The Secret Companion
A/N: The first chapter was more of a teaser, and this chapter is more along the lines of setup, but there is still plot woven into it.
Chapter 2: An Offer of Adventure
Ed didn't even give the Doctor a second thought until everything he had said had come true. The Homunculus was gone, and Al was back. Everything had become peaceful… and terribly boring. Make no mistake; Ed was thrilled that his little brother had been restored, but he longed to travel again, to explore new places, study new sciences, and meet new people. And that was what inevitably drew his mind back to that man all in brown who roamed around in a time-traveling spaceship.
One late summer afternoon, Ed ambled up the hill where his childhood home had once stood and seated himself underneath the dead tree. A breeze kept the air from being too stifling, but Ed had to wipe the sweat from his forehead all the same. As he did so, he looked at the back of his right hand, flesh and bone once more. It was still a little thinner than his other arm, even though he'd been working hard to beef it up, but he guessed he couldn't rush his body's natural rehabilitation. Al was definitely feeling the brunt of that fact, having to rely on a crutch even after four-some months. Ed shifted his position against the blackened trunk… and that was when he saw it: a blue telephone booth labeled 'Police Call Box'. That definitely hadn't been there before, so where had it come from? Getting to his feet, Ed approached the strange landmark and, out of curiosity, tried the door. It opened. When he stepped inside, he nearly fell over from shock. It was the spaceship, the time-traveling vessel he'd gotten zapped into on the Promised Day. And, if the ship was here, its pilot couldn't be far off.
He had always loved how peaceful Resembool was, with its rolling hills dotted with sheep and the hazy mountains in the distance. Of course, he had reasons other than enjoying the scenery on this particular trip. He'd done his best to land a few months after the Promised Day, and from a recent newspaper he'd found lying around, he had succeeded. Having then safely parked the TARDIS, he strolled along the familiar country lane to the simple cemetery. Even though, in this time frame, he had visited only a few months ago, for him it had been almost a hundred years. His feet led him to the right grave, and he crouched in front of the headstone.
"Hello, Trisha. I'm home… again." He ran a hand over the stone marker before continuing, "I'm alone again, too – the very thing I feared all those years ago. But, I think… that I might have found someone crazy enough to tag along with me." He smiled as he said, "He's a good kid, our Ed. I swear to you, Trisha, I'll look after him, keep him safe. The only problem is… how am I supposed to tell him?"
"Tell 'him' what?"
The Doctor whirled around to find Ed standing a yard or so away.
"Oh! Just the boy I was looking for. Been standing there long?"
"No," said Ed, panting slightly. "Just got here." He closed the distance to the Doctor and asked, "So, what is it you don't know how to tell me?"
"Uh… well… you see…" The Doctor composed himself as a diversionary question popped into his head, "Care to travel with me?"
"You. Travel. With Me. In the TARDIS. Across the universe," the Time Lord enunciated.
Ed blinked. "Really? You mean it?"
"Is that a 'yes,' then?"
"Hell, yes! I've been bored out of my skull sitting around doing nothing!"
"Well, then, glad that was easily settled. Why don't you run along, pack, tell your family, all that, and I'll just… 'get the car,' as they say."
Ed nodded and tore away down the road.
"Oh, ho, look at him go," chuckled the Doctor. "One has to wonder where he got that stir-crazy streak from." With that inside joke, he set off for the hill and his ship.
"Brother? You look like you're in a hurry," Al greeted.
"Sorry, Al, I don't have much time to talk." Ed whipped out his trunk and started tossing clothes and other essential items inside. "I'm going… traveling."
"Really? Where to?"
"I dunno, I'll figure it out when I get there."
"So, you don't have a plan?"
"I don't, but the Doctor does."
"And, 'the Doctor' is…?"
"I told you, that time-traveler I met on the Promised Day."
"So… you didn't hallucinate that?"
Ed paused and turned to face Al. "You… you thought I made it up?"
"I didn't know what to think, Ed. Technology like that would have to be…"
"Exactly, and that's just… I won't lie, it sounds a little far-fetched."
"And I thought you were the open-minded one."
"Ed, please, I don't want to fight about it. If this Doctor is real, then I want to see him for myself."
"How's the packing coming, Ed, my boy?" said the Doctor, peeking over Al's shoulder and giving the younger Elric quite a fright. "Oh, steady there, Al; it's only little old me."
"How does he know my name?" Al gaped, looking at his brother for answers.
"He knows a lot of things," Ed shrugged. "It spooked me the first time, too."
"Who let you in?" Al asked the Doctor.
"Winry did; she's such a sweet girl. Ed's a lucky fellow."
Ed dropped a heavy alchemy book as he stared at the Doctor. "What's that supposed to mean?"
"Oh, has that not happened yet? I sometimes mix up these details. Forget I said anything. Spoilers…" He pressed a finger to his lips for emphasis, and Al's brow furrowed.
"Um, Doctor, could Ed and I have a moment?"
"Oh, sorry. Don't mind me." He turned with a swish of his trench coat and traipsed downstairs.
Al shut the door with him and Ed inside. "He's real."
"Told ya so."
"He seems… not all there."
"He's not a lunatic, Al. He's just… I dunno…"
"That's just it: you don't know. You spent… what, three minutes with him? You don't know anything about him."
"I don't need to, Al. It's… something in my gut tells me I can trust him. It's like a spark, or a bond, or…" He noticed Al's concerned expression, "I'm not making sense, am I?"
"I just want you to know what you're getting into."
"I know exactly what I'm getting into: the chance to see the whole universe! I'll write it all down and bring it back to you, so you can learn about it, too. Unless, you'd rather just… come along."
"I can't, Ed." Al shook his head and indicated his crutch. "I'd only slow you down."
"Don't say that. I'll ask the Doctor; we can-"
"No, Ed. It's fine, really." He clasped Ed's hand in his own. "Just come home safely, okay?"
"Will do. I promise." Ed gripped his little brother in a tight hug before snapping the trunk shut and dangling it behind one shoulder. "Well, I'm off."
The brothers walked down to the kitchen, where they found Pinako offering tea to their unusual guest. Winry was avidly examining a small, cylindrical device, barely restraining herself from dissecting it.
"What's that?" Al asked curiously.
"Sonic screwdriver," the Doctor filled in.
"Oh, I want to take it apart," crooned Winry. "I want to put it back together again."
"I wouldn't, Winry," Ed advised. "You're the best automail mechanic there is, but it's not safe to meddle with tech that's out of your league."
"Are you implying I'm not smart enough to understand it?" growled Winry, raising a wrench above her head.
"No! No, I just mean… if it works under concepts you're not familiar with, it'll be easier for something to go wrong."
"Do things usually go wrong when I'm working?" Her weapon of choice was looking quite dangerous.
"No! Dammit, why do you always take what I say the wrong way?" Ed refused to back down, even with Winry threatening to lob that wrench at his head any second now.
"All right, all right, children," intervened the Doctor, "Can't we all just calm down and have a cup of tea? I love tea, don't you?"
Ed and Winry glared at each other, but then Ed remembered what the Doctor had hinted at before, and his face turned crimson. He promptly sat, grabbed an unclaimed teacup, and focused all his attention on sipping the hot beverage so he wouldn't have to look at her. Eventually, Winry relaxed and returned the sonic screwdriver to its owner.
"Thank you," said the Doctor, "and, for the tea as well. Ready, Ed?"
"Yep," replied the blonde, setting the cup back in its saucer and grabbing his coat from the rack. He caught Winry's eye for a moment, and she looked forlorn. "Something up?" he ventured as the Doctor said goodbye to Pinako and Al.
"It's just… you're leaving again." She pressed her lips together as if suppressing an urge to cry.
"Hey," Ed assured her, wrapping her small, calloused hands in his. "I'll come back, Winry."
She sniffed and smiled sadly at him. "You had better, dummy." She stood on tiptoe and planted a swift kiss on his cheek before slipping away to her workshop, leaving Ed in a daze.
"Oh… well, then. It wasn't too much of a spoiler, I suppose," said the Doctor, having watched the brief exchange. "Right then, Ed. Allons-y."
"Oh, right; this planet doesn't have French. It means, 'Let's go.'"
"Okay. Lead on."
"That's the spirit!" He swung open the door and half-skipped down the front steps. Ed could have sworn he heard an ecstatic cackle.
"And, you're sure he's not… crazy?" checked Al.
Ed shrugged. "If he is, it's in a good way. See ya!" And, with that, he stepped out the door after the Doctor.
A/N: Oh, Doctor, you like to keep your secrets, don't you?
I'm an EdWin fan, so… yeah ^_^