For Edward Elric it was quite comfortable to sit in the massive library and simply read all day. He could hear the distant, quiet sounds of his brother, Alphonse, playing with little Nina somewhere nearby and he found that he could not begrudge his brother that – it had been so rare for them to be able to relax and have fun since their mother's death. At some points Edward had even found that he had to fight the urge to join them.
No, he mustn't.
He had to carry on with the research. He had played with Nina yesterday, today he had to concentrate seriously on work. Nothing less than that would get his Alphonse's regular bodies back.
Of course he hadn't quite counted on Nina's dog, Alexander, when he decided this. The large dog appeared to have taken a liking to Edward. Or, at the very least, for coming out of nowhere and landing on Edward.
As he did now.
With a yell Edward crashed heavily onto the slightly cushioned carpeted floor of the library, the not-too-light weight of the dog pressing onto his back. To make matters worse he had thrown the book he was reading into the air and it was at that moment that gravity willed it to fall back down and land on the alchemist's head.
"Ow…" groaned Edward into the floor.
"Nii-san, are you alright?"
Edward lifted his head and gazed up at the giant metal armour that was currently his little brother, who was kneeling beside him. He glared with his narrowed golden eyes, expressing his extreme displeasure with the situation.
"Do I look alright?" he growled.
Had he been in a human body Al might have rolled his eyes at that moment, and Edward found that he was guiltily glad that he couldn't. Nina's giggles from Alphonse's shoulders was already damaging enough to his pride.
"What's with you and jumping on top of me when I'm in the middle of my research?" he asked Alexander irritably.
Alexander simply looked at him and wagged his tail.
"He wants to play again," Nina said cheerfully.
Because he wouldn't allow himself to glare at Nina Edward made sure to shoot an extra deadly glare at the dog again. It was his fault he was in this predicament now.
"I don't have time to…" Edward began grumpily, eyeing all the fallen books around him, which had been knocked down when Alexander leapt at him. Now he was going to have to clean up before he got anything else done.
He trailed off as he looked up at Nina. That was when he knew he was lost. Her innocent eyes were widened with hope and Edward just knew Alphonse was looking at him pointedly.
Discreetly the alchemist looked at the clock towering above all the shelves, centered in the middle of the library so that whoever was there didn't lose track of time. They only had another hour before Breda came to pick them up. That could be the hour in which he found what he was looking for.
On the other hand…
With an explosive sigh Edward gave in. Yawning widely he stretched.
"You know, we have a bit of time left," he said loudly and more obviously than he had hoped he was being. "Might as well pack up and run around a little."
The annoyance he had felt at having to stop and put away his research for now faded as Nina's face lit up and she beamed at him. Edward couldn't help but return the smile.
It didn't take long to pack up all the books and find their rightful places on the library shelves, a process that was hindered more than helped by Nina and Alexander. Afterwards they started to make their way outside. As they passed by the kitchen, however, Edward paused, suddenly aware of just how dry his throat was.
"I'm going to get a drink" he informed his companions.
"Okay," said Al. "We'll meet you outside."
Edward nodded and disappeared into the kitchen.
He had really expected that the kitchen would be empty, though in retrospect he didn't know why. He guessed it was because that it was so rare that they saw Shou Tucker around since he was always shut away in his lab, worrying over the upcoming assessment.
To Edward's surprise, however, the man was sitting at the table, his head in his hands. He looked up when Edward entered and paused at the doorway.
"Edward," Tucker greeted, smiling tiredly. "What are you doing?"
"I was just… going to get something to drink," said Edward a little awkwardly.
"Don't let that stop you," Tucker said graciously.
Edward decided that tap water would do him just fine. He felt a little edgy; it was the first time he had been around the man by himself. He quietly filled a glass and took a few quick gulps to sooth his throat.
He could almost feel Tucker staring at the back of his head, though it could have been in his imagination. It was making the back of his neck prickle and his flesh arm break out in goosebumps.
Did the man want to say something? Why else would he stare? 'Stop staring!'
"Thank you," Tucker said suddenly.
Edward jumped, accidentally spilling a little water on his jacket. 'Get a grip, Edward.' Calming down he blinked in confusion and spun around, questions in his eyes as he set the glass down. Before he could ask any of them Tucker laughed.
"For Nina," he said. "She gets so lonely sometimes – I'm her only parent and I can get so caught up in my research sometimes, especially when she needs companionship." He sighed. "Another reason it was so tragic when her mother died."
Edward froze. Died? No, that wasn't right...
"You said yesterday that your wife divorced you," he said slowly, frowning. "And that then she left to move in with her family in the country."
As Edward watched Tucker's face closed off and something dark and sinister passed through his eyes along with wariness. For a long moment the two just stared at each other. Edward knew what he had heard, so why was Tucker trying to tell him different now?
Then Tucker's face cleared and he smiled.
"She divorced me and then she left, yes," he said. "I apologise, I didn't give you the full story I'm afraid. Later on she died out there in a car accident. I never told Nina, obviously. She would be so sad since she still waits and hopes that her mother will one day return. I can't find it in myself to squash that."
"Wouldn't it be better to just tell her and get it over with?"
"Oh, no, I couldn't."
Edward fought away the frown that was attempting to creep onto his face. The explanation was quite sound, but it did not even begin to explain the dark expression that had been on Tucker's face only moments ago. His instincts were screaming at him that something was very wrong here.
"What was her name?" he asked.
"Sorry?" Tucker asked, puzzled.
"You wife, what was her name?"
Tucker hesitated. Edward could almost hear what he was thinking. He would be weighing the pros and cons of telling him what it was. Then he would decide that Edward was probably just being curious, and that it would be easy for him to find out from someone else if Tucker refused to say or tried to lie.
"Elsa," he said finally. "Elsa Tucker."
Edward had sort of hoped that he might get a maiden name, too, but he was smart enough to know when not to push a subject any more. This was very obviously one of those times. So instead he just smiled.
"That's a nice name," he said and Tucker seemed to relax fractionally. "My mother's name was Trisha Elric."
"A pretty name," Tucker noted. "Was she beautiful?"
Edward thought about that for a moment. He thought of his mother's face, the picture still as clear in his mind as the day she had died. He thought of her smile. And his face softened with fondness.
"You must miss her a lot."
"Of course I do." Edward turned his head to stare at the open kitchen door. "But Al and I… we make do. We wish she was still here, but all we can do is go forwards."
A sudden tap on the window made Edward jump for the second time, a fact which made him feel quite cross. Turning grumpily he saw that it was Alphonse and Nina at the window, peering in at him. The little girl was pouting at him.
"Nii-san!" Al said and Edward decided that he needed to change that last thought. From the sound of that voice they were both pouting at him. And, as Edward was quite aware, with good reason, too. "What's taking so long?"
"Er, I'm just coming now!" Edward said sheepishly, draining his glasses and hurried rinsing it in the sink. "Sorry, Mr Tucker, better go."
"Not a problem," Tucker said, giving first Edward then the two at the window an amused smile. "You go have fun until your escort arrives to pick you up."
Edward raced out the door. He could feel Tucker's eyes on him all the way out the door, a rather unpleasant feeling, surprisingly. A vague idea of something just being not right had begun to stir in his thoughts and he couldn't ignore it now, even if he didn't exactly know what was wrong yet.
What was Tucker hiding?
These thoughts were driven out of his mind when he suddenly noticed that a large dark shape was now blotting out the sun and he barely had time to prepare before that damn dog was on top of him, Al's and Nina's laughter ringing in his ears.
"You better run, you stupid dog!" he yelled, racing after the barking Alexander. "Just wait until I get my hands on you!"
"Run, Alexander!" Nina yelled through giggles.
Later Edward would decide to tell Alphonse nothing of his strange thoughts, nor would he tell anyone else. After all, they were too vague to really do anything about them and he knew that Mustang would just laugh the moment he said "something just doesn't feel right to me". Feelings were simply not enough of a base for an accusation or an investigation – even if those feelings turned out to be right.
At the moment he didn't even know what he might possible be accusing Tucker of. Therefore Edward was going to have to do a little alternative research. Chances were that nothing was wrong and that he was just tired and over-reacting to something that wasn't really there.
But if he wasn't…
Then Edward knew he would find out.
He was far too curious to let it go now.