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Pawns

chapter 34. Repeat

Ed was holding his hand, which was weird, because Ed really
doesn't do that kind of thing. Al stared at the hand for a while, then at the
sheets, which didn't feel like the sheets on his bed. In fact nothing in the
room looked remotely familiar.

"Where am I?" Al asked.

"You are in the hospital." Ed's voice sounded tired.

The last thing Al remembered was being in the stairwell
waiting for the fighting to die down.

"Why am I in the hospital?"

"You got shot in the head."

Shot in the head? Al felt a flutter of worry. "Will
I be ok?"

"Yes, Al." Ed made it sound like the answer should be
obvious.

Al felt a bit annoyed. It was poor form to put down an
injured person. "Oh. Ok, I guess."

He looked around. He didn't see Winry. Surely if he were
hurt Winry would be here. "Is Winry ok?"

"She's fine." Phew!

The job! The take down! Al felt a sudden panic
because he didn't remember if he'd done his part or not.

"Did we win?"

"Yes. It's all over." Why was Ed so annoyed? I must
have done something wrong.

"Did I... do it?"

"No. Midnight did."

Oh... Midnight arrayed the Fuhrer. That was kind of a
relief. But Al guessed Ed was irritated that Al hadn't been able to do his job.
Well really, as long as it was done, did it matter who did it? Maybe there was
something else.... "Is everyone else ok?"

"Yes, everyone is fine. Just fine. And you'll be, too."
Al wondered if his questions themselves were annoying Ed. He lay back. Well
that wasn't fair. Ed would be wondering, too if it were him.

This whole situation was strange and confusing enough
without Ed being a jerk about it. And why was Ed holding his hand? That was
just weird. Ed was never affectionate like that.

Come to think of it, the ceiling looked odd, too.

"Where am I?" asked Al.

Ed sighed. "In the hospital."

Al frowned. He had a headache. "What happened?"

"You got shot, but apparently your head is all bone and
nothing got damaged."

Insult aside, that was reassuring.

But wait! The take down! Oh no, did it go down the
way it was supposed to?
Al didn't remember anything after the stairwell.

"Did I ... do it?"

"No. Midnight did."

"Oh."

Ed squeezed his hand. "You are going to be all right,
Al."

Al nodded. It was weird that Ed was holding his hand.
Ed didn't do that kind of thing. The whole situation was strange. Even the room
looked completely unfamiliar.

"Where am I?"

Ed rolled his eyes at the ceiling. "The hospital, Al.
You are at the hospital. Everyone is just fine, including you. We won. Midnight
put the array on the Fuhrer. Everything went off without a hitch. Just rest,
I'll answer ALL your questions later, when you can actually remember what I
tell you."

"Oh." Al frowned. "Have I been asking the same things
over and over again?"

"Only for the last twenty minutes."

"I'm sorry. I don't remember doing that."

Ed's eyes softened. "It's ok, Al. You have a concussion.
I shouldn't be so short with you. After all, I'm kind of at fault."

Al's brows rose. "How are you at fault?"

Ed paused. "I didn't mean to hurt you. I really didn't.
And you know what, I promise I will never hurt you again. I will do what I have
to."

"It's ok. I'm sure it was an accident, Ed," said Al.

"If you want..." Ed continued. "I know you don't like
me being with Roy. It bothers you. I'll break up with him... If that will make
you happy." Ed's brows turned up. Al could see it wasn't an easy offer.

I can get them to break up. All I have to do is say
yes. But what point would there be with it? It's too late to save him the broken
heart. And maybe, just possibly, it might work out. After all, Roy and Ed are
amazingly similar in a lot of ways. Age apart, they have a lot in common.

Al sighed. "Don't be silly," Al said. "If you broke up
with Roy because of me then I'd be the bad guy and you'd resent the hell out
of me. Why would I want that?"

A small, pained smile tweaked the corners of Ed's lips.
"I suppose you are right."

"If you stay with him or not... that's up to you and him.
It's your life, Ed. Don't you go making me responsible for it. I've got enough
problems of my own."

Al blinked and looked around the room. "Where's Winry?
Is she ok."

"She's fine. She just stepped out."

"Oh. Did we win? What happened?"

"We won, you were injured."

"Did I... do it? I can't remember..."

Ed released his hand and patted his arm. "You've done
enough. Everything is just fine, Al. Just rest. You'll be better soon."

Al stared at the ceiling for a while. His head hurt. He
didn't recognize the room he was in.

"Where am I?"

Ed just sighed.

Setting the Record Straight

Roy rubbed his wrist. The manacle was chaffing. The bench
he was chained to seemed to be designed for maximum discomfort. His eye caught
on the orange sleeve of his prison uniform. "This really isn't my color."

"I'll trade you my tattoo for it," said Midnight, dryly.
He then picked up his coffee off the debriefing table and savored it.

Roy licked his lips. "I don't suppose I can have a cup."

Midnight shook his head, smirking. The bastard.

The door to the debriefing room clanged open and Ashfell
entered with a soldier behind him. "Sgt. Muscot, please take a seat at the table."

Muscot looked over at Roy, then back at Midnight who was
sharpening his grease pencil with a small knife. "Hey, he's one of the guys
who attacked us. What's he here for?"

Midnight looked over at Roy. "Oh, never mind him. Put
out your hand please."

Muscot looked up at Ashfell. "What?"

"It's a new form of interrogation," said Ashfell smoothly.
"It aides memory. Perfectly harmless. Don't worry."

Muscot reluctantly put out his hand. Midnight drew the
array and activated it.

Roy spoke up. "Key to me, you will believe what I tell
you."

Muscot turned around to look at Roy. "Sir?"

"You were escorting the Fuhrer around the 5th lab when
one of the soldiers tripped. His gun went off and struck another soldier. In
the surprise and chaos several other soldiers drew their weapons. Three people
were injured before the Fuhrer was able to settle things down and sort things
out. It was a highly embarrassing incident for everyone and you'd really rather
not discuss it, unless you have to. You remember nothing that discredits this
account. Do you understand?"

Muscot nodded.

Ashfell spoke up: "Give me your report of what happened."

Roy listened while the man reported in. There were a few
details that had neither actually happened, nor were they part of the scenario
Roy had given, but nothing that needed to be corrected. Roy smiled wryly. It
was odd how the mind worked, filling in the blanks.

"Good," said Roy. "When you leave this room, you will
remember it as being an ordinary debriefing, and you will forget the array and
my presence."

"Yes, sir."

Midnight dipped a handkerchief in cold cream, grabbed
the man's hand, and wiped off the array.

Ashfell quickly escorted Muscot out of the room.

"So," said Midnight. "Is this Dog still a pain in the
butt?"

"Hey, it was funny at the time," said Roy. Midnight glowered.
"But no. I'm sorry. You are a good man and I owe you a huge debt. Thank you."

"I think I like you being in my debt." Midnight took another
sip of his coffee and savored it, deliberately.

Hero

Winry knocked and then entered the hospital room. She
took in the scene briefly. Al appeared to be asleep. He had a small bandage
on the side of his forehead and a bit of gauze wrapped around his head. Half
his face had grown dark with bruises. His eye looked like someone had smeared
mascara around it.

She looked over at Ed. He sat in a rather comfortable
overstuffed chair in the corner. Had that been there before? It seemed a bit
out of place. Wasn't there a gurney?

"So what did you find out?" Ed asked.

"They let me see the x-rays, and we talked a bit about
what happened." Winry walked over to Ed. "They say he's lucky. The bullet was
slowed down by the ricochet. Most of the energy must have been absorbed by the
automail or converted into heat. It didn't have much oomph left when it hit
him. He's got some soft tissue damage, a hairline fracture, and a pretty good
concussion, but they think they'll be able to release him in a day or two."

Her eye drifted down to Ed's arm. She could see a slightly
singed line in his white dress shirt sleeve. "Can I see your automail."

Ed hesitated, then unbuttoned his shirt and pulled it
off. She lifted his arm and ran her fingers over the metal. There it was on
the curve of his shoulder, a fairly sizable dent. "Can you lift your arm?"

Ed rotated his arm easily. "It isn't affecting the function."

"I'll have to replace that bit." She suddenly leaned forward
and kissed the distressed metal.

Ed flinched back. "What was that about?"

"Just thanking the automail. It did a good job," she said.
"It saved Al's life. Roy's too. Not a bad bit of engineering if I say so myself."

She then leaned over and kissed Ed's cheek. "I'd hate
to think what would have happened if you hadn't walked into that bullet. Thanks
for saving us all, my hero."

Ed blushed.

New Order

When Ed returned to the Fifth lab the Guard at the gate
saluted him. "How's your brother, Major?"

Ed smiled. "He's fine." Ed thought he caught a dark smear
on the back of the man's hand. "How are things at the lab."

"Still a bit stirred up. Some idiot let off a round earlier
and caused a ruckus, but it turned out to be nothing. Just another false alarm.
But everyone got to see the man about it. I got chewed out about gun safety
and I was nowhere NEAR the incident when it happened."

"Is the Fuhrer still here?"

"Nah, he left hours ago."

Ed hesitated. "Hey, out of curiosity, do you know what
my job is here?"

"You are one of the research Alchemists, but other than
that I don't know. What you guys do is classified." Clearly this was a weird
question, but the man wasn't going to say that to someone who so far outranked
him.

Ed nodded. "Of course. Of course I am."

He headed inside. The guard at the desk buzzed him through
the security door without a second glance. Ed sighed. Roy had been busy. Very
busy it looked like, now that he didn't have Al holding him back.

Al wasn't holding Ed back, either.

If you stay with him or not... that's up to you and
him. It's your life, Ed.

Yes it is. My life. Mine and his. But where do we go from
here? It would be easier if it were more clear cut.

He opened the door to the apartment. "I'm home!" Something
smelled... wonderful. Mmmm.

Roy ducked his head from around a cabinet. "How's Al?"

"Fine. Winry's spending the night with him. He was acting
almost normal when I left."

Ed closed the space between them. He noted that Roy was
wearing orange prison slacks and nothing else. He could only guess at the reason
for the costume. Ed ran his hand over Roy's back. The scabs had mostly fallen
off, leaving behind faint white lines like chicken scratches. Too bad... but
then Ed had plenty of scars too. Scars were kind of sexy.

"That's good," said Roy. Ed wasn't sure if he was responding
to what he'd said or what he was doing. "Are you hungry? Do you like spaghetti
alfredo?"

How domestic. "I like everything. Except milk."

"No milk in this. None at all. Just lots of cream and
cheese."

Ed's eyes narrowed. "Aren't they made of milk?"

"Not if you don't want them to be."

"Are you suggesting I go into denial?"

"It's what you do best."

"I wasn't in denial today."

"No," admitted Roy. "You weren't, and I should trust you
more."

"Damn straight." Ed hugged him from behind. "I saw your
handiwork when I came in."

"Oh?" Roy seemed confused.

"The gate guard—it looked like he'd been arrayed
at one point."

"He probably had."

"How many, Roy."

"Everyone directly involved, and a few random others."
Roy's voice was quiet but firm. "Don't go lecturing me about morals."

"If Al were here you'd never be able to do it."

"Yes, but he isn't. And it's what needs to be done." Roy
turned around and put his arms around Ed, drawing him close and then kissing
him. Then he broke and spoke softly in Ed's ear. "No one has to carry the burden
of this but me."

Ed swallowed. "Are you going to be able to give it up
though? I mean, it's going to be awfully convenient. Any time someone opposes
you, just slap an array on him and change his mind. Where do you draw the line?"

"I draw it where it has to be drawn. When this is over,
I'll go back to using charm and savvy. After all, it's been pointed out to me
that I don't really need arrays. I'm just that good." Roy leaned a casual arm
out and stirred his sauce.

Ed snorted. "Charm... yeah, right."

Roy went on more seriously, "There are only a few more
left, and tomorrow, the ones we did earlier start coming off. I'll need your
help for that. Will you be able to leave your brother long enough?"

"Al is ok. Yeah, I think he'd approve of me staying away
if it's so I can take off the arrays he did."

Ed leaned in and they embraced for a moment. "Roy, what's
the plan now?" He closed his eyes and rested his forehead against Roy's shoulder,
nestling until he could hear Roy's heart under his ear.

Roy's hand threaded through his hair. "There is no plan,
my love. Now we just improvise and see what comes."

Ed sighed. "I guess I can live with that."