Showers were three minutes long at Third Central Prison, no more, no less.
This was going to be a problem.
Ed let out his hair before he got to the shower in preparation, but he regretted it less than five seconds after the frigid water started.
"Aww, look, it's a little pussy," purred a voice. Ed drew up his shoulders, bristling, but didn't turn to face the voice. Better not to look. He can underestimate you until he's too close.
"Goldilocks," said another voice, deeper. This one was from his left side. Edward glanced his way and caught the baldheaded freak actually licking his lips. He was crossing the shower room, his feet slapping on the floor.
Showtime. With a grunt of irritation, Edward stepped out of the direct spray of cold water. "You somehow miss the girl's bathroom, skinhead, or you like dicks?" he asked, not looking at the baldhead coming his way.
"Fucking smartass. With hair like that, you're probably screwing every man in town, faggot," the man sneered. "Com'n, pussy, I'll give you some real cock to play with."
"So you do like dicks." Ed spun to face the baldhead with a sneer. "Mn, nah, you don't have enough hair for me. Sorry." Bravado. Make them regret they ever talked to you.
"You little cunt!" the man grabbed Ed's arm. Bad move! With a grunt of effort Ed hooked his elbow around the man's forearm, hooked his foot behind the man's ankle, and heaved forward with his shoulder. Ed's attacker crashed to the ground with a grunt of pain, "Fucker—!" he gasped.
Ed had been in the brig for the past two months, and in jail proper for the past two days. It took him only a moment to decide how brutal he wanted to be. He stomped on the man's thigh with his metal leg and felt the vital something give way. "If anyone else messes with me, I'll do the same to them," he hissed, wet hair flinging water over his shoulder. "I'm nobody's cum-dump, you got that!?"
The man screamed bloody murder at the same time as the showers stopped.
Ed was panting with adrenaline, shivering from the cold, and the washcloth of a towel thrust at him was nearly useless. He did his best, water dripping down his back from his hair.
"What happened to this guy, Fullmetal?" snapped a guard as the man grasped his broken leg, rolling in agony.
"Must've slipped," Ed said nonchalantly.
"Slipped, huh? Hell of a slip, Fullmetal," Inspector Crowley was irritable.
So was Edward, as he sat with his arms bound back and in shackles especially designed to prevent his use of alchemy. "What difference does it make if I broke his leg or not?" he shot back testily.
Crowley was the one that always played 'nice guy'. When Ed had been arrested, this was the man they tried to use to obtain a confession. Ed didn't like him any better now. "Edward! Don't you want to get off for good behavior?"
"Oh, don't fucking patronize me." Ed's lip curled. "I singlehandedly killed thousands of people—according to you jokers. I'm not going anywhere. You can't make me run into your arms every time some guy tries to ream me up the ass or punch me, so you better get used to broken legs, cause until someone catches on, they're gonna keep right on breaking."
Crowley pinched the bridge of his nose. "You would be every lawyer's worst nightmare."
"Fuck you too," Ed rolled his eyes. "Can I go now?"
"We can't have these kinds of incidents regularly." Crowley looked up at Edward with a tight look. "Either get a grip on yourself, or your automail will be removed. I'm going to sign a paper—ah, here ... authorizing the guards here full access to your auto-prosthetics should they decide the need to remove them has risen." Crowley signed the paper with a flourish.
Ed felt the color go out of his face. "Are you trying to kill me!? Oh, wait, stupid question!" He jammed his shackles against the back of his chair, but nothing gave.
"Behave yourself, and it should be fine," Crowley shrugged, leaving the room.
Ed sucked in a long, shaky breath through his teeth and let it out, eyeing the three guards now all eyeing him speculatively.
"I think we should pre-empt him, just in case, of course," suggested one of them, a tall, thin-shouldered man. "Take it off now."
"After what he did," added another, "he'd damn well deserve what he got."
Ed's mind raced. Removing his automail right now would be easier than stealing a piece of pie, and he wouldn't survive the night. His mind flashed forward to defenselessness, and—he cut off the thoughts, actually shaking. "Deserve it?" he asked, mustering all the bravado he could and actually managing a laugh.
The guard that had been silent up to this point suddenly spoke up. Ed craned his neck to see him, but he couldn't look that far back. "What's the problem with letting him keep some of the fuckers in line?" he asked. Ed felt a stab of relief. "As long as we can come to some kind of ... agreement."
"Okay, I'm listening," said the first guard.
Agreements were a step up from defenseless and getting fucked into his cot or beaten senseless. Ed swallowed anything he'd wanted to say, listening as well.
Fingers fisted in his braid. Edward tensed again. "We don't want him to die before his sentence is up. Let him keep the automail. But to make sure his stay is ... everything it ought to be ... he'd damn well better not do anything to the guards." The fingers tightened and tugged. "Or we'll rethink the automail."
Ed swallowed. "If you do anything remotely sexual, I'll kick you so far into next week you'll—ack!" A sharp jerk on his braid caught him short.
"We're not as desperate as you criminals." Ed could hear the sneer in his voice. "We go home to wives and children. Trust me, you wouldn't look half as appealing to the inmates if they ever saw a woman." There was a pause. "You're the closest thing to a woman some of these fuckers have seen in years."
Ed grit his teeth, but bit his tongue. "Okay, fine," he gritted out. "For my part, I'll honor the deal."
"Of course you will." The guard, whomever he was, jerked on his braid again, pulling his head back, forcing Ed's head up to face the opposite wall and the slight, suppressed smirk on the tall, thin guard's face. Ed winced. Endure it!
"Here," the guard holding him by the hair continued. There was an audible click. "I'll even start by doing you a favor."
Ed opened his mouth to protest, suddenly gripped by the fear that the man was about to shoot him in the back of the head, when he felt a sawing motion in his hair.
In his hair.
"Get your fucking fingers out of my braid!" Ed screeched, suddenly sick to his stomach.
The tall, thin guard's arm flashed out and caught Ed across the face, and the guard behind him snickered. The sensation of hairs separating from his head didn't stop. "After this," he said softly, "Maybe you won't resemble a woman enough to get screwed by the straight guys. Then you'll only have the fags after you."
Ed blinked away stars and was startled to realize his eyes were burning with tears. He grit his teeth and blinked them back, as the guard calmly cut off chunk after chunk of his hair.
"Aww, is he sad about his hair?" said the second guard, who up until this time had been silent. "Guess he liked the attention after all!"
The last hunk of Ed's braid was chopped off, and the guard threw it on the table in front of him, half-unravelled. Ed stared at it, setting his teeth. His head felt strangely light. There was no familiar weight on his back, no hair tickling his neck. "Much better," the guard said, ruffling Ed's hair, laughing along with the others. "All right, get him back to his cell. I'll clean up after this. Unless he wants to take his hair with him as a security blanket?"
Ed opened and closed his mouth, furious, as they dragged him out of the chair.
He was going to have to learn restraint.
"No," he said quietly, feeling sick. "You can have the damn hair.
"It grows back."