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velvet mace

Pawns

chapter 24. Trust

"That's the plan?" Ed growled. "We give up? What the hell
kind of a plan is that?"

"One that will work," said Roy smoothly, putting a hand
on Ed's back. "Trust me."

Trust me. It was like some mantra of Roy's. Trust me.
Trust me. Do what I say. Ed wanted to trust him. Desperately. He'd been clinging
to that trust like a drowning man to a log, because if it slipped for a second...

His trust was slipping. This was a disaster. This wasn't
the plan, at least not the plan that Roy had told him in the small hours, in
the dark, when the touch of Roy's flesh against him made him feel giddy and
warm. That plan said lay low, act normal, take out just enough of the lab 5
personnel to insure privacy, and when the Fuhrer came to witness Roy's final
punishment, they would turn the tables and put him under an array instead.

Leaving the lab was not part of the plan. Neither was
holding hostages. Nor was GIVING UP. Whatever happened to being quiet? Whatever
happened to, "no one will notice." If stealth weren't important, Ed could have
just transmuted a goddamn tunnel out of 5th lab, and sure the noise would have
brought half of Central on them, but at least then he wouldn't have had to wear
this stiff uncomfortable uniform.

Trust me. Roy said. What did that mean? Code
for "don't think for yourself,"
Ed thought bitterly. I'm like a chess
piece to him, and not even a high powered chess piece like a knight or a castle.
I'm a freaking pawn.

Ed glanced at Roy who seemed to have taken his silence
as a sign that he was mollified, and wandered back over to Ashfell. Ed's breath
hitched a little at the sight of his lover. The smooth elegance to the way he
walked, the commanding aura that he exuded. The memory of the hands and lips
brought a rush of totally inappropriate emotions.

Roy wanted his trust, but Roy didn't trust him. All he
asked was to not be kept in the dark, but that's exactly what Roy had done.
Kept him in the dark for 3 months, stringing him along with tantalizing hints,
and distracting him with caresses. It all seemed designed to put the cynical
side of his brain to sleep.

And was that all it was?

This was a hard line of thought and where it lead was
very painful and ugly. Roy knew Ed was in love, could he be PLAYING on that?
Was that deliberate? Did Roy feel anything like the same thing for Ed? Or was
this some way to control him. Had that man looked right through him and found
his weakness and played it for all it was worth?

No, he loves me. He said so. Many times in the dark,
before, after, during.

He also said, "I haven't even seen a woman in 13 months."

Ed closed his eyes tightly and pressed his aching automail
to his forehead. It was hopeless. It was ridiculous to even think that somehow
he and Roy were going to wander off into some proverbial sunset and live happily
ever after.

If they lost here, Roy was going to be a slave and he
was going to spend the rest of his life in jail. Alone this time, without the
distraction of romance or an alchemical project to relieve the boredom of his
days. He should savor this ache, because he wasn't likely to ever feel the automail
again.

And even if somehow Roy was RIGHT and it did work out
in the end, there still would be no happily ever after, at least not for Ed.
Al and Winry would have each other, and go off somewhere to start their life.
And oh, he'd be welcome. As a visitor. As an outsider. But the team of him and
Al was over. Forever.

He'd lost Winry through sheer neglect. In retrospect,
he could see that she had flirted with him, had wanted him, and if he'd played
his cards right when he was sixteen, she would have probably even chosen him.
But he didn't, and she'd moved on. She'd made her choice and it wasn't him.
Al had won the bet they'd made when they were children. Ed had lost. He'd lost
both of them.

As for Roy—he would be surrounded by beautiful willing
women, the way men of power always are. Ed's name would be written down between
Daphne and Ella in some black book, on call if Roy should ever feel the whim
to have something more masculine to put his hands on. And Ed would probably
even be grateful every time that call came.

And Ed... well he could just find a pit to slink off to,
with the words "I'm a sap who will do anything for love, take advantage of me,"
taped to his back.

Ed's stomach soured, and he couldn't bear to look at any
of his companions.

Roy must have sensed something was up because suddenly
he was at Ed's back again, hands wrapping around his shoulders chin on his head.
Holding him. Ed should have melted, but he tightened up instead. "This will
work. It really will," Roy was whispering in his ear. "It's only a small set
back."

"Let's run away." Ed said suddenly, pulling away from
Roy. He turned around and met Roy's dark eyes. "Just you, me, Al and Winry.
We'll leave the others behind. We've got a car, we could go a long way before
it ran out of gas. We could find a quiet place to settle down where they won't
find us. Maybe we could even make it to the border, and be truly free."

Roy grabbed his shoulders again in a solid grip. "We can't
do that. This is more than just about us. People are dying needlessly. When
I'm Fuhrer, I will find a way to resolve these wars."

But I don't want you to become Fuhrer, Ed thought.
I want you to hide away where no one else can find you. Where you won't
dare show your face in public. Where I can have you all to myself... ah hell,
that IS selfish.
He covered his eyes with his automail.

"I don't see how giving up is going to help anything."

"We aren't giving up," Roy said. "We are LETTING ourselves
be recaptured. If this plays out the way Ashfell and I have discussed, then
you will have your automail arm back by the end of the day, and you and I won't
have to sleep in one of those tiny hard cell cots tonight either. We will have
a nice comfortable bed." Roy leaned closer and whispered, "And I can show you
a few new tricks."

Ed felt a pleasant shudder and bit his lip. No, he wasn't
going to let Roy distract him with sex again. "You and Ashfell discussed this.
What about me? Don't I get any say in this?" He felt a rush of anger. "This
is my life on the line, too. I have been pulling off missions since I was TWELVE
years old. What makes you think I don't have any contributions I can make to
this one." He pulled away from Roy completely and walked a few paces away. "You
want me to trust you," he said looking back. "Well, start trusting me. I'm not
an idiot. I'm not just muscle. I'm not just a guy who can make things go boom.
I've got a brain, too. USE it. Maybe if you had, we wouldn't be in this situation."

Roy looked taken aback.

Good.

"What do you want me to do, Ed."

"I want you to stop telling me to trust you, and start
telling me what the hell we are doing."

The Calm

There were flaws in the plan. Flaws the size of mountains. Ed counted them off
on his fingers one by one: The missing car, the missing guard, the first driver,
Dunn, Midnight doing suspicious things. Even Al and Winry, who were supposedly
out at dinner—Without an escort? Never.

Even a poor investigator would be able to figure out the
pieces of this puzzle didn't match the picture on the box.

Roy shook his head. No one was going to compare the pieces
to the picture, because no one was ever going to assemble the puzzle. It was
worth it all for Ashfell. With Ashfell on their side, they could get away with
anything. Ashfell had been pretty adamant about his people being loyal to him.
They wouldn't go over his head.

Things only needed to stay quiet for a week. Six days
now.

Yes, there was risk, Roy knew—but he discounted all
the ones that Ed had pointed out.

The real risk was that Ashfell's men would simply shoot
them before they had a chance to surrender.

What they really needed was a goodly dose of luck and
a place to hole up.

After the others left with the car, they continued up
the driveway. Ed had spotted the telephone wire strung across a field and followed
it to a small cottage. They needed a phone to make this work.

Ed helped break into the house. The only occupant was
an old woman, who took their invitation to run quite seriously, and took off
down the gravel path as quickly as her arthritic knees allowed her to. Although
it looked quite comical, none of the three laughed. They waited fifteen minutes
after she'd rounded the last bend before Ashfell plucked the knitted cozy off
the phone and dialed in.

Roy took the moment to just relish being. The air smelled
good. Even inside where there was just a hint of camphor and dust, it still
smelled, frankly, marvelous. Outside the trees were winter bare, and the sky
very pale, just starting to turn a bit pink around the edges.

Roy noticed Ed staring out the window and sucked in a
breath. For a moment, with the late rays of sunlight hitting his face, he seemed
to be glowing. Ed had always been beautiful and vibrant and untouchable. He
was the same now, only now Roy could reach out his hand, if he chose, and confirm
with his fingers what his eyes already knew.

Or that's how it should be.

Ed turned his way, met his eye, then looked away again
—just a bit too quickly.

Roy's stomach jerked. He was losing Ed. He didn't know
what he did or didn't do, but just as things were coming together in his plan,
something was falling apart between them.

The light faded. The moment of quiet was almost over.
Ashfell was looking at Roy expectantly. His hand was on the phone's receiver,
holding it out.

Roy wished he had time to talk it over with Ed. But there
wasn't time, and this wasn't the sort of thing he wanted to talk about in front
of Ashfell anyway. Life was due to become quite hectic in the next few minutes,
and there would be no time to talk about it for sometime after that either.

Roy reached out and took the phone. In his coldest voice
he began talking. "We are serious here. If you do not meet our terms in three
hours, you will find his body in the river."

"What are your terms again?" came the voice over the other
end. Playing for time. Roy gave it to them. He rattled off things that made
sense. Money, a car, civilian clothes. He grinned while he described Ed's size,
looking slyly out of the corner of his eye to see if the young man had picked
up on the oblique height reference. Ed didn't appear to be listening.

The man on the other end of the line played dumb and had
him repeat several times.

Surely it shouldn't take this long to trace a call, thought
Roy. Any sensible villain would have hung up the phone long ago, and they knew
he wasn't dumb.

Then suddenly the man on the other end said, "We've heard
your terms, now you will hear ours."

"Your terms?" said Roy pretending to be ignorant, but
his heart started beating triple time. This was it.

With his hand, he gestured to Ed fiercely. MOVE MOVE
MOVE.
Roy's stomach bottomed out. God, why wasn't Ed moving.

Ed just stood there in the window, looking out like a
fool. No, not quite like a fool—like someone tempting fate. Like someone
just cutting it close for the thrill of cutting it close. There was that smile
on his face that had nothing to do with humor or happiness. His eyes were narrowed.

Goddamn that kid. "ED MOVE!" Roy dropped the phone
and reached out to him.

Ed dropped to the ground just as the window smashed into
pieces, and bullets shattered the neat row of pictures framed on the wall on
the far side of the room. DAMN it!

And in the dim light, Ed met his eyes again, searching,
and then looking somehow more satisfied. Had Roy passed some kind of test? How?
By nearly having a heart attack? By being absolutely FURIOUS with Ed? What the
hell was the kid trying to prove?

After the initial hail of bullets died down, the tinny
voice from the phone continued. Roy barely got the receiver to his ear in time
to catch what the man was saying. "Our terms are you can surrender in the next
thirty seconds, or you can die. Which will it be?"