Mustang was freaking out. The Elric’s had left for some remote village around two months ago. They had checked in briefly when they’d arrived about six weeks ago, and then radio silence.
While they had never had the best track record of keeping in touch this was unprecedented. The past week a sinking feeling had made its home in Roy’s gut. A feeling that wouldn’t go away. With this feeling came thoughts of the worst scenarios. Were they both lying dead on the side of the road? Had someone taken them hostage? Had Ed made a fatal error and Alphonse was now lost without him? Where the hell were they and what was happening?
Mustang tried to remain calm. Tried to focus on the mountain of paperwork and just zone out. Tried to reassure himself that nothing wrong was happening. Perhaps they just lost track of time? Maybe they just needed some time off? But why hadn’t they called yet then?
The rest of the team was also on edge. Havoc was smoking through packs of cigarettes rapidly. Breda had eaten everything in sight. Fuery was trying to repair every piece of equipment, even if it was fully functional.
The brothers were both young and seemed to be getting into more dangerous situations with each passing mission. So when the call went out that Scar was sighted, Roy was relieved to know that they weren’t in town.
The team was assembled and started to scour the streets for the State Alchemist killer. All thoughts of the Elric’s in danger seemed to pass away. To know they weren’t in harm's way here was a great relief.
When Roy came across Fullmetal lying on the ground, arm destroyed with a mass murderer looming over him, his heart skipped a beat. So he did the first thing he could think of. Distract. Get Scar away from Fullmetal as fast as possible.
Roy caught sight of Alphonse half destroyed in the background and his heart seemed to beat louder. After all this time they were back in the city! On the day Scar was roaming about looking for State Alchemists to off?
Shock must have debilitated Fullmetal. Ed didn’t move a muscle. He lay there, breathing short and rapid. Eyes wide in disbelief. Alphonse was screaming at him to run, and Roy wanted to join in.
What was he doing? Just laying there? Get up! Move! Don’t succumb to death so easily. The Fullmetal he knew wouldn’t just sit there. He’d get up and fight till the end. But his arm was destroyed, his brother half gone. He couldn’t do alchemy and he had no weapon. He was thrown off balance.
Roy stepped forward and taunted Scar. Sure he knew it was raining. He knew he couldn’t do anything to stop Scar from killing Edward in that moment. But he was damn sure to make it look like he could. Scar was after State Alchemists, so by flaunting his title and name he had his attention. More importantly the Fullmetal Alchemist was forgotten about by Scar in that moment.
When Riza stepped in and saved his life he was grateful. Grateful she knew what he was doing and how to protect him. Then Scar once again disappeared into the sewers.
What mattered most right now was whether the Elric brothers were okay. Roy and Riza stepped over to help them.
Edward finally seemed to come to grips about the peril he was just in. He’d just escaped death. Saved by the hands of the Flame Alchemist.
Someone was helping him up. Wrapping him in a blanket. Ed went to wrap it around himself and realized he was still short an arm. He stared at the socket. Destroyed in seconds. The arm still aches now. The pain had been blinding but short.
“Fullmetal look at me.” Someone was talking to him. Trying to get his attention.
“Edward. It’s okay now.” It was? Had he not offered his life in exchange for his brothers? Has he not laid down ready to die?
“Colonel?” He looked up. Mustang was looking at him.
“It’s okay now. Come on let’s go sit next to Alphonse.” He was guided up. Alphonse. Al! Edward looked towards him. Half his suit obliterated. He was okay. He was alive.
“Al, are you okay?”
“Idiot! I have the stupidest brother! You don’t get to make that choice you hear me! You keep fighting no matter what. You don’t get to decide to die for me!”
Mustang didn’t know whether to intervene. Ed was clearly in shock, probably Alphonse too. Al wasn’t wrong in his berament. The yelling went on for some time. Both the boys seemed to come out of it, although not unscathed.
“Come on, let’s get you guys inside.” This was beneficial in two ways. It got them safe, dry and warm. It also limited the eyes that would see. The people who would wonder how a suit of armor was a person. How a boy so young was fitted with automail. How they were both greatly skilled in alchemy. This situation required tact, and Mustang was the perfect person to carry it out.
Ed was still missing an arm and Al couldn’t even walk. They needed...repaired. Mustang scoffed at the idea. The best plan would be to take them back to Resembool. Both boys now sat in his office. Not wanting to risk further attention they had set Al up in a box ready to be covered at a moment's notice. Mustang shook his head. What was he going to do with these two?
“First. Where the hell have you two been?” The fact that they’d hadn’t checked in and were literally in the same city pissed Roy off. Why had he’d been worried in the first place? When he looked at them again he remembered why.
Ed seemed thinner, and a little gaunt. While missing an arm he still looked worse then he should. There were dark bags under his eyes and his wet tank top clung to his frame.
Al was also not in the best of shape. While his armor was half destroyed the parts that remained were duller and covered in a fine layer of dust.
Ed wasn’t looking him in the eye.
“We may or may not have gotten lost. For awhile.”
“A while as in five weeks?” Roy was staring them down.
“Give or take a couple hours. We knew Central was west so we just headed in that direction till we wound up here. We just got back into civilization when we ran across Scar…” Ed still wasn’t looking at him. Probably embarrassed that they had been lost for so long.
Roy pinched the bridge of his nose. They’d been gone for weeks. Lost. Then they run right into Scar. These boys would be the death of him.
“Okay. You will rest here tonight. Get some food, some sleep and then you can head to your hometown tomorrow.”
“We’re sorry Colonel. We didn’t mean to be gone so long.” Alphonse was apologizing.
“It’s okay. What is important now is that you’re back, and alive.” Roy sent a slight smile to the boxed up armor. It still unnerved him to think that a 14 year old boy was trapped in there.
Ed had fallen downcast.
“We can leave tonight. We… I can sleep on the train. The faster we get home the faster we can return to our search.”
“Don’t be ridiculous Fullmetal. You’re staying here under supervision. You can’t go roaming on your own with a serial killer on the loose.” Roy knew Ed carried the burden of Alphonse's state. He knew how guilty he felt about it.
Roy could also see how Ed didn’t take care of himself. How’d he forget to eat and more often than not look like he hadn’t slept in days. Now researching and searching took precedence over any selfcare. And how having a brother who wasn’t bothered by any of that deeply bothered Ed.
“The Colonel is right Ed. We should rest at least for tonight.”
Ed glanced toward his brother, his face uncertain, then it broke into a big smile and he agreed with Alphonse. Roy could see right through him. He wondered what Ed saw when he looked at that armor.
Roy called for Armstrong to take Al to the barracks and watch over the brothers till they were fully repaired. But before Edward could leave the room Mustang called him back.
“Fullmetal, a word.”
Ed slightly flinched with the callback but turned around nonetheless. He stared back at Roy now, silent and glaring.
“Fullmetal you need to take of yourself.” Ed went to interrupt but Roy put his hand up silencing any argument.
“What happened today is not to be taken lightly. Unfortunately you may be in circumstances like this many more times before your journey ends. It would be best if you could be as prepared as possible.” Roy didn’t want to berate the boy, but he did need to know that he was still subject to basic care.
“Also if you check in more regularly when applicable would be appreciated. You had m...everyone a little worried. That is all.”
Ed’s eyes grew a little wide at that. Like he had never considered that other people might possibly worry
about him. His glare eased up and a small smile was on his face.
“Aye aye Colonel.” Ed gave his best left handed salute and turned around once again.
Mustang couldn’t help but smile.