velvet mace


chapter 26. Disappointment

Devers looked up at the unexpected noise and saw Ashfell filling the doorway.
He put the knife down on the paper and wiped his hands with a moist towel. "News?"

Ashfell stepped in and closed the door behind him. He
only looked briefly at Mustang, jaw tightening a bit. "Not yet. Are you done

Devers glanced at his watch. "I figured I'd do another
half hour. I've hardly started on his back."

Ashfell shook his head. "I think that's good enough. The
Fuhrer needs him presentable."

Mustang sighed. Dever's thought he saw the trace of a
smile, but it could have just been an illusion. Getting off easy again, Mustang,
he thought. Isn't that just the story of your life?

Devers felt frustrated, but he wasn't going to let it
on. Truth be told, Mustang had embarrassed him. Had made him and his own look
incompetent. Although he personally got no pleasure out of torture, there had
been something very satisfying about being able to personally see to it that
justice was done.

But orders were orders. Ashfell said stop—it was time
to stop.

As if Ashfell could sense his disappointment, he continued.
"Get him cleaned up, I'm going to question him some. If his answers are less
than forthright, you can finish up the session."

Mustang definitely moaned at that.


The guard at the gate stopped Al with a curt word.

Al's stomach dropped. He could feel Winry's hand tighten
on his, but didn't dare look her way, fearing he'd lose his composure if he
saw how frightened she was.

Almost immediately five other guards left the building
and surrounded them. They didn't touch Al or Winry, but their presence alone
showed the futility of running. Where would they run to anyway? Sighing, he
allowed himself to be escorted into the lab.

Winry was separated from him in the lobby. He caught one
last glimpse of her as he walked through the heavy doors that lead to the most
secure part of the facility. Her eyes were wide and her face pale. A man held
her upper arm, but he seemed to be gesturing towards the exit.

Not time to panic yet. They didn't seem to be interested
in Winry—that's a good sign. Maybe this is just some sort of procedure. Maybe
they just wanted to question him about his brother and Mustang. That would make

If they suspected him, they would have arrested him...

The elevator never seemed quite so ominous before. When
he hesitated half a second, he felt a firm hand on his back between his shoulder
blades, pushing him forward.

"What is this about?" he asked one of the men.

"Orders, sir," was the reply.

The elevator went down... into the basements. It stopped
on a floor Al had never been to before. The corridor was busy, in fact packed
with uniformed men, all looking grim. Everyone looked at him and he felt uncomfortably
conspicuous with his escort.

"That Alphonse Elric?" someone asked. "Over here." He
waved with his hand.

They ushered him into a room with a long bench on one
end, a table and two chairs in the middle, a large suspicious looking mirror
on one wall. Al made for one of the chairs, but someone grabbed his arm and
pushed him onto the bench instead. "Listen," said Al. "I don't know what this
is about, could someone please tell me?"

When the slim handcuffs came out Al nearly panicked. The
game was up. He was being arrested. Al shook as they cuffed his hands together
behind his back. When they attached one ankle to the bench he nearly threw up.

"Please, just tell me what I did?" he asked.

One of the men hesitated in the door. "If I knew, I'd
tell you. We were just told to bring you in here and secure you. My SO will
be here in a bit. Ask him."

Everyone left and the door shut. Al waited on the bench
with nothing but very dark thoughts to keep him company.

Fifteen very long minutes later, the door opened. Ashfell
walked in. He looked over at Al and nodded his head curtly as if satisfied.

"What—" Al said leaning forward.

Ashfell put his finger to his lips, then turned around.
"Bring him in and latch him down."

The room was filled with people again. Al only got a glimpse
of orange between them. Then they parted and Ed shuffled on, head bowed, hair
loose and disheveled. He was back in his prison uniform, his arm off and his
free hand tied to a belt around his waist. Manacles hobbled his legs. Even with
all that, they still had six people on him.

They secured Ed to the bench as well.

"What is this about?" Al asked.

"You will find out in a bit, " said Ashfell and walked
out the door.

"You ok, Al," asked Ed after a moment, not raising his
head. Al couldn't see his face through the fringe of long bangs, but his voice
sounded hoarse.

"I'm fine. They haven't touched me."


"I think she's ok. I don't know. What happened?"

Ed's shoulders seemed to sag.

"What did they do to you?"

"Nothing. They didn't do a goddamn thing to me."

"What about Roy."

Ed stiffened. "I begged Ashfell to make them stop, but
I don't know if they did." In a tiny whisper: "Are you sure the array worked?"

"Positive." Al whispered back.

Ashfell returned with a bag. "This might be hard, but
Ed, I'm going to ask you NOT to scream this time. The recorders are off, and
no one is in the viewing room, but we don't want the men outside coming in right

Al's eyes widened. What was going on?

Ashfell reached into the bag and brought out Ed's arm.
"Don't screw up, Ed. Al. When Devers brings Mustang in, you two are going to
have to be ready to go. You are going to have to do it fast too, or we'll have
half the lab on us."

Ashfell quickly released Ed's manacles, then helped Ed
lift up his prison shirt. Ed shrugged his shoulder free and with a practiced
hand lined the automail up and pressed in.

Al heard him hiss and gasp, and saw his brother bunch
his white knuckled fingers into the fabric of his pants. For several long minutes
no one spoke. Then finally Ed moved his automail arm for the first time. He
sat up straight and flexed the fingers carefully. "It's..." he sucked in a breath.
"Not as bad... as earlier..."

Ashfell seemed pleased. He finally turned to Al. "How
you doing, kid?" He unlocked the handcuffs.


"Doesn't look like my guys roughed you up too bad. Good."
Al suddenly felt relieved that Ashfells people had hardly even touched him.
It was apparent from Ashfells attitude that he wouldn't have been surprised
to have found Al beaten to a pulp.

"What about Winry?"

"I had my people send her home for now. Later on we can
call her back if needed, but my guys are a bit riled up right now. They don't
get called on high alert too often. Tends to make them a little itchy to prove
themselves. It's better that she stay away."

Al shuddered.

"Ok, boys, here's the drill. My people WILL be coming
in and out of here to check on you two. It can't be helped. Hopefully, they
will just poke their heads in, but if you look like you are up to anything they'll
make a more thorough check. Ed you need to keep your arm under your shirt. We
don't want anyone seeing it. Al if someone starts to come in, you're to put
your hands behind your back like you are still secured. Both of you, stay on
the bench, don't talk too much. Hopefully, this won't take too long."

Ashfell surveyed the room. "This would have been a whole
lot easier if Mustang didn't insist on being part of this. Ah well. Not my call."


Mustang tried to separate himself from his body. It was embarrassing enough
that he could hardly stand for the shaking. He wanted to pretend that the moaning
wasn't coming from his lips.

They rubbed his wounds with ointment and covered them
over with gauze—not because they wanted to ease his suffering, but rather
to prevent infection. They didn't want him sick or injured, just in pain. The
Weasel explained this to him, as if he cared to know. Somehow it made it seem

After he put on the familiar orange suit, they lead him
shuffling down the corridor to the elevator. Roy's eyes had lingered on the
cell next to the one he'd been in, but the door was closed and it was quiet.
He'd looked briefly at his old cell as they passed it, but there was no sign
of Ed in there as well. He wondered what Edward was thinking. What could he
possibly say that would make up for what he'd done? I'm sorry didn't seem to
come close to covering it, but anything else just sounded like he was making
excuses for himself.

He was surprised when the elevator moved up instead of
down. As they exited, the Weasel spoke again: "Tell me, what did you say to
Midnight to get him to help you?"

Roy vowed to say nothing to the Weasel, no matter what
the threat was.

The Weasel sighed. "You don't strike me as a masochist.
You will be telling us anyway, you might as well just come right out and do
it." He put a hand on Roy's shoulder. It might have been companionable if it
weren't for the cluster of shallow cuts right under his hand, or the way his
fingers dug in.

Roy hissed and shuffled forward.

Ashfell greeted them in the hall. "Take him in," he said
to the guard, but then put a hand out to stop the Weasel from following. "A

Roy blamed the pain, but for a second, he honestly didn't
know what was going on, which was why when he looked around the room and saw
not only Ed but Al sitting patiently on a bench, his poker face fell apart and
his jaw actually dropped.

The guard seemed oblivious to his reaction, pushing him
over to sit between the two brothers. He made no attempt to resist when the
chain between his legs was attached to one of the supports of the bench.

Neither of the brothers reacted at all to his presence
until the guard left the room. Then they went into motion immediately, simultaneously,
and bewilderingly.

Al leaned over and whispered, "Are you ok?" He put a hand
on Roy's shoulder, causing him to wince.

Before Roy could answer, a flurry of movement caught his
eye in the other direction. Ed had pulled his shirt up over his shoulder, revealing
his automail. Then he brought his palms together and placed them on the heavy
manacles binding Roy's hands. The metal dropped into Al's hands. A second later
Roy's legs were freed as well.

Roy felt his mind being pulled in several directions at

Ed is helping me. He doesn't hate me. Why doesn't he
hate me?

He has his automail back. We are back on the plan.

Al is here. That must mean...

The knob rattled. Ed and Al jumped up and pressed themselves
flat against either side of the doorway. Roy noticed a conspiratorial grin pass
between the two. Then Roy saw Ashfell stand like a gentleman against the door
so that his underling could pass into the room. The door slammed shut causing
the room to echo with the clang of metal against metal.

It almost seemed like some oddly choreographed dance.

First the Weasel looked at Roy, face calm and speculative.

Then Ed grabbed his arm and began to spin him around towards
himself. The Weasel's expression changed to amazement. His other arm shot up

Al reached around him from behind, in what almost looked
like a bear hug. Al's fingers caught the fabric of his shirt just above the
belt and tugged upward just as Ed let go of the Weasel's arm and brought his
palms together.

Ashfell, just a second behind the other two reached into
the fray and clamped one hand over the Weasels mouth. The other grabbed the
nape of his neck, pinning his second in command between them. The Weasel reached
up to pry the hand off his mouth.

The echoes from the door died down, and Roy heard scuffling
shoes, choking, and panting. A second tug pulled the shirt free revealing an
expanse of pale belly. Ed pressed his hands onto the Weasels skin with such
force that he coughed out a breath and both he and Al were pushed backwards
a foot.

Al's fingers snaked around and wiggled under his brother's
hand. The skin lit again.

The Weasel squirmed, his head twisting; his eyes opened
wide in horror and shock.

It was Roy's turn. His voice was a little louder and shriller
than he wanted, but the effect was just the same. "You will obey me. Now, BE

The Weasel's brows rose and his eyes half closed in utter
despair. And then he relaxed and stood. Ed released him first, stepping away
and putting a hand on his automail shoulder. Then Ashfell let go of his head.
The Weasel's mouth was slightly gaping and a little moist. Al let him go last,
almost as if he were trying to turn what he was doing into some sort of comforting

The Weasel just stood, looking at Roy through the corner
of his eye, waiting.

Roy wanted to hurt him. Wanted to reduce him to a mindless
drooling idiot. It would be easy to do it. Just a few words. He could torture
the Weasel far worse than Weasel had hurt him. He could force the man to feel
the most excruciating fear, or horror, or even pain he'd ever known. All it
would take would be to say a few words.

Roy's mouth moved, but he couldn't summon the effort to
speak. The moment stretched on to the point where it was becoming awkward. Everyone
was waiting for him to do something. Ed looked deeply concerned. Al looked stunned.
Ashfell impatient.

Roy stood up and walked over to man, carefully because
every movement seemed to want to open some scratch on him somewhere. He put
a hand on the Weasels shoulder and pulled his chin to bring them eye to eye.
The Weasel just screwed his lids shut as if trying to negate Roy's existence.

I can make him scream. I can rend his soul apart. It would
be easy. And he knows it. It could even be justified, under the guise of revenge.

"Look at me." The Weasel complied, staring into Roy's
eyes with wide horror.

Roy sighed. I am not an evil person. I won't lower
myself to torture. I'm the bigger man.

"You don't need to be scared of me," Roy said. "We are
buddies, don't you remember? I'm your best friend." Just like old times. The
relationship would be just as fake as back then, but Roy could live with that.

A small, pained, horrified smile twitched on the Weasel's