Title: Changed For Good
Author: Still me.
Section: 2 of ??
Summary: Ed attempts to adjust to his new situation, which is kind of difficult when your friend throws you in jail for kidnapping . . .
Pairings: None to speak of at this time.
Rating: Still PG-13 for strong language and one sexual reference. Pretty tame, really.
The scene found by the first soldiers to arrive was a decidedly strange one.
Tucker’s lab was a mess. Candles were overturned, the table smashed, books and papers strewn everywhere, alchemical symbols scrawled on the floor, the walls, the ceiling; and there was some sort of cat creature napping in the corner, which even the bravest of them was afraid to approach. Also present were a large dog, napping right next to the chimera, a small girl (Tucker’s daughter, apparently just waking up, though why she had been asleep in the basement was anyone’s guess), Alphonse Elric (still wearing that ridiculous armor, and seemingly in shock), and Shou Tucker himself. He was extremely upset, shouting (and this was the strange part,) that Tucker was getting away, and that they needed to get his body back, what were they doing, no wonder they were still privates. Obviously hysterical, but the reason why was, again, anyone’s guess.
At any rate, in his present state the man was dangerous, and it took three of them just to hold him still.
“Are you all complete idiots!?!” Ed screamed furiously.
The human mind is an amazing thing. When first confronted with a difficult (indeed, impossible) situation, it is at first, of course, stunned, confused, and bewildered. But give it five minutes for the initial shock to wear off, and the mind defaults into its basic pattern; in Ed’s case, indignant rage.
“You don’t understand!” he shouted, thrashing wildly. “I’m not Tucker! That bastard stole my body – you’re not LISTENING to me!” He strained against the arms holding him down, but it was no good. “Let GO!”
“What the hell is going on here?”
Ed, currently being squished into the stone floor by the three men piled on top of him, looked up to see a truly huge man filling the doorway: He looked almost 7 feet tall, and at least 3 feet wide; the kind of man who looked like he could take Al on in a wrestling match - and actually win. But more importantly, everything, from his carefully polished boots to his sharply pointed mustache to the thunderous scowl on his face, suggested authority.
They also suggested that he was an arrogant prick, but Ed was not in a position to be picky.
The giant strode forward, waving off the soldiers like flies; they dropped Ed quickly, and he scrambled to his feet. As he rose he caught a glimpse of the insignia on the man’s epaulet: No stars, just a field of three bars, side by side. Brigadier General, if memory served.
“Oh, thank God,” Ed said gratefully. “Listen – that bastard, Tucker, he stole my body, we have to catch him before –“
Without warning the man’s gigantic fist lashed out and captured Ed by the collar, lifting him off his feet. “What in hell do you call this mess, Tucker?” he snarled. “This isn’t what we agreed on! Do you want to be out on the streets, you little shit?!”
Ed’s initial surprise at being so handled was quickly replaced with anger. He grasped the man’s fist and attempted to pull himself loose. “Listen, pal, I don’t know what your problem is, but you better put me down now!”
The man shook him roughly in response. “Don’t play games with me, Tucker,” he snarled.
Fire flashed in Ed’s - Tucker's - blue eyes. “What are you, deaf, old man!? I told you, I’m not Tucker! Tucker’s running around in my body, which is why we need to find him NOW!”
The man dropped – one might say politely threw – Ed onto the ground, and took a step back. “Fine. You want to play this game, that’s fine. But this time tomorrow, all this . . .” he waved his hand, taking in the lab, the chimeras, the basement of the house, “. . . all gone.” And then he turned and stomped out, leaving Ed with the distinct impression the guy hadn’t heard a word he’d said, muttering something about gutless maggots.
At least, Ed was pretty sure it was maggots.
“Who the hell is that ass-hole?” Ed muttered angrily, rubbing the back of his neck. It hurt from being jerked around, a sharp addition to the thrumming background of pain his aching body was sending out already. Were all adults this fragile?
One of the soldiers gave him an odd look. “That’s Brigadier General Basque Gran,” he said, looking at Ed like he was crazy. “Your boss.”
“Tucker’s boss,” Ed corrected irritably, (pleased slightly that his theories about Gran being a nasty piece of work had been completely confirmed). “And we have to find Tucker, now!” He strode forward. “And if you idiots won’t help me, I’ll do it myself!”
“Sir!” The man whipped out his pistol, as did the others present. “Halt right there!”
Like hell I will!, thought Ed, but he stopped in the face of all those barrels, pointed right at him.
“We don’t want to have to restrain you, sir,” said the soldier, honesty in his voice and on his bruised face, where a black eye was already blooming, “But we can’t let you leave.”
Ed looked from face to face, searching, pleading for understanding, but there was none. He threw his hands in the air. “Fine. Shit.”
Multiple exclamation marks. Ah, crap.
Ed turned around to see Hughes advancing on him. Ed had never seen Hughes angry before, and now that he was seeing it, wished he hadn’t.
Hughes marched right up to him, too fast for Ed to react, grabbed him by the lapels, then slammed him against the wall – no small task, as Hughes was built on a much lighter frame than Tucker.
“Where’s Edward!? What have you done with him, you son of a bitch!?” He shook Ed angrily, fury burning in his hazel eyes.
This was just getting annoying. Enough was enough, already. Ed took a deep breath, then shouted at the top of his lungs,
“I’M EDWARD ELRIC, DAMN IT!”
Hughes was so surprised by this response that he let go of Ed, who fell right down to the ground, rubbing his neck. “Dammit,” he muttered, “What is it with you military types, anyway? I’m not a rag doll, for crying out loud.”
“ . . . Edward?” Hughes asked incredulously.
Edward hoped his, ‘what are you, an idiot?’ face translated well to Tucker’s features. “Uh, yeah! I mean, I’ve only been saying it for, what, the last hour?”
“ . . . How?”
“Alchemical accident,” Ed stood up gingerly. “Tucker was trying to make Nina into a chimera. We stopped him, but, like I said . . . accident.”
For a second, Hughes looked convinced, but then he, like the other soldiers, whipped out his gun and pointed it at Edward. “I don’t believe you. Hands in the air, Tucker.”
“Oh, this is just perfect,” Ed grumbled, but he raised his hands.
“Get a squad car,” Hughes snapped at the soldiers, “We’re gonna need to take him down to the lockup.”
Ed sighed. “Some people . . .” He felt a tug at his pant leg. He looked down and saw brown hair and wide blue eyes. “Nina!”
In spite of all the guns pointed at him, he instantly dropped to his knees and caught her up in a tight hug. “Nina, I’m so glad you’re all right . . .”
“Papa, what’s going on?” she asked.
“No,” he pulled back to look her in the eye, “Not Papa. It’s Ed. Edward, Big Brother – remember?”
Nina nodded, wide eyed. “Then where’s Papa?”
The bastard tried to kill us both, stole my body, and ran off somewhere. Jerk.
“I don’t know, Nina. But I’ll definitely find him,” he said, honesty ringing in every word.
Nina nodded – that was all right. “Okay, Ed-papa.” And she hugged him again.
When the car arrived Ed was hoisted to his feet and led away. He turned his head and called back to Nina and Alphonse, “I’ll come back soon – I promise!”
Only after Tucker was led upstairs (still loudly asserting that he was actually Edward), and taken away did Hughes sit down at last. “God, what a night . . .” he muttered, taking off his glasses and rubbing his eyes. “Alphonse,” he said, looking up, “You were here – what the hell happened?”
Finally having a question directed at him seemed to snap Al out of his trance. “Ah!” he said, as if startled. “Mr. Hughes! When did you get here?” He looked around. “Where’s my brother?’
“I was hoping you could tell me,” Hughes said. “Al, I think you better tell me everything that happened here.” And Al did, for the most part clearly and concisely: He and Ed had come home without (much) incident, had found the house disturbingly quiet, had gone down to Tucker’s lab to look for him and Nina, and had found –
“Wait – You’re saying he was going to fuse Nina and the dog together?” Hughes asked in horrified amazement. Al nodded silently. Hughes whistled. “Wow . . . what a piece of work. So then what?”
Here was where Al’s story got a bit confused. “Well, Brother told me to get Nina and Alexander out while he fought Mr. Tucker. So I did. I picked them up and carried them outside . . . and then I came back in, to help Brother, and I saw him lying on the floor, in the middle of that circle – “ he pointed, “and I saw Mr. Tucker standing over him. And then Mr. Tucker grabbed my brother’s shoulder, and my brother grabbed Mr. Tucker’s face, and there was a flash, and—“
“What kind of flash? The kind you get from performing alchemy?” As he listened to Al’s story, Nina was climbing into his lap.
Al nodded again. “Bright blue, like lightning. Brother’s alchemy is always blue. And green, too. I think that’s Tucker’s color. Bright flash, and then Mr. Tucker flew into the air, and he hit the table. It smashed . . . I think he was knocked out. I know Brother was. I tried to wake him up. When he did, he . . .” Alphonse struggled for words, “It was strange; he saw me and he moved away, fast as he could; he got up and ran away . . . I called after him, but he didn’t stop . . . and then Mr. Tucker said ‘I’m here,’ like I’d called him . . . Mr. Hughes, it was so weird; he acted just like my brother; it really was like it was my brother in Mr. Tucker’s body; he didn’t even realize anything was wrong till he saw his reflection . . . I don’t really remember much after that. Where is he?”
“Well,” Hughes said, “Tucker’s body – whoever may be inhabiting it – has been taken down to headquarters. He’ll be locked up—“
“Locked up!?” Alphonse cried.
Hughes raised his hands to calm the boy. “Just for the night, Al. In the morning we’ll talk to him, and try to figure out what happened here. All right?”
Alphonse didn’t move. “What about . . . my brother’s body?”
A pause. “No sign of it,” Hughes said finally. He sighed and looked straight at Al. “If what you say is true, and Tucker is in Ed’s body . . . he’s probably far away by now.”
Alphonse lowered his head. “Oh . . .”
“But we’ll put out posters tomorrow, Al, don’t worry. Soon everyone in the city will be looking for Ed. Tomorrow we’ll sort this all out, I promise. But tonight, why don’t you and Nina come home with me? Gracia and I will take care of you.”
“Alexander,” Nina murmured, already half asleep, curled up in Hughes’ lap. “Alexander stays with me.”
Hughes looked at Al. “Does she mean the dog?”
Al nodded. Hughes heaved a sigh of relief.
“Oh, good! I thought maybe it was one of the chimeras . . . I dunno what we’re gonna do about those . . . Will you come with me, Al?”
“Okay.” Al nodded. “And tomorrow we’ll sort it all out – promise?”
“. . . okay. I’ll come.”
Ed had seen the army’s lockup before, although admittedly not from the inside. It was a squarish stone building a few blocks from the Central City headquarters, three stories tall, lightly guarded. It wasn’t some high-security prison for dangerous criminals; more like a place for drunks to have a bed and a safe place to sleep till they were sober enough to come to their arraignments. It was also used by the military to hold suspects and whatnot during investigations.
Being held there gave Ed some hope, and convinced him not to attempt to escape (which, he thought as he looked around his cell, would be all to easy anyway. Obviously the lockup wasn’t designed to hold alchemists.) The fact that Hughes had ordered he be brought here meant that Hughes wasn’t yet sure what to do with him; which meant Ed still had a chance to prove that he was telling the truth. Yes, he would wait here, and comfort himself with thoughts of the lavish apologies he’d no doubt receive once Hughes realized the error of his ways.
He decided to inspect his accommodations a little more thoroughly. Not bad, he thought, for a jail cell; cot in one corner, relatively clean, with a change of clothes folded on it; a small, low set toilet in another corner; above it, a sink, and mirror. Honestly, Ed had stayed in worse places. If it weren’t for the iron bars on the mid-sized, south-facing window, Ed could have mistaken it for one of the (admittedly questionable) hotels he and Al had stayed at on their long journey to Central. The hotels hadn’t been great, but when one is traveling across the country on an eleven-year-old’s pocket money, one can’t afford to be choosey.
Thinking about the journey to Central made him think of Al. Worry twisted his gut. Where would Al go? Would he be all right? This was the first time that he and Al had been separated since, well . . . ever.
He told himself he was being silly; Hughes would surely take care of Al. And Nina too. The best thing Ed could do right now was get some sleep, rest his body, which was sore and aching after his grueling fight with . . . well, himself. That knowledge gave him a little satisfaction as he reached for the plain grey shirt, pants and drawers placed on the bed. “Oh yeah,” he said to himself, smirking, “I would’ve kicked Tucker’s ass.”
He found himself flexing his fingers, and suddenly became aware of something he hadn't yet permitted himself to notice: I've got an arm now. He raised his hand for closer inspection. It wasn't his hand, of course; it was Tucker's hand; it was larger and thicker and rougher and it had little hairs on the back. But still . . . it was flesh and blood, with bones and skin and nerves and nails and all the things he'd missed . . . he rubbed his hands together, smiling at the feeling. But then he stopped himself. No, he shouldn't be enjoying this; this was Tucker's body, and he'd soon get his own body then, and get his real arm and leg back. He nodded, affirming this to himself. This was only temporary, a delay in his quest, nothing more.
He was eager to get out of the clothes he was wearing; they were dusty and sweaty, and they smelled funny, too: musty and animal-smelling; chimera smell. He shrugged out of the jacket and pulled the shirt over his head, stepped out of the shoes and then the pants, and then the [ahem] lower garments.
As he was pulling the prison-issue shirt on, he happened to glance down.
Prisoners five rows down and two floors up heard the indignant cry; it woke the sleeping with a start and made the waking jump to their feet and look about wildly.
“WHAT THE HELL!?!?”
It wasn’t the kind of cry they’d ever heard before; indeed, the circumstances which would foster such a reaction were almost never seen. It was the sound of a twelve-year-old boy, for whom puberty had until tonight been little more than a far-off dream, suddenly finding himself in the possession of a healthy, 32-year-old male body.
Ed stared at the ceiling as he zipped up the pants, and shuddered. “All adults are disgusting,” he muttered, as he climbed into bed.
Tucker didn’t stop running till he was miles away from his house, in a part of town he’d never even seen before. Good. Only when he was sure no one was pursuing him did he slump against the wall and slide down to the ground, panting and coughing. Edward Elric was short, but man! The energy packed into that pint-sized body was incredible. Tucker had always been horrible at sports; no stamina at all. This was a welcome change.
He leaned his head against the wall, taking stock of his condition. He felt fine . . . Winded, but unhurt. There was slight pain in his back and shoulder; Edward’s long blonde hair tickled his face and the back of his neck, his blood pounded in his ears, and the auto-mail . . . it felt strange, to say the least. He could still feel his right arm and left leg, but it was a different kind of feeling. Weird.
He looked down at his right hand and saw the metal still extended forward into a sharp blade.
Whoopsie. How to fix this?
He found a stick and started drawing a transmutation circle in the dirt – and then he stopped. His new heart gave a little jump. This was Edward Elric’s body, after all . . . Edward had been able to do that circle-less clapping alchemy . . . did that mean Tucker could, too?
It was worth a shot.
He clapped both hands together and concentrated on the image of the blade sliding smoothly back into the arm-plate, wishing he had a clue what he was doing; but the body remembered, apparently, even if the mind didn't, for the blade melted back after only a minute or so of concentration. Tucker stared at his new hands, a smile slowly creeping across Edward Elric’s young features. Maybe this wouldn’t be such a bad thing, after all . . .
The sound of a dog barking brought him back down to earth. It wasn’t safe here. This time tomorrow the whole city would be looking for him. He had to find a place to disappear to – and quick.
He got to his feet and ran off again, into the darkness.
End of Chapter 2
Well, there you are! Please tell me what you thought!
I'm almost finished with chapter 3, so don't go nowhere!