velvet mace


chapter 9. History

Midnight's day started at six a.m. with a polite knock
on the door. He grunted, reluctantly pushing aside his blanket and swinging
his feet over the edge of the bed. Blinking hard and yawning, he stumbled to
the door and let in a stolid and far too wakeful Major Ashfell.

Ashfell wasn't the sort of person you wanted to see first
thing in the day. The hulk had easily four inches on Midnight and was roughly
twice as broad. Brick red hair, face showing the scars of both from battle and
a bad case of adolescent acne, freckles so numerous they blended into each other.
It really wasn't good to take in on an empty stomach.

He didn't look much like an intelligence officer, far
too conspicuous. More like someone who should have been put in low level security.
Flame referred to him once as the Thug, and Midnight thought briefly that it

Ashfell strolled in and immediately settled himself at
the table near the window, putting down the days briefing and starting in on
his report before Midnight could even fill the coffee pot at the sink.

"We had an eventful night with your favorite charges,"
he said. "You might find this amusing."

Midnight's stomach lurched. Amusing and Fullmetal didn't
fit. For that matter amusing and Flame wasn't such a happy thought, either.
Damn, he hoped he didn't have to actually follow through with the threat
of putting Fullmetal back in solitary. He NEEDED that crazy smart son-of-a-bitch.
Fullmetal had a reputation for pulling new arrays out of his ass. The Fuhrer
was pushing for positive results, and let it be known, in a not so subtle way,
that if they didn't come soon Midnight might face some unpleasant consequences.

"Apparently prison can make men lonely," Ashfell drawled.
"One of the guards caught them in bed together. Consensually, it seems."

Well that was NOT what Midnight was expecting to hear.
He coughed on his spit.

For a moment his mind ran through the scenario in rather
too much detail for his own comfort. One of the things he had been trying very
hard not to notice was just how... pretty... the Elrics were. Flame had reputation
for being a womanizer; one could easily suppose, after a year of enforced abstinence,
the long blond hair and small frame might be close enough to feminine not to

That Fullmetal had gone along with it... now that was...
well actually that was interesting. And useful. Midnight scratched the stubble
on his chin. He had the younger Elric completely cowed by playing off his relationship
with the Rockbell girl. This had the same potential.

And suddenly Flame's almost instant control over the kid
made perfect sense. "We have a history together," Flame had said.

Exactly what sort of history would that be? thought Midnight.
And how far back? The kid had been eleven when he first entered the ex-Colonels
care. That was just sick. And what sort of falling out had they had for Fullmetal
to abandon the Colonel in his time of need?

Ashfell was already pushing on to other items. Something
about ineffective tape recorders. Midnight missed most of it. Whatever he lost,
he could pick up again in the written report later.

"I suggest we move them apart again," said Ashfell, breaking
into Midnight's thoughts.

"No," countered Midnight. "I can use this."

"Very well, but we don't want to make Mustang's stay too
pleasant. The Fuhrer's is pretty adamant about the bastard suffering. At least
until you get your results. He's only allowing you to use him on this project
out of the sheer perverse irony of it."

"I know what I'm doing," Midnight insisted. "Flame isn't
the only manipulative bastard out there. And trust me, the results of this project
are already very, very interesting. He's got the kid almost civilized. Let's
not be too hasty breaking up a good thing."


Roy was smugger than usual this morning, but he wouldn't
let Al in on whatever the joke was. He also looked exhausted. Al could guess
the tired part. It had taken him and Roy the better part of two weeks to slowly
and discretely piece together their signing system. Getting Ed up to speed would
have probably taken hours at least.

The rats had been delivered again. Three this time, each
with a shaved flank. Al didn't want to touch them. So he wrote notes, most of
which were redundant and he practiced drawing arrays as if the problem was penmanship.
Roy yawned and messed with the bulky camera equipment, and snickered occasionally
to himself.

And that was how Midnight caught them, slacking off with
nothing to show for a day's work.

"What is the problem?" he asked, with a level of menace
in his tone that Al had not heard before. Midnight grabbed his notes, and scattered
them across the room. "What is this garbage?"

Roy tried to intervene, but Midnight just pushed him aside
and backed Al against the wall. "You better have a DAMN good explanation as
to why you haven't already processed these rats, kid. That camera equipment
is on LOAN, it goes back in two hours."

"For heaven's sake, " Roy spoke up. "Lay off of him. He's
having a fit of conscience."

Midnight spun around and the two exchanged a very strange

"He likes animals," said Roy. "He doesn't like seeing
them get hurt."

And Midnight actually deflated a bit. "Oh, is THAT what
this is about?" he said with a laugh of relief.

As though it could have been something else, thought Al.

"Look Al, these are RATS. Vermin. People poison them to
get them out of their houses. They have about as much intelligence as your snot.
They have a life span of a year tops. Maybe in their next life they will get
to be gerbils or birds or something less filthy. And lab life is no fun. Put
them out of their misery."

"Can't you have Roy do it?" asked Al. "I'll come up with
the arrays, I just don't want to actually draw them on the ... subjects."

"He doesn't get to draw arrays. He's a prisoner. This
is your job. Suck it up soldier and stop being such a crybaby."

Al's stomach hardened at the insult. Angry, he walked
over to the cage, snatched a rat out, placed it on the desk and drew the array
with a quick practiced hand.

"Better," said Midnight.

They started the camera equipment. The rat ran the maze
flawlessly. Al activated the array, then placed the rat at the starting line.
Hissing in a breath, Al let go of the rat's sides. It squirmed away from him
wandering through the maze, nosing at the walls, doubling back. Lost, but still
lively. Eventually the rat found the snack left for it, but it took about 5

"Congratulations," said Midnight. "You've had your first

"Yeah, I've erased a memory." Al breathed. "What's next."

"Implanting one."


Roy had kissed him. Holy crap.

Ed squirmed in his bed, rolling over onto his side, feeling
his belly twisting into a knot. His eyes stared at blank grey walls. Distractionless
walls. God he wanted to get out of there. He wanted to run. Hit something. He
wanted OUT. He wanted to think about something else other than Roy kissing him
and the churning confusion it had left in it's wake.

Roy was off at work, with his brother. Researching. Experimenting.
Doing things. Leaving him alone in an empty cell. He tried to read one of the
books on the desk but couldn't get the words to stick in his mind. His body
itched to move but there was no place to go.

He wanted to hit a guard. He wanted to smack Roy good.
Take that smirk and drive it through his teeth. The PRESUMPTION of the man.
And the way he'd laughed it all off afterwards, like it was some big joke and
he was the butt of it. As though it were nothing. Except now the guards were
all LOOKING at Ed in a way they hadn't since he'd first arrived.

Roy had kissed him. His first kiss, if you didn't count
the brotherly pecks Al gave him, or the quick on the cheek welcome-back smooches
Winry offered up whenever he'd come home from a particularly long absence. Roy
had kissed him like he might have a girl, then laughed about it.

Then fished for compliments. I'm out of practice,
he had said, but really was it that bad?

Ed didn't actually remember what it felt like because
at the time he'd been so blown away that it was even happening he hadn't even
registered the feeling. He had no idea if it was a good kiss or bad one.

But it did prove a theory Ed held. Sex, Ed had decided
years ago, was a messy ,and potentially dangerous distraction. It undermined
people's rationality, made them do stupid things, and when it went bad it soured
previously good relationships.

One quick kiss and Roy had thrown a comfortable companionship
out the window. Now there was this weird THING in between them. Something that
wasn't even really an invitation into a relationship, but couldn't be completely
dismissed either.

What the hell had Roy been thinking?

Ed didn't want to think about it. Just like he didn't
want to think about what he did late at night when he thought the other was
asleep. It's just biology. The body dictated "use it or lose it," and Ed didn't
want to lose it. And he didn't want it rearing up in his sleep, either, when
he was in even less control of it, where it might make a mess that he wouldn't
be able to properly hide.

Ed was ashamed of his needs. Mostly because of what turned
him on. Thinking of people who he didn't know just didn't cut it. A stranger
off a street or a picture in a magazine could only bring him so far. Eventually
he had to think of either one of his friends, or one of his enemies. And it
almost didn't matter which of them it was. Just about everyone Ed knew had made
an appearance in his nightly fantasy at least once. Ed was certain that none
of them would appreciate the way he manipulated them in his mind.

Lately it had mostly been Al and Winry who came to mind
when he touched himself. He'd seen them kiss when they thought he wasn't looking.
He'd wondered what it would feel like to run his hand down the back of Winry's
dress. Run his hand up the front of her shirt. He wondered what she tasted like.
And he was positive that Al wouldn't appreciate him mentally debauching his

Even worse, sometimes it was the other way around, and
he wondered what it was that Winry felt when she ran her hands through his brother's
hair. How it felt to touch the new muscles developing under his skin. And what
it felt like to hear his brother's voice coo in his ear. Ed almost couldn't
forgive himself for that.

It all embarrassed him to such a point that Al and Winry
had picked up on it, and instinctively become discrete about their relationship
around him. He doubted they understood exactly the nature of his discomfort,
and he wasn't about to let them know. Ever.

At least, Ed thought, it wouldn't be either of them who
sprang to mind next time need reared its ugly head. But having it be Roy instead
wasn't any more comfortable. Hell, he was stuck with the man for six months
in close quarters.

Damn that man. Ed curled into a tighter ball.