A Lot Can Happen in Two Days
A fullmetal alchemist fanfic
Date: 10/8/2017 1:00 am
Summary: When faced with possibly losing his youngest subordinate, Roy finds that he simply can't stand the thought.
A/N: This is a giftfic for gaypaninya on tumblr, who is absolutely amazing ~~ it's also,,,, a little bit of a trip. So. Have fun with that anyway.
Disclaimer: Do not own.
After six bodies and one month, they still had no clues. They had no idea who was doing it, who was killing them all, and East City was very, very scared. The governor was even considering implementing a mandatory buddy system so that no one was caught alone, no more lives could be lost, no more children taken from right beneath their noses.
They were coming after East City's smallest and most innocent. Supposedly, they picked the children up on their way home from school, or whenever they were in a crowded place where they couldn't make a scene. After all, a crying child being dragged off to a place they didn't want to be wouldn't exactly make headlines. And people were so closed off, fearing for their own children, that it was as if they wouldn't care what happened to anyone else's.
Mustang could almost relate.
Mustang didn't often worry for his youngest subordinate and his brother. Fullmetal and Al were two of the strongest kids he'd ever known, and they were master alchemists to boot. They could more than take care of themselves. And even if they couldn't, they were fairly good at making friends and allies who could help them out of a sticky spot if they needed. So, not hearing from Fullmetal was not something to jump at.
Even if they had argued the last time that he had seen them. Even if it had been different from usual. It hadn't been semi-playful banter that always had a knack for taking some of the weight from Mustang's shoulders. Fullmetal had messed up big time on his latest mission, and he had not only gotten himself hurt, he had brought a building down on top of his brother and gotten five employees injured. He had cost the military far too much in damages, he always was, and Mustang needed to make him understand that he simply couldn't be so reckless all the time.
No. Nothing to jump at.
Besides, for Fullmetal, two days wasn't all that long a time. Sure, he had been expected to show up the following morning to be debriefed on a new case, and didn't. Sadly, Mustang actually had a lead for the boys, a good one if he had looked into it right, and it was still waiting on his desk for Fullmetal to show up for it… but that meant he had to stop in for it, first.
And Mustang knew, in his heart, that there wasn't anything wrong with Ed. He was just being a pissy little brat; he knew that Mustang was right but wasn't about to admit to it, so he just avoided him altogether. He knew that…
So he didn't worry. Well, not really. Maybe only a little. And that worry was quickly masked by anger… but no one had to know what it really was. Right?
Mustang glanced over at his subordinate as they drove to the scene of the latest dump. The case was simply becoming too big for Investigations to handle on their own, and Hughes, being Mustang's best friend, had cheerfully enlisted the help of an already over-worked colonel and his team. If taking part in the investigation and, if he was lucky, being the one to catch the killer or at least the one to organize it wouldn't be a huge boost in his career, he would have laughed in Hughes' face and walked backwards out of the room, middle fingers flying. Unfortunately, it was, so he just had to grumble and suck it up.
"Are you alright?" Hawkeye asked knowingly, not even casting him a spare glance. In that way, she and Mustang were total opposites. She never took her eyes off the road… and Mustang never really had his eyes on the road in the first place.
"Fine," Mustang said, waving his hand. "I haven't been sleeping well, is all, and would much rather be at home, in bed."
"It's two in the afternoon," Hawkeye said with no inflection in her voice, just stating a fact.
"The time of day does not, in fact, change how much I don't want to be here."
Hawkeye rolled her eyes lightly and turned down the next corner. "Yes. Well. As soon as we're finished here and you finish the paperwork on the corner of your desk, I think you should be fine to go home."
Mustang grumbled about the paperwork, but didn't comment further as they came across a line of police tape. Hawkeye parked the car and stepped out, and Mustang let himself out.
Well. Time to get down to business.
They were being called out because the sixth body had just been discovered and ID'd. A six-year-old girl by the name of Evelyn Jackson, who had disappeared just over two days ago just outside of the local public school, had been taken, supposedly tortured, killed, and then had her body dumped not two miles from her own home. And they were being called to glean from her as much information as they could. The more they could get from her, the closer they were to putting a stop to the psychopath responsible.
All of the officers on scene stopped and saluted Mustang as he approached. They were briefed of the situation—body found just outside of a dumpster, found by early morning joggers who were off to the side speaking with an officer, the mother had been contacted earlier and was seated in a police car, trying to recover so she could talk next.
Hawkeye touched Mustang's arm, and he glanced her way. "If you'll take a look at the body, I'll speak with the mother."
He nodded, and she went off. That was best. She was better at speaking with family and friends of victims, anyway.
Mustang stepped over to where a white sheet was draped over the ground, covering the body. The officer who had briefed them continued speaking with him, about speculations and witnesses and next steps, but Mustang shooed him off.
He pulled off the sheet near the girl's face. This little girl previously had delicate features, very round cheeks, and very long, blond hair. Her eyes were closed as if in sleep, but her body didn't move.
Poor thing. She had had her life taken from her before it had really even begun.
Then, something moved, and his eyes darted back up to hers. Golden eyes stared back at him and he flinched hard, one name shooting into his mind out of nowhere.
He squeezed his eyes shut and looked back to her. Her eyes were closed still, she hadn't moved a muscle. So… he was seeing things? He even went so far as to bring a hand to her face and lift an eyelid, revealing dull, hazel eyes. No, definitely not golden. What had he seen?
Or, perhaps, why had he seen Ed?
He looked this little girl over with a new eye. Her blond hair was nearly the same shade as Ed's (closer to Winry's, really), and though it was braided, it was braided in two. She had striking bangs similar to Ed's, though not quite as shocking. Her nose was similar to his, now that he noticed, and she looked maybe a little grown for her age, whereas Ed was a little shrunk. That still didn't put them at the same height… but it was certainly closer. She looked… a lot more like Ed than he was suddenly comfortable with.
His stomach knotted.
It was only after he had made these observations that he noticed her injuries. Her face was injured minimally, but both arms appeared broken and her ankle was twisted. She was completely naked, blood coating her all around. She had multiple stab wounds in her chest, likely what she died from. The poor thing…
And then, for just a moment, it was Ed again, not Evelyn, and he flinched hard and dropped the sheet back over her.
What was he seeing? Why on earth did he keep seeing Fullmetal in place of Evelyn? So he hadn't seen Fullmetal in two days. It wasn't uncommon.
Evelyn was gone for two days. Look what happened to her in that time.
He covered his mouth and wisely chose not to look again.
Mustang looked up, noticing Hawkeye standing behind him. Beside her was a woman with the same green eyes that he had peeked at—this was Evelyn's mother.
"Mrs Jackson would like to speak with you, sir."
Mustang nodded and stood, cleared his throat, and acknowledged the aching mother. "I'm sorry for your loss, ma'am," he said to start, hoping to put her at ease, "we're going to do everything we can to find the one who has done this."
Mrs Jackson sniffled and nodded, looked far from the sheet at Mustang's feet, and took a deep breath. "I know. I just wish you could have stopped them before Evelyn got mixed into this."
Mustang and Hawkeye nodded solemnly. "So do we," Hawkeye consoled softly. "We can't do anything for her now, but we will bring her justice." It wasn't the same, they both knew, but it was closer than doing and giving nothing at all.
Mrs Jackson nodded briefly again and closed her eyes. She fought off another round of tears, looked to the clouds and blinking rapidly. "She was just a little girl, just a baby. She was probably the sweetest thing you'll ever meet. I just…" she swallowed and took a deep breath, then squeaked out, "I c-can't believe she's gone…"
"Ma'am," said Hawkeye softly, hoping to stem the tears. "You said you wanted to speak with my commanding officer."
Mrs Jackson nodded and took another huge breath. She stared at the sky for a few moments longer, then turned her head back down to look the military officers straight in the eyes.
"There was a man. I saw him hanging around her for a few days. I didn't think anything of it because Evelyn didn't mind, she seemed to like talking to him, but I do remember him showing up out of nowhere."
"And then this asshole turns up from outta nowhere and—what? I dunno. I saw him. He followed me a little, then he left. You wanted this report, didn't you? Stop asking questions!"
"What did he look like?" Hawkeye asked softly, hoping to get as much information from her as possible. This was the first they'd heard of a possible stalker.
Mustang looked back down, to the little body, when Mrs Jackson spoke briefly with Hawkeye. How anyone could do this, and to such a young person… it was far beyond him.
He paused, blinked, looked around. Mrs Jackson was still giving her description, and Hawkeye was listening intently, not even paying him a shred of attention. So where had that come from?
"Colonel? Please? Please help?"
...Evelyn…? He looked down to the body, flinching hard when he saw the sheet removed, and the body sitting up.
Except… that definitely wasn't Evelyn.
"Colonel?" wondered what had to be an illusion of Edward, blinking at him with huge golden eyes. He had the same bruises and marks as Evelyn's body had. Like the same thing had happened to him. "Colonel, can't you help me? I'm scared."
"Ed…?" Mustang wondered, forgetting to silence himself and completely forgetting to look up when Mrs Jackson and Hawkeye paused and looked to him.
A lot can happen in two days. Look at what happened to Evelyn in two days.
"You haven't seen me in two days, colonel. What if something is wrong?"
He felt his gorge rise quickly, cutting off his breath for a moment and blurring the world around him.
The last time he had seen Ed, they had gotten into a worse argument than usual. All that he wanted was for the kid to stop being a punk-ass snot nosed little brat and listen to him for once. The last place he had been… well, he'd nearly pulled a building down on top of him. And Mustang simply wouldn't stand for another incident like that to occur, wouldn't stand for Ed to put himself and his brother in danger like that again. It was too risky, too dangerous… and maybe he had gotten a little emotional. And maybe Ed, hotheaded as he was, had gotten emotional in return.
Ed had stormed out of the office and slammed both doors behind him, then disappeared. He refused to come to the office, even though Mustang had summoned him just before being called here.
in two days
Evelyn was gone. She was gone entirely and Ed looked up at him. Metal arm, metal leg. Long bangs, one braid, that ridiculous antenna that Mustang had on multiple occasions attempted to smooth down. And those eyes, those goddamn golden incriminating eyes looking up at him, looking at him saying "you see me now, colonel, you see me now but where am I colonel you haven't seen me in days where. am. I."
"Colonel?" said a voice to the side, and this one didn't sound like Ed so he couldn't stand to hear it he couldn't stand to miss a word of what Ed said, if Ed was trying to lead him to him and he missed something important just trying to listen to this other voice then what would he do, what would he say?
Mrs Jackson claimed to identify the body but did she know? She didn't, she couldn't know, she was stricken with worry and just wanted to know where her daughter was, but that didn't mean that Mustang could let her misidentify Ed. Couldn't she tell? Couldn't she see that Ed was looking right at him with his gold eyes that no one shared and his hair was in one braid, not two like she thought, she was just confused couldn't she see couldn't she tell when a little boy laid flat out dead on the ground dead dead dead dead because Mustang couldn't so much as keep his temper down long enough to warn Ed that he was apparently in huge danger.
He's gone because of you, Roy Mustang! He's gone because of you! How will you look Alphonse in the face now, knowing that you are the sole cause of his brother's death? YOU brought them into this, YOU chased them off and now he's dead he's gone he's been tortured because of YOU.
He swallowed and took a huge breath, looking down at his youngest subordinate with stricken eyes. Perhaps that was the worst part. He could see it happening right before it very eyes because parts of him always wondered what sorts of horrible things could happen while the boys were away. But now, now they were supposed to be safe and sound in Mustang's own backyard, and Ed was killed.
Like a flashback, horrible imaginings of poor Edward flashed through his mind, of Edward being beaten, being tortured, being hurt, begging and pleading for him, desperate for someone to find him and waiting just waiting for Mustang to put two and two together and just get to him.
And then, to top it all off, the blurred face of his torturer warped and twisted and became Roy, yelling at the injured body, screaming at him because of his last mission, screaming at him to "LOOK ME IN THE EYES WHEN I'M TALKING TO YOU."
If I can get to you in time, he thought, panic swirling in his belly and constricting his heart like a snake, I will never let you leave on a note like that again. Just tell me where you are.
"I can't colonel. I don't know. Please, I need you…"
"I know, I'll find you…"
Roy was jolted from his head when he felt a sharp pinch on his arm. He looked to the person beside him, and at first they were blond with earthy eyes and his heart relaxed because Ed was safe, but then he realized that most definitely was not Ed, that was definitely Hawkeye and she looked more than a little startled at him.
She glanced back and forth, between Mustang and Mrs Jackson, who also did decidedly not looked pleased with him and looked more than a little miffed that he wasn't paying her nearly as much attention as he should be.
Mustang didn't have an explanation for her, not a word, because when he glanced back down to where Ed's body had been, it definitely wasn't sitting up, and it was definitely smaller than Ed, and almost certainly, it in fact was not Ed at all.
Still his heart pounded like he'd run a marathon and worry still ran about his brain nonstop and he feared, he feared so greatly what had happened to Ed that he thought he might be sick. After all, whether the body was Ed's or not, he still hadn't seen him in two days.
"We'll be just a moment," said Hawkeye to Mrs Jackson, clipped and anxious. She took Mustang's elbow and dragged him off like a misbehaving child so they could stand out of the way and not be heard.
"What on earth was that about?" Hawkeye demanded, making him feel exactly like the child she had treated him as. "She just lost her child and you can't even stand to pay her a smidgen of attention?! Well?!"
"...Did you notice how much her little girl looks like Fullmetal?" he said, because it was the only explanation he had.
"The body. I pulled back the sheet to get an idea of what had happened to her. She looked like Ed."
Hawkeye deflated momentarily, squeezing the bridge of her nose.
"I haven't seen Ed in two days."
And Hawkeye knew that was precisely how long it took Evelyn to show up dead, and every other child who disappeared. She looked to the ground, and Mustang knew that fact was running about her brain.
"...Ed's fine," she said, although Mustang could now hear a spot of worry in her voice. "He can take care of himself. Besides, he's got Alphonse with him."
Alphonse. Mustang had almost forgotten about Alphonse! He was so quiet compared to how loud and obnoxious his brother was, he was easy to overlook despite the suit of armor. And Alphonse… Alphonse looked like an adult. And only a fool, only an idiot would actually take away a child who was under the watchful eyes of a supposed adult, especially one as imposing as Al was. The fact that he was actually a boy younger than Ed was disguised by his hulking metal mass and the fact that he would murder anyone who did his brother wrong.
"Call him, when we're done here. If it's worrying you so much, call him and talk to him," Hawkeye continued, looking sage. "Tell him what's going on and what to look out for, and then find this guy. The very best way you can protect Edward, is to find the man that's doing this and stop him. And our best chance is right over there." She pointed to Mrs Jackson, who was staring down at her sheet-covered daughter. "If you want to protect Edward, and I know you do, you'll bite down and find him."
Mustang looked back toward the body, and then toward the mother, and found himself fearing being in her position. Standing over the body of her own child, one she couldn't protect no matter how much she wanted to.
Hawkeye nodded, knowing she had gotten through, and said, "come on, no one will be a better help than her."
They approached her again, and she looked up, shooting them weak glares but not looking uncooperative.
First, Mustang nodded at her, fabricating a quick lie in his head. "My apologies, ma'am. I have not seen any of the other victims yet, and I was not expecting such gruesome acts done to a child." The lie was one that anyone could see through, anyone with sense, but he hoped her grief and fear would let her believe him. He had, after all, seen the photographs of each and every victim, as well as the bodies of the last two.
She stared at him for a small time, furrowed her brows, and nodded. "...Yes, I understand," she said softly, looking to the body again for a fraction of a second and shuddering fiercely. She turned back to Hawkeye when Hawkeye asked her to continue, and she went back to her explanation.
I am sorry. He really was. Sorry that he couldn't focus on what he really, really needed to. I'm sorry that your daughter looks so much like my son. I'm sorry that I don't know where he is. I'm sorry that I need to focus on you, and all I can think of is EdEdEdEdEd…
When they arrived back at the office, Mustang ignored all his paperwork and went right for the phone. The first place he called was the library, because the boys spent most of their time here in East City on base, at the library, or in the dorms.
"No, sorry, colonel," said the woman on the other end, a mousy old someone with a nasally voice. "They actually haven't been by all day."
His heart thudded a little harder in his throat as he hung up and dialed the number to the dorms. They hadn't been to the library all day?!
A lot can happen in two days...
"Military barracks building two."
"Put Edward Elric on," he said without an explanation, distracting his nerves with the cord.
"...Ahh, I'm afraid they're not in right now."
Not in! How were the Elric brothers 'not in'?! Where else was there to go in Easy City?! And they knew, damn well, that if they wanted to go anywhere outside of East City, they were to inform him first!
A lot can happen in two days…
Colonel where am I? What if he's got me too… you'll never see me again, and the very last thing you did was tell me off about the transmutation. Did you think I didn't already know I did wrong? Do you think I need to know that someone that I look up to thinks that I'm a fool and a failure for my biggest mistake? That even he knows that I'll never accomplish my goals?
And now now I can't colonel now I can't because I'm gone and I'm going to end up just like Evelyn just like Evelyn you'll find me colonel I know you will because he's going to dump me someplace you're certain to find me just outside of work he'll dump me and I'll be beaten tortured scarred killed killed killed killed and it'll be all your fault all your fault colonel
"...Sir…?" asked a hesitant voice on the other end of the line, and Mustang suddenly realized he must have been lost in swirling thoughts for longer than was generally acceptable. "Sir, I think they just stepped out to grab something to eat. They'll be back within the hour. I can take a message if you'd like."
"...Yes," he said when his throat loosened enough to breathe. He saw them only recently! "Just tell them that Colonel Mustang has summoned them as soon as they get back. Thank you." And he hung up.
The following hour and a half was filled with probably the most production that Mustang had had all week, but his nerves kept him seated at his desk, fearing he'd miss them if they came around when he was gone, and at least the repetitive motion of filling out paperwork kept his mind from wandering back to what had become a near constant mantra of a lot can happen in two days. Hawkeye would be impressed. He didn't have the focus to care.
Finally, approximately ninety-three-and-a-half minutes later, his door creaked open, and a hulking suit of armor peeked in.
"...Colonel? Did you want to see us?"
Mustang's eyes roamed over Alphonse first because he was the one who stepped in, looking for any dents or dings that might indicate he had seen something or done something less than pleasant, but Al appeared to be in perfect condition. He looked a small amount confused, considering it was well past the normal work hour.
Just outside of the door, there was a voice that calmed each and every one of his nerves, whining nasally, "I don't want to talk to him!" He sounded a little stuffed up—maybe he had fallen ill? That might explain why he hadn't come in in two days.
"Brother," Al scolded, stepping fully into the room just in time to avoid the door suddenly swinging open swiftly.
"What do you want," said Edward, sounding wholly uninterested.
As soon as Ed stepped in, Mustang practically felt himself melt with relief. He was okay. He really and truly was. All of the marks that had suddenly appeared on illusion Edward's tanned skin were blissfully absent on this one. His eyes were clear and his hair shone with health, and though he appeared a little pale as if he was just recovering from a cold, he seemed to be right as rain.
"Where have you been?" Mustang demanded, putting on his stern colonel face to hide the fleeing fear. "I've been trying to contact you for two days, Fullmetal. When I summon you, you come."
Ed glared at him and sniffed mightily. "Whatever, colonel. I just got a little sick and didn't want your face to make me feel worse."
"Well. If that's the case, you should have called and said so." Instead of scaring me half to death.
"Tch." Ed tossed his head to the side, looking every bit like the sodden teenager he was, and ground out, "Whatever, sorry. What did you want?"
As if Mustang had a legitimate reason, anymore, for getting Ed and Al in here, besides to look at them, look them in the face and see that they were okay, alive, and well.
"Just… wanted to let you know. There's been a serial killer running around of late. Got ahold of six kids now, and has made a real fool of Investigations, so it's been assigned to us."
"What, and you need my help to crack it now?"
"Ha!" Ed crowed, throwing his head back like it was the best joke he'd heard all week. "Ha! The 'Great Lame Alchemist' needs my help to crack a case! Well, it's gonna cost you!"
Mustang scowled, momentarily forgetting why on earth he had worried so much, then sighed. He had definitely noticed that Ed had left off the 'F' in a certain title of his. "Fine. You help with this case, then I'll have a real mission for you."
That shut Ed up real quick, eyes flickering over his desk, looking for the new mission. "You have something?"
"Maybe. Wouldn't you like to help us save a couple kids, first?"
Ed frowned and looked back to his armor-laden brother, then nodded. "...Yeah, sure. What do I need to know?"
Mustang pulled out the sheet that Hawkeye had jotted down the stalker's description on. "He tends to strike sometime in the morning, around school time. He follows kids for a little while, we're estimating three days to get an idea of a schedule. Then he takes them on their way to school."
"How many did you say he got?"
"Six. In a month. We want to get this guy before he gets a seventh." Before you become that seventh. He mentally shook that thought away. Ed was here. He was okay. He was alive. And Mustang would do whatever he could to keep it that way.
"Six," Al said with a touch of horror. Ed let out a low, nervous whistle. "So we have to catch this guy fast."
"Faster than fast. Think you can do it?"
Ed gave a gleeful, intense little smirk. "Hell yeah. Who am I looking for?"
Mustang listed off the description Mrs Jackson could give him down to the smallest detail. He knew that Ed thought he was giving the description so Ed knew what to look for… but he also gave it so Ed knew what to look out for. Just because this last body hadn't been Ed's, didn't mean that the next one couldn't be Ed's. And it didn't mean that Ed shouldn't be wary, wasn't in danger. Yes, Ed could take care of himself—he was a fourteen-year-old in the military, after all—but Mustang figured he was always better safe than sorry.
Ed promptly turned to leave, saying something about heading back to bed to sleep the next day away, and Al quietly followed after him, shaking his head. "Night, colonel," Al said, and Ed lazily lifted a hand to wave.
Ed groaned loudly and rolled his head back to look at his commander, starting when he noticed the intensity in his eyes. "What?"
"Be careful out there, alright? This guy is dangerous."
Because I really can't stand the thought of losing you, apparently. I know that now.
"And this mission is waiting for you when you crack it."
Ed lifted his brows into his hairline, clearly startled by Mustang's rather forward request. He looked back at Mustang, didn't see the hours of stress, didn't see how scared he had been for far too long, didn't see the body of a little girl that looked just like him. Only saw the mask fall back into place, although for once he didn't seem to mind it. He frowned, looked to his brother, then turned back to the door. "Yeah, whatever, Colonel Bastard, we'll be back tomorrow with the killer in hand!" He marched out loudly, like a little squad all on his own, Al following with a wave much quieter behind him.
With the boys gone, Mustang allowed himself a moment to slump back in his seat, relief coursing through him like a wave. At least, it seemed, Ed was no longer so mad with him as he had been two days ago. And that made him smile. Maybe he would heed his advice and actually take care of himself and be a little more careful in the future.
There was a sudden clatter down the hall that nearly propelled Mustang right from his seat, a loud curse, and then Alphonse's tinny voice called, "Brother!" For a moment, just a moment, Mustang's heart beat at double time, thinking somehow the killer had gotten into the base and got ahold of Ed right there, until he heard Ed grumpily say, "I'm fine, Al, I'm fine," and march off with probably a little more care in mind.
Mustang laughed to himself and settled back into his chair. Okay, maybe he wouldn't heed his advice, not even ten seconds into the future. What more could he expect from the stubborn Fullmetal Alchemist?
As long as he was safe. As long as he stayed safe, whether it was through Al's watchful eyes, Mustang's, or someone else's, all would be well. If he stayed safe until the end of it all, until Al had his body back and those boys were happily at home in Resembool no longer with a care in the world, then Mustang's job was done.
Until then, he would have to keep a close eye on the reckless kid and his brother.
Because really, he really couldn't stand the thought of losing him.