BROTHERS IN ARMS
DISCLAIMER: SEE CHAPTER 1.
CHAPTER 6: THE PHILOSOPHER'S STONE
Despite the heavy rain from the night before, the day shone brightly with a cheerful sun as Ed, Al and Harry waited for their orders concerning Tucker's lab.
Early this morning, Bas Gran had stormed into Mustang's office, accusing Harry of stealing the missing chimera created from Tucker's daughter Nina, but there was actually no proof at all, as Harry had been seen in the dorms the previous night, and Mustang had made it clear that Harry could not have been in two places at once, and that the Brigadier General should leave his staff alone, unless he had solid proof. Gran was forced to leave, but his glare could have killed.
Once the General was gone and well out of hearing range, Roy focused a glare of his own on Harry, scowling at Ed. "My office. Now." His tone left absolutely no room for argument.
Harry stood up from his seat near Havoc's desk, motioning for Ed to stay where he was. "I can explain this. You wait for our orders." Ed nodded as Harry followed Mustang into his office, closing the door behind him.
Harry was tense, stiff from the long events of the previous night and nightmares that had plagued his dreams. He refused to look Roy directly in the eye, not wishing to see the anger from someone he was starting to care about directed at him.
"Well? Why did I save your ass from Bas Gran?"
Harry sighed and gave him a quick account of the previous night, explaining in short how his theory developed and just how he was proven right, adding that Edward had also been thinking along the same lines as well. He also told Roy about Nina, how the chimera still retained something of it's former self, actually recognizing Ed and Al.
"Sir, you've told me that the Military does not abide for human transmutation, as it is forbidden, but I suspect that the Brigadier General will cover up the truth of this matter. That Tucker did that to his own daughter is horrifying, and yes, I did escape with Nina, but I would do it again, and you know that I would." Harry finished with that statement, and he looked up, his eyes seeking Roy's.
The older man didn't say anything at first, gathering up his thoughts, and a silence stretched out slowly. Finally, he brought one gloved hand up to run through his hair, closing his eyes with a sigh. "Yes, I do know that. I think I understand why you did what you did, but didn't I tell you to be careful?"
A feeble smile crept up on Harry's face, crinkling his scar. "I've tried to be, really, I have. I just attract trouble. You should have been there for some of my... memorable exploits back home. Remind me at a better time to tell you about a few of my more reckless adventures."
Roy smiled, a familiar glint gleaming in his black eyes. "I'll hold you to that, Harry. I'll get Ed started on your next assignment, then I'd like to discuss a few things with you before I send you off after him." He picked up a folder off his desk and left the office, handing the assignment to Havoc. With a nod, Havoc led Ed and Al from the office and down to one of the basements.
"Why so glum, Elric?" Havoc asked, glancing behind at the young Alchemist.
"This job's a little more real than I had thought it would be, at least in this stage of the game. I still can't get over the fact that he did that to his own daughter." Ed said in response, shoulders hunched.
"I think Harry had a harder time dealing with it than you, Brother. You know how much he values family." Al's reminder made Ed sigh, and he nodded.
"Yeah, you're right, Al. So, what's this assignment you have for us?"
Havoc stopped in front of closed door, grabbed the handle and pulled it open. A torrent of sound assaulted them as the Lieutenant gestured at the contents of the room. The events of the previous night came back into focus as Ed and Al stared at the assembled mess of stacked cages, and masses of journals, notebooks and scattered papers taken from the basement of Tucker's mansion.
"Your orders are to go through and organize all of this stuff. You should familiarize yourselves with the results of Tucker's experiments."
"You want me to take over that maniac's research?" Ed was outraged, and the sight of the experiments sickened him.
Havoc looked down at the young Alchemist, unlit cigarette hanging from his mouth. "True, he might have gone about it the wrong way, but some his findings could have great use for the Military."
"Why don't you let that whackjob help you himself?!"
Havoc's stare was slightly cold, distant. "He can't. He's dead. His guilt was so obvious that the higher-ups decided to forego the embarrassment of a trial and skip straight to the execution."
Ed opened his mouth to protest, but Havoc cut him off before he could even start. "Its not wise to question the wisdom of the Military. See, that's the first Law of State Alchemy, Ed." He handed the younger blonde a book in which he was supposed to record his findings and stalked off.
It was about twenty minutes later when Harry arrived, and the room had already been somewhat tidied by Al. Ed had moved the cages against one wall, and was sitting in front of one of the cages, throwing feed to the experiment within, while Al was going through some of the books and journals.
Harry sighed and closed the door behind him. He should have figured that Edward would start sulking once he knew what their assignment was, but he had figured that he would also look to the bright side of this whole nasty, messy situation, seeing as how Nina was still alive.
He moved over to where Al was working, kneeling down beside the suit of armor to help him out. "So, any progress made?"
"Yeah, it's interesting. It seems that Tucker was doing a lot of research into the Philosopher's Stone." He said, showing Harry a few of the research notes he'd found. "There's probably a lot more in here, too. Well, as soon as we can get through this mess."
Al sighed. "How long do you plan on sulking like this, Brother?"
"Do you realize the power the Philosopher's Stone holds for Alchemists? There was even one in my world."
"We could bypass all the laws of Alchemy, including Equivalent Exchange. We could do the things we weren't able to do before. We could-!" The thrown sack of animal feed cut Alphonse off in the middle of his sentence.
"We can't do anything! It's just a bedtime story; it doesn't exist!"
Al pulled the sack off his armored 'head', letting it drop to the floor. "But even a certified State Alchemist like Tucker was looking into the research behind it."
Ed swiped his gloved hand in front of him, in a decisive dismissive motion. "I don't care what that lunatic was doing or researching! We still weren't able to save Nina!"
"You're wrong about that, Edward Elric!" Harry moved to grab the younger boy by the shoulders, shaking him once. "She's still alive! She's safe now!"
"But we weren't able to stop it from happening! How is that saving her?" Ed sneered at Harry. "Everyone thinks we're so freakin' smart; well, then why weren't we able to prevent it from happening in the first place!"
The blond broke away from Harry's grip on him, looking down to where he'd been fingering the coveted pocket watch that hung at his hip. He quickly unclipped it from his belt and handed the silver watch to Harry before stalking off through the doors and out into the hall.
Harry and Al could only watch him go. Harry sighed and turned to the large armor behind him. "Go after him. He's only lost his way for the time being."
Alphonse nodded and started off after his brother while Harry cast a few spells on the room, his magic doing its work before he went in the other direction towards Mustang's office to give him this latest development.
The animated armor that was currently Alphonse Elric caught to his brother as he was leaving the main building of Central Headquarters, and as Ed walked right past him, Al followed him only a few steps behind.
With no immediate reply, Al was starting to get frustrated his brother's mood and temper. "Hold on, Ed! You're the not only one who's upset. We couldn't do anything to save Nina from being turned into a chimera, but we're alchemists, not police. We can't catch a killer, but we can put our talents to better use at research so that if we ever do come across another girl like Nina, we can..." He trailed off as Ed sped away from him, ignoring him.
Ed didn't stop running until he was well into the city streets, the building surrounding him blocking off the view of the Military Headquarters. He just... he felt so helpless, useless! His harsh words to Harry he felt were true. If he was so smart, the genius they all proclaimed him to be, then why hadn't he been able to prevent Nina's Transmutation? What good was he if he couldn't save the people he cared about?
It was like loosing Al's body all over again, really. His own foolishness and pride had cost him greatly then, and he'd been helpless to stop it. Edward was starting to hate that feeling with a passion that threatened to consume him.
Nina hadn't deserved to be turned into such an abomination. She had been the poster girl for everything cute and innocent!
So caught up in his thoughts, Ed failed to notice the other man walking down the street until he'd collided with the tall man. He paused, turning to look at the person he'd bumped into and he felt his eyes widen in recognition. He could see the same recognition in the other man's face even behind the dark sunglasses.
"You were," Ed recalled the other day when he'd first encountered this man. "You were outside the Library."
"Tell me, if you have access to the Library in Central, then that makes you a State Alchemist."
Ed grimaced, remembering that he'd effectively resigned when he had turned his watch over to Harry earlier. "Well, I was, yeah. But that's all behind me now."
The other man regarded him silently for a moment, his face blank of any emotion. "Really? You're better off." He turned away from Ed and walked away, muttering as he went, clutching at his left arm, remembering the poor fool he'd found last night after witnessing the escape of that monster.
"Because, if you were still a State Alchemist, then this arm would destroy you."
Elsewhere, at the train station, a young blond girl carrying only a single suitcase got off one of the new arrival trains. She smiled to herself gleefully, remembering the letter she'd gotten the other day.
"I can't wait to Ed and Al's faces. They'd never expect me to come all the way here just to congratulate them. It'll be good to see Harry again, too." She hefted her suitcase and ambled off, a bounce in her step. Winry grinned, quite giddy. "Surprise!"
Just off the main courtyard of Central Headquarters, Al had managed to corner one of Mustang's subordinates, Lieutenant Hawkeye, to ask her some questions he had. Al hadn't met all of the Colonel's staff yet, but the lieutenant seemed rather nice, if strict, and she was pretty, too.
"Have you ever seen it? What can you tell me about it?"
"Not too much. I'm afraid I haven't heard anything too substantial about the Philosopher's Stone. Well, about it ever actually existing, anyway. As far as I know, it's just a legend."
"I see." His disappointment was almost tangible.
Riza Hawkeye could see this, and she was already starting to feel somewhat... protective over the younger boys now in her Colonel's care, so she quickly glanced around for anyone that may be listening in. Seeing no one, she leaned in and lowered her voice. "But I can say that if you know what's bets for you, you'd find another hobby to pursue."
Alphonse fidgeted slightly, wary now at the Lieutenant's cautionary words.
"It's been said that bad things have a way of happening to those who seek the Philosopher's Stone."
A direct and authoritative voice startled both of them from behind Al's armor body. "Did someone say the Philosopher's Stone?"
As Alphonse stepped aside to look behind him, Hawkeye snapped a salute to the broad shouldered officer standing there. Seeing her reaction, Al leaned in closer to her and pointed to him. "Who is this guy?"
Riza was stunned and she gaped momentarily at her hollow companion. "A-are you kidding?! This 'guy' is-!"
The officer raised one hand, silencing the female sharpshooter from revealing his identity to the boy. With a smile, he turned his attention to the armor looming above even his height. "So, you'd like to get your hands on the Stone, is that right, son?"
Al stiffened at the question, showing some respect for the high ranked officer addressing him. "Yes, sir."
"And why do you want it?" Even behind the eye patch covering one eye, there was a smile lurking in his gaze.
"For hum- Ah, I mean, I need to recover something important that my brother lost."
"Is that so? This brother of yours must be very special to you." At that simple comment, Al laughed, a little embarrassed. "It's some undertaking; the crusade you're embarking on is as old as Alchemy itself. Personally, I try to stay above it, but from time to time, you'll hear about some alchemist who's succeeded in forging a Stone. Such rumors naturally have a way of congregating around Military personnel, so there should be plenty of records on the subject down at the National Library."
"Is that true?" Alphonse was starting to get excited again since first discovering about the Philosopher's Stone. Riza Hawkeye remained silent at his side.
"Most assuredly. Of course, only State Alchemists have access to it."
At this, Al sighed. Defeated, once again. But wait... "So what you're saying is, any State Alchemist could find out more about this thing?" He bowed quickly in courtesy before running off. "Ah, excuse me!"
Once Alphone was out of hearing range, Hawkeye glanced at her superior, the Fuhrer. "With all due respect, Sir, why would you encourage him to chase a futile pursuit like that?"
Fuhrer King Bradley grinned, caressing his chin in thought. "I think it's a good thing for youngsters to have dreams to follow. Don't you agree with me, 2nd Lieutenant?"
Riza regarded the man for a moment, before nodding briefly. "...Yes, Sir."
Harry was once again lounging on the couch inside Mustang's inner office, a frown marring his face as he casually tossed a silver watch over and over again in the air before catching it.
The Colonel was at his desk, going through his constant paperwork, every now and then glancing at the young man nearby.
"You're worried about him."
Harry caught the tossed watch again and sighed. "Yes, of course I am. I think this is the first time he's ever come close to losing his way, of loosing sight of his goals. Normally, he defines the terms 'stubbornness' and 'determination', but this time, he just seems... well, lost."
"He'll find his way. You know he will." The scratching of Mustang's pen on paper was the only sound to break the silence.
"So how is the job I ordered you three to do going?"
Harry snorted, cracking a grin. "Well, it's hardly a three person job, so as Ed and Al are wondering around out there, I've set my magic to organizing the mess from Tucker's place, with very specific instructions. However, I have no idea myself what could be important to the Military about his research, nor do I think I have to clearance to know, so once it's all been organized, someone else will have to go through it."
It was Harry's rather flippant tone that caused Roy's smirk, but he put down his pen and stepped away from his desk, quickly eating up the short distance to the couch where Harry lay reclined.
He leaned down and placing one gloved hand on the couch behind Harry, the other hand casually in his pocket, he captured the younger man's lips in delicate kiss, releasing him after only a moment.
"You're not secretly a politician, are you? Because you're damn good at reading between the lines in the orders you are given."
"What can I say? Guess I was taught by the best manipulative bastards in both worlds." He grinned, and as Roy moved back, he stood up and stretched. "I've been thinking about something lately."
"Yes, I'd like to get a military uniform."
Roy raised one black eyebrow in question. "And what prompted this train of thought?"
"The Amestrian Military has just gained three new members, but as of yet, there is no physical ties to that. Ed, well, we both know that he will never wear the uniform, just on principle, really, and Al can't, even if he would want to wear one, so that leaves me. I don't see a way for me to return home again, so I need to start making one here. That includes getting a job to ground me here, which I've done, and accepting every aspect of that. That includes the Military uniform." Harry shrugged. "Besides, there are worse things in the world."
Roy nodded. "I'll see to it, then."
"Great. Now, I should probably check on my progress with Tucker's research and find out where my wayward brothers have gone to." Harry placed a quick kiss to Mustang's cheek, grinning at the slight pinkish tinge that appeared with the action. He poked his superior in the chest lightly with one finger, smirking, and dropping the watch he's been tossing on Roy's desk. "And you need to get back to work. I noticed that Lieutenant of yours, Hawkeye I think, seemed a little twitchy with her gun when you're supposed to be working."
Roy shuddered, moving back to his desk. "You're so observant it's scary. Get out of here; you have work of your own to catch up on, and send Falman in on your way out."
With a laugh that lingered in Roy's ears, Harry left the office, with a casual wave to the man behind him.
Edward had managed to make it back to Headquarters and made his way to the mess hall, which was only filled with a few scattered pockets of personnel, leaving several empty tables.
He filled a tray with food and with a book tucked under his arm that he'd nicked from the Library about a half hour ago, he settled down at one of the empty tables to do his own research.
Suddenly, there was a familiar photo in front of his face, and he felt a twitch from his forehead.
"What do you think? I know, you're thinking that she takes after me, right? Well, the apple doesn't fall far from the tree!" The incessantly cheerful voice of Maes Hughes accompanied the photo of newborn Elysia and Ed smacked the annoying hand away from him.
"I've seen that same picture a dozen times already!"
Maes, completely unruffled by Ed's mood, calmly slipped his precious picture into his breast pocket, a knowing grin plastered across his face. "Now now, Ed, there's no need for that attitude, is there? Not when I've shared some classified files on the serial killer with you."
"Yeah, and you owe me for the train and delivering your baby, so what else d'you got?"
Maes leaned back in his chair beside Ed, clasping his hands behind his head. "Touché, touché, well, the investigation's at a standstill. We've got no clues and no witnesses to go on. The bodies are all sliced and diced, but none of us can figure out how he does it in such a short time."
Ed dropped his gaze back to the open book in front of him, his tray of food in danger while in front of his friend beside him. "Maybe he killed them somewhere else and moved the bodies later. How long between the time of death and when they were found?"
As Hughes stole one of his bread rolls, he jerked his food closer to him. "We've come a long way, but even with modern science, we can't figure that." He broke the roll in his hand in half, with Ed grabbing one half away from him. "But between us and the police, we must have checked the trunks of every single car entering or exiting the City."
"There must be some sort of blind spot you're missing here." Ed kept his gaze down at his book, for all intents and purposes, ignoring the Major munching away at his lunch. "A car that can hide bodies, or a-"
"Or maybe, it's all been the work of an Alchemist."
Ed flinched at Hughes' remark. "Alchemists are not cold blooded murderers!"
He rounded on his older friend, but Maes just grinned and spread his hands in unspoken apology. Ed stared at him for a moment before settling back down.
They remained in silent company for a few more minutes longer before a shadow fell across Ed's place in his book.
He looked up at another soldier from across the table. "Excuse me, sir? Are you Edward Elric?"
"There's a visitor here to see you, waiting out front."
"A visitor?" Ed and Hughes shared questioning looks before the blond shrugged and stood to follow the soldier from the mess hall. Just as they were leaving, Harry came through the open doors, and Ed paused, waiting for Harry to come closer.
"Hey, Ed, where are you going?"
"I have a visitor, believe it or not. I left Hughes at the table back there, we were discussing some things about the case he's working on, if you're interested."
Harry nodded. "Sure. You doing all right? Have you seen Al?"
Ed shook his head, and he started following the soldier waiting for him. "No, but I'm sure he's around."
Then he was gone from the Mess and Harry found his way to where Maes Hughes was finishing off Ed's forgotten lunch. With a laugh, he took Ed's chair and grinned at the older man.
"So, Hughes, Ed mentioned in passing about the case. Still nothing new?"
Maes paused in his eating and sighed, shaking his head in the negative. "Nah, and it's starting to make the higher ups a little nervous. I've got them breathing down my neck over at Investigations."
"Do you have any ideas at all? Nothing?"
"Ed mentioned that maybe the victims were killed somewhere else, but that opens up a whole new can of worms, so to speak."
Harry frowned. "Yeah, I guess that doesn't really help you in solving the case, does it?"
"That's odd." They had arrived at the courtyard in front of the main lobby, but there was no one is sight. "I told her to wait right here. I wonder where she could have wondered off to."
Ed looked about, moving down the stone steps, noting the suitcase and abandoned jacket in the shade of the building.
"What's up, Mr. Elric?"
Ed ignored the guy, following what seemed to be condensation marks on the ground. Light glinted off a screw, and he picked it up, recognizing the make of it. "Is this...?"
Quickly, he pulled off the glove hiding his automail hand and compared the solitary screw to the ones holding his arm together.
"Winry? What would she be doing here?" Looking back down at the ground, he started seeing all the evidence of something having previously been in the same spot they stood.
"Was there a car stopped here when you left her?"
"Well, yeah, there's always refrigerated trucks parked here when they drop off food for the mess hall."
All the pieces started coming together in Ed's mind as he recalled Hughes' frustration at the serial killer investigation. "Refrigerated trucks; a car that kind hide bodies- Oh no! Winry!"
He took off, ignoring the soldier's questions, but he realized that he had to tell someone about this. He stopped a few feet away, turning around. "Go find Major Maes Hughes of Investigations! Tell him it's the refrigerated trucks; a car that can hide dead bodies! He'll understand!" Then he was gone again, leaving the soldier behind in his wake.
He dashed through the city streets, looking for any large trucks in the alleyways, until, in the warehouse district, he sighted a blue refrigerated truck, parked in a secluded area, outside what looked like a butcher shop.
Slightly out of breath, Ed rushed towards the entrance, quietly pulling open the only door and stepping into the dark and chilled building. He could barely see anything, his steps echoing louder than he'd prefer, surrounded by huge pig carcasses on hooks.
He swept keen golden eyes across the seemingly empty-of-life room, but a sound in the corner made him pause. Was there someone there, crouched down in the corner? He cautiously made his way closer; picking up the pace once he saw it was a woman, crouched down trembling. Whether it was from fear or the chill, Ed couldn't be certain.
"Hey, miss, are you alright?" He crouched down to her level, watching her tremble as she kept her face hidden. "Have you seen others like you in here?"
Briefly, she nodded, pointing to the other side of the room, currently hidden by the hanging carcasses. "Over there." She whispered, and Ed stood, turning to look in the direction she had indicated. "A young girl."
"Ok, I'll just go grab her and we can get the hell out of the place!" He turned back to the woman to reassure her. "Don't worry, you're in safe hands now..." He trailed off as he saw the club she held moments before his head exploded in pain from something colliding with it, and as he dropped, his vision fading away into blackness, Ed could have sworn he heard someone laugh.
Then he knew no more.
His head hurt, throbbing as a loud grating noise slowly forced him back into the world of consciousness. He opened his eyes with a struggle, and almost immediately, he remembered what had happened and he started struggling right away.
He knew he was bound to a chair, it felt like, but his body was acting sluggishly, and the chains binding him didn't even rattle with his struggles.
In front of him, illuminated by a single light bulb and the sparks from metal being sharpened was the woman he'd spoken to before, when he'd first entered the warehouse. She had her back to him, so Ed couldn't see her face but the heavy meat cleaver she held glinted ominously in the light.
"My hero awakes."
"Why, you!" The sluggishness of his body wore off, and new pain assaulted his nerve, and Ed realized that he could move his automail arm. Looking for it, he despaired to find it missing. "AAHH!"
The woman holding that dangerous cleaver turned to him, revealing his missing limb on the only table in the expansive room. "Word on the playground is that you can transmute without a circle using only your hands, so to safe..." She trailed off, a grin in place as she lifted his useless metal limb.
She laughed, and Ed could feel the beginnings of fear rising up within him, no matter how hard he tried to keep a level head. The woman reached up, grabbed her hair, and to Ed's surprise, pulled off a wig.
"Please, let me introduce myself. My name is Barry and this here's my butcher shop."
"Y-you're a man!" He was still wearing a dress, Ed's mind made a special note in something approaching hysteria.
"Guilty as charged! And as a reward for you making it this far, we have a special guest!" She, or rather, he, shoved at the carcass beside him, the chains holding the slabs of meat up acting as a pulley system, pulling along a terrified Winry. She was bound at the wrists to a large and heavy hook, and gagged, but even from this distance, Ed could see that she had been crying.
"Let her go!"
Winry's wide and terrified eyes never left the killer next to her, and she shivered violently as he leaned in even closer, whimpering in fright. "Since she enjoys taking things apart, I thought I'd do the same to her!" Barry continued to smile, but his dark eyes glinted with an unholy light. "If you watch us carefully, you might just get to see what makes her tick!"
Ed could do nothing to help his friend, helpless as he was. "You're sick! Why are you doing this?"
Barry looked momentarily baffled at the question. "Why? Hmm, what a strange little question that is! I suppose it's because I enjoy it!" A single glance at Winry had her freeze in her struggling. "The first person I killed was my wife; she was nagging me about something, and then without meaning to, I chopped her to pieces. But when I saw how finely I could slice her, I wanted more; more people to cut up to reduce them to their most basic building blocks, and I wanted everyone to see."
Ed allowed the psychopath to ramble, trying to reach his right pocket with his left human hand, since his right metal arm was at the mercy of the killer strolling about in front of him, butcher knife catching the light.
He wanted what was currently in his pocket, that screw that had been left behind at Headquarters. If he could just reach it...
"How could a person murder someone for such a ridiculous reason?" He leaned forward as best he could in the chair he was strapped to, hoping to provoke more rambling from the dangerous man before him, so that his own struggling could be missed.
Eyes wide, completely void of reason and conscience, Barry grinned at him, advancing on him slowly. "Because they can!" He spoke as if his answer had been obvious for all to see.
"Given the slightest provocation-!" His shadow fell across Ed's pale form, and the blond flinched violently at Barry's closeness.
"Stay back!" He cast his eyes down, trying to flinch away from the mad man standing directly in front of him. He didn't want to have to see that huge and deadly blade. He didn't want to admit to himself that the fear was creeping ever closer to the forefront of his mind.
"Anybody can do it! Men, have morals, but send them to war and they have no problems slaying each other in the most brutal fashions. Why do you think that is?"
Ed refused to look at him, fighting to keep his panic at his helpless situation at bay. "I have no idea."
No sooner had the words left his mouth did Barry calmly and neatly raise his arm holding the butcher cleaver, slicing through the skin on Ed's shoulder like a knife through butter. It took a second for Edward to realize the action had been done and he briefly saw Winry flinch at the sight of his blood dripping down his arm and onto the floor.
The blond gritted his teeth, trying not to scream as the pain hit, feeling the cleaver, still embedded into his flesh, move as Barry knelt down to his level, bringing them face to face.
"Because deep down inside, we all want to kill; most just need the go-ahead from their society, like the State Alchemists I saw in a village slaughtering helpless people." Barry made a gesture with his free hand as Ed focused pain-hazy on him. "Splat! Big fountains of blood!"
"That's not true..." Even in his own mind, Ed's voice sounded scared and weak, as images ran through his head, recalling his own destructive forays into dangerous alchemy; when Trisha Elric died and her last moments, to the mass of tissue they had given life to; to Nina's new chimera form, the canine creature sitting on the floor, staring at him with those eyes, and his imaginings of what she would look like if someone had caught and killed her, bringing tears of desperations to his aureate eyes.
"No!" He pressed his fingers against the tiny circle he'd engraved into the chains confining him, activating the array with a brilliant burst of blue light, using the alchemic reaction to turn his chains into a solid steel pole that clanged at his feet.
Barry leapt back, shielding his eyes from the sudden glare, a nasty sneer in place. "You little-!"
Ed raised his eyes long enough to see that heavy, deadly weapon rise upwards to come down on his head and he lurched to the side, falling on his face. He heard the knife chop the chair he'd been strapped to into pieces, splinters falling about him. He had to get away, fast!
Metal glinting in the soft light grabbed at his attention, and he used one foot to kick the steel pole he'd transmuted from his chains into his one hand. He yelped as Barry struck again, barely blocking the deadly blow with his boot, his automail leg absorbing the shock.
He scrambled away, finding his feet and dashing into the maze of hanging carcasses, desperately trying to stay ahead of the psycho behind him, chasing him.
Ed screamed as Barry came after him, stumbling to the cold, hard cement floor and he scuttled backwards, keeping the steel pole in his one good hand, swinging it in front of him as Barry laughed.
The sharpened tip of the bar caught and sliced the murderer's hand, allowing Ed to scuttle away and run off in another direction, away from the light, before he remembered Winry.
He ran back to the center of the butcher house, but his fingers were starting to go numb, and his hand was shaking, and he wasn't tall enough to unhook his friend with only one hand.
"Dammit!" He barely managed to dodge as Barry swung at him again, knocking him into the table, and hearing a clang of metal parts fall from the table, Ed turned and ran away, dropping the pole and grabbing his lifeless, metal arm and he dashed off into the darkened depths. Barry's insane laughter followed him all the way, slowly catching up to him.
He tripped over something and collided with the floor painfully, but he managed to keep a tight grip on his arm, and somewhere in the back of his frightened mind, Ed realized that this might be the only chance he got to maybe stand a chance.
Without a second thought, Ed shoved his arm back into place, suddenly reattaching his nerves to the arm and he screamed as wildfire burned from the previously empty socket.
He didn't even have a chance to compensate for the sudden overload of sensation, as Barry appeared right in front of him, leering down at him, butcher blade glinting menacingly.
The knife rose, preparing to fall in a downward strike that he would not be able to avoid and Ed clamped his eyes shut, bringing his palms together in a clap that resounded throughout the large building.
He brought his flesh hand away, alchemy transmuting the metal into the form of a spearhead, a blade just long enough for him to use and as the butcher knife came crashing down on his head, Ed was just able to parry the blow, but Barry didn't stop; he swung the heavy knife in a frenzy, and Ed could feel small cuts bloom a bright red on his skin from where he wasn't able to block the blows completely.
Out of nowhere, a pig carcass crashed into the serial killer's back, knocking him down on top of Edward, and as he tried to swing again, Ed knocked the knife from his hand, pulling his blade arm back in order to strike.
Ed wasn't even thinking anymore, terrified and panicked and the only thought that was going through his mind was the wish to have Barry gone, to have the monster hunting him gone.
He lunged forward with a cry, but a shout cut through his blank mind, "Don't!" and a familiar hand grabbed his shoulder, stopping him from killing the serial killer.
His first reaction had Ed swinging around, and his blade bound off of hollow armor, and he stopped, sitting there on his knees as exhaustion finally started taking over.
Al brought a hand to his hollow chest plate, a minor scratch barely there in the armor the evidence that Ed had struck his brother. "It'll take more than to kill me, Brother."
Tears cascaded freely down Ed's face as he slowly came back to himself, and he realized what he had been about to do.
A soldier, one Ed didn't recognize, or even registered, rushed into sight, gun drawn and already trained on Barry, who gave up with a maniacal grin.
Ed could only stare at his brother, and Harry came into view from behind Al, kneeling down to Ed's eyelevel. "Al… I…"
"Brother, are you hurt?"
"I thought he was gonna kill me!" Ed whispered, head lowered as tears dripped down to stain the concrete. "I honestly thought I was gonna die! I was so scared! So scared!"
"We're here." Harry spoke softly, leaning forward to envelop Ed in a hug, rubbing his back in comfort. Al put his hand on Ed's flesh shoulder, before helping them to stand and bringing them outside into the setting sun, where Hughes was shouting orders at his various staff.
Together, Al and Harry maneuvered Ed over to the front steps of a neighboring building, just far enough away from the hustle of the soldiers as they performed their tasks for the sake of the illusion of privacy.
A soldier brought a blanket for Ed, and Harry wrapped his brother in it gently, careful to not rub against the open cuts on his arm. He also requested for a med kit to take care of those minor injuries.
"Brother? It turns out the Philosopher's Stone may very well be real, but the clues we need to finding it are off limits to everyone but State Alchemists." Al brought his hand up again to the tiny scratch that would forever remind them of this time. "Since I no longer have a normal shell, I can't feel the terror you felt, thinking you were going to die. I'm sure it must have been painful, and lonely. I want my body back, Brother; I wanna be able to feel what you felt, to feel human again. If we find the Philosopher's Stone, I can have that. And we can repair what we've broken.
"When I was certain that he was going to kill me, my mind went blank, and I didn't have hope anymore. The only thing I could do was scream my lungs out." He stared at his hands, staring at the contrast between the two limbs. "I felt so helpless that I couldn't even bring myself to believe that someone might save me. Then you showed up, Al, with Harry right there behind you, and I realized that if we don't take care of each other, no one else will. So I will do anything in my power to get our bodies back, even if it means being the Military's lapdog! And we'll just have to hope that our powers are good enough to help us rise above our own limits!" He buried his face into his hands, sobbing. "We're not gods! We're humans; tiny, insignificant humans!"
Harry wrapped Ed in another hug, holding tight to his brother. "I will do everything in my power to help you, just like I promised, and with you and Al, I can make my home here. We're human, yes, and we weren't able to get to Nina in time, but that doesn't stop us from trying."
It was the next day that found Ed Standing in Mustang's empty office, eyes darkened from lack of sleep, but determined. The Colonel was reclined in his chair, sunlight streaming in behind him from the window, Ed's watch on his desk.
"On one condition, you say?"
"I'll obey all your orders, sir, but as long as I serve, I'd like to receive all information on the Philosopher's Stone. And then whenever I've finished all my other duties, you have to permit me to search for it."
"People will question your motives. You realize what will happen if the State learns about your human transmutation; Al will be hauled off to some lab as a precious sample." A small smirk lifted one corner of Mustang's mouth as he regarded the young alchemist in front of him. "Well, I can keep that in my back pocket to make sure you behave."
Ed didn't so much as flinch at the thought of his brother being taken away from him.
"Fine, but you have to report to me everything you uncover about the Philosopher's Stone." The Colonel paused before reaching into one of the desk drawers withdrawing a plain manila folder. "Oh, and I almost forgot; you've been issued your official State title. It's quite ironic, actually; he's got a good sense of humor."
Ed grabbed the folder from Mustang, taking out the sheet of paper inside and he started to read. "'We give the name 'Fullmetal' to thee, Edward Elric, in the name of Fuhrer, King Bradley.'"
He looked up to stare questioningly at his superior officer. "Fullmetal?"
"Along with the pocketwatch, everyone of us is assigned a symbolic second name, depending on your talents, and yours is 'Fullmetal'. The Fullmetal Alchemist."
Ed frowned, his stare turning harsh as he glared at Mustang. "Sounds heavy; tell him I like the feel of it. I won't let it weigh me down."
He started walking away from the large desk, leaving Mustang, but before he reached the door, he turned back around, his glare fiercer than ever before.
"You take damn good care of Harry, or I will kick your ass." The he was gone from the office, and Mustang chuckled to himself.
"Of course, Fullmetal."
Winry, seemingly fully recovered from her ordeal, had insisted that they take her out on the town, and she walked a few steps ahead of Ed and Al, hanging to Harry's arm with a wide smile.
"To celebrate, you're going to buy me all kinds of neat I can't get back home, right?" She declared and Harry laughed.
"I think you've got it backwards there." Ed countered.
"Ah, and who was it that fixed up your arm?"
None of them noticed a tall, dark-skinned man with a scar across his face watching them from across the street in an alley. His keen eyes got the glint of metal from the belts of both Harry and Ed, and the stranger frowned before turning away, his heart-felt conviction growing stronger.
A/N: ANOTHER CHAPTER IS FINALLY HERE! NOT AS LONG OF A WAIT THIS TIME, THANK GOD, AND I'LL GET STARTED ON CHAPTER 7 AS SOON AS I CAN, BUT FOR NOW, IT'S BED TIME. PLEASE REVIEW, AS I LOVE HEARING WHAT YOU GUYS THINK OF MY STORY! THANKS!