velvet mace


chapter 32. The Ugly Now

Winry switched feeds from the hall to the prison cell. She wished she had more than one pair of ears and she wished that there was more than one fixed-mounted camera in Sub 4.

All she could see on the monitor was a grainy image of the elevator and a group of men hanging out in the door to the stairwell. No action there.

But what she heard was another matter. It was going down. Right now. This was it.

Winry bit her lip and crossed her fingers. Go, go, go, let's get this DONE.

"I guess it's my turn," said Al, his voice tinny in her ear. She heard reluctance. Be strong, my love, she thought. You can do it. Just one more time and this is all over.

A loud sound hit her body like an electric shock. What was that! Some thuds and then no one talked for an achingly long time. What was going on. Was that a shot?

Someone knocked at the door of the Mechanical room. Winry looked at Devers, who met her eye, then turned to look at the door.

In her ear, she heard what was happening three floors below.

"He's not dead," said Ed, his voice anguished.

Who wasn't dead? No, not ROY!

Over the headset she heard Roy's voice, too low to be really heard. "Sorry..." was all she could catch.

Not Roy... who else would cause Ed to talk like No.

The mechanical room was getting noisy; she wished all the banging would just stop so she could hear what was going on over the headphones better.

"Ah HELL," came Ashfell's voice. "Ah, crap... Ed..."

Someone was laughing. Some ASSHOLE was laughing. A gruff voice she had come to identify as the Fuhrers spoke up. "Well, I guess I saved the cost of an execution for that one."

"He's not dead!" said Ed.

Devers grabbed her shoulder. Winry didn't want to turn her focus away, but she had to. She looked up. Devers was standing, his hand near his side as if he were contemplating drawing his gun.

"Winry, take those off."

She shook her head. "Something's going on. Someone got hurt. I think Al was shot."

"It can wait. I need you to repair the alarm right now. Repair as much as you can. Hurry."

Ed spoke again, voice hard and determined. "He's going to be just fine, Roy. He just passed out, that's all."

"Al's hurt," said Winry, unable to get a full breath.

"He was an irreplaceable part of your plan... I hope," said the Furher.

"Al, cut it out," came Ed's voice, she could hear an sob in it. "Wake up, you faker, wake up!"

Then Devers grabbed the headphones and pushed them off. He pulled them out of the wall and coiled them, tossing them into a bag by his foot. He spoke to Winry harshly. "We don't have any time. Wire it back up... QUICKLY."

Hazily, Winry looked around the room. It all looked so foreign and incomprehensible, but eventually she was able to click in what was going on.

Someone was banging at the door. They were going to come in, soon.

She looked at the mess of wires in front of her. The signs of sabotage were obvious.

"Make it look neat, and hurry. If they catch us in the middle of espionage they will shoot us first and investigate later."

Winry went to work, reconnecting the circuits. Suddenly a loud whooping noise scared her out of her wits. Her body shook and trembled and she could barely hold onto her tools. It's the alarm, she'd just connected it. The whole building would be filled with this noise now. Oh, god, it was all going down wrong.

Ed says he isn't dead. I can trust Ed. Ed wouldn't say that if it weren't true.

Winry's heart was trembling. Her vision started going blurry, but she didn't realize she was crying until a warm fat drop hit the back of her hand.

Devers' hand was on her shoulder, and he was talking at her. She couldn't hear him. Not over the door, banging, banging, banging. Not over sound of her own thoughts.

"I'm going as fast as I can," she said.

"Good enough. Shove it in and cover it." Winry pushed the mass of wires into the wall receptacle and closed the panel over it. She fumbled a screw and it fell to the floor. She bent to reach it. But Devers restrained her. "No, just close it."

She grabbed another screw and slid it into the hole and began to tighten. She got it down, then grabbed the next and had it half way screwed in. Suddenly, Devers pulled her away. "That's good enough," and he yanked her up to her feet and embraced her.

She embraced him back with fervor. Her heart felt like it was literally breaking and she just wanted to press it against someone, just to hold it in her chest.

Al can't be dead. Ed wouldn't lie to me about this.

Devers hand pressed against her back and she felt his head buried in her hair, near her neck... His mouth was against her ear saying something incomprehensible. Something that sounded like "Play along, please."

His hand stroked her hair and her mind suddenly skewed off in a new unexpected direction. Devers' hands felt a lot like Al's and that just wasn't right. She didn't want Devers touching her like this. She wanted Al. She had to go to him, get down there somehow and see him. She had medical training. She could help him.

Devers held her in a vise like grip, and she couldn't get free. "Settle down, please," he whispered at her. Then his mouth was over hers, warm and wet and wrong.

She froze. It made no sense at all. Everything was upside down. She didn't want Devers kissing her. The door was eerily quiet.

Then Devers broke violently away and the world erupted into movement. She saw blurs pulling Devers away out of the room. More blurs and she was being held again. Hard hands on her upper arms were pushing her forward, out the door into the hallway, then bending her down. Her legs collapsed and she fell to the floor with her arms pressed painfully high against her back.

One of the blurs coalesced into a uniformed man. He seemed to hesitate, kneeling next to her. A hand brushed her cheek. "Was he hurting you?"

The man wrenching her arms was hurting her, but the world seemed to be settling out again and she realized he meant had DEVERS hurt her. She blinked. Devers had kissed her and she hadn't wanted that, hadn't expected that, hadn't... why had... had?

Devers was on the floor to the other side of her, his hands were being shoved into manacles. The look on his face was gentle, worried, resigned.

She began to understand what the people around her were saying. They thought Devers had lured her into the room to make out with her. They had seen her tears, and they knew she was Al's girlfriend. They thought Devers had been trying to molest her against her will.

And Devers was doing nothing to change their opinion.

A distraction, so that they wouldn't notice what they'd been up to. She should have played along. Devers was trying to save her life, but now they thought he was a rapist. If she'd just kissed back, had held back on her tears, then she just would have taken a minor hit to her reputation and that was all.

Devers smiled just a little bit, recognizing her comprehension. She couldn't smile back. Now he would die with a ruined name, and she would die with her useless honor intact.

Why did he even bother to try save me? She thought. Why didn't he just let them see what we were doing? It's over. We lost. You gave up your reputation for nothing.

EVERYTHING had rested on Al. Without him to activate the array, the plan was unsalvageable. Eventually the rest of the lab would bring them down. This was clear treason; there would be no mercy.

Maybe it would be BETTER if Al was dead. At least then he died with hope and her, and all their dreams intact, and not by slow degrees in a cell, hopeless and alone, until the hail of bullets from a firing line put an end to his misery.

Winry felt something painfully cold close about her wrists, felt the weight and solidity of metal against flesh, and when she was lifted off the floor, she knew that there was nothing she could do to control her fate.

She closed her eyes and said good-bye to their house, their kids, their future. The beautiful dream faded and she was locked, permanently in the ugly now.

Don't wake up, Al. Don't wake up to this.


Roy held Ed, pulling him away from Al's body. Ed resisted. "He's not dead, Roy. Just look at him. Does he look dead to you?" Ed grabbed Al's head a bit roughly and it lolled forward.

A thin stream of blood ran from his left nostril, around the curve of his upper lip and down the side of his chin.

Roy swallowed. Ed's arm moved and the head flopped back again, over to the side. Roy noticed blood in the left ear, blood on Ed's sleeve. Al's mouth hung open almost as if he were yawning.

Roy closed his eyes and pulled on Ed again. He felt his lover shaking.

"Wake up, you slacker," said Ed roughly. "Shake it off. What would Sensei say if she saw you like this?"

Roy grabbed Ed's hands and pulled them away. It took strength, but in the end Roy simply outweighed Ed, and Al's body flopped back down on the ground. Roy cuddled the man on his lap, holding him tight, kissing the crown of his head.

It was over. He'd failed them. Failed Ed and Al utterly. Failed Winry and Midnight.

Failed Ashfell and all the others they had arrayed. Now they would be executed. They were faultless. They would have NEVER gone along with this sorry excuse for a coup if he hadn't made them, but no one would believe that, and they would all be punished without mercy. Their loved ones would visit their graves and wonder why they had chosen to betray their country. Roy's name would become a curse word.

Roy had failed his country, absolutely, utterly, and abominably. He would carry the sin of hubris to his death.

He looked at the Fuhrer with pure unadulterated hate. The other regarded him back with a cold smile.

"Well, I guess that is that." Goddard laughed again, rubbing his injured hand absentmindedly. "I take it that none of you know how to activate this array. That's what Midnight informed me. He said that only the younger brother was allowed to activate the arrays. It takes work, doesn't it."

Ed's eyes flashed up and Roy felt the tension sing in his muscles. "I can activate that damn array. You brains will be mush, but I don't think I care. If we are all going down anyway, we might as well take you with us."

He wrestled free of Roy's arms and launched himself at the Fuhrer.

Only to have Ashfell intercept him. "Stop, Ed. Stop. Mustang, control your lover."

"Maybe Ed's right," said Roy bitterly. At least if the Fuhrer were dead, or incapacitated, there may be some hope that the country would find a saner leader. Perhaps some good could come of this after all. "But if anyone is activating the array, it will be me. I can turn his brains to goo as well as anyone."

The Fuhrer backed involuntarily further into the cell. He looked afraid again. Good.

Roy grabbed Ed around the waist and retrieved him from Ashfell's bear hug. "I'll give you revenge, my love. You don't have to carry the guilt of it." Ed seemed to relax a bit in his arms.

"Well, I'm not giving up yet," said Ashfell. "And I'm not letting EITHER of you mess this up because you aren't thinking clearly."

Roy looked up and met Ashfell's eyes. He dared feel a ray of hope. "What do you have in mind?"

"Al isn't the only one who can successfully activate that array."

Roy blinked. "What are you talking about?"

"I mean he's not the only one who can activate the array. Why don't you just order Midnight to do it? Midnight was the person who was SUPPOSED to activate the goddamn arrays in the first place."

Roy blinked. Midnight could activate the arrays?

OF COURSE, he could. Roy smacked his head.

Ashfell was giving him a look of utter distain. "Who the hell did you think was going to put you under, Mustang? Your buddy, Al? I don't think so. Midnight's been doing his homework. I was with him when he succeeded. He should be out in the hall there. Just go, call him."

The alarm suddenly started whooping.

"I don't think we have much time," said Ashfell. "Go do it now."

Roy let go of Ed and ran out into the hall. "Midnight!" he shouted, scanning the crowd of arrayed soldiers. "MIDNIGHT. Get over here, pronto!"

Midnight separated from the group. "Is it over?"

Roy grabbed his arm and yanked him towards the cell. "Hurry, Goddamn you. We need you."

Bemused, Midnight followed him and stopped in the doorway to the cell. His eyes were down on Al. He looked up at Ed who was cuddling his brother in his lap, then to Al again.

"Shot," said Midnight. "Who..."

"The Fuhrer."

"Had a gun... when?"

"MIDNIGHT," said Roy roughly. "The array is already on him, I need you to activate it. We don't have a lot of time."

"Al..." whispered Midnight.

"Midnight I ORDER you to activate that array," said Roy desperately.

Suddenly Midnight turned and looked Roy in the eye. His face was screwed up with pain. "I'm not your slave, Mustang. I never was. I belonged to Al and I don't think he needs my services anymore."