Edward shared his cell with a rapist-killer. He'd raped—and killed—three women. He was caught by the fourth because she had a particularly hard head and survived having her head smashed repeatedly into a brick wall long enough to stumble back into the bar and try to shoot her rapist in the mouth.
There was an odd sort of justice in prison life, Ed had discovered. You committed bank fraud? You were ignored, a peon. You killed someone in a bar fight? There was a distant respect because you could win in a fair fight. You raped a defenseless woman? Piss bait. Ed's bunkmate was the victim of endless petty attacks.
Ed never participated. He just tried to ignore his cellmate and his odd yellow-toothed sneer as much as was humanly possible.
He woke up to someone rattling the bars of their cell. "Outta bed, assholes!"
Ed rolled over in time to see the guard walking away smartly down the hall. He'd had ruder awakenings—his personal favorite was when two of the guards had come in splashed water all over himself and his bed, dragged him out of his cell, then demanded to know why he was out of his cell after hours and beat him nearly senseless.
Yes, there had been ruder awakenings. Ed sat up, rubbing his eyes, and ducked instinctively when he saw the rapist's feet swinging down from the top bunk. "Ugh." He got up to piss and waited for the guard to come back around and open the door up.
He didn't have to wait long. His bunkmate was just coming back from the bathroom when the door clanked open. "Hey, Elric, another good day," his bunkmate grinned.
"Don't talk to me," Ed snapped, not deigning to glance up at him as they and the rest of the bloc went to the showers.
No one made the mistake of talking to Edward or even looking at him while they took their three minutes. Ed noted his hair was getting long again, nearly brushing his shoulders at the longest. He'd have to take this Sunday to go to the barber.
Ed didn't demand the front of the line in the mess hall, but there were times when he got it anyway. Today was one of those days; he walked in, and the line parted right down the middle in front of him. I must look pissed, Ed thought, but he took it. Courtesy was not an appreciated trait here.
He got the last of the orange juice, as it happened, which left the (shitty) apple juice and water left to drink. Ed had tried to sit alone, but he'd found it was impossible, and after several near-fights with gangs (who preferred to pretend Edward didn't exist—especially the skinheads), Ed had found himself at a table of loners. They all mostly ignored each other. He sat down to dig in—and felt someone's fist come down in his hair. "The fuck is your problem, Elric!?" He was dragged out of his seat and shoved towards the ground; Ed rolled to a crouch and looked up sharply.
Not a guard—just a tall, wide-chested man with a weird wild look. Ed felt a stab of relief. He stood slowly, brushing himself off for show; he was peripherally aware of the silence that had decended over the mess. Ed crossed his arms and sighed theatrically, raising an eyebrow.
"You cut in the fucking line and take the last of the juice like you're fucking entitled," the man snarled.
"... You have got to be fucking kidding me." Ed was incredulous. "This is about orange juice!?" There were snickers. Ed had this crowd, which was a good thing; it wouldn't turn into a brawl when Ed won. Ed picked up his cup of juice. "You want the juice? Take it." He tossed it in the man's face.
There were laughs, and as the man stood there gaping, Ed stepped closer and spoke under his breath. "If you're looking for an excuse to pick a fight, just throw the first punch," he hissed. "You want some entitlement? You're going to have fucking win!"
The man's breathing had grown harsh, and as Ed finished talking, he suddenly drove forward, his shoulder slamming into Ed's chest. Ed twisted as he went down, grunting as his breath escaped him, and landed on his hands, handspringing back to his feet.
One thing to be said for hard labor: he was in the best shape of his life.
"You little upstart!" the man snarled, throwing a punch. Ed ducked out of the way; it was well-balanced. This guy wasn't a brawl fighter.
"Did you just call me small!?" Ed snapped back, and shot forward with a snap kick. The man took it in the chest, stumbling back, and Ed pressed his advantage, whipping around him to kick him in the back. He caught the man in the side instead as his opponent turned and dealt Ed's automail shoulder a ringing blow.
"Ow! Fuck!" The man grasped his fist. Ed didn't waste time. His automail fist flew out and slammed the guy in the nose; he went down like a stone.
There were some approving whoops and hollers as Ed took his seat again, breathing hard; the guy would either get himself up or he'd be helped up by the guards later.
Ed was surprised to find a cup of water on his tray. He looked up and searched for the missing cup; there wasn't one.
"That was Jones," said the guy sitting across from Ed; he looked up from his cold hash browns.
"Used to be ..." the man made an uncertain gesture. "He's nuts. Scared the shit out of most of us. Could win any fight. He disappeared for a while, thought he got out on parole. Guess he got back in." The guy shrugged. "Looks like you're the new guy everyone's scared of."
Ed pressed his lips thin and drank the water down in three gulps. "Good," he said darkly.
In the winter months the ground was too hard to dig ditches, so instead they chipped rocks. Ed wondered who went through the trouble of hauling huge rocks to the prison for chipping. They weren't transmuted, or if they were, it was perfectly done; not a sign of transmutation anywhere. There was no particular quota of rock to chip, but rather, it was left to the guard's discretion whether or not the inmate in question had done his fair share.
Ed snapped his head up. "Yeah?"
"You're falling behind!" The guard grabbed Ed by the front of his shirt; Ed tried to suppress a shiver. The pathetic coats provided for the winter were fine as long as he was working; the moment they stopped for inspection, Ed was always freezing. "I should make you stay out here—consider yourself lucky I don't want to stand out here and watch you chip rock." His lips curled into a sneer. "Luckily for you, Greeson's on your beat next week. I'm sure he'll be glad to make sure you make up for this." He released Ed with a little shove. "All right, you pieces of shit, get your asses back inside!"
The freezing showers had been fantastic in the summer, but after working out in the cold all day, Ed hated them. Still shivering as he dragged his clothes back on, they were marched back off to the mess hall. Dinner was stew with uncertain masses of ... something ... in it. Ed swore the cooks were getting worse by the day.
Back to the cell. Ed made his daily request for paper and a pen; this particular guard was fine with it, although if Greeson was on Ed's whole beat next week, he'd have to wait until his rotation was over. As far as Ed could tell, he was just plain sadistic. Leastwise he didn't know of any motivation for the man to constantly be such an utter prick.
"Tired, Elric?" Asked Ed's bunkmate as they both curled up on their cots.
"Don't you ever shut up?" Ed asked flatly, testing the pen. The rapist grunted, but then Ed heard him turn over, and soon he was snoring. Fucking lunatic, Ed thought irritably as he looked down at the blank paper in his hands.
Dear Winly, he wrote. I hope you've gotten to talk to the bastard about Alphonse. He knows all the details.
I've been thinking I'll write a book. I'm not a very good writer, but I'm so bored. I keep hoping I'll get a letter from you, but I expect they don't let us get mail if we're mass murderers or something. It's okay, though, because everyone leaves me alone.
I guess I don't have much to say today. If I do write a book, can I send it to you?
He signed with a flourish and folded the paper up, yawning.
"Happy birthday to me," he whispered, and curled up on his side to go to sleep.