybe set an example too. "Furthermore, this door was unlocked when I arrived, posing a severe security risk," he continued his dressing-down. "If this happens again, you men will be put on report. There's no place in this Mission for random prisoner brutality—"

"—especially not outside the context of controlled interrogations, isn't that right?" a new voice broke in, and Roy barely controlled his flinch. Damndamndamn, had it been fifteen minutes already? Carefully, he turned to see the source of the voice standing in the doorway; Lieutenant Colonel Lancet.

No, it hadn't been fifteen minutes. Lancet was early, too. Only in his case—knowing the man—it was probably out of eagerness. The man returned a bland smile, a facade of affability over glittering malice. "Hello, Colonel. I hope there's no trouble, is there?"

Roy could have spit. Lancet was one of the worst of the Loyalists, embodying most of their worst qualities with few to none redeeming. The man was former Military Intelligence—former, since he had long since been cashiered out of even that formidable branch for brutality. But in the Mission, Lancet had found work again—converting their captives, prisoners, and prospective recruits into 'loyal' followers.

For a time, Lancet had been in charge of overseeing the of all prospective new recruits. He'd been relieved of that responsibility at just about the same time that Roy had joined the organization, and had made no secret of his displeasure that he had not been allowed to assure Roy's 'loyalty.' He'd been a thorn in Roy's side ever side, always on the lookout for some chance to prove Roy a traitor, always hungry for some opportunity to return his old position of authority.

Who in hell hated Roy enough to put Lancet on interrogation duty together with him? Was this some kind of setup? Roy gritted his teeth. "Nothing I couldn't handle," he forced past stiff lips. "These men were acting without authorization. Further, their security checks—"

"Well, well, Mustang, I don't think you should be so hard on the boys." Lancet sauntered into the cell, his hands in his pockets. Edward started as he caught side of his face, his good eye widening in recognition. "What's the harm in being enthusiastic about their work? It's what we're here for, after all."

After a moment, Roy said through his teeth, "I'm somewhat surprised to see you here, Lieutenant Colonel. I had been under the impression that you had more pressing duties today." Counted on it, in fact; checked the duty roster and praised heaven to see it.

Lancet smiled, but it didn't reach his eyes, again. "If it's important enough to be worth your attention, Mustang, shouldn't it be worth mine? Don't worry, I won't interfere; I just thought I would tag along... see how a real loyalist handles these things."

The threat hung heavily in the air between them, and Roy's nails bit into the palm of his hands. He was walking on very, very thin ice here, and they both knew it.

Roy saw the enlisted men exchanging looks, a certain cunning creeping back into their faces, and cursed silently. Damn Lancet and his little games—the men could sense the division in leadership, in authority, and wouldn't hesitate to take advantage of it. Bad for discipline, bad for control in any situation, let alone one as volatile as this.

"Well?" Lancet came to a stop barely a foot away from Roy, and leaned forward into his personal space, their eyes locked together. Roy eyed the four-inch height difference between them with great annoyance, and for a moment almost sympathized with Ed.

The tension stretched unbearably, for a long moment; but in the end it was neither Lancet nor Mustang that broke the stand-off, but Edward.

Roy had no idea how Edward had done it; whether he had worked some sly alchemy while the guards were distracted, or if they had just underestimated the smallness and dexterity of his human hand. But somehow, in one moment his wrist was out of the manacle and his arm was free; planting his arm on the ground, he swept his bound legs together in an arc, striking the nearest guard across the back of the legs, and brought him down.

The room exploded into chaos. Ed flipped himself onto his stomach and lunged violently across the floor, hand reaching frantically for something to use as a weapon. Roy's hands clawed for his gloves; he had one out and on before his frozen mind had even decided which side he wanted to defend here. He had a bare instant to think about possible attack angles, escape routes—and then it was too late.

The other three guards dogpiled on top of Edward, who was shouting as they struggled to flatten him to the ground. Lancet had started forward, although not too far, and a sidearm had appeared in his hands only seconds after the gloves appeared in Roy's. "Stop him!" the Lieutenant Colonel was shouting. "Hold him down! Pin his legs!"

Edward was still struggling, but he had lost leverage; the guards were getting back into the rhythm of things, raining and heavy fists and booted kicks down on him. Would Edward give up before he passed out? Would the guards stop before they killed him? Roy raised his hand and snapped, and a blinding flash lit the cell. A searing wave of heat followed, briefly, but winked out before it could burn. "Enough!" he bellowed.

Fortunately, everyone stopped after that, blinking dazedly to clear their eyes. Edward, on his stomach with his arm twisted behind his back, was panting like a wounded animal. The fallen guard got to his feet, swearing foully and clutching his limbs. Another one of the guards was nursing his jaw, and a murderous expression.

"Little bastard." He spat, and blood and spittle rained onto Edward's bare back. "I think he broke a fucking tooth!"

"How did he get loose?" Lancet demanded, voice tense; Roy could see that he was shaken by the sudden outburst of violence. He walked over to the bars, Lancet following a distrustful step behind, and peered down at the end of the chain. A dark liquid glistened in the unsteady light. The manacle's outer edge was sharp, Roy realized as he touched it, and his hand came away red. Edward had used his blood as lubricant to slip out of the chain.

Oh, Edward. Roy mourned, and wiped his hand down the front of his jacket. How can you be this stupid? If you could have gotten free at any time, you should have waited until you were alone, and used alchemy to escape. Too late now, and now they had to deal with it. He straightened up, setting his grimmest expression on his face, and turned away. Lancet, unfortunately, was also regaining his composure.

"Well, well, that was invigorating," the Lieutenant Colonel said, sarcasm infecting his voice. "An attempted escape. Mustang, I certainly hope your past... acquaintance with the boy doesn't inspire you to be lenient on him after something like this."

Damn it! The four soldiers were listening closely, human tape recorders to report to the brass. Any statement, any action he tried to make on Edward's behalf would be damning—for both of them. "On the contrary," he said, in his coldest voice. "It seems that everything you do is expressly to make trouble for me, Fullmetal. I think it's high time some... discipline is in order."

The look that Edward flashed him then nearly flayed him, and Roy felt his stomach clench. Should he have taken the risk, thrown himself into an ill-timed escape attempt? Maybe if he could have gotten the drop on Lancet—but no. It was just impossible. "Bastard," Ed hissed, breathing with difficulty under the weight of the boots on him. "Always knew you'd sell your own mother for a cent. Get in reach down here and I'll show you discipline—I'll tear your motherfucking head off—"

Edward's arm was raised a few inches; Edward arched his back and made a keening noise. The solder with the bloody mouth grabbed Edward's hair harshly, and ground his face hard into the stone floor. "You just never shut up, do you, punk?" he hissed.

The soldier that had been knocked to the floor took aim and swung his foot, and the steel tip of the boot caught Edward's left ribcage with a nasty-sounding crunch. Edward's shoulders jumped, but with his face mashed to the floor and his legs pinned it was impossible to move to avoid it. Roy winced. "All right, enough," he said. "Get him up, and get him back into the chains."

Lancet, who had been standing to the side with his arms folded, raised one finger. "Ah-ah," he said. "No, my all means continue, men. After all," he turned smilingly to Roy, "they are the professionals in the matter."

"For a crip with only one hand, he sure is a lot of trouble," one of the soldiers said; directing the remark not towards Roy, the ranking officer, but instead towards Lancet.
Edward's hand was released, and he gasped in relief as the pressure lessened, wriggling to bring it back to his side.

As soon as it touched the floor, though, a boot slammed down on his hand, crushing it to the floor. Roy started forward despite himself, then jerked to a stop. The soldier grinned as he ground down, drawing a gasping scream from Ed. "Think we should squash the trouble out of it, sir?"

"Absolutely not!" Roy interjected, shaken, but it was to Lancet that the soldiers were looking for permission.

The Lieutenant Colonel seemed to consider this for a moment, a tiny smile on his face, and then shook his head. "No, no, no need to be barbarous about this," he said, and Roy breathed a silent sigh of relief.

Too soon; Lancet reached into his uniform jacket, and pulled out an object that made a high metal shiiiing; a thin, deadly sharp knife blade glittered in the lamp-light. "It would be much simpler just to remove the fingers cleanly. Not the whole hand, however; that would cause excessive bleeding. Would you like to begin, Sergeant?"

"Must I remind you, gentlemen," Roy said, pulling up to his full height and raising his voice, "that our first commitment is to the Mission, and not to petty revenge? The brass has expressed interest in recovering Fullmetal as a cooperative and useful Alchemist. And perhaps you wouldn't know this, Lieutenant Colonel," he said, turning to Lancet, "but I assure you that one actually needs to be able to read and write, in order to qualify as an Alchemist."

It was not calculated to endear him to Lancet, and the man frowned in a dangerous way; but at least it restored him some measure of his authority in the room, and holy mother of God, he needed it. He jerked his chin up slightly, to increase his presence, and strolled across the floor towards Edward.

The men glanced at each other, and him, as he approached; but he signaled with one gloved hand, and the man with his boot on Edward's hand let up the pressure, and backed away. "Stand him up." Hopefully, standing upright, Edward would not make such a tempting target for blows.

Edward made a small noise as he was shifted; that broken rib must hurt like hell, Roy thought sympathetically, But that was all; and he stood on his feet, staring defiantly up at Roy through a bloody mask over his face.

He really was a mess, and he swayed perceptibly from side to side; unable to steady himself with hands and feet restrained, he would have fallen if not for the hard grips on his shoulders. Roy narrowed his eyes. "Bring that chair over," he said, jerking his chin at the far end of the cell. "Tie him to it. It's time we had a little chat."

The soldiers obeyed, manhandling Ed roughly into the chair, but he made no noise. Lancet hovered in the background, radiating menace and disapproval, but Roy ignored him, deliberately closing out his involvement in the process. Ed's arm was tied firmly to the back of the chair, and his legs to the chair legs. The rope trailing from his neck was wrapped around the bars of the chair and pulled taut, yanking his head at a backwards angle and exposing his throat.

Roy walked deliberately around to the front of the chair, and stood with his arms clasped behind his back, looking Edward up and down. Edward looked back at him with loathing, from that canted angle; but at least his breathing was steady, if too fast and shallow, so he didn't have to come up with an excuse to let him loose yet. Good, since he didn't have one.

"Well," he began, in a mild tone, "Now that you've had a chance to sample the alternatives, Fullmetal, perhaps you should reconsider enlisting with us." Come on, Edward, take the bait...

"Go to hell," Edward spat. "I'm not a whore like you. I'm not going to sell myself out."

Roy lifted his hands, raising his glove into a menacing position. "Obviously, you can see that escape is impossible," he said evenly. Sudden inspiration struck. "And if you're counting on help from your brother, you can give it up now," he added.

Ed stiffened, and his eyes flickered up to meet Roy's, suddenly terrified. Roy felt briefly guilty, before continuing with heavy emphasis, "My soldier's reports say that he was shot several times. Even if he escaped, he undoubtedly must have bled to death by now. He won't be back to help you, even if you think you could hold out that long."

Ed's raspy breathing caught, and his eye—well, the good one, anyway—grew wide in his head. Roy stared into his face, willing him to think for a moment. Come on Ed, where's that legendary genius? "N-no..." Ed stuttered, gasped. "Th-that's impossible..."

"So you can see," Roy said smoothly, his voice as persuasive as possible. The soldiers were beginning to fidget, looking bored, and Lancet was circling closer. "Cooperating with us is really in your best interests. Just imagine... Edward," he made the name almost seductive. "Join with us, and you'll be treated quite well. You might even be put to work under me—"

"If you think," Edward interrupted, and his voice was raspy and harsh, "If you think that I'm going to lower m-myself to that, to, to crawling in the muck with a bunch of slime-grubbers like you—"

One of the thugs started forward, with a shouted curse. Roy grabbed his hand, putting a temporary halt to it. Edward jerked his chin up in defiance. "—then you must have gone drooling senile. I'll never join you, never! I'd sooner die!" The emphasis on his speech left him panting, curling in on his injured chest a bit.

Oh, for God's sake, Edward. Roy was getting a headache. It was asking too much, Roy knew. Edward was hurting, furious, and scared nearly out of his mind; thinking logically was far on the back burner for him now. Unfortunately, that meant that he was left running on reflexes, and trying to defend himself as he always did—meeting threat with defiance, fear with bravado, and guile with rejection.

He gathered his wits to try again, but suddenly Lancet was there at his elbow, maneuvering him aside. "Well, well, this is getting us nowhere," he said, in an almost cheerful tone. "There are rather more unpleasant things than dying, you know. I think it's high time to introduce you to some of those... alternatives again."

He had the knife out. Roy was forced to fall back, or be sliced open when Lancet oh-so-casually swung it around. "Lieutenant-Colonel, you're out of line," he said warningly. "I already told you, we need him functional—"

"Yes, yes, I know," Lancet beamed, and there was a look in his eyes that made Roy's stomach crawl. "He needs his hand, you told me. And I don't know much about alchemy, it's true, but I'm sure you'll tell me he needs his eyes, too—or at least one of them. But that leaves so many more options, doesn't it? That foul mouth, for example."

Roy started to lunge forward. But the point of the knife swung around again, leveled right towards his chest, and the light glittering off the metal was like the light in Lancet's eyes. "Sergeant, heat up that poker," he called, not taking his eyes off Roy. "We don't want our guest bleeding to death, oh no, certainly not. Corporal, get his mouth open—hold him still—"

Edward had exploded into struggling, spitting frenzied curses. Three of the soldiers had piled on him again, holding his arm down, clamping his head in place. The fourth had gone eagerly towards the fire, and there was a scraping sound of metal over coals. Roy's head felt curiously light, and buzzing. This couldn't happen. He couldn't let this happen...

What could he do? There was no way to go over Lancet's head—and no time. If he left now to get backup, it would be too late. If he tried to jump them, he would just be overpowered. He had to deal with things here, somehow, himself. But how?

Lancet was dead set, ha, on opposing him—and more, on forcing him to betray himself. Lancet was his junior, but if he could present Roy as a traitor to the brass, Roy would be out—probably tied to some chair of his own—and Lancet would be promoted. He was trying to provoke Roy into reacting, into providing solid proof of his disloyalty. He would keep pushing this, and the more Roy tried to intervene to protect Edward, the more he would push. To break this cycle, Roy had to move in an unexpected direction, do some pushing of his own.

The soldiers wanted blood, wanted a show, and they were growing more and more impatient every time he put them off, turning to the Lieutenant Colonel instead of himself. He had to do something, something to grab their obedience back; something that would promise them more entertainment than Lancet's bloody knifework.

He drew in a breath. This might work. This might save them both. And if it did, he was going to be hard put to ever forgive himself.

The two other soldiers had gotten Ed's head pinned back, clenched jaw pried apart; his hand jerked and twisted uselessly at the cords. Something glittered as it trailed down the side of his face, from the corner of his tight-squeezed eye to his temple, and Roy's could only pray the others hadn't seen it.

"Iron's almost ready, sir," the sergeant reported, sounding eager, and Lancet's attention drifted in that direction. In that instant, Roy moved; darting his arm forward to tightly grab his wrist.

Immediately Lancet's attention switched back to him, but his grip had loosened, and Roy deftly twisted the knife out of his hand. Lancet opened his mouth, eyes narrowed, face triumphant, but Roy beat him to speaking.

"You boys have no idea what you're about to waste," he said scornfully; and when the suspicious, uncertain men turned their gazes to him, he put on his best knowing leer.

"What are you talking about?" Lancet demanded, shaking his arm free of Roy's grasp. Roy let him go, but he kept the knife, holding it up as to admire the light, before posing dramatically with it. Showmanship, that was going to have to be the key.

"Fullmetal's made quite a name for himself in the years he's been working under me—" he paused to let that one sink in, and widened his smirk. Well, the first part was true, anyway. "And from the reports I have received, let me tell you, there's not a finer mouth to be had in all of the East. Plenty of witnesses to confirm it, of course; I was amazed at the number of cocks he's reportedly serviced in a single week. Speaking of whores!" He did his best to sound scornful and indignant, as if stung by Ed's earlier words.

The corporal holding Ed's head down looked at his fellow, nudged him with an elbow, and sniggered; two others grinned. Roy's heart was beating a mile a minute, but it was working. Only the man holding the poker still looked a little uncertain, a little revulsed; and Lancet, of course...

"Ever tried it yourself, sir?" said the smirking one. Ed gave out a little shaky gasp, but thank God, was not in a position to speak, or ruin Roy's speech.

He flipped the knife in the air, let it twirl, and caught it by the blade as it came down; used it to emphasize his gestures. "Of course not, the Amestrian military had such tedious rules about such things. Just for a little harmless fun, a man could find himself thrown out of the very organization he had served blood and bone—"

Frowns and scowls of remembered injustice. Roy continued on. "But I can't say I never wondered... You have to admit, the face is pretty enough to belong on a girl; why shouldn't the rest of his attributes, as well?"

"Prettier than my last girl," snickered another of the soldiers. "And probably a lot tighter."

Both of the other two laughed now, and Roy laughed along with them. "Quite an unfair temptation, but one I'd never had an opportunity to explore. But now.... well. Well, well, well," he said, deliberately pitching his tones to imitate Lancet's annoying singsong. "What an opportunity! Speaking of alternatives!"

He had all of their attention now, he realized, with a sick sort of triumph; they were watching him, not Lancet, eager to see what would happen next. What he would do.

He held up the knife disdainfully, between thumb and forefinger. "And I suppose the Lieutenant Colonel here doesn't have the imagination to do anything with this glorious opportunity, except throw it away. What a waste, don't you agree?" He stuck the knife with all the force he could into the right arm of the chair. With any luck, it would be more than the work of a minute to pull it out.

And with that, with all five of them watching him, he reached down and began to stroke his cock through his pants.