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velvet mace

Pawns

chapter 15.

Delay

It always happens this way, thought Midnight. You let
something slide so you can get something else done, and what do you know that
one thing blows up in your face the moment your back is turned.

They were just one baby step away from the final goal
and going full steam. Then Midnight neglected the lab for two days. That's all
it took for his project to grind to a complete halt.

Now Mustang was pulled off the project, Edward had up
and quit, and Al was spending his time doodling and reading, claiming he needed
some inspiration to go further. So instead of getting caught up with his paperwork
and other duties, as Midnight had hoped, he had to spend most of the day wracking
his brains trying to fine tune an original array.

This was SO not his forte. Damn it, he knew all about
the principals of light and wavelengths, how they bent through different media,
but when it came to brain structures and chemistry, he knew about as much as
any man with an anatomy book did. He was an idea person, not a nuts and bolts
kind of guy. This was why he HAD a staff.

If Ashfell were there, he would have said "This was predictable,"
and have hinted with his eyes that Midnight was an idiot to have not dealt with
it.

Damn right it was predictable. Which is why he didn't
want Mustang pulled off. Or if he was pulled off, he wanted it to be for something
related to the project, not security. Honestly, just how much could Mustang
do from behind bars? His only contacts were his jailors who wouldn't help him,
his cellmate, who couldn't, and Al who was kept on a very short leash.

Ashfell was so full of himself right now, so sure he'd
caught the man in the act of some grand conspiracy, that he failed to account
for one serious logical inconsistency. If Mustang used hand signals to communicate,
why the hell did he disable the microphones?

Rather than making a scene about it, it would have been
better to observe them, and learn the signals himself. Then he could have gotten
an unguarded look into that scheming bastards mind. Too late for that now.

Oh, Gods, the Fuhrer already timed his return to Central
based on how the project had been progressing when there were three intelligent
motivated alchemists working on it. Midnight REALLY didn't want to report in
that he'd hit a delay. There was something about the way the Fuhrer emphasized
his expectations that made Midnight worry that delay might be really inadvisable.
Really, really inadvisable.

He had to get Al back to work. Which meant he had to get
Ed to work. Which meant he had to motivate the kid to want to work. And right
now the only motivation he could come up with was to offer the kid's lover back.

Ashfall was going to be very upset.

Visitor

Roy was surprised when the door opened again. It was too
soon for lunch, and far too soon for a visitor, but a visitor was precisely
what it turned out to be. He fully expected to be forced to wait at least a
week, if not several before hearing another voice. By then the torture of boredom
would have had a chance to work on his mind, dulling his IQ, making him more
amenable. As it was, he was still plenty sharp, and pissed off to boot.

It was the Weasel. Roy was surprised. He hadn't seen the
Weasel for a couple of months—not since before he'd started working on the
project.

The Weasel gave him a toothy grin. "Hey, Roy, babe. So
you got yourself in a little trouble I heard. Had to come down and see for myself.
Lo and behold, here you are in solitary again."

"Here I am," said Roy guardedly. Ah, yes, this was why
he hated this man.

"What, you didn't like that job we lined up for you?"

"I liked it."

"Had a little fight with your roomie? You could have just
asked to be separated you know."

"I get along fine with Edward."

"Then why did you take out the microphones? You had to
know that would get you into trouble. You don't seem the self-destructive type."

"I have no idea what you are talking about, what microphones?"

The Weasel sat down on Roy's bed a foot away from him.
"Oh, man, don't play dumb. We want to get you back on board, but you gotta play
along."

Roy allowed a small smile to form. Something wasn't going
as planned. Probably Edward acting up again. Hope made his heart hammer. "What
would you like me to do?"

"That's the way, babe." The Weasel slapped his back jovially.
"Tell us why you knocked out the microphones and I'll see what I can do to get
you back on track."

"I did it to have a private conversation with Ed."

"What would you need to talk privately with him about."

"Nothing that concerns you. "

The Weasel bent his head forward. "Roy, Roy, this isn't
forthcoming. I need something I can work with, convince the man that you weren't
conspiring to take over the world or something."

Roy chuckled. "Fullmetal is a formidable alchemist, but
I doubt anything I could have said to him in one night would get me that. Very
well, but this is rather damaging to my reputation. I was seducing Edward and
I didn't feel like giving Midnight lessons in manipulation—he's rather too
into that for my taste anyway."

The Weasel looked surprised. "Why would you want to seduce
Edward?"

Roy raised an eyebrow "He was there. It was a personal
challenge. It was fun." This was about the most disgusting thing he'd said in
a long time. It took something that had felt very good and special and turned
it into something tawdry, cheap and borderline abusive. He dearly hoped this
wouldn't get back to Ed. On the other hand, he didn't want Midnight thinking
that he really cared about Edward, and could use Ed's welfare as a means of
manipulating him. If anyone had to suffer torture, Roy wanted it to be himself.

"Did it work?"

"Of course." Roy let his voice convey mild hurt that anyone
could possibly question his skill in that area.

The Weasel pursed his lips in distaste. That was fine.
Roy didn't care what the Weasel thought of him. But the Weasel had an act to
put on. Although it was so phony it was almost corny, he had to pretend to be
on Roy's side. So after a pause he perked up his grin and slapped Roy's back
again.

"You should have left the recorders on. Midnight could
use a lesson in how to get laid."



BIRTHDAY PRESENT

It was with extreme mixed emotions that Midnight made
his way down to the cells in the fourth basement level of Lab 5. He hesitated
at the one that held Ed. It was Edward's 18th birthday and how ironic, Midnight
was bringing him a "gift."

The jailer opened the door and Midnight walked in. Ed
was lying on his bunk, head towards the door, one leg propped on the other knee.
He didn't even bother to look around when Midnight walked in. He just casually
raised his only arm and offered up his middle finger to whoever happened to
be there.

"Happy birthday, Fullmetal."

"Screw you, Midnight. I'm not working on your project
anymore."

"What does Roy Mustang mean to you."

"He's an asshole and I hope he rots in whatever hole you
put him." Ed was a lousy liar. "If you are going to torture him again because
I'm not working, go ahead. It's not like I will know if you really did or didn't.
Hell you can kill him, too. Or just say you did and not. All the same to me.
Out of sight, out of mind."

Midnight snorted. "You are one of the worst manipulators
I've ever met. I've a deal for you, If you come back to work, I will bring him
back on the project again."

"Mmm." It was a definitely positive noise, but he seemed
to be hesitating, holding out for something more.

"And he will be roomed with you again, if you really want
that. I can understand if you don't." Midnight hoped the kid would say no to
the rooming. It made him a little sick putting that pervert back in the cell
with Ed. Fullmetal didn't deserve that. Still, telling the kid just what a cad
his lover was wasn't going to make Ed want to go back to work.

"Mmmm. Ok. When will I see him?"

"We can bring him by in a few minutes—but Ed."

Ed rolled over and arched up, resting on his forearm.
His hair was loose and tousled and his eyes looked strangely sunken, as though
he was very tired. "Yes."

"If you don't make some real progress in the next week,
I'm pulling that bastard off the project again. We are seriously behind schedule.
And if I catch ANY of you using hand signals, Mustang is gone. I will not tolerate
scheming and conspiracy."

Embrace

Ed stood up when the door opened again. He watched Roy
step in looking, well frankly, great. Smiling, standing tall. Wherever they
had taken him they hadn't been too bad. He held himself in check until the door
shut again and they were as alone as they would ever be in that place. Then
he launched himself at the other.

Roy opened his arms and grabbed the younger man in a tight
possessive hug. Ed melted into the embrace. It felt so damn good. So damn good.
Roy released him after a few moments, held him at arms length and quietly took
him in.

"You look great," said Ed, breaking the silence because
he felt he had to. "Where'd they put you, the spa?"

"I wish, but no. You look terrible. Neglecting yourself
in my absence again, I see."

Ed frowned. "They took the goddamn brush when you left."

"Ah, I wondered about that. But here I thought you were
pining for me." Roy chuckled and pulled him close again. "You made a total nuisance
of yourself didn't you."

"Absolutely," grinned Ed.

"Perfect. I've trained you well," Roy whispered in his
ear.

"Oh no, no, no, you don't get the credit on this one,"
whispered Ed back. "I pulled your ass out of the fire. You owe me."

"Well it worked out very nicely. Thank you. Now they think
that only I can keep you in check. I must say that is very good to my ego. Tell
me, is it true?"

"You are teasing me again," said Ed warningly.

"It's what I do." He kissed Ed. Damn. It was worth the
teasing for that. "I missed you."

"Me, too," said Ed.

"Happy birthday, Ed." And that was the last thing either
said for quite a while.