A/N: This fic is the sequel to 'Christmas Fairy'. I highly recommend reading Christmas Fairy first.
Okaaayy, took way longer than planned (like, a year ^^°) but at least, it's now the right season again u.u And the fic is mostly finished, so there won´t be huge breaks in between the updates again ^^ Good news, right?
Well, I hope you enjoy the story and don´t mind the absolutely lame title ^^°
Beta/Co-Author: Ca11iope :D Thanks again for the amazing work :D
Disclamer: ... this part is always so depressing u.u No, fma is still not mine. There are a few OCs (Jiao Lan and Ze Ren). I don´t mind making no money out of this, it´s still only just for my own personal fun and the fun of everybody who is willing to read this :D
A New Year, Chapter 1
Despite the icy temperatures, the night was beautiful. No clouds lingered in the clear, dark sky, and the moon was a shining, beautiful sickle. All in all, it was a fair and frosty Silvester night – perfect for celebrating the last few hours of the waning year. Ed was sure he wouldn´t have any trouble picking out a few constellations if he took the time to look up to the stars. However, Edward didn't. He didn´t even pay much attention to the sky.
In front of him, he could see his brother talking to Roy Mustang. And by the look on their faces, neither of them had had any luck. Still, he had to make sure.
"Nothing?" he asked them, watching the white huffs the coldness made of his warm breath. He was panting, having run here to meet the other two alchemists.
"No," Al answered, clearly crestfallen.
The Colonel bit his lip and shook his head as well.
For a moment Ed was tempted to ask him about any possible hideouts his niece might have had. Again. But that would be pointless. They had already checked all the hiding places her Uncle was aware of. Twice. Winry had volunteered to patrol between Jiao Lan's favorite places and hideouts, and Roy's home, just in case the girl turned up there. Also, despite the fact that the girl had been missing for less than twenty-four hours, a few police officers had agreed to look for her when they made their rounds.
"Okay, then we'll meet again in one hour at the bridge in Central Park." Ed said, and looked at Mustang. The man was a mess. He'd been through war and had battled a homunculus single handed, but never had Ed seen worry so clearly marked on the Colonel's face. "We´ll find her." Ed said, trying to comfort the man.
Mustang huffed and failed to smile convincingly. "I´m going to ground her until she´s eighteen. At least," he promised, the attempted joke doing nothing to conceal his emotional state. If anything, it made the situation worse. Edward stared at him, feeling his insides turn into a painful knot. Al did a better job at faking a smile.
"At least she hasn´t run away with a boyfriend, Sir," Alphonse chipped in with his own attempt at lightening the mood.
Roy appeared horrified at the mere prospect of it, and as impassive as the man's face usually was, the word 'pedophile' was clearly written across it now. Ed elbowed his brother. So much for Al being the sensitive one.
"Oh relax, bastard. She´s a child! No way she´s got a boyfriend!" The older Elric grunted out. "She'll be at least sixteen before she even thinks about running off with a man." No, that didn´t help either. Damn, both he and Al sucked at this. Maybe it was time to change the subject. "Okay, back to work. I´ll take the area from Maple Avenue to -"
"You´re coming with me." Roy interrupted. "You've been rubbing your automail leg since you got here, and it´s cold. You can warm up in the car."
Ed looked down at his left hand and quickly let go of his aching port. He hadn´t even noticed he was doing that. Nonetheless, he nodded. It wouldn´t hurt to let Mustang drive him to his new search area.
Once in the car, the first thing Ed did was to reach for the radio transmitting set. The military didn´t have many of them as the equipment was very expensive and needed more general maintenance than a regular soldier could handle, but Kain Fuery had access to a few due to his position as a technician, and had borrowed them to help with the search for his commander's missing niece. No one on the team questioned this 'unprofessional' use of military equipment.
All of Roy's team were out in the city that evening, actively searching for Jiao Lan, but the limited number of transmission sets had forced them to split into search parties. Roy, Ed, Al, and Winry were covering the neighborhoods closest to Roy's home. Al would inform Winry personally of the current status of their search on his way to the next area he would cover. Ed, already annoyed with the mechanics of the transmission set, got to work contacting the people in the other search parties who were in possession of a radio receiver.
He managed to get a status report out of Havoc and Hawkeye without bricking the damn thing. They had not found any trace of the girl. Breda and Armstrong had no good news to report either.
Struggling with the radio to get in touch with Fury and Falman, Edward thought about how, somehow, everything mechanical and technical seemed to thoroughly disagree with him. It wasn't logical, and at first he thought it impossible since inanimate objects couldn't have opinions, but after the twentieth time his automail broke, there was no denying it. Automail limbs were built to withstand a hell of a lot, and Winry's were the best, but even after his life settled into something more normal – read that as less dangerous – Ed still managed to damage his arm or leg on a regular basis. He'd stopped counting how many repairs he'd had at twenty. Winry most likely could give him the exact number, but he suspected that if he ever dared to ask her – and therefore admit that he himself hadn´t bothered counting – she would give him the number by crashing a wrench against his skull for each broken automail set.
"You´re still cold?" Mustangs voice broke his thoughts. The blonde glanced away from the street he was observing, hoping for a glimpse of the bright blue jacket Mustang had claimed was missing from his niece's clothes.
"Huh? No." After having spent so much time out in the cold, the air inside the car felt almost too warm for him. The skin around his automail port was still tingling painfully, but it was far better than it had been. Golden eyes shifted back to the window and the poorly lit street. Really, the moon was doing a better job of spending light than the street lamps.
Reflected in the glass of the window he could see Mustang's grim expression, and without looking away from the streets, he contemplated what to say.
"It´s not your fault, you know," Ed finally said.
The snort came almost instantly and the blond thought he might have read the older man's sullen expression wrong; he´d never been good at reading people, especially not Mustang. But then the man spoke.
"She has a habit of vanishing, but she never goes very far," the Colonel said. "She knows better than to talk to strangers, but she doesn´t know the city very well either. And she wouldn´t be able to defend herself against an adult."
That left Ed silent for a few minutes. Yes, it was true, but… "You don´t have to be so damn…" Logical? Realistic? "… negative. She´s a smart girl. I´m sure she would scream for help or run away if some stranger approached her."
There, that didn´t sound so bad.
Mustang's hands tightened around the steering wheel.
Maybe Roy just wasn't the type of person to place his wager on something as fleeting as hope. Maybe he had seen too much. Too much brutality. Too much cruelty. Too much misery.
Or maybe Roy Mustang was finally, despite all predictions, feeling like a parent. Sick with worry and not quite daring to hope his niece was alright, but still searching desperately. Ed didn't fool himself into believing he could imagine how that felt, but he could easily remember the look on his mother's face, and how she had reacted whenever he and Al returned home after dusk because they forgot the time while reading at the local library. What passed for a library in Resembool did not really deserve it´s name. It had simply been one room with a few books. But like most small town librarians, the owner often traded books with the librarians of other towns and villages in the area, so every so often there was something new to read. Sometimes books from Central´s public library made the rounds of the rural areas, and their librarian made sure Ed and Al had a chance to read them. The proprietor of that little reading room was likely impressed with the young children's hunger for knowledge, and always sent them home with a book or two. Often though, Ed and his brother couldn't wait until they got home to dive into their latest treasure. Sitting on the walkway outside the little storefront, they didn't even notice that the sun had almost set until the darkness made it impossible to see the words – and they still had to walk home.
Grimacing slightly, Ed was sure he would never forget how to do house chores properly. He might not use those particular skills often, but that didn´t mean he would ever forget his mother's chosen form of punishment.
"Why did she run away?" Ed had not yet received anything more than a vague answer to this question, and couldn´t imagine the little Xingese girl wanting to run away from Mustang. Not with the way he saw the man treating both his niece and nephew. Unless… no, Ed was sure that couldn't be the reason. But maybe, to get Mustang's mind away from criminals and pedophiles, Ed decided to ask anyway.
"You didn´t try to cook, did you?" he inquired warily.
Mustang blinked and sent him a quick glance. "What?" If the situation wasn´t so serious, Ed would have marveled at the thought that he managed to make the oh-so-eloquent Roy Mustang sound like a parrot.
"I just can´t imagine why she would run away," Ed explained.
"What does that got to do with my… cooking skills?" The 'non-existent' was almost audible, even though Roy didn't actually say it.
And Ed found himself blushing, maybe this had not been such a good idea after all. "Well, I thought maybe you blew the kitchen up or something," he managed to mutter.
The car stopped and Mustang turned to him. "Are you serious?"
Ed didn´t know how to answer that. Maybe trying to keep Mustang from freaking out with this kind of distraction had not been such a good idea. So he took another approach. "Why won´t you just tell me why she left? Then I won't have to rely on outrageous theories." Ed defended himself.
Mustang frowned disapproving at the words. For a moment, the blond felt like a child again. When he had first received his State certification and came under Mustang's command, when he had received a lecture or scolding for destroying yet another building that frown had gotten to him. In the beginning at least, the Fullmetal Alchemist did have some kind of respect for Mustang as a superior and authority figure. It crumbled pretty fast however, as the teen did not really care about anything besides the philosopher's stone. He still respected Mustang as a very capable fire alchemist of course, but as his commanding officer? Duh, definitely not. Mustang could shove his rank up his own ass and Ed wouldn´t have cared less.
However, the fact that the Colonel tried to pull the – clearly unsuccessful - superior card with Ed was enough of a clue to how the older man's mind was working. And the younger alchemist hadn´t realized it earlier, but this was actually the second clue. While he was not as brilliant as Mustang when it came to reading people and estimating their behavior, Ed had known Mustang long enough to finally stumble on the fact that the Colonel tried to keep his balance in times of stress by fleeing into what he knew best. First, he had used rather depressing objective facts, and now he was pulling the military officer card. As shitty as it was, it probably helped the Flame Alchemist to handle this stressful situation.
The 'rational' theory was absolutely negative, but facts were something Mustang dealt with far better than emotion, no matter how depressing his logic may be.
And if he had to choose between dealing with a situation as an uncle and possible future parent, or as a military officer – somehow it was not surprising Mustang preferred the latter. It was the job he knew better.
Unfortunately for the Colonel, he was dealing with a person who was absolutely unimpressed with… well, pretty much anything related to the military.
"Well?" Ed lifted one eyebrow, still waiting for an answer to his question.
Roy stared a few more seconds and then let out the same sigh he always did when dealing with the Fullmetal Alchemist and his stubbornness.
"She was insisting that you had to be there for the countdown to New Year." The Colonel finally admitted.
Ed blinked. "Huh?"
He had only seen the girl, what? Two times? Fine, they were getting along and he had greatly enjoyed those two times - well, except for the few embarrassing situations, but he blamed the Colonel for most of them anyway. And yes, he had promised to come over again and do his part to preventing food poising. But that had been shortly before Christmas, not that long ago.
Beside him, Mustang bit his lip and continued.
"I told her we would have to wait until the next year to invite you over, as you mentioned you wanted to spend Silvester with your brother and Miss Rockbell. But she didn´t want to listen." A faint bit of frustration crept into the smooth voice, but Ed couldn´t tell if it was over the fact that this search had ruined all of their holiday plans, or over the trouble he was having, dealing with a stubborn child. Probably both.
"Let me guess, you cut off the argument by telling her she couldn´t always get what she wanted and left it at that," Edward assumed. He knew this from experience. Mustang was far too used to have his orders obeyed. The Colonel was a master of words and could argue any position with a quick-wittedness even the Fullmetal Alchemist had trouble dealing with. The older man could be incredibly persuasive.
Unless his opponent was totally immune to any form of adult logic.
"She insisted that for the New Year to begin as it should, you would have to be there. Something about luck." The Colonel shrugged irritated. Children certainly had their own way of thinking.
"First a fairy, now a lucky charm. Great." Ed muttered. "So she ran away because…"
"She wanted to find you on her own and bring you over," Roy finished for him.
"Huh." Ed hummed, not quite able to suppress the sarcasm. "What? You're surprised that your patented lecture on how hard life can be and how she should just deal with it didn´t work?"
He received a sour look in return.
Yes, it is short ^^° It just works this way, so it´s short. Short chapters come faster XD Next chapter will most likely be out next weekend ^^