velvet mace


chapter 9.

Hughes was only too aware of Hawkeye's presence as he sat up and grabbed for his clothes. They weren't even wet. Hughes pulled on his boxer's and then his pants with trembling hands. The room was quiet except for the blood ringing in his ear and his own harsh breathing.

It wasn't until he'd fastened his belt again that he looked up from where he knelt on the floor, and followed the line of her body, from polished boots to pressed collar, finally up to her face. Her mouth was open and her cheeks bloodless.

"I'd appreciate if you didn't say anything about this," said Hughes softly.

"Sir, are you hurt?"

Hughes stood, slowly, carefully. "I'll recover." His eyes caught sight of one of his photographs, it had fallen from Sloth's fingers earlier and had fluttered to the base of the filing cabinet. "I need to make a call."

The phone cord was torn, but there were more phones up in the lobby of the building. Hughes took a step towards the door then hissed in a breath in pain. He had a sudden vivid memory of Roy walking uncomfortably across the floor of an abandoned room in Ishbal, his fists clenched and lips pressed hard together.

Hughes felt sick.

Hawkeye looked sympathetic but lost, like she hadn't a clue what to say to him. She raised her hand towards him, then hesitated and pulled it back. "What was that thing," she said.

"One of Greed's minions," said Hughes.

"Did it—was it—" Hawkeye stopped. "I couldn't tell what it was trying to do to you, sir."

Hughes closed his eyes. "She was giving me a message—
to back off."

"It looked like—" again she couldn't complete her sentence.

"She raped me. And that's the last I want to say about it." Hughes grabbed the picture from the floor, ignoring the pain. He then pushed himself to gather up all the rest of the photos he could find, gathering them into a neat stack and putting them in a manila envelope. He paused for a moment then. His hand touched a sodden report, the writing illegible. All that work, gone. Informants names, places, times. Evidence. Interviews. All gone.

The phone. He needed to go now. Gritting his teeth he forced himself to walk in a normal fashion. No one need know about this but himself and Hawkeye. It could have been worse, he told himself. At least Hawkeye had come fairly soon after it started. Who knows how long that thing would have molested him if she hadn't appeared.

"Thank you," said Hughes. "For scaring her away."

"I'm not sure I even injured it, sir."

Hughes thought. She probably hadn't. "You did enough. I'm grateful you came when you did." Hughes nearly stepped on a file as he walked out the door. He learned tentatively over and retrieved it. "What is this?"

"The Colonel asked me to bring it by you. It's his report on the Greed case."

Hughes heart beat quickly. SOMETHING had at least survived. He flipped through the pages, and yes, there it was, the crude map the Elric boy had drawn. All wasn't lost. He tucked the report up under his armpit. "I could use your help, Lieutenant," he said to Hawkeye. "Do you have to be anywhere?"

"I had no plans for this evening."

"Good, please, follow me." Hughes left his office and walked down the hall. He was getting used to the discomfort. A kind of numbness had descended over him, masking an inner seething. He channeled the inner energy into purpose and determination. Greed was going down. Soon. Tonight if possible. His mind sifted through the things he'd need to do.

He tried not to wince as he climbed the steps to the first floor. He felt Hawkeye's hand once on his elbow when he hesitated a bit too long before taking the next step. He didn't want that. Right now he didn't want to be touched by anyone. So as firmly, but politely, as he could he pulled his arm away and continued up the stairs, not looking back at her.

He reached the bank of public phones in the empty lobby, began dialing a number from memory. "Hawkeye, is Roy still in his office?"

"No he went home a bit ago."

"Call him at home. I don't think he's safe."

Hawkeye nodded and reached for a second phone.

Hughes heard the phone ring twice before someone picked it up. "Major Armstrong speaking," came a rich deep reverberating voice.

"Armstrong, Hughes. I need you to go by my house RIGHT NOW and pick up my wife and daughter. No packing. Just get them out of there. Take them to a hotel. Leave a message for me with your people. I want the name of the hotel. That's all, no specifics, I'll get back to you later. Tell my wife I love her and that I'll meet her at the hotel as soon as I can."

"What is going on, sir?"

"One of my cases just blew up in my face. The people involved are very bad, and they've made a direct threat against my family. Listen Armstrong —I need YOU to do this, not one of your men. These people—they are very strong and have some unusual abilities. If someone attacks you, DON'T attack back. Just get my wife and daughter and run. Get them out of there—." Hughes looked up at the clock. It was almost 7:30. "I'll talk to you more when I get to the hotel."

He hung up and turned to Hawkeye.

"I left a message," she said. "He's not home right now."

Hughes felt his heart skip a beat. "What time did he leave?"

"About a half hour ago." Her blond brows knit. "He didn't have a date tonight. He should have been home."

Hughes had long since stopped wondering how Hawkeye knew everything about Roy's life. Not home—Not good. Not under these circumstances. He began dialing the motor pool. A few minutes later the answer came back, Roy had been dropped off at his house some twenty minutes ago.

Hughes pushed his glasses firmer on his nose. He could feel sweat prickling his brow and adrenaline was making his heart hammer. "How did Roy seem to you when he got back to the office?"

Hawkeye looked down. "Upset."

Hughes rubbed his hand over his mouth. If Greed knew about him, then it was logical that Greed knew about Roy as well. "Hawkeye, get us a car."

The house looked absolutely normal, no trace of footsteps in the soft grass, nor splinters of wood or glass on the porch. Hughes tested the knob and found the door locked. No one came when he rang the bell. It was silent and dark.

"There is a key under the flower pot," she said, and then proceeded to fetch it. Hughes watched as she opened the door and then, with great familiarity flicked the switches on, spilling light in the antiway.

Inside looked just as orderly as out. Hughes didn't see any signs of violence. "Perhaps he went out to dinner," said Hawkeye, a bit uncertain. But Hughes questing eyes found the first out of place element.

He put a hand into the basket by the door, half under an envelope he found Roy's keyes. He turned them over in his hand. Hawkeye looked at them, then brought out her gun and readied it. She moved quickly down the hall, looking in each of the rooms as she went, scanning them in a professional manner. Hughes hung back, looking for the things that were out of place. Things that would help him reconstruct the crime scene, if in fact this was one.

He saw pictures neat and orderly on the wall, a phone on a small table and, there up where the wood floor met wainscoting was the glint of something. Hughes carefully crouched down and touched it. A tiny shard of glass. He looked up at the wall and noticed a gap between the picture frames. He turned around and saw the kitchen. Again, orderly and clean the way he knew Roy liked to keep things. He stepped inside and surveyed the room. Nothing. Out of habit he opened the drawers, and found the trash under the sink.

Hawkeye walked back into the kitchen. "The house is empty," she said.

"Hawkeye," he whispered, his eyes still on the contents of the trash.

She looked down, there was a water color in a broken frame tossed on top of broken eggshells and orange peels. Hughes reached down and pulled a small white scrap out, and turned it over.

Hawkeye picked another piece up gingerly. "Spark cloth."

Hughes pulled something else out, a small brown glass vial. He waved it briefly under his nose, and detected a slight bitter smell. Then examined the fluid left clinging to the inside. "Opium," he said. What was Greed doing with Roy? Why had he taken the Colonel? As a hostage? If so, why was there no note demanding ransom or reassurances.

Hawkeye looked out the kitchen window at the dark back yard. "I don't see any signs of anyone."

Hughes hadn't expected there to be. "I think it's time to call out the cavalry on Greed."

Within the hour Roy's house was something of a zoo. Hughes directed men to carefully search the the two story A frame from top to bottom, looking for missing items or items out of place. Anything that could be a clue to what happened to Roy. He'd worked with this team before.

Once the lower floor had been thoroughly examined, Hughes turnedt the living room into a temporary command center, leaving his men to continue their search for clues in the second floor and basement.

Hughes spread the crude map of Greed's compound out on the coffee table, 10 officers and enlisted jockeyed for position around the table, trying to get a good look. Only one of them showed any signs of being excited by the prospect of raiding a heavily fortified alchemical factory.

Major Frank Archer smiled thinly and arched his brows. "We'll need an alchemist. One with a pretty focused mind."

Hughes nodded. "Usually, I'd have Armstrong do it, but he's already on another assignment."

Archer took out his pad and scribbled a number and handed it to Ross. "Give him a call and explain the situation. He owes me a favor. Remind him of it." Ross went off with the paper to the hall phone. "Well, hopefully that gets us the alchemist."

"Who are you getting us?" Hughes asked.

"I think you might remember Kimblee. His specialty is explosives. He seems a logical choice for the job."

Hughes frowned. "I thought he was in jail."

Archer smiled that same cold, thin lipped grin. "He was, that is the favor he owes me."

With some trepidation, Hughes let Archer take over ironing out the details of the assault. Archer was just a bit too in love with blood and mayhem for Hughes tastes. And his choice of Kimblee as their alchemist made him shudder. The man was simply not sane. Hughes wanted Roy intact at the end of the assault, not buried under twenty feet of rubble.

And yet—if anyone could go one on one with these chimeras and survive, Kimblee would be it. And Kimblee had the focus of mind and love of danger needed for what could very well be a suicide mission.

Hughes ran a hand through his short hair. Forty-nine separate deadly arrays, all triggered by thoughts, peppered throughout the house. All it took was for one poor grunt to think of what he was doing, and they'd go off. Kimblee would have to go in, find the array and deactivate it BY TOUCH all without once thinking of what the goal of the mission was.

And he'd potentially have to face down the chimeras, Greed and Sloth while he did so. It was insane. It would be better to wait them all out, but Hughes didn't dare do that either.

There was no telling what they were doing to Roy. Hughes shuddered with the memory of Sloth's body invading his. At this very moment she could be doing the same to Roy, and with no Hawkeye to put an end to it.

Hughes read through the report again, scanning through paragraph after paragraph of dry description. Even the speculation was put in the most technical of terms. And then there were the logical gaps. Huge segments of the narrative made little logical sense. If Roy was kept under a watchful eye, how did Edward get to be alone with him long enough to impart all this information.

There was not even a single hint in the entire document that Greed was anything other than cordially pleasant toward Roy. There were no indications that he even suspected that Roy were anything other than what he presented himself as being. So why had Roy been forced to use such drastic tactics to get away. Why hadn't he been able to just walk out the door at the conclusion of the deal? What had Greed wanted from him?

Hughes remembered the way Roy's eyes had slid off into space during the debriefing, as though he were reliving some awful moment.

Roy, Roy, what happened to you in there. Why did Greed kidnap you? What does he want with you?

"Sir," came a young male voice. Hughes looked up and a lanky, somewhat shaggy looking leuitenant. Broche, yes. "We've checked the house top to bottom. There is no signs of robbery, nor any ransom note. We checked to see if there were any cords missing or other things that could be used to improvise a weapon or restraint, but the house appears to be in order."

Hughes closed his eyes. This only confirmed what he'd suspected when he found the bottle of opium. Greed had come to the house well prepared, with the express desire to kidnap Roy. From the lack of fire damage it was obvious that, even with his gloves on, Roy had been easily overpowered and taken. This would not be an easy raid. People were going to die. Hughes could only hope that Roy wouldn't be one of them.

"What of the neighbors," said Hughes opening his eyes again. "Did they see or hear anything."

"No, sir."

"Thank you, lieutenant," said Hughes. "Go see what you can do for Archer."

"Yes, sir."

Hughes looked at his watch. Just past 3 am—He was exhausted.

Broche saluted smartly and headed over to the kitchen where Archer was plotting his invasion.

There was a sudden stirring in the hall. Hughes saw men suddenly coming to attention. Then a tall muscular figure threaded it's way towards Hughes. Hughes quickly rose up and saluted.

Fuhrer King Bradley's mouth was smiling, which struck Hughes as utterly inappropriate. His eye on the other hand were as cold and calculated as Hughes had ever seen them. "Well, well," he said to Hughes. "Our favorite Colonel has managed to get himself into a bit of a mess has he?"

"Yes, sir," said Hughes. "I believe he's been kidnapped by one of the people I'm currently investigating."

"Ah, yes—What was his name again, this crime lord."

"Greed is the name he goes by."

Bradley's smile widened. "That's what I'd heard. My, my what a naughty sin."

Hughes frowned. This was hardly the time to be jovial, and what had Bradley meant.

"Well, we can't have this, can we. Fill me in on all you've discovered, confirmed or suspected about this case." Bradley spied the report on Hughes lap. "Is that about Greed?"

"Yes, sir." Hughes quickly handed it over.

For a few minutes Bradley was quiet, reading over the report carefully. "Tell me about Sloth."

Hughes felt his body shudder involuntarily, and tried to cover it with a stretch. "She's a monster. Straight out of a nightmare. I don't know what she is, but it isn't human. She can turn herself into a liquid. She's very strong, and she is cruel."

"That isn't in here."

"No, sir, I witnessed it myself." Hughes gave a quick run down of what happened, how most of his files on Greed had been destroyed by her watery hands. He glossed over several details—Bradley didn't need to know about the hours she's spent molesting the inside of his mouth. Nor those brief but horrific minutes when he'd writhed under her unwanted caresses, fighting his own traitorous bodies reactions.

Bradley regarded him carefully with his one eye. "Would you mind very much getting me a glass of water, Hughes?"

"Ross," called out Hughes. "Could you get—"

But Bradley interrupted. "I asked you, Hughes."

Hughes eyes opened. He knew—somehow he knew. Bradley was a perceptive son of a bitch, yes, but this was uncanny. Hughes walked to the kitchen using everything he could muster not to limp or show pain in anyway. He knew he wasn't succeeding. When he brought back the Fuhrers water, the man was sitting on the couch thumbing through the report. He took the water offhandedly, sipped it and put it on the coffee table.

"Hohenheim had children did he?" Bradley said, gently stroking his mustache. "Two young boys. Alchemical geniuses like their father —How interesting."

"Yes, sir. And very dangerous."

Bradley put down the report. "Greed has gone too far," said Bradley. "And his underlings as well. Attacking you and Mustang the way he has is an offense to me, an offense to the entire military. We cannot allow him to continue to hold Mustang, nor can we allow him to keep these children as slaves."

"Archer is readying a raiding party as we speak."

Again that eerie off-putting smile crossed Bradley's face. "Yes." He paused. "Have him continue, of course. But I don't want you there."

Hughes drew back his head. "Sir?"

"It's a very dangerous operation, Hughes. You are already injured. I want you to go say goodbye to your wife and child. As a family man, I know how important it is to spend time with them, and I suspect that they won't be seeing you much for a while."

Hughes frowned. "Well, if the raid is successful—"

The Fuhrer smiled. "Yes, of course, well then you will see her again soon. But should Greed escape."

Hughes nodded. The safety of Elysia and Gracia came first. Until Greed was dead or imprisoned, he wouldn't be able to safely see them. "Yes, sir."

Hughes stopped at the house first. His paranoia was up in full force but he saw absolutely out of the ordinary. No one followed him, the house appeared untouched. He quickly headed inside.

There were signs that his family had left in a hurry. The table was set for dinner. A pot on the stove was filled with cold congealing stew. Elysia's toys were scattered about the living room. Hughes stepped over the dolls and book and opened the closet under the stairs, there in the back, behind boxes of clutter were two large suitcases. Hughes hauled them out and opened them.

He grabbed some of Elysia's toys at random and dropped them in. Then went to raid the drawers. Something about the way the Fuhrer had utterly dismissed the notion that the raid would work. How could he know if it would work or not? And yet, Hughes knew from the past that when the Fuhrer showed that sort of insight, he was rarely if ever wrong.

Hughes stopped to mop his brow. It wasn't hot, but for some reason the night air seemed sticky and unpleasant. He was struck by an overwhelming need to take a shower. The dirt of the day, of the night, of unwanted touches seemed to coat him like slime. But when he stood under the shower he felt no cleaner, and he in fact cut his shower short when the sensation of water running between his thighs reminded him for just the briefest moments of Sloths body, enveloping him.

He patted away the residual soap and water and resumed packing for his wife and child, putting what he could of their lives into the safe nest of a suitcase. Pushing them away from him. His ring finger felt a phantom pang and he realized that this separation was yet another scar to his vows. Greed and his minions, by chance or purpose were carving away what was dearest to his heart.

He arrived at the hotel just as the first colors of dawn touched the horizon. He was exhausted in every way possible. A few miles away Archer's raid would be going down. He should be there, but one just couldn't go against the Fuhrer that way. So instead he knocked quietly at the door of the hotel room. He was relieved when the burly Major opened the door.

"How has it been?" Hughes asked Armstrong.

"Fine—They are asleep." The hotel was one of the better ones in town, a suite. Hughes passed by the cot set up for his daughter, pausing to look at her darkened form. Armstrong settled back onto the couch. They passed brief words between them, the minimum Armstrong needed to know. Then Hughes passed through the doors to the bedroom.

Gracia lay curled on one side of the bed, as if she'd known that he'd come and had left room for him. It was too dark to really see her, but he could make out the gentle curve of her hip under the blankets. Hughes stripped off his uniform to his shorts and climbed carefully beside her.

Gracia stirred just a bit, mumbling something soft and breathy and welcoming. Hughes wiggled in to spoon her against his body.

She felt absolutely nothing like Sloth. She felt good, soft and firm and warm and absolutely positively utterly unlike that viscous blob that had held him hours before. She smelled of that lilac perfume he'd bought for her birthday, and he knew when he tasted her in the morning she would taste of softness and skin, and not like the faintly bitter brine that had assaulted his tongue for hours.

God for hours. That thing had held and used and abused him for hours. It was only sheerest luck that Hawkeye had come in with that report or who knows how much longer it would have gone on.

"Maes?" came Gracia's voice.

Hughes realized he had tightened his hold around his wife, and he relaxed and tried to turn it into a hug instead of the panicked flinch it had been.

He had to stop thinking of Sloth. The quicker he forgot about that the better. Gracia found his hand and held it briefly. Gracia didn't need to know this. She would be worried enough without having the burden of her husband's shame and humiliation to deal with as well.

Eventually her breath grew slower and deeper. It took Hughes longer to relax enough to sleep, but eventually he did.

As always, it was Elysia who woke them, climbing onto the bed between Hughes and Gracia in a completely innocent and utterly unwelcome way. Hughes groggily mussed with her hair then rolled over onto his back. He'd had nowhere near enough sleep.

Gracia ushered the child off to the bathroom, and Hughes took the moment to close his eyes. When he opened them up again the light had shifted to a shorter angle and the hotel room was eerily quiet.

Hughes sat up in bed, suddenly panicked. It was incredibly quiet—no ambient noise at all. Then he heard a soft stirring from the other room. His hands unconsciously sought the gun left on the nightstand, and flicked the safety off. He peeked into the next room. There was Gracia, sorting through the bags he'd brought the night before.

He relaxed. Then looked around. Elysia and Armstrong were gone.

Panic rose in him again. "Where's our daughter?" he asked.

"I sent Armstrong with her to the park. She was so loud I thought she'd wake you up."

No, no, thought Hughes. That meant that Gracia had been unprotected for a while. That wasn't right. Hughes quickly closed the distance between them and wrapped his arms around her in a possessive, protective hug. He buried his face in her hair. "These are very bad people," said Hughes. "Very very bad, and powerful." He pulled away and brushed her bangs from her eyes. "I won't be able to relax unless I know you both are safe."

Gracia's eyes were large and shining. "Then we aren't going home yet."

"Not until I have confirmed that Greed and his posse are dead or imprisoned."

Gracia heaved a sigh. Then she looked at the door. "We are alone." there was THAT tone in her voice. The one that under any other circumstance would have him shedding his clothes and racing for the bed. She touched the top button of her frock, sliding a finger between the cloth, and with amazing ease popped it free of it's hole. Then the next one, then the next. The pale soft rise of her breast appeared.

"Bedroom," said Hughes. Armstrong and Elysia could return any minute, hell no, any second. This was stolen time. The last bit of time he would get with her in who knows how long.

Gracia also sensed the danger and giggled. Hughes grabbed her thin arms and hoisted her up onto the bed, then attempted to throw himself down on top of her.

"Sssss," he hissed, suddenly remembering all to vividly that he wasn't completely all right. He felt a pang of fear and doubt that had absolutely nothing to do with getting caught by Armstrong and his daughter.

"Are you okay," asked Gracia, her thin brows rising. The flush of sexual desire had evaporated from her face.

No. This was their time, and there was no way he was going to let Greed and his ugly band steal it away from him. Hughes lay on top of Gracia pinning her small body under his weight, and he buried his face in the softness of her breast, running his mouth and tongue up the firm mound until it reached the pink circle of her areola. This he drew into his mouth, tonguing the hardening nipple, feeling the flesh crinkling benieth his lips.

Gracia gasped and held his hair, encouraging him to do more. Her legs wiggled their way out from benieth him and then hooked up over his hips, her ankles crossed at his waist.

Hughes pulled himself up, resting his weight on the palm of one hand. His other hand worked the buttons of her frock one by one until the two sides of the dress fell apart and her body was revealed. Only the small pink triangle of her panties remained a barrier, one to be over come a bit later, though.

Hughes made his way with his mouth down the long slim line of her body, over the ridges of her ribs, into the cave of her stomach and then to the cup of her belly button. He paused there to stick a wanton tongue in. Gracia responded with a groan and rubbed her groin against him. Her legs let go, spread wide, welcoming him.

He was hard now. He humped the mattress, feeling a tantalizing touch of fabric sliding against his erection. He slid a hand away from her side, down between them, down to his groin and squeezed himself through cotton of his shorts.

Gracia wiggled under him, pushing him up with her hips, letting it be known that she needed him as much as he needed her.

He continued the journey, down the inches of smooth flesh between her belly and the top of her panties. And there he paused. How to approach this problem? He carefully slipped his teeth under the elastic and pulled, but the panties only moved a bare half inch. He licked the top of her trimmed thatch and her hips bucked at the implied promise.

He decided to leave the panties in place for now and continued mouthing her through the soft fabric. He felt the curves of her labia, and tasted her wetness, already soaking through. His tongue found her clit and flicked across it.

"Maes, stop teasing and bring yourself up where I can have you."

Hughes chuckled against her, and licked the nub of her clit again. She bucked her hips and squirmed. He then teased her further by running his tongue over the silky flesh of her inner thigh instead, following the line of tendon back to it's source under the slippery silk of her panties.

Gracia was never one to accept the passive position for long. She wiggled again, this time with more strength and managed to slide out from under him. She waggled her finger at him. "Naughty boy. You should do what I tell you."

Hughes felt a moment of panic that made no sense at all. Gracia looked nothing like Sloth and Sloth had never told him to obey her, and yet for a second he was almost back there. Hughes erection immediate disappeared.

No. Not Sloth. This was his wife and he was darned well NOT going to let that bitch interfere with their marriage. Their relationship was untouchable.

Gracia hadn't noticed, thank God, and Hughes wasn't going to let her. He rubbed himself quickly, using exactly the right tempo for maximum pleasure. He tasted his wife on his lips, warm and slippery. Gracia's body looked delicious. He grew hard again.

Gracia pulled her shoulders back and let her frock slide to the bed. She hooked her thumbs under the pink panties and they were gone too. The mystery of his wife was revealed and as always it aroused him.

She pounced, pushing him over onto his back, pulling at his boxers until he lifted his bottom and allowed her to remove them. And then she was all over him with her mouth, exploring him much the way he had her, only with more force and less tenderness. She drew in his nipples into her mouth, running her tongue over them and sucking hard, firming up first one then the other. On her hands and knees beside him she drew her tongue down the line of his breastbone, to his belly, not stopping until she reached his quivering cock. She licked at the tip with a delicate tongue, exploring the slit before taking the head into her mouth for a ball firming suck. One hand crept between his thighs to cup his testicles and tease them with softly stroking fingers.

Hughes reached over and grabbed her hips, encouragning her to move until she had put one knee to either side of his head. Her moist sex hung above him, flushed and ripe, ready for devouring. He pushed down on her buttocks until she lowered herself on his face. Simultaniously she took his cock fully into her mouth and began sucking and bobbing her head in earnest.

His tongue explored the folds of her sex for a moment before settling on the clit, flicking it with a quick rhythm that he knew she preferred. He could hear her whining against his cock her lust bringing her to take more and more of the length into her body. Then she pulled back her head. "Finger me, please,"

Hues happily obliged, slipping a finger into her. So warm and moist and ready for him. A moment later her hips bucked spasmaticlly and he felt her cunt clench and release about his finger.

She pulled her head away from his cock to cry out her pleasure.

"Did you come," Hughes asked.

He felt her nodding against the hollow of his hip. He smiled and tried to lick her again, but she pulled herself away. "Too soon," she gasped. Her face was pink and she was breathing hard. "Let me ride you."

She straddled his hips, holding him against her cunt and lowered herself. Hughes sighed as he felt the heat of her perfectly holding him. She rode him slowly at first, until he pushed her hips to direct a faster pace. She smiled in a predatory way down at him and refused to follow directions for a minute. Then as he pleaded with his eyes, she relented beginning a faster more furious pace.

The slide, the soft all enveloping pressure, the friction, it was unbelieveable. All perfect. Nothing at all like the strange cold pressure of Sloths body.

Hughes began to lose his hard on. NO, he was NOT going to think of Sloth. It hadn't happened. It was just a nightmare. A bad fantasy. This was Gracia and she was here now and GOD she was good, pumping him, clenching him inwardly with her muscles. Her face was gorgeous, red lips open in a moan.

He was hard again, and this time he was reaching the top fast. Hughes put his entire mind on the sensation her body was giving him, the look on her face, the utter amazing rightness of the moment, and he came. She continued to pound him until the last spasm of his cock inside her. Then longer, not noticing perhaps that he'd come.

Suddenly hypersensistive, he grabbed her hips and stopped her, and lifted her off. She hadn't come again. That was too bad, he'd come too soon—but it was either that or risking not coming at all, and that would have hurt her feelings worse.

"Would you like me to lick you again," Hughes offered.

But Gracia shook her head. "We better get dressed, Armstrong and Elysia will be back any minute."

Gracia went to take a shower while Hughes dressed, putting on his uniform. He needed to call in, find out how the raid had went. This was stolen time. A gift from the Fuhrer to him, but he could wait no more. He had a job to do, and Roy was out there somewhere, needing him, relying on him to do his job.

Gracia was fine. She could wait.

Hughes dialed the number, Broche answered the phone. He sounded exhausted.

"How did the raid go? Did you get Greed?" Hughes thought of the Fuhrer and the way he'd dismissed the idea of the raid working. Please let him be wrong this time.

But Broche's voice left no doubt. "No, sir. It was a spectacular failure."

Hughes chest clenched. "What happened?"

"We lost four men—Kimblee wasn't able to find all the arrays, there were a few that weren't on the list, and some had been moved, I suppose. But we searched the place. There was no sign of Greed or his people. They must have left before we got there."

"What about Colonel Mustang?" Hughes crossed his fingers with hope. Please don't let him be dead.

"We didn't see any sign of him either, sir. Where ever they went, they must have taken him with them."

"Thank you, I'll be at the site as soon as I can." Hughes hung up the phone and placed a fist against his forehead. He felt the beginnings of a tension headache.

Gracia came out of the shower, a towel wrapped around her. "What is it, Maes?"

Hughes looked at her with longing. How he wanted to touch her, to take off that towel and go at it one more time. But their stolen moment was over. "You and Elysia need to leave the city. I'm sending Armstrong with you. I don't want to know where you are. I'll leave a message at the office when the danger is passed and you can come home. Armstrong can call in, but he shouldn't leave a message."

"The bad guys got away didn't they?"

"Yes," said Hughes. "They did."