A Harmless Fantasy
- mirage -
It began to rain by the time he was in Tucker's backyard, and he considered this foreshadowing as appropriate as it was irritating. For attempting to break into the man's house again, rain seemed justified.
He examined the back basement entrance Ed had described, and it was in fact locked heavily. Suspiciously.However, he choose the route he'd used last time, which was the downstairs bathroom window open just a few inches for a breeze. He climbed in without much difficulty and snuck to the doorway.
Tucker's was dark and silent. The majority of the rooms in this ridiculous mansion he'd noticed were barely used, some dusty, and others still containing evidence that very recently Mr. Tucker had taken care of two small boys. In the upstairs library he'd found a few toy soldiers and crayons. In the downstairs living room under the couch were a few colored pictures, and the first few lines of a letter written to some girl in Edward's handwriting. He made a mental note to cut the boy off from all females upon sight of it. The boy was still young enough his mind was pure, and he wanted Edward abiding by the military, and chasing alchemy not skirts. Boobs and ass would come to Edward too fast for him anyway.
Soon he reached Tucker's bedroom, and this too was dark and evidence less. The few places left in the house unsearched were those the boys had mentioned as off-limits. He began his decent downstairs to the basement before freezing when he heard voices. Talking. It was Tucker, and it sounded more like he was given some sort of speech, or lecture explaining something. Tucker's voice was coming consistently in a calm tone before punctuating hard with excitement.
Then came the second voice, and he felt his heart stop. That voice was ingrained in his head. He'd never forget it.
Ed was speaking back, and the boy's voice was mad and loud. He felt fear run into his veins like ice, slowing down his body with the thought Edward might be confronting the man on his illegal sexual activities. He felt fear for Edward, of the repercussion the boy might be inviting from Tucker without even knowing it. Who knew what length Tucker would go to for such a secret! He had found strength in himself to carry on this charade he never would have thought imaginable. It frightened him how much more could be harnessed from Tucker's position, a cornered and limited position.
He was still a good way from where he knew the basement door to be, but seemed to be able to hear them through the stair wall. He had his ear up against it as he fumbled his way down in the dark. Ed was talking about something he found appalling, disgraceful, and what other subject could the boy possibly be discussing then the one he left Edward in his apartment stewing over.
He made it to the stair landing, and was about to send his fist into the wall in an attempt to get through what he was so sure was hallow, before tripping over a cord. The receiver of the phone positioned on the small table there, came down and smacked him right in the shin.
He stared at it. The dial tone the only sound in his section of the house. Dare this turn ugly, better to drag in some cavalry and make this more chaotic. The more men, the more confusion, and suddenly it could be more than just himself, Edward Elric, his brother, and the Sewing Life Alchemist in Tucker's estate under suspicious and odd circumstances. With more bodies their motives, and motions were better buried.
He dialed his desk while pulling himself back to his feet and she answered. "Hawkeye. Send a couple cars, yourself included to Mr. Tucker's estate at once."
"Sir?" She sounded shocked with his order before gaining her sense. "I would, but most have already left. It appears the Brigadier is on his way." He turned to the window and the sound of oncoming tires. They had sent more than one car, of that he was sure.
"What's going on?"
"I am not sure, but in this circumstance...you're outranked sir," she cautioned, worried about whatever he was planning. She thought only of his career and safety, and he dropped the phone. Yes, he was outranked and so was Edward. He did not want anyone else walking in on boy's personal disaster!
Abandoning the wall he started running to where he remembered the basement door. It was there locked as well and he could hear both Ed and Mr. Tucker in heated argument when he slammed his shoulder up against it for the first time. Fourth. Fifth time. He barged in and caught the railing before he fell down the stairs. Then he was rushing down them, almost tripping over his own feet before freezing with the Brigadier's voice. They'd beaten him! How!?
The Brigadier was talking to Ed, and demanding to know what the boy was doing there. He snuck down and peeked into the room to see. Ed was standing a few feet from Mr. Tucker talking to the Brigadier, but there seemed to be nothing more suspicious than Ed's presence. Something easily covered with a story of the boy having further questions for the man on alchemy, or upset having not been allowed to say goodbye, or feeling nostalgic.
He was getting out of there before he had to think of a way to explain himself!
He dove out the bathroom window and rolled into the grass, aware the soldiers and Brigadier were leaving the house at the same time. He tore for the back property line in time to see Hawkeye driving by. He willed her to see him running like a mad man from Tucker's estate, and somehow...she did. She hit the brakes so hard the car was swerving. She stopped in the middle of the road, climbed out and ran about to open the passenger side door completely lost.
He made it to her panting. "To the front..." he managed, climbing in. "To the front of the house," he ordered, and she climbed back into the driver's seat.
"Are you alright?" she sounded frantic.
"Fine," he managed, straightening his attire. Thank god he'd come in uniform. He'd be unable to explain casual dress in this mess. "Just get me there."
She drove quickly, but when they arrived there was only one over turned car and a few foot soldiers waiting to be picked up. They said Mr. Tucker was arrested, and somehow while driving away a large tremor had over tipped the car.
None of that made sense. However, these were the Brigadier's men and if they were lying they had no problem lying to him. Hawkeye ran inside Mr. Tucker's to use the phone, as he glared the men down. They seemed calm with their story, and were not threatened by him.
Abandoning them, he examined the ground where he stood, trying to pull more out of their story. Instead of a miscellaneous tremor foreign to their region, it seemed one had been blasted from a spot directly in front of Mr. Tucker's main gate, into the car, by someone.
"Sir!" Hawkeye called, getting back into the car. He went to her. "I just got through to Hughes, there's been another murder and apparently Edward is there. He wants to know what to do with the boy."
He didn't have to think about his answer. "Take me to him."
Hughes caught sight of them first, and raised a hand from where he stood in the wet street. The air was heavy and damp with the oncoming rain, and soldiers were everywhere in the crime scene. "This is one big mess Roy." Hughes leaned into driver's side window and spoke to him. "We've identified something was definitely murdered, they're working on figuring out what right now." Hughes sighed before turning to Hawkeye with a small smile. "Hawkeye." Hughes greet her.
"In the alley." Hughes indicate the alley with a nod, and it was the eye of the storm. "He's pretty upset so we're leaving him be." Mustang unbuckled and stepped out, feeling the cold beads of rain pelt into the parts of his hair.
The alley was filled with soldiers hanging back, and keeping it locked off, but there were a few up front working the scene. Up in the blood was where Ed and his brother were. Standing outside of the apartment he'd told the boy to stay in. Outside where that madman serial killer just commit murder.
The armor grasped Ed's shoulder on sight of him, and Ed turned. "Fullmetal." Ed stiffened with his voice. "You don't need to be here."
"I—" Ed mustered. "She—"
"You're in the way here," he said quietly.
"They—they arrested him…and she...and I tried to stop it," Ed began looking desperate. Ed was wet from the rain and stood staring up at him. The boy's silence indicating he should fill in the blanks Edward could not articulate. The direction Ed was looking for, when really all he felt was a mix of panic and relief. He'd told the boy to stay put, and Edward had run to the eye of the storm despite his orders. He put his career in danger, and felt the pressure for his own well-being, as well as Ed's on his shoulders.
"Get out of the way," he ordered harshly, and Ed's eyes widened. The boy opened his mouth and started arguing. "Are you so blind you thought this was an easy path? There is going to be a lot of hardship before you both and you're just going to have to accept it," he growled.
"Accept it!?" Ed snapped. He stalked forward, and Ed startled with his advance. The boy threw up an arm, and ducked to shield from being slapped, but he grabbed the wrist and yanked it up.
"You deliberately disobeyed me. We'll talk about it later. Right now it's inappropriate for you to be here." He tossed Ed's wrist aside, and the boy followed and scurried around him. He turned and watched Ed splash through the puddles as Ed ran past the incoming soldiers, Hughes included. The man also watched Ed pass before coming to him.
"This is the same pattern of murder?" he asked, and Hughes nod unloading a heavy sigh to the blood splatter.
"Ed seems rather panicked. Personally, I didn't want him getting directly into the crime scene but, he managed," Hughes divulged as both an explanation and apology. He said nothing. His eyes remained on the blood, and they were silent. "Roy?"
"I wonder...if it might be imposing..." he turned to Hughes considered his words. "On Gracia if...I came by." Hughes did not look opposed. "And brought Ed. I think it best he not be left alone tonight." Hughes was the safest bet he could think of. As a single higher ranking officer he couldn't take Ed home. However leaving Ed in his apartment after having just been attacked wasn't comforting.
"You want me to take him for the night?" Hughes looked flabbergasted.
"I understand…" He began retracting his request, before silencing when Hughes looked out into the street to the cars and lights. Ed was still standing in the middle of it, apparently confused with where he should be when not belonging there in the first place. The soldiers were ignoring him, and going about their orders. Together they watched Ed look out at all the bustle continually stepping out of the way, without catching any eyes. The Fullmetal Alchemist was still a joke, a child to the soldiers, and they didn't have time for him.
"Yeah, I guess I could. I have a guest room," Hughes sighed, and Mustang dropped a hand to Hughes's shoulder.
"You're sure?" he asked, but Hughes shook it off and turned back to the blood with a nod.
He left for the street with Hughes issuing directions and wrapping things up. "Ed." His voice startled the boy, and Ed turned to him looking nervous he'd come for more. "This way." He let his hand rest on the mid of Edward's back, pushing the boy to the waiting car. Hawkeye was still in the driver's seat when he ushered the boy and his brother into the back. "Hawkeye don't let them leave the car," he ordered, shutting the door on their inquisitive faces before heading back to Hughes. Hughes had to initiate the investigation and lay down enough orders his absence would not be missed before accompanying them back to the house in his own car.
On the ride over he briefed the boys. "Tonight you two will stay with Major Hughes," he informed, and they were appropriately shocked.
"Are we going to live with Major Hughes sir?" Alphonse asked startled.
"No. It's just for the night," he clarified, glancing into the rear view mirror to Ed's silent form. "They'll find who did it Ed, no worries."
Hawkeye let Hughes pull in first before parking on the street, and he let the two boys out. "Have someone bring some things for Ed, and give me half an hour," he direct, shutting the door behind the boys and slapping the roof. Hawkeye nod and pulled away with Al standing speechless, and Edward's locked jaw and wide eyes on him. "Relax," he walked right past the boy. "You will be punished for disobeying my orders, but at a later date," he informed, stopping at the bottom of the front stairs as Hughes came around the side of the house.
"Well boys!" Hughes greet, growing a wide smile. "Looks like it's been a busy night! You two opposed to staying here?" Hughes asked, cheerfully. Both boys muttered forced assurances and thank-yous before following them in obediently.
Gracia was startled Hughes had brought him and two boys home. For a moment she stared at the one wearing a suit of armor, then welcomed them in with the ease of a woman who was accustomed to the changing life of a soldier. She greet him with a soft kiss to his cheek, polite smile for Alphonse, and directions for Ed to take off his boots. Ed sat down in front of the door and began doing so while Hughes fixed them a drink.
"There was a murder further into town, we've just come from there," Hughes informed Gracia, handing him some brandy. "This is Edward Elric, the Fullmetal Alchemist and his brother Alphonse." Hughes indicate Ed with his cup, "Edward, Alphonse, this is my wife Gracia." Hughes introduced her, and Ed sat his boots aside before standing for a bow.
"It's so nice to meet you fine boys." Gracia smiled, indicating they come in. Alphonse had stopped dripping and seemed to be drying in the air, but Ed was still wet. "Let me have your jacket there Edward, I'll see if I can dry it for you." Ed hand it over at once.
"Yes ma'am," Ed answered, watching them move to the living room and sit down.
"Ed you can stay in the guest bedroom," Hughes informed, waving the boys in and they came and sat together on the couch with Ed sneaking glances at him. He felt either the boy was nervous of anger he may have regarding the incident, or wanted to speak on something.
"I can send a car for them tomorrow," he said, and Hughes took a large sip. "And Ed I am having some things brought for you," he add, and Ed gave a small nod looking horrible. Ed's hair was wet, eyes tired and slightly pink, with damp clothes which had him shivering.
"You ever been in a crime scene before Ed?" Hughes asked, and Ed turned to the man slowly before shaking his head. "That's what a murder scene looks like," Hughes explained, and Mustang watched Gracia through the kitchen doorway fixing some tea. She moved about quickly trying to prepare enough for them, and the two boys he did not want staying up. It was almost midnight, and Ed looked worn to the bone. Never mind the boy needed to rest after the events of the day, but with the extra commotion of the evening, he could tell Ed's head felt very heavy on the boy's shoulders. Ed sat slumped on the couch listening to Hughes like each limb weighted a hundred pounds. The boy didn't even look up when the doorbell sound.
Gracia answered it, and took the overnight bag from the soldier. However, not wanting to interrupt Hughes who was still talking, she politely sat it alongside the stairs. He took note of this and the second Hughes took a breath he interrupt.
"Sorry to interrupt," he began, before turning to Ed who met his eyes weakly. "But we all have work tomorrow. Ed a soldier's brought some things for you. You should probably get some sleep," he suggest, ready to firmly lead the boy to the guest bed if need be.
"Thank you Colonel. And thank you Major for allowing us to stay the night. We apologize for the inconvenience." Ed bowed to him, and then to Hughes with Alphonse imitating before following Ed to the bag. Gracia brought them a tray of hot tea, and left quickly to lead the boys to the bathroom and guest bedroom.
"I don't remember little Ed this quiet," Hughes comment, watching Ed trudge obediently after Gracia.
"Nine is his bedtime," he supplied simply, and Hughes cracked a smile but did not break eye contact.
"You wouldn't be keeping something from me would you now Roy?" Hughes teased, and he fell silent. How was it he should answer? He could either lie to his close friend, or divulge Edward's information. Neither seemed appropriate and Hughes' faced dampened when his eyes fell to his tea. "Is it very serious then?" Hughes asked lowering his voice before sipping from his cup.
"I am afraid it is," he managed this much. He took a sip as well and lift his eyes to Hughes. There was no reason not to tell, he trusted this man with everything. "It's probably safer for you...if you never know," he explained quietly, understanding his friend better than the man perhaps understood himself.
Hughes was expecting a child, and since the introduction of a baby had glued himself to Fullmetal whenever the boy was alone at Headquarters. It wasn't as if he were blind to all the following, teasing, planned conversation, and all about general looking-after Hughes sought to give the boy. It was as if with the concept of becoming a father, Hughes had signed himself up to be anyone's father, Fullmetal included. This news, especially this news, throat clenching words of such magnitude might lead the man to something drastic or unwise. Tucker had to be dealt with, but in a quiet manner, if the military that had drug the man from his house had not already done so. In more ways than one Tucker's alchemic perversions were proving to be a relief which he could not measure. It were as if Tucker were causing and solving problems for him so there were no loose ends. "I should go." He sat his cup down half empty, but Hughes was casual and continued sipping. The man followed him with his eyes when he stood and then lowered the small china cup.
"I'll check on them first," he said, heading to the stairs and Hughes chuckled at this possessive side of him. This potentially over-protective and possibly over-reacting side of him.
If the man only knew the truth.
Gracia was upstairs getting the boys from the bathroom to the bedroom with her bulging stomach slowing down all movements. He caught her instructing Ed to leave his towel in the hamper before the boy emerged from the bathroom damp from a quick bath and in pajamas. Edward was still in the process of bundling himself and after today wore as much clothing as possible. So much so that Gracia seemed confused, and as if she was biting her tongue. She kept doing small reaches for Ed's collar and shirt sleeves as though wishing to remove one or even two of the four shirts the boy was wearing. Two long sleeve and two t-shirts over cotton pajama pants and socks. Edward kept his hands curled into the sleeves, and eyes trained on her not wanting to impose anymore than he was aware he was already doing.
"Is there anything else I might get for you two boys?" Gracia asked, closing the bathroom door behind them with a hand on her stomach. They shook their heads as she indicated the next door down and Alphonse opened it and disappeared. "Please feel free to use whatever you need." Gracia waddled after Ed heavily pregnant. Hawkeye had told Hughes it was a mathematical nine months which produced an infant, but this woman looked near eleven or twelve. He could hear the boys reassuring her they were fine as she bustled about. She turned on a small lamp, opened the closet and showed them the extra blankets. Assured them to use the bathroom or kitchen if needed, and opened the bed with Alphonse standing like a massive tree trunk dissecting the middle of the room and Ed curled into his clothing tight to Alphonse's side. "If you're cold I can get another blanket." Gracia repeatedly offered not blind the way Edward was holding his shirt sleeves with arms hugged to his sides. "If you need them please..." Gracia indicate the linen closet again before forcing her body to stand after leaning forward to open the bed.
"Thank you for your hospitality, but we'll be fine. Please, don't trouble yourself." Ed was insisting as she rubbed her stomach looking tired as well. With a brief nod she was heading to the door, slowing a bit on sight of him before bidding goodnight and heading down to Hughes. He watched her leave with Ed climbing up the bed and burring himself in it before freezing on sight of him lurking in the doorway. "Colonel," Ed muttered, sitting up again.
"Tucker is in military custody," he said, entering confidently, and Ed swallowed with the name. "He's far away," he reassured, not blind to Ed's unease.
"And...where will you be?" Ed asked, keeping eye contact firmly. He smiled.
"Home. In bed as well." He chuckled, and Ed grunt. The boy was nervous and he noticed the small fingers which began tugging at the sheet corner. Ed glanced to Alphonse again to confirm he was there, and close by. "I am leaving you with a Major, in a locked home, with his wife, and your brother." He reached down and tugged the lap-blanket Gracia had unfold higher.
"Don't tuck me in." Ed slapped his hand off insulted, and he raised them in mock surrender. "Don't act nice now." Ed fussed lying down and snuggling under. "I know you're pissed at me. You don't have to fake it," Ed scowled up to him before looking away to hide the guilt carried behind the words.
"Get some sleep," he ordered, tugging the blanket up and tucking the boy in with Ed frowning at him through heavy eyes. "You can leave for work with Hughes tomorrow. He works at nine." He smiled and Ed cracked one as well, glade it wasn't up at seven after all this. "Night Alphonse." He nodded to the massive armor which was still standing alongside the bed watching him.
"Night Colonel," Alphonse muttered, and he left. He was home for only three hours before Hughes woke him with a ringing phone. Lying in bed, his head still under his pillow, he muffled back and forth to the man.
Hughes began the conversation with a fast demand. "I think you should tell me what's going on."
"What's going on?" He countered casually.
"Ed woke up screaming." Hughes accused him of this. Somehow the tone was accusing him. "Hysterically," Hughes add. "Wouldn't let me touch him. Or come near him." Hughes spoke quickly with concerned and alarmed. "Now look." The accusatory tone resurfaced. "Either that murder shook him up bad, or there is something deeper here, and it seems to me that's it."
"What makes you say that? He knew that girl."
"When he finally settled down and climbed off the armor he wanted to speak to you." Hughes report flatly and he was quiet. This didn't necessarily mean something was wrong. He was the boy's commanding officer. "Apologized for waking us, assured us he knew it was late, and then looked like if I said no he'd start bawling where he stood. Now, what the hell was I supposed to do Roy."
"It is late."
"I know it's late!" Hughes snapped back. "Gracia's feeling sick and hasn't been sleeping well to begin with. She finally fell asleep, and then I am up with Ed," Hughes complained.
"I had no idea. I apologize. If I had known..." He trailed and Hughes fell silent. There was a pause where they didn't speak more.
"Well I'll let him talk to you then," Hughes groaned, and he heard some rustling before the man was talking to Ed. There was the sound of a door, and he knew Hughes was downstairs in his office. Then the man was asking if Ed felt ok, if he wanted a drink, before the phone was passed.
He was silent listening, waiting for the boy to speak and it was a good thirty seconds before it came.
"Sir?" Ed whispered, trying to stay quiet.
"I am sorry to call so late."
"I-I was thinking." Ed began timidly and he felt the boy's unease and shame for his actions. "That-and I know it sounds stupid. But I heard-I heard some stuff outside and I-I-I wanted to know how far-I mean you said the military took him but...where?" Ed asked. He closed his eyes with exhaustion, but all he saw was Ed lying on the kitchen floor unable to move. All he remembered was his own panic when he couldn't will his body to work.
"They took him to one of our large compounds about two hours from here." He lied. "It's a heavily guarded facility," he continued. "His alchemic ability will be reduced so he's a simple prisoner, and they'll have guards," he explained and Ed was quiet.
"Oh."Ed finally muttered.
"I ordered if there be any change, such as an escape for myself and Hughes to be called right away, so we'll be informed." He figured since he'd already told the lie it didn't matter how greatly it snowballed. "They might even sedate him." He add that as well.
"So-so there's not...not really a chance," Ed muttered softly.
"No. Even if he did somehow manage, he'd be caught before he was within the city again," he reassured and Ed sighed heavily. The boy was relieved.
"They'd call you first?"
"Then perhaps...Aru and I could come stay with you. So we'd know right away." Ed sounded hopeful with this idea and he was quiet trying to think of a good lie here.
"Considering our consistent interaction, it's less suspicions to have us in two locations." This sounded good.
"That's smart," Ed agreed quietly. "Well then since they're calling you both, you could come here so that-"
"Ed." He interrupt now. He knew where this was going, but the fact of the matter was he was a thirty year old soldier who recently acquired a twelve year old boy. He could not, under any circumstances allow Ed into his house for a sleep over, while without a wife, and with the boy's physical and mental condition being what it was. "Put Alphonse on the line. I have important orders for him."
"Alphonse?" Ed was shocked.
"Now," he ordered, and Ed lowered the receiver so his voice became softer as he spoke to Alphonse, and then Hughes who was apparently still standing there, and then the armor had the phone. "Alphonse." He began firm. "I am counting on you for this mission. From now, until tomorrow when your brother is in my presence, you are to guard him like a soldier. As he sleeps stand at attention at the foot of his bed and watch him. Follow him from room to room, and watch for anything suspicious," he ordered.
"Yes sir." Alphonse sounded startled, but eager to do anything to help the situation.
"He may still be suffering the after effects of today's attack, and he needs reassurance he's safe. Now I am unable to provide this myself, so I trust it to you." He paused, and he could hear Ed hissing for Alphonse to explain what they were talking about. "Tell him these are your orders. And I will see him in my office tomorrow." He waited for Alphonse to consent before hanging up and going back to bed.
He did not receive another call.
The next morning he spent an hour at his desk thinking about how to bring closure to the situation. Closure for himself, and more importantly Ed. He had stopped by to see Maes earlier that morning knowing he'd be up. He knew, as Hawkeye often talked to Gracia while at her desk, that the woman was up every morning early with illness. So he knew when knocking on the front door at seven the man would be awake.
Maes was in his pajamas, trying to make breakfast for Ed who had not woken yet. With Gracia in the bathroom sick, and Hughes managing eggs, he checked on the boy and found a small lump to the very right of the bed. Pillow drug down, a puff of blonde hair was the only thing visible of Edward Elric save two small hands hanging onto one of the armor's fingers. Alphonse was sitting alongside the bed as Ed slept, with his massive hand in the sheets hanging onto his brother.
Maes said he felt restless with Ed in the house. There was too much to deal with having Gracia reaching the final stages and due in just a few weeks. Hughes, being the nurturing figure he'd always known the man to be, seemed torn between attending to wife, and attending to child.
When the eggs burnt, he woke Ed. He sent Ed to the bathroom to change when the boy hugged his clothes to his chest possessively looking confused with his arrival. He drove the boy and the armor to work himself, and Ed looked exhausted and stressed. Ed was quiet and still, with puffy fat eyes. Allergies Ed had said. When he got to his desk he looked up the boy's information and Ed had no reported allergies.
Then he sat for the next hour contemplating what the boy could be crying over, while fingering the classified memo informing him Tucker was executed last night for military misconduct. This meant the possibility of confronting the man, beating the tar out of him, or forcing Ed in by the arm to look at an imprisoned and restrained Tucker was out of the question. There could be no closure, and he knew in time he'd get over this. In time he'd speak the man's name with a small grimace on his lips but let the word topple from his mouth and be gone. Ed however, he worried this might scar the boy as Dr. Carmichael had suggested. That the signs of sexual abuse, and physical trauma the man bulleted out for him, might actually be for good.
Ed was to have closure, and he would give it to the boy. He wrote his orders down gave them to Havoc, and ordered Edward to conclude and organize all of Tucker's research. This would put the boy back in the house which was now 'scary' and knee deep in research that brought 'tears.' Ed was going to face his demons, and he was going to see to it the boy came out on top.
After lunch he traveled to Tucker's estate and walked past the soldiers and red tape to the basement where the boy was working.
"What if the military is lying?" Ed was inside Tuckers lab, speaking to his brother when he waved for Havoc to leave and took his post.
"Nii-San that's crazy. You can't just lie about someone being executed. Someone would see Mr. Tucker walking around," Alphonse retorts gently, and there wasn't much movement in the room.
He cracked the door to find the armor organizing books while Ed stood in the middle of the room holding a bag of grain in thought.
"They could hide him. Keep him alive. Hidden." Ed figured quietly. "And one day...he could escape."
"And what day would that be Nii-san," The armor asked, calmly as though familiar with this topic.
"Months from now. Years from now even."
"Then you'd be older wouldn't you." Alphonse figured, but Ed didn't seem comforted by this. "Maybe the colonel's age."
"I wouldn't be that old." Ed snort and he ignored the childish naivety, and Ed's determination to test the waters even while he was not there. "We wouldn't be expecting him."
"Nii-San Mr. Tucker is a coward," Alphonse snapped, letting the books he held drop to the table startling Ed. "I don't want to talk about him or what he's done to you anymore," Alphonse ordered firmly, but Ed threw the feed to his feet with these words.
"Then who do I talk to!"
"I don't know," Alphonse scold. "But I can't sit and listen to this. Maybe you should talk to the colonel," Alphonse suggest, but Ed was shaking his head instantly. "What about the doctor?" The shaking continued. "Well you need some type of resolve, and I can't give it to you."
"I wanted to talk to Tucker! I wanted to punch him in the face, and kick him in the nuts!" Ed declared, stomping and fussing where he stood. "They took it from me! He was my enemy! I should have gotten him!"
"He got what was coming to him Nii-san, and besides, you're not the person who will be judging him anyway," Alphonse concludes, lifting the books and straightening them again. "No man will." Ed silenced with this and seemed calmer or perhaps just deterred from speaking to the younger. Alphonse examined the books he held for a minute. "Nii-san. Do you think there's information on the philosopher's stone here?"
He left the door with Ed pointing and yelling at his brother, voice going downhill. He had now been present for many of the 'hard' times in this boy's life and he knew what it sounded like when Ed was reaching his breaking point. He assumed the armor did as well, and that is why it stopped arguing and let Ed vent. About Tucker, about his daughter, about the stone and how it wasn't real, until Ed bolt right out of the room, and he watched Ed run down the hall.
Ed navigate efficiently as the boy knew the house. Ed ran about the hallway table careful of the lamp, took the corner sharply, pushed into the parlor through the double glass doors, hopped over a small ottoman Ed stopped to then kick once...twice, and exhausted plopped to his butt and sat on the grand oriental rug before the large fireplace completely silent. He knew then where he had to bring the boy, where Ed needed to go. He opened his mouth to speak before letting only air escape when Ed lift a small gloved hand and wiped the tears off his face. He realized a bit more tact would be needed with this situation.
He walked back to the armor who was still working diligently if not a little sourly. "Tell your brother I'll be outside in my car," he ordered, and his words startled the armor into dropping a few books. He didn't wait for pleasantries; he left and sat in his car staring ahead at the quiet street Tucker lived on. The trimmed trees, grand houses, cobble stone walk. This was a respectable and safe neighborhood, and what children were out and about were well behaved, and the women wore detailed hats.
"Do you need me for something?" Ed startled him from thought, and he turned to the boy who stood alongside the car. Just a small fat face with bloated eyes looking in the window.
He didn't repeat himself, and Ed glanced back at the armor which stood in Tucker's yard before opening the door and climbing in. "Where are we going?" Ed asked, when he turned the key.
"I'll bring you back shortly," he reassured, when Ed buckled looking nervous and kept glancing to the armor. "I have something you need to see."
"Not...Dr. Carmichael right?" Ed forced himself to ask.
"I said something, not someone. Pay attention Ed," he scold, turning to the boy. Ed turned his gaze to the scenery. "Do you need to speak to someone?"
"I can deal with it fine. It's not a big deal," Ed announced angrily. "I don't need to talk to any head doctor, or anything. I just want some time off. I want...I want a few days off. I am-I am not coming in tomorrow. Ok? If that's alright with you?"
"Yes." He agreed. Ed did need time out of the office, but he didn't like the idea of the boy running around unsupervised. "As long as you agree to stay home."
"That's fine with me." Ed huffed. "I was planning on it anyway," Ed informed him.
"Do you want me to ask Alphonse to come in?"
"No," Ed snapped, giving him a dirty look, before it receded. "Yes. For a little bit but...make sure he's home before it gets dark," Ed demand, and he broke a small smile. "What the hell is this?" Ed leaned forward when the boy caught sight of the cemetery they were rounding, and then entering. "Where are we going?" He was silent. "Colonel?" Ed was getting irritated with him and kept glancing from him to the many graves they were passing until he parked, killed the engine, and turned to the boy. "Why are we in a cemetery?"
"There is someone here you need to speak to," he answered simply, and Ed made a face before climbing out with him looking slightly spooked with all the gravestones. He walked half way down a row, to a fresh grave, and simple tombstone, and stood staring at it alongside the boy.
Shou Tucker. A loving father.
That was it. No mention of the military. No mention of the alchemic title the man had mastered. Tucker was buried in a common spot to help hide his transgressions, and his breakthroughs all together. The military had what they wanted from Mr. Tucker, and it was all back at the office in leather bound books. Now the man was cast a side, and in this particular sake he found it fitting. Shou Tucker warranted nothing worth noting, or spending on after the display he'd seen this man present. "I thought..." He turned to Ed to explain. To say he thought the boy needed to see it. Needed to know the man was in the ground. That he thought maybe to this cold stone Ed could say what he needed to say, and get it off his chest. However, he fell silent noticing the boy's tight fists and clenched jaw.
"I." Ed whispered. "I-I wanted to..." Ed began. "But they..." And that was it. He startled when Ed suddenly launched forward into the stone like it was the man himself. The automail went first, but the flesh hand was not excused. Ed was beating the grave, and with purpose. For a second he couldn't figure out what the boy was trying to accomplish until he saw how hard Ed's small legs were working under the coat. Pushing and sliding back in the fresh dirt. Struggling and shoving, all punches pushing and pushing. "I wanted to say!" Ed stepped back and started kicking. Fast with the automail leg, leaning back and sending the bottom of his boot into the top. "You don't mean anything to me!" Ed yelled, and the stone finally gave a budge. It's first tip back. "You mean nothing! Are nothing! And we're better off without you!" The stone slumped back and Ed stopped the kicking. Ed slammed it with his shoulder, and fell on top of it when the headstone suddenly uproot kicking dirt up at the boy.
"Ed." He reached for Ed's shoulder when Ed sat on top punching it in. "Ed." He grabbed the boy's shoulders and pulled him back. The front was cracked, a deep imprint made dead center from the automail.
"They tooook it frooooom meeee." Ed was crying. "Noooow I'll never get to tell him whaaaat I thinnnnk." Ed's eyes were locked on the grave oblivious to the strong hold he kept Ed in. "He thinnnnks he wooooon. Well I WON! ME! I am the FULLMETAL ALCHEMIST and I WON!" Ed kicked at the dirt, kicking it up onto the stone when he wouldn't release the boy's wigging arms. "Bastard. God damn bastard. He shouldn't even get to be buried here like a normal person. We shouldn't have buried him at all!"
"I wanted to tell him! I wanted to tell him!" Ed looked up at him. "I didn't get to tell him!" Ed was insistent, and hysterical Tucker died thinking he'd done what he wanted with the boy, and then left Ed behind like a used doll. Ed never got to have his comeback. The boy never got to walk back to the man and grin that stupid cocky grin, and let Mr. Tucker know it was in fact the other way around.
"Then tell him," he whispered, and Ed stopped kicking. The boy looked back up with his wet face and runny nose. "Tell him," he repeat, but Ed still didn't move. "Edward," he scold, giving the boy a shake before crouching down and turning Ed to face him. "Are you so stupid?" he asked in shock. Did Edward not have any beliefs after death? Whatever religious beliefs Ed might have Mustang shoved those aside, because the way Ed stared back at him signified Ed believed his one and only chance to tell Tucker what he wanted was gone. "You lost your mother for Christ's sake." He scoffed, and Ed's face tightened. "Your mother," he repeat, giving Ed another shake. "Do you think she's really gone?"
"'She's dead," Ed answered simply.
"But she can still hear you, and she can still see you." Ed began shaking his head. "Ed."
"The cells die, the brain dies. Everything she used to see and hear is gone. I watched her die, the life left her right in front of my eyes. I know what it looks like, and she didn't see me anymore. Her eyes couldn't see me," Ed explained bitterly, and he stared at the boy. Ed was telling him that everyone he'd ever murdered was gone. More importantly, everyone he'd ever lost, including his own mother, had disappeared for good. A lie. A blatant naive understanding. He had been in war, he had seen mass death, and he knew in every bone, and every fiber of his begin, that people did not disappear. They lingered on, and they were conscious of it.
After a moment of them staring at each other he lift his hand and slapped Ed's face gently to the side. "Ah!" Ed ripped a hand to his check furious.
"That is perhaps only a fraction of what she felt, hearing you say that to her," he scold, but those words hit hard and close to home for Ed. Ed's face lost color with the concept he could have further hurt his own mother. "I will tell you now, and I will never repeat it, or acknowledge this conversation again, but I will tell you that death is not the end," he said, and Ed was beginning to shake in his grip. Still he kept their eyes locked. and dared Ed to contradict this. "I've have seen hundreds die, and I know every single one of them still exists to see and hate me for ending them," he confessed, releasing Ed's spindly arms and standing. "You're mother hears your words and..." he let his tone change to a snobby triumph, "so does Mr. Tucker," he explained, and Ed swallowed before slowly turning back to the headstone he'd thoroughly violated. "I will give you a few minutes alone. Say you what you need to, so you can continue moving for what's important to you." He end it there, and let his hand rest on Ed's shoulder before leaving to the car. He didn't need to say the words 'philosopher's stone' he saw Edward's eyes register his words. He saw a look of realization take Edward's face as the boy realized the path he was presenting, and the hope it brought.
Ed was still in sight from the driver's seat and he kept a watchful eye. The boy stood where he was for a few minutes, and with the longer bangs Ed was sporting Mustang couldn't make out what Ed was saying. He could see the frown, the small lips moving; before Ed gave the stone the finger and one last kick before wondering back to the car. Mustang kept his eyes to himself and start the car after Ed buckled and relaxed into his seat. He was not there to hear the resolve so he did not know how effective it was. So, he drove.
They drove in silence, as Ed collect his thoughts, composure, and dignity where he sat before the boy cleared his throat. "Do I still get the next few days off?" Ed muttered quietly, and he smiled. Yes he still felt a small leave of absence was necessary. He took a minute considering how he'd answer before chuckling.
"No," he teased, turning to the boy with a gentle smile before giving Ed's quiet face a fast double take. The boy was drooling where he sat dead asleep, and breaching in long heavy breaths. "Ed?" He was shocked, and at the red light stared at the small boy wrapped in his coat with heavy boots that didn't reach the floor. "Ed?" He nudged the small shoulder but it was useless. Ed, who had barely slept at all at Hughes, or since his final encounter with Tucker, had left his bag of demons on the man's overturned stone.
"Good riddance to him," he muttered, parking before Tucker's estate and unbuckling.
"To who?" Alphonse was there instantly. "And where did you two go?"
"I am sure your brother can fill you in Alphonse." He got out with the armor stepping around him in order to see Ed sleeping. He shut his car door gently. "Although." He took another glance. "He looks rather peaceful right now. I'd let him rest. You two have a long journey before you."
Oh my gosh guys--that was the end! I hope you liked it!
THANK YOU TO EVERYONE FOR READING!! Please leave me a review and let me know what you thought.
The next story up is to be: The Silent Heart.
To all of you who wanted to read On My Own, that story will eventually be posted, so no worries : ) However, I won't be able to post chapter 1 of The Silent Heart next Fri (like I usually do) as I am trying to beta it still. Please be patient with me!! If you don't mind, please --add me to your author alert list-- so you don't forget me when I do get it up. (I promise it won't be too great a wait, and I really think you guys will enjoy this piece)
Please don't forget me! You guys are AWESOME READERS!! Thank you (so much) again, to everyone who took the time to read this, and especially to those of you who took the time to review. You make all the time, effort, and emotion that went into writing this piece worth it.