"This here's a voucher for the bus into the middle of town," the lady was saying, "and a voucher for lunch, but you're gonna have to check in with Sergeant Harp for more supplies. You find yourself somethin' good-fitting on you, sonny?"
Ed pulled an old, wrinkled black tank top out from the bin of unclaimed laundry—donations and the final possessions of lost-and-founds around Central that had finally ended up here, clothes for the inmate who happened to find themselves lucky enough—or unlucky enough—to get out of prison. "Everything's too big," he complained, but he couldn't say too much against it—he'd fount a pair of black pants and a duster whose best days had been five years ago, but it would do. He stripped down to his boxers (I don't have to wear these shitty uniforms any more!) and shuffled into the clothes, which did not seem to impress the clothes lady one way or the other.
"Y'look fine, sonny. You sure you're Mr. Elric? Cain't hardly see you killin' someone."
"Oh," Ed said dully, "You just haven't seen me having a good day, is all." He took the vouchers from her fingers, reading them quickly. "So, the Sergeant is in Midtown ...?"
"He expects you at noon." Ed wondered vaguely if she packed heat. There was no way this plump lady was seriously in charge of turning out inmates unless she was dangerous somehow. "You'd best be on your way—if you're late to your first check-in, it'll look bad." She pushed another piece of paper into his fingers. "That's his address. Bus leaves in twenty minutes—!"
She ushered him out the door, and a guard—not Foley, Ed noted instinctively—beckoned for him to follow. "Out this way, Mr. Elric."
Five minutes later, the door of the prison banged shut behind him, and Ed was standing on the street in borrowed clothes with only two vouchers to his name.
It wasn't a very severe panic—just a mild, sudden sense of loss. Winly was out of town, back at Risenbul. He had no routine—he wouldn't be suddenly grabbed and forced into labor, wouldn't be eating that same old meal, wouldn't be ... wouldn't ...
"Shit, I'm out," Ed muttered to himself. There was only one thing to do.
He walked down the road to the crooked sign that said 'Bus Stop' in bright white letters.
Ed didn't end up using his food voucher. He hadn't eaten lunch in years, and he wasn't hungry at all. No one gave him a second glance, for which Ed was grateful.
It was surreal, walking around Central. He jumped every time someone brushed up against him, instinctively looking for the knife they were trying to jab him with, waiting to get grabbed—but of course, nothing happened, and Ed pinched the bridge of his nose. "Get a grip, Elric," he muttered to himself. "Not prison. No one wants to kill you. No one even knows who the fuck you are." That would surely change. Mustang himself at his hearing—! It was only a matter of time before someone found out that the dangerous Edward Elric, mass murderer, was back on the streets.
He had to move fast, then.
He arrived at Sergeant Harp's station ten minutes early and was confronted with a young-looking fellow with jet-black hair and dark eyes. "Edward Elric, I presume?" he asked, making an open show of the gun at his hip.
Ed wasn't exactly impressed. "That's me," he said. "I was told to come here?"
"That's right." Harp beckoned Ed into the room, and Ed shuffled inside; Harp picked up some papers from the cluttered table and handed them to Ed. "Enough food vouchers for one day—good for the soup kitchen down twenty-third. Here's the deal, Elric—officially, you're under my jurisdiction. You report here every Monday at eight o'clock in the morning, on the dot, and call me every other day. You fail to report or call, and your ass is grass. You've got two weeks to get a steady job of your choosing—you don't find one, I'll find one for you." He paused. "One of those sheets has the addresses of halfway houses in Central—you can bunk at any of those places for free for the first month, until you've got enough to pay for your room. Got it?"
Ed nodded, waiting for an oppurtunity to speak. "Right," he said slowly.
"Right." Harp eyed Ed. His stance relaxed. "Okay, that's the official stuff. Unofficially—shit, Elric, you have friends in high places. I answer to Officer Sikes, and Sikes answers to Warrant Officer Farman. He put in a good word for you, Elric."
Ed blinked. Farman? ... shit. It's a good thing Mustang's the boss, then. "Well, I've got news for you," he said simply, and Harp raised his eyebrows. "There's something I've got to do before I get any jobs or settle in Central or whatever, and I'm leaving right now." He slapped the vouchers and addresses back down on the table. "I'll call you—number's in my pocket."
Ed walked out the door at a nonchalant pace, but immediately outside he clambered up a gutter—an easy task, really. Easier than he remembered. Shit, all that labor had put him in good shape.
He went from roof to roof for three blocks before he let himself back down onto the street.
Al, he swore silently, I'm gonna find you.
Well, he'd just have to wait and see.