Journey to the Past

BY : Cha's Aegis
Category: Fullmetal Alchemist > Het - Male/Female
Dragon prints: 566
Disclaimer: Don't own anything in the FMA universe. Some chick in Japan does. Make no money on my stories either.

Central Grand Station is a sight for sore eyes. Gazing out the window at the hustle and bustle on the platform, Al feels his entire being relax just like Monday when his train pulled into Resembool. Despite being exhausted from all the traveling he's done over the past month, once the train pulls to a complete stop he immediately feels invigorated.

Something out of the corner of his eye captures his attention. Glancing over he notices Winry grinning across from him.


Winry shakes her head in amusement.

"You're just like a little kid on his birthday who is practically doing a pee-pee dance in anticipation of opening his first present."

"Winry!" Al cries, scandalized.

"C'mon," she laughs. "Ed is probably doing his own pee-pee dance anticipating seeing his little brother."

Rolling his eyes despite his grin, Al helps Winry collect their bags so they can disembark.

"I can't wait to see the Hughes again," he comments as they shuffle down the aisle toward the exit. "I bet Elicia has gotten so big."

"She has and has a sharp wit like Mr. Hughes."

"Bet he's extremely proud," he quips.

"You have no idea," Winry mutters, rolling her eyes to the ceiling.

"Winry! Alphonse!"

Turning around to locate who's calling their names, both teens light up seeing Riza and Breda approaching.

"Welcome back to Central, you two," Riza greets.

"It's great to see you again," Al greets back. "Are you our ride?"

Riza nods while Breda takes Winry's toolbox from her.

"General Hughes' division has been swamped with work and he couldn't spare anyone to pick you up," the older blonde explains. "He asked us to bring you back to headquarters to meet up with him."

"Thanks for going through the trouble," Winry states, walking next to Al as they follow the two soldiers out of the terminal.

Within minutes they're all settled in the car. Under overcast skies promising rain, Breda guides the car through the streets while Riza shifts in the front passenger seat to chat with the two blonds sitting in the backseat about their trip.

It isn't long before Breda parks the car outside Central Command. After helping unload the luggage, he returns the car they requisitioned while Riza ushers the two teens to the upper level of the complex.

"They've really made some major progress with the rebuilding," Al observes in awe while trailing behind Riza through the corridors.

"We had to," Riza replies with a confirming nod. "It sends a message to the world that we're strong and stable. Thanks to previous policies, there are too many nations more than willing to strike Amestris while we're down." They turn a corner before she continues. "Another reason is it was too hard for personnel to get their work done. Erecting tents gave us a temporary solution, but were difficult to keep secure. So we needed to make as much progress as possible on rebuilding."

Stopping in front of a door, Riza opens it allowing Al and Winry to step inside first.

"Al! Winry!" Fuery greets cheerfully with a wave from his desk.

"Welcome back," Falman nods, looking up from his seat.

"Did you get your work done while I was gone?" Riza asks the two men.

"Working on it," both reply in perfect unison before simultaneously focusing intensely back on said work.

Riza rolls her eyes while hanging her coat on a nearby hook. Al and Winry watch in amusement while setting their luggage neatly off to the side.

"Nice to see you both again," Roy greets as he emerges from his office.

Exchanging pleasantries and chatting with the young adults for a few minutes, Roy suggests, "We can go to lunch in a bit and catch up further." Looking at Al, he asks, "May I speak with you privately for a few minutes first, Al?"

"Yeah, sure, general," Al agrees, slightly confused by what Roy could want.

As Al disappears with Roy into his office, Winry takes a seat near Riza's desk.

"It must be good having Ed and Al back home again," Riza observes.

"It is," Winry smiles. "I think I worried more about them this time around because they were so far outside of Amestris."

Having returned in time to hear Winry's reply, Breda comments, "I heard you've been doing a lot of traveling all over Amestris yourself."

Nodding, Winry laughs, "Probably almost as much as Ed and Al. I've been going back and forth to Rush Valley every few weeks since Mr. Garfiel made me a partner."

"Congratulations, Winry," Riza smiles in pleased surprised.

"Yeah, that's great to hear, congrats!" Breda echoes.

"Great job!" Fuery adds.

"It sounds like your automail skills improved considerably," Falman comments.

"I've learned a lot," Winry bashfully admits. "Sometimes I'll get helpful tips and advice from other automail mechanics, like Mr. Dominic. I've taken what I learned back to Resembool, which has brought in even more customers to our shop from the East area."

"You've certainly been busy," Riza teases.

"That's an understatement," Winry laughs as they continue chatting about her experiences.

Several minutes later Roy and Al finally emerge from the office.

"Ready for lunch?" Roy asks Riza.

"Yes," Riza nods and ushers Al and Winry out with them towards the mess hall.

After lunch, and strongly encouraging Roy to dutifully resume his work with a stern reminder, Riza takes Al and Winry on a tour of Central Command so they can see the additions and renovations. It kills a good chunk of time, as there have been a lot of changes. After returning to the office Al takes his turn to catch up with the others. An hour later Maes finally wanders in already dressed in his civilian clothes and ready to leave for the day.

"Well, I guess I don't have to feel so bad for keeping you two waiting. You're obviously well entertained," he teases Al and Winry while crossing over towards them.

Jumping to her feet Winry immediately rushes over to hug him in greeting.

Moving more sedately by comparison, Al rises and steps closer to Maes just as Winry releases him.

"It's easy to be entertained with good company," Al replies, taking Maes' proffered hand. "It's nice to see you again, Mr. Hu…er, Maes," he quickly corrects himself at the older man's glare.

"Nice to see you again too, Al," Maes replies with a mischievous glint in his eyes. "Well, we're not leaving as early as I would've liked, but at least it's still daylight." Glancing out at the dreary rainfall outside the window, he smiles ruefully, "Sort of."

"Can you afford to leave so early?" Winry frowns in concern. "You mentioned on the phone your division is swamped."

"Well, I've already taken care of the time sensitive stuff," he explains. "The rest I'm taking home to finish over the weekend. Now let's get your stuff and get going." While the two blond teens gather their luggage, he turns Riza and the rest of the office. "Don't forget about the party tomorrow. Weather permitting it'll be a garden party."

"We'll be there," Riza assures him as the others nod.

They return Al and Winry's wave while Maes ushers them out the door. Within minutes they're loaded up in his car and slowly making their way home in the pouring rain.

Entering the kitchen, Gracia stops just inside the doorway. A fond smile spreads across her face at the sight of the two look a likes standing side by side at the counter prepping the ingredients for the quiche she planned to make for dinner. Kisa turns to smile softly in greeting, prompting the older woman to step over to them.

"Thank you both for getting things ready for me." Turning to Ed, she adds, "And thank you for understanding about why I didn't want to you to be with Elicia and I when we greet Maes, Al and Winry when they arrive in a few minutes."

Ed stops cutting the broccoli to turn and smirk, "I get it. You're probably right that neither brought the right coat or an umbrella," he rolls his eyes. "They're probably going to be soaked to the bone."

"Which is why I have Elicia already keeping watch by the door with the towels," Gracia replies. "So they don't catch a cold, I'll get them into the showers to warm up and it'll be easier to do that if you're not there to be an unintended distraction."

"The last thing Al needs is to catch pneumonia," Ed rolls his eyes. "And Winry's nearly impossible when she's sick, so yeah."

"I'll be back in a few minutes then," she excuses herself.

Ed looks down at the broccoli he's cut so far and realizes he should probably put them in a bowl to make more room on the cutting board. Stepping over to a cupboard to his left, he opens it up and reaches in, pulling out a bowl. Returning to his position, he scoops the cut broccoli into it. Glancing over to check on Kisa who was cracking the eggs, his eyes widen in surprise to see she's gone, leaving him completely alone in the kitchen. Pissed, he stomps over to the sink and washes his hands before snatching up a towel to dry them. Tossing the towel to the side he stalks through the dining room. Like hell he was going to get stuck doing all the work.

All anger drains out of him the moment he steps through the double doors into the heavily shadowed sitting room. Directly across from where he stands, illuminated by the severely muted daylight filtering through the rain clouds, Kisa's silhouette is positioned behind one of the sofas looking out the window down to the street below. Shifting, she turns her head slightly to glance out of the corner of her eye at him as he comes around to stand next to her.

Returning her gaze outside, both silently watch a familiar black car park in front at the curb. Moments later Winry and Al emerge to struggle their bags out of the trunk in the pouring rain. Opening an umbrella, Maes comes around to help the shrieking, laughing pair. Soon the trio disappears from view to race through the front door. Noise levels increases significantly in the foyer as greetings are exchanged.

After Gracia and Elicia hand a drenched Al and Winry towels to dry off with, Maes grabs his chance to properly greet his family.

After he finishes kissing her, Gracia instructs him, "Show Al to his room so he can drop off his luggage and I'll show Winry to hers. She'll shower in the bathroom in the hallway while Al uses ours, giving you a chance to change in the bedroom."

"Great idea, honey," Maes nods in approval.

"All we have to do is change into dry clothes," Winry protests while Al opens his mouth to add his two cenz.

Both are immediately stopped by Gracia's firm look.

"You've both waited this long to see Edward, you both can wait a few more minutes," she points out. "We don't want either of you getting sick."

"Yes, ma'am," both teens promptly chorus, causing Elicia to giggle.

"C'mon you two," Maes grins at the two teens while starting for the stairs.

As the group disperses noisily upstairs, Ed smiles fondly, having watched the entire scene and catching glimpses of Al and Winry. When things finally quiet down, he looks back at Kisa still silently gazing out the window.

"Does Al look like Kyo?"

"Identical," she softly replies.

Ed struggles to think of what to say next when she breaks the silence again.

"Is Al as tall as you?"

"Taller," Ed sullenly admits.

He watches her profile as she smiles sadly.

"I stand corrected. They're not identical. Even when he died, Kyo was about my height and you're taller than me."

She feels Ed's hand rest on her left shoulder and gently squeeze. Without looking she reaches up to rest her right hand over his.

"I'm going back to the kitchen," he quietly states. "You should stay and enjoy watching the rain. It's probably different than in Azambra."

Mutely she nods as his hand slips off her shoulder. Turning away, he doesn't comment on the tears streaming down her face or on her soft sobs as he leaves the room.

Entering the kitchen, Ed walks back over to his place at the counter and picks up the knife to resume his work. Moments later Gracia and Elicia walk in.

"Where's Kisa?" Gracia asks with a concerned frown while Elicia races over to the clear glass bowl with the cracked eggs to peer into it in fascination.

"Watching the storm from the sitting room," he replies as the older woman joins him at the counter. "I thought I'd let her enjoy some quiet before the noise levels explode when everyone else comes back down."

Gracia meets Ed's steady gaze as understanding lights up her eyes.

"Everything is nearly done for dinner," she confirms. "Kisa has been working hard all day and deserves a break. It's a good idea to let her enjoy the peace in the meantime."

Ed nods as he continues cutting up the rest of the broccoli while Gracia begins working on the quiche with her daughter's eager help.

Kisa is aware she should return to the kitchen instead of staring out the window, but just can't bring herself leave. For some odd reason, watching intensity of the downpour wax and wane soothes her, mirroring her mood. When she first saw Al emerge from the car, she struggled not to shout at the injustice of not having Kyo too. It was pointless and wouldn't have made her feel better. She still wouldn't have Kyo.

She listens to Maes coming downstairs. She hears him pause on the stairs, his voice drifting up the stairs before continuing down then obliviously bypassing the sitting room without noticing her inside the heavily shadowed room. Even knowing he's heading to the kitchen doesn't motivate her to move.

A short while later she hears the unfamiliar steps of one of the newcomers come down and walk toward the kitchen. Despite the noise of the rain outside, she easily hears the happy exchange of greetings and teasing laughter, causing her chest to tighten and her eyes to burn. Taking a deep, steady breath she focuses harder on the rain.

Finally deciding she avoided the inevitable long enough, she takes another deep breath and turns away from the window. In the dim light her eyes fall onto the chaise lounge, causing her to wince when she sees her sewing still littering it. Likely the others will wish to retire to the sitting room after dinner to catch up and she's selfishly taking up too much space with her sewing projects. Wiping the lingering traces of her tears away she hobbles over and carefully collects all the needles, pins and thread, returning them to the sewing basket. She's completely oblivious to the sound of someone else coming down the stairs as she carefully gathers up the pinned pieces of clothing.

After helping Al settle in the room he's sharing with Ed, Maes leads him to the master bedroom then shows him where the towels and everything are in the bathroom. Once the door is closed, Maes changes then gathers up his dirty clothes before leaving. Heading towards the stairs he encounters Winry as she emerges from her room to take her shower.

"We'll probably be still be in the kitchen when you come downstairs. You remember where it is, right?"

"It hasn't been that long since I visited," she laughs.

"Just making sure," he grins. "Bring your dirty clothes to the laundry room while you're at it," he instructs her.

"Okay," she nods before disappearing into the bathroom.

Maes only makes it four steps down when Al leans out of the master bedroom.

"Where should I hang my towel?"

"Bring it and your dirty clothes downstairs with you. You'll find us in the kitchen at the back of the house and the laundry room is right off of it."

"Thanks," Al replies before disappearing back into the room.

Maes continues his descent. Passing through the kitchen straight to the laundry room he frowns when he doesn't see Kisa sitting with Ed, Gracia and Elicia at the kitchen table.

"Where's Kisa?" he asks when he steps back into the room.

"Watching the rain from the sitting room. She needed some quiet time before all the crazies came downstairs," Ed explains, gilded eyes boring into green in emphasis.

Maes' takes a moment to process his words before his expression softens in understanding.

"I'm going to check on her."

"She's fine, Maes," Gracia assures him, stopping him from leaving. "She'll join us when she's ready."

Reluctantly he nods as he settles into a chair at the table, pulling Elicia into his lap while Gracia fills a cup of tea for him and places it in front of him. Within moments Al appears carrying a wet bundle.

"Hi, everyone," he warmly greets with a wave.

Ed nearly knocks his chair over as he rushes over to hug his brother, causing Al to laugh as he hugs him back.

"At least give me the chance to take my clothes into the laundry room," he chides in gentle amusement.

"The laundry room isn't going anywhere," Ed huffs in annoyance while releasing his brother.

Al laughs as he briefly disappears through the door. Returning, he crosses over to the table and sits down next to Ed.

"Thank you," he nods, gratefully accepting a steaming cup of tea from Gracia.

The reunited Elrics easily fall into teasing and chatting with the Hughes. Minutes later a scream cuts through the house, startling all of them. Quickly setting Elicia on her feet Maes bolts towards the source with Ed and Al hot on his heels as Gracia and Elicia trail behind.

Feeling refreshed and revived after her shower, Winry wanders out of the bathroom silently musing in gratitude at Gracia forcing her into taking one. With her wet clothes tucked under one arm she hears distant familiar voices as she descends to the first floor with a smile on her face.

Turning sharply around the banister to head towards the inviting sounds, movement in the dim sitting room draws her attention. Stepping through the doorway her blue eyes widen in joyous surprise when she spies Ed cleaning up the lounge. However, a confused frown spreads across her face when she notices he's wearing a skirt, causing her expression to turn murderous when she recalls Maes saying his ward looked just like Ed. Her temper boils when she realizes that idiot must've roped the older man into helping with some idiotic practical joke to try screwing with her and Al's head.

Seething with rage, she stalks across the room as Ed turns around.

"Of all the stupid, idiotic jokes!" she yells, drawing out her trusty wrench. "After a year this is how you greet me? You dummy!"

Rearing back she swings down towards his head. Ed screams as he immediately blocks the joint jarring blow with a cane gripped tightly in both hands.

Annoyed he'd dare to block, Winry swings again, but Ed blocks it again before falling hard onto his right side and crying out in pain. Confusion clouds her expression as she watches him take deep, ragged breaths while curling slightly inward, distracting her from the sound of running footsteps.

"What's wrong?" Maes demands when he appears first while flicking on the light switch.

Winry's startled gaze drifts from Maes to Ed as he enters the room followed by the others. Her expression morphs into stunned horror at Ed now standing slightly behind the older man's left shoulder, prompting her head to snap around to the figure crumpled in pain on the floor then back to Ed.

Stepping around Maes, Ed gently wraps his left arm around her waist, easing the wrench out of her hand. Seeing Ed is taking care of Winry, Maes quickly moves to kneel on the floor next to Kisa.

"Al, take her to the kitchen," Ed quietly orders, guiding Winry towards him.

"Sure," Al nods, taking his place by snaking his arm around a still reeling Winry's shoulders and pulling her out of the room.

Gracia follows after the pair with a worried Elicia in tow.

Stepping over to where Kisa is now reclined on the floor, slightly propped up against the lounge chair, Ed crouches down next to Maes as he finishes checking her over.

"I don't need to go to the hospital, uncle," she argues in a pain filled voice. "My shoulder and hip hurt, but not as much as when they were dislocated. Plus, it's still raining hard."

Maes glares down at her.

"All right," he grudgingly relents. "I won't take you in on the condition that if you're worse in the morning you will go to the hospital. No arguments."

Kisa nods wearily as Ed seizes on his chance to cut into the conversation.

"What happened?"

"I was cleaning up my sewing when I heard someone come in behind me," she explains slightly breathless. "She yelled at me, 'Of all the stupid, idiotic jokes. After a year this is how you greet me? You dummy,' before swinging at me with the biggest wrench I've ever seen that came out of nowhere. I blocked with my cane then she swung again, which I blocked too, then my leg gave and I fell."

"Shit," Ed mutters, running a hand through his bangs. "Winry thought you were me and tried to hit you like she would me."

"Winry hits you on the head with a wrench?" Kisa gapes at him incredulously.

"Yeah," he sheepishly admits with a shrug. "But I usually deserve it."

"C'mon," Maes murmurs, distracting her. "Let's get you upstairs."

Carefully easing his arms under her legs and behind her shoulders she gasps in pain as he gathers her against his body while climbing to his feet.

"Can you make two icepacks while I settle Kisa on her bed?" he asks Ed.

Having regained his feet as well, Ed nods and takes off to the kitchen. Maes walks towards the stairs. Reaching the second floor he heads straight for her room. She grunts softly in pain when he eases her onto the bed.

"I'm sorry," he softly apologizes while reclining her against the pillows.

Once finished adjusting them to her comfort, he takes the damaged cane still clutched in her hands from her. Examining it closely he releases a low whistle.

The points of impact are obvious by the crushed and splintered indentations in two locations along the length. A long, clean crack originates from one, running outward along the shaft at an angle for about eight inches. With a little pressure, he can easily finish breaking it.

"That's why I was surprised when Ed said Winry hits him on the head like that," Kisa muses, breaking into his thoughts. "How can he be alive when she hits like that?" she asks in disbelief.

"You'd be surprised the hits he can take," he replies with a smile, setting the cane at the foot of the bed before sitting by her legs.

"I'm sorry the cane got destroyed," she apologizes. "I don't think the physical therapy department will believe I dropped it and it cracked like that."

"No, I don't think they will," he smirks.

"Here you go," Ed announces while entering the room carrying two ice bags and a couple of small towels.

"Thanks, Ed." Maes replies gratefully. Taking one of the bags he proceeds to wrap a towel around it before asking, "How's Winry?"

"On the verge of a nervous breakdown," Ed replies easily, causing Maes to wince while placing the ice bag on Kisa's shoulder. "Al, Gracia and Elicia are working on calming her down." Looking at Kisa, he explains, "Winry feels really guilty mistaking you for me. What makes it worse is she remembers Hughes trying to tell her and not believing him."

When Kisa only nods, Maes frowns slightly as he places the other ice bag against her hip.

"It was an honest mistake. I should've tried harder to convince her."

His frown deepens as tears slowly spill down her cheeks and she takes a deep, shuddering breath.

"I understand it was a misunderstanding, but now it's hitting me why I was so scared." Squeezing her eyes closed, causing more tears to escape, she hoarsely adds, "It was like I was back in Azambra watching the cadres mete out the latest punishment."

Momentarily stunned Maes recovers to try leaning forward to pull her into a hug, but Kisa places a hand against his chest to stop him. Taking a few deep breaths, she looks up, offering a tremulous smile.

"It's okay. I've been crying too much today and don't want to waste any more tears on the past." Wiping her face, she looks over at Ed. "Please don't tell Winry about shaking me up so badly. I don't want her to feel worse than she already does."

Both men look at her incredulously until Ed's eyes fall onto the cane lying on the bed below her feet. Reaching down he picks it up to examine it closely.

"Winry sure did a number on this," he muses.

"I'll have to buy a new one to replace it since it belongs to the PT department," Maes explains.

"Why do that?" Ed asks in baffled confusion.

Kisa watches in amazement as he sets the cane down again, claps his hands then touches it. The cane disappears in a brief, brilliant glow, emerging whole. Picking it up he hands it back to Maes.

"There you go."

"Show off," Maes rolls his eyes.

"How'd you do that?" Kisa asks while gaping in awe.

"Alchemy," Ed replies smugly.

Still stunned, she gently takes the restored cane out of Maes' hand to examine it closely.

"That's how alchemy works? No wonder my brother was fascinated by it," she muses in amazement.

"Kyo?" Ed asks in confusion.

"No," she absentmindedly shakes her head while still examining the cane. "My older brother Kiyoshi."

Before Ed can ask any more questions, Maes takes the cane from her hands to lean it against the nightstand then grabs a throw and covers her.

"You know the drill. Take the ice bags off in ten more minutes and don't fall asleep with them on," he reminds her while tucking the throw around her. "We've got to go downstairs and help calm Winry down. I'll bring dinner up later."

"Thanks, uncle," she replies warmly.

Stepping over to the dresser Ed grabs the history and sewing books and places them on the bed close to her.

"Just in case you feel like reading," he answers her questioning gaze.

"Thank you," she smiles softly as they leave the room to let her rest.

Both men find everyone sitting at the kitchen table taking turns trying to console a still badly shaken Winry. As soon as she sees Maes, she jumps up and runs over with her hands clasped in front of her.

"I'm so sorry! I should've listened to you! I'm sorry for hurting Kisa and I'm sorry for not believing you! I'm so sorry! I thought it was Ed and he roped you into a stupid joke! I'm really sorry! She wasn't badly hurt was she? I can't tell you how sorry I am!"

Maes doesn't know whether to shake the rambling girl or laugh. Behind him he hears Ed blow out a frustrated breath before watching in shock as he steps forward and grabs Winry by the shoulders to kiss her on the mouth, effectively shutting her up.

Al sniggers and Elicia giggles as Gracia attempts to hide her smile by sipping her tea.

A moment later, Ed pulls back scowling, "Are you going to listen now?"

Dazed Winry starts to nod before saying, "But…"

Rolling his eyes, Ed steers her back to her seat.

"Sit down and shut up." Once she's sitting he eases into the chair next to her. "We all should've thought you might mistake Kisa for me. We were too busy eagerly anticipating you being shocked to think that could happen or we'd have tried harder to warn you. So it's pretty much all our faults."

"But I could've really hurt her," Winry quietly states as her gaze drops to her barely touched tea. "She's probably scared I'm going to try cracking her skull again." Morosely she adds, "I should've realized she wasn't you when she screamed. You never scream like that and it didn't even sound like you."

Sliding off her daddy's lap, Elicia ambles over and climbs into Winry's lap to hug her.

"It's okay. Kisa is nice and brave like sister and wouldn't stay mad or scared." She pauses in thought before adding, "If you traded places, Kisa would've whacked you in the head with her cane like she did little big brother!"

Ed twitches in barely contained irritation as the others laugh at him.

"She tried hitting Ed with her cane?" Winry asks, looking at Elicia in confusion.

The little girl nods eagerly before recounting Ed and Kisa's entire first meeting, minus the bad words. Winry can't resist laughing, especially at Ed pouting while crossing his arms.

"I really wish I could've seen it," Al laments through his chuckles.

"You should've been here when they were picking at each other two nights ago," Maes grins.

"I wasn't picking!" Ed snaps, earning an arched brow from both Maes and Gracia that has him sullenly sipping his tea.

Al and Winry exchange confused looks as Elicia giggles, prompting Maes to launch into detailing the glaring match he came home to.

"You called Kisa a genetic freak?" Winry asks appalled, turning to gape at Ed.

"Oh, brother," Al mutters, rolling his eyes. Smirking, he adds, "I'm surprised Kisa didn't clock brother with her cane for that one."

"She might've if I didn't stop it when I did," Maes smirks.

"It was like watching little big brother make faces at himself in the mirror," Elicia giggles.

"Hey!" Ed protests, causing the others laugh again.

"On that note, it's time for your nap," Gracia informs Elicia.

"But, Mommy…" Elicia begins to protest and stopping when she sees the firm look on her mother's face. Perking up she asks, "Can I nap with Kisa?"

"Not this time," Gracia smiles fondly. "You could accidentally bump her leg and arm while sleeping and they're probably both sore."

"Okay," Elicia nods.

Giving Winry a quick hug, she slides off her lap to rush over and hug Maes before following her mother out the room.

"Let's clean up in here for Gracia and head into the sitting room," Maes suggests. "I'm sure you two want to hear how I met Kisa," he adds, looking at Al and Winry.

"I'll take care of it, Hughes," Ed offers, attracting his attention. "It's a long story and you might not finish before Elicia wakes from her nap if you don't start on it now."

Maes considers it before nodding.

"Thanks, Ed."

Rising to his feet he leads Al and Winry into the sitting room while Ed starts clearing the table.

After settling Elicia into sleep, Gracia heads to Kisa's room to check on her. Easing inside the door, she finds the girl soundly sleeping. The history book is open on her lap and the two ice bags lie abandoned on the bed close by.

Gracia gently closes the book, stacking it on top of the sewing book on the bed near her hip before pulling up the throw to cover her more. Then she picks up the ice bags and leaves.

Stepping off the staircase she passes by the sitting room she hears Maes' voice drifting through the closed door and realizes he must be telling Winry and Al the story of how he met Kisa. Continuing towards the kitchen she enters and is surprised to see Ed drying the tea things and putting them away.

"Thank you for doing that, Edward," she smiles, approaching him.

"It's no problem. Is there anything else you need help with?"

"No, I'm just going to make dessert. So go join the others."

Nodding, he cuts through the dining room to slip inside the sitting room. Maes is telling Al and Winry about the informant's punishment that resulted in his family's death. Trying to be discreet and not interrupt the narrative, Ed carefully picks up Kisa's sewing project and places the pieces in her basket before stretching out on the chaise to read. He notes Al and Winry are listening in rapt attention from where they sit on the sofa across from him. Mentally he groans at the look in Winry's eyes, knowing she's going to be even more of an emotional wreck when Maes is done.

Perhaps it's because he's repeated the story so many times recently, but Maes notices it's taking considerably less time to share it without leaving anything out nor is he rushing through it. Still, it takes him until early evening to finish.

"So that's how Kisa came into our lives," Maes states to a sufficiently overwhelmed Al and Winry. After thinking for a moment he adds, "If you three will excuse me for a moment, I'll be right back."

Rising to his feet he disappears out the door, giving them a chance to absorb his story.

"Did you already hear all of this, brother?" Al asks, eyeing his reclining sibling.

"Yeah, the first day I got here," Ed replies without looking up from his book.

"It's incredible," Winry mutters. "I've been reading all the articles regarding the emancipation of Azambra, but they don't paint a clear enough picture of the horrors."

"No, they don't," Ed muses absentmindedly. "They probably haven't interviewed any of the refugees to get first hand testimonials."

"Apparently Azambrans aren't the most talkative bunch when it comes to things like that," Maes explains, returning to the room. Easing back into his armchair, he adds, "They move on and don't like dwelling on what happened. All they care about is they're free and trying to make a living."

"Does Kisa avoid like that?" Winry asks.

"Not really," Maes answers. "There are some things she can talk about more easily than others. For example, she hasn't been able to tell me how Kyo died."

Al and Winry stare in shock, prompting Maes to grimly nod.

"She admits he's dead, but hasn't been able to tell me the details." Sighing, he adds, "There's something else I have to make you aware of, Al." Leaning forward he hands Al the photo of Kyo and Kisa. "You're a dead ringer for Kyo," he explains.

Winry gasps as she looks over Al's shoulder as he gapes in shock at the photo.

"Hard to take in, isn't it, little brother?" Ed mutters, over from his book.

Al mutely nods, still staring at the picture.

"It's incredible," he finally breathes. "The chances of two other people wholly separate from us who are identical has to be astronomical."

"At least your twin is a guy," Ed grouses.

"Will Kisa somehow confuse Al with Kyo?" Winry wonders.

"I doubt it," Ed answers. "If anything, seeing Al emphasizes Kyo's gone. She's already noting the differences, so she's keeping herself aware Al isn't him."

"Why didn't you say anything earlier?" Al turns to Maes. "It probably would've been better if I hadn't come to Central if it was going to upset her."

"Ed and I thought the exact same thing," Maes sighs in mild frustration. "But she insisted it was okay. She felt since we hadn't seen you in so long it was wrong to inconvenience us for her sake. Her point was avoiding meeting you was prolonging the inevitable and she sees it as a way of forcing herself to accept the truth."

"She's being stupid," Ed mumbles.

"Ed!" Winry scolds.

"Don't tell me it's not stupid she's torturing herself like that," he snaps back defensively.

"But at least she's facing the truth," Al muses quietly.

"Yeah," Ed nods in agreement.

"And I've gone and attacked her," Winry morosely observes, causing Ed and Al groan in frustration. Before anyone can reply she looks at Maes. "Was Kisa injured in Azambra? When she fell she cried out in pain."

"You need to stop torturing yourself," Maes emphasizes, boring intensely into her eyes. "We all know you weren't being malicious and there are too many 'what ifs' that could've prevented you mistaking Kisa for Ed." Seeing Winry is still unconvinced, he asks, "Should we blame Gracia because she didn't allow me to check on Kisa sooner? Should we blame Kisa for being off by herself?"

"No, but…" Winry begins horrified.

"You can't shoulder all the blame, Winry," he cuts her off. "Circumstances were right and it happened. Kisa wasn't seriously hurt, so we should move on and stop blaming ourselves."

Not giving Winry the chance to think of another reason Maes launches into explaining how Kisa got injured after crossing paths with Hakuro.

When he finishes, he asks, "Should I blame myself for not picking Kisa up at the station? Am I at fault for not asking Denny and Maria to bring her straight to the house? Should I have thought that her looking exactly like Ed would make others suspect her for a spy?"

"No," Winry shakes her head. "You're not at fault for any of those things."

"It's the same for you," he nods in agreement. "You're not at fault for mistaking Kisa for Ed. Otherwise it'd be like blaming Kisa for everything because she was born looking like Ed. It can't be helped."

A knock at the door attracts their attention as Elicia pokes her head inside.

"'Scuse me, daddy, but mommy says dinner's almost ready."

"Okay, sweetie, we'll be there in a minute," Maes smiles at her.

Nodding, the little girl disappears back out the door.

"I'm going to see if Gracia needs help," Winry quietly states while rising to her feet and following after Elicia.

"She's going to keep beating herself up over what happened," Ed sighs in frustration when the door closes.

"And try avoiding Kisa for as long as possible out of guilt," Al agrees.

"She needs to talk to her," Maes sighs heavily. "Kisa won't let her stay upset about it."

"Well, Winry can't avoid her forever. We're all staying in the same house," Al reasons with a shrug.

"Kisa may seek out Winry first anyway. She's got questions about automail," Ed points out.

"Why?" Al asks in confusion.

"Because of her left hand," Maes answers before launching into a brief explanation about her prognosis.

"She may lose her hand too?" Al gapes in shock when he finishes.

Maes nods grimly.

"It gives Winry and Kisa something to talk about and should smooth things over," Ed shrugs, closing his book and sitting up on the lounge.

"Well, we should leave it to the two of them to work out," Maes sighs softly. "If we try getting involved, we might lose our heads. Now, before Gracia takes off our heads herself, let's eat dinner."

Al and Ed laugh in agreement before climbing to their feet and disappearing into the dining room.

Instead of following the boys, Maes detours upstairs to check on Kisa. He finds her sleeping when he pokes his head in the door. He then notices the ice bags are gone and figures Gracia must've checked on her earlier. Deciding to leave Kisa alone until he brings up her food later, he eases the door closed and heads back downstairs.

The distant, muffled sounds of laughter drifting through the house rouses Kisa from her sleep. She immediately realizes her mistake when she shifts onto her right side to drift back to sleep and the pain in her shoulder and hip roars back to life. Once the throbbing aches subside she gingerly eases to sit upright.

While her body is too comfortable to move, her bladder demands attention. She considers her options. She could wait until someone came and checked on her, like she's done before, but knows how much that upsets Maes and Gracia. She could call out, but the conversation downstairs is pretty lively and doubts anyone will hear her right away.

Eyeing the cane leaning against the nightstand she wonders if she can make it to the bathroom on her own. Swinging her legs over the side she reaches for it. Scrutinizing it closely, she questions if it'll support her since it was in really bad shape earlier. Shrugging she decides to chance it.

Slowly easing off the bed she braces her left hand on the bed in support. Despite wincing in discomfort she's pleased her leg is holding, but still doesn't relax until she successfully takes a couple of hesitant steps with the cane.

The voices grow louder when she opens her bedroom door and steps out into the hallway. Judging by the delicious smells she reasons everyone must've finally sat down to dinner.

It takes longer than usual to make it to the bathroom to do her business. Her hip in particular is sore, but considering how swollen it is and there are signs of a really good bruise forming she's not surprised.

On her way back, she pauses at the upstairs railing to rest. Leaning slightly over, she peers down the staircase. She can't see anything beyond the lower landing, but hears the sounds of dinner much more clearly. Listening in she enjoys the warmth, love and mirth in the different voices and it reminds her of before the takeover, when all her family was alive. She briefly considers slowly maneuvering downstairs to join them, but decides against it since it might be too awkward for Winry and Al. Plus, she doesn't feel it's her place to intrude. She already loves the Hughes family as her own, but knows she's not a member. This is their time with those who clearly are a part of their extended family.

Smiling sadly she moves away from the railing. Her hip is throbbing, but she makes it to her room without incident and is happy she didn't inconvenience anyone. Deciding to dress for bed, she shuffles over to the armoire and pulls out a clean nightshirt. After struggling her shirt off, she briefly she examines her shoulder. There doesn't seem to be any bruising, just some swelling. Smiling in relief she finishes changing into her nightshirt then eases back onto the bed.

Covering herself with the throw, she sighs softly in relief at finally being off her leg before spending a few minutes listening to the rain still beating a steady rhythm outside. Not interested in trying to fall asleep again and relive painfully happy memories, she picks up the history book and resumes reading.

Dinnertime is a lively affair as everyone easily falls back into good-natured teasing while taking turns exchanging anecdotes from the past year. Thankfully Winry stopped moping. Although everyone tacitly knows she won't stop feeling guilty until she meets Kisa, the blonde mechanic is at least relaxing and enjoying her meal.

Afterwards while the kids help Gracia with cleanup, Maes sets up a food tray for Kisa as well as refreshing her ice bags for the swelling. During dinner he heard the toilet flush upstairs. He debated on going up to check on her, but then heard the creak of the floorboards outside her room indicating she made it without incident. He's a little irritated she didn't call out for help, but is grateful she's still mobile. He had been wondering where he'd get a wheelchair for her on a Saturday.

When everything is ready Al steps over and takes the tray in his hands.

"I'll take Kisa her food," he explains to the surprised brunet. "It's a great way to finally meet her."

"Yes it is," Maes agrees with a smile.

"Why don't you come along, Winry?" he asks, looking over at her.

"I can't right now, I want to help Gracia finish cleaning up in here," she lamely declines. "I'll go meet her later."

When she refocuses on drying the dishes Ed and Al roll their eyes behind her back, trying to ignore Maes' admonishing look directed at them.

"I'll go with you, Al," Ed states. "You're still clumsy, so I've got to open the door for you."

"I am not clumsy," Al playfully protests, stepping out of the kitchen.

"Oh yeah? What about the time…" Ed argues back, his voice fading as they move further down the hallway.

Maes grins after them, grateful Ed will be there in case Kisa gets upset at meeting Al. He looks over at Gracia who is putting away some of the dishes as Winry and Elicia finish drying them.

"Do you need anymore of my help, honey?" he asks his wife.

"No, dear," Gracia smiles back at him.

"I'll be in the study if you need me. I'm going to get some work done."

"Alright," she nods, watching him leave the kitchen before refocusing on finishing clean up.

A knock draws Kisa's attention from the book in her hands to the closed bedroom door.

"Come in," she calls out.

Opening the door, Ed steps inside, declaring, "We've brought you dinner."

After marking the page, Kisa closes the book and sets it aside with a smile before her eyes home in on Al following right behind his brother. Her smile falters a little, but she manages to hold it.

"I'm glad you didn't forget me. Aunt Gracia's food smelled wonderful even all the way up here."

Ed claims the wingback chair as Al carries the tray over and places it over her lap.

"Mrs. Gracia's food is even better than it smells and always worth the wait," Al smiles down at her while straightening up.

"In case you haven't figured it out, this is my younger brother Alphonse," Ed introduces Kisa.

"It's my honor to meet you, Alphonse," Kisa nods with a soft smile. "I'm sorry I can't introduce myself properly, but I'm Kisa Namikaze."

"Nice to meet you, Kisa. You can call me Al."

Kisa nods again before realizing Al is still standing. Looking confused she gestures at the space on the bed near her legs.

"Why don't you sit? There's enough room."

"I'm okay standing," Al reasons, causing her to sigh softly.

"Sit," she firmly orders. "I don't think I can eat comfortably if you keep standing there like that."

Slightly embarrassed he complies by perching sideways where she indicated before glaring at a sniggering Ed. Ignoring them, she removes an ice bag from the tray and places it against her hip before speaking again.

"I know uncle would've told you about Kyo by now," she quietly states, surprising Al. "I was certain he would because he kept asking if I wanted him to ask you to cancel your trip out of consideration for my feelings." She pauses to reach for the other ice bag to set it on the bed near her. "I didn't want to inconvenience everyone after being separated for so long." Looking away she smiles softly. "I wouldn't have wanted to delay seeing my brother if I were in your place." Locking eyes with Al again, she adds, "I don't want to make anyone feel uncomfortable and I apologize if the situation is doing that."

"I can say the same thing," Al smiles wryly. "I don't want to make you uncomfortable."

"I think I was more uncomfortable meeting Ed the first time," she smiles. "Who'd feel comfortable when their double is the opposite gender? At least you know your double was definitely a boy."

"Hey!" Ed snaps

Ignoring him, Al laughs, "Good point. Brother said the same thing."

"You don't have to rub it in," Ed retorts.

"I'm not. I'm just stating fact," Al replies smugly.

Kisa grins and starts eating her food as the two young men spend the next few minutes bickering.

Deciding to change the subject, Al asks Kisa, "Was it really strange seeing brother for the first time?"

Kisa studies Ed for a long moment.

"Not really," she finally states, returning her gaze to Al. "Like I said, it was a little uncomfortable mostly because it's awkward meeting a total stranger with my face. But it wasn't strange to me because uncle told Kyo and I about Ed back in Azambra. Plus, I had also seen a photo of you two when I stayed with Aunt Izumi in Dublith before coming here. I had enough time to get used to the idea."

"Yeah, I didn't think it was strange when I met you," Ed looks at Kisa. "Shocking? Yeah, who wouldn't be? Annoyed too because everyone knew but me."

"Mr. Hughes did try warning you, but you wouldn't listen, brother," Al reminds him.

"Yeah, well," Ed stumbles slightly over his words. "Everyone else knew and could've said something!"

"I doubt you would've believed them," Al teases.

"Hard to when they all like to conspire against me," Ed retorts. His scowl deepens when he notices Kisa trying to stifle her laughter. "What are you laughing at?" he demands

Dropping her hand away from her mouth and picking up her fork again she smirks, "It's funny because you can't admit you were wrong."

Ed sputters a bit before challenging, "Oh yeah? You're probably upset because you're the youngest out of the two of us!"

Kisa stops chewing her food as her eyes narrow at him dangerously. Realizing he just struck a nerve, Ed ploughs on airily.

"It's not my fault. Nature obviously couldn't get enough of a good thing and had to create more of me." Shrugging, he adds, "Nature just screwed up in making you a girl and shorter."

Kisa arches a brow.

"Or nature was trying to repair past screw-ups, intending to improve with subsequent models."

Ed opens his mouth to retort when Al cuts him off, asking Kisa, "So you met our master?"

Tearing her gaze from the current glaring match with Ed, Kisa looks at the younger Elric.

"Yes," she nods. "I got special permission from the colonel in charge of the transition camp to stay with aunt Izumi for a month." Kisa hesitantly asks, "She's a little scary at times, isn't she?"

Temporarily forgetting his irritation with her, Ed mutters, "You have no idea."

Al's only answer is to nod enthusiastically.

"Aunt Izumi was still very kind to take me in for that time," she continues, smiling fondly. "She even offered to teach me some self-defense when I'm healthier."

The two brothers momentarily gap in shock.

"We had to beg that old hag to take us on as apprentices!" Ed hisses. "Why do you get offered lessons? And without asking?!"

"Brother," Al attempts to soothe. "Kisa isn't learning alchemy. Master is teaching her self-defense."

"Yeah, well, it's probably a good thing since Kisa will be living in Central," he grudgingly agrees, slightly mollified. "She wasn't in town for more than a day before she got injured thanks to that moron Hakuro."

"But if I resisted the major, I might've been injured worse," Kisa frowns slightly.

"Not struck back," Al assures her. "If you already had some training you would've been in better shape to take the hit without being so badly injured in the first place."

Kisa considers it before nodding as she finishes off her dessert with a satisfied sigh.

"Really good, huh?" Al observes with a wry smile.

"Yes," she agrees after wiping her mouth with a napkin. "It's been so long since I've enjoyed such good food and it's helping me put on weight like the doctor wants since I'm still underweight. Even at the camps, the best thing I can say about the rations is they were edible. Aunt Gracia's food is luxurious by comparison."

Rising to his feet, Ed moves the tray out of the way and sets it on top of the trunk as Al's eyes land on the history book.

"You're reading the history of Amestris?" Al asks, picking up the discarded book to look at it more closely.

"Yes," Kisa nods with a slight blush. "I don't know a lot about Amestris and it seems silly immigrating to a country and knowing so little about it."

Returning to his seat Ed asks, "Didn't you learn about the surrounding countries in school?"

"Not really," she reluctantly admits. "My parents pulled me out before I could study much history. Reading the book showed how little I know and I'm grateful you borrowed it for me," she smiles.

"It was nothing," Ed sullenly replies, ignoring his blush and Al's teasing grin. "I thought you'd enjoy reading it."

He avoids any further embarrassment as all of their attention is drawn to Gracia and Elicia entering the room.

"I'm sorry for interrupting," Gracia apologizes as her daughter climbs onto the other side of the bed.

"Would you like my seat?" Ed offers the older woman

"No, thank you, Ed," she smiles. "We're on our way to bed. I wanted to see how you were feeling, Kisa."

"I'm fine, aunt," she smiles. "I'm just feeling a bit sore. There's a little swelling, but nothing serious."

"Are you mad at Winry?" Elicia worriedly asks from where she knelt next to her.

Kisa blinks in shock before smiling softly.

"Not at all. In fact, I may ask her for pointers for the next time I have to smack little big brother in the head."

"Hey! Don't gang up on me!" Ed protests while everyone laughs.

"Do you need anything?" Gracia asks, looking at Kisa.

"No, thank you, aunt. I'm fine," she declines.

"Alright then," Gracia nods. "If you need anything, Maes is still working downstairs in his study." Looking between Ed and Al, she adds, "Just put the dishes in the sink and I'll wash them in the morning. Let's go to bed, Elicia," she instructs her daughter.

"Okay, mommy," the little girl replies. She carefully hugs Kisa before sliding off the bed to follow her mother out the door.

"I'm going to take care of the dishes for Gracia," Ed states, rising to his feet. "Then I'm heading off to bed. I need to be rested to deal with the bastard tomorrow."

At Kisa's confused look Al sighs wearily, explaining, "Brother has been calling General Mustang a bastard since they met. They like to get on each other's nerves."

"Mustang is a stupid, manipulative, obnoxious bastard who enjoys making other people's lives miserable," Ed retorts stepping over to the trunk to pick up the tray.

"Really?" Kisa asks, cocking her head. "He seemed really nice and courteous to me."

"Probably 'cause you're a girl," Ed mutters while narrowing his eyes before walking out of the room, leaving Kisa looking after him baffled.

Smiling Al shakes his head at his brother before explaining it to her.

"General Mustang has a reputation as a womanizer, but there's never been proof. Just rumors of him being a shameless flirt."

"He didn't seem terribly flirtatious to me," she muses thoughtfully.

"I've never seen him be that way either, but I'm really not around him enough, especially socially," Al shrugs. Smirking, he adds, "Brother won't admit it, but they're a lot a like and deliberately get on each other's nerves. Yet, they respect each other even if they won't willingly admit it."

"That's very contradictory, isn't it?" Kisa arches a brow.

Al leans back on one arm and rubs his chin in thought.

"They're both arrogant," he finally explains. "But have the brains and skills to back it up. They both come off as selfish and self-absorbed. Plus, neither tolerates idiots very well and have fierce tempers." Smiling fondly, he adds, "However, when they care for someone they'll practically kill themselves for that person and are very protective of them."

Understanding lights up her eyes as she smirks, "They're so much alike there's almost not enough room in the world for them."

"Exactly," Al laughs. Becoming serious, he asks, "How have you been adjusting to living in Amestris now?"

"It's been hard," she quietly admits. "But not just because I'm in a strange new country. It's been hard for a long time."

"Since the insurgents took over?"

"Yes," she slowly nods. "They took away every comfort and security I had, leaving me to face every new, terrifying thing alone."

"And I'm a reminder of everything you've lost," Al murmurs quietly as his gaze drops down to the side.

"No," Kisa protests with an emphatic shake of her head, drawing his gaze back to her. "My reminders are everyday in the mundane. From looking in the mirror and seeing the features I shared with my family to watching uncle, aunt and Elicia interact. I'm reminded whenever I have to make decisions my parents would normally make." Boring into his eyes, she emphasizes, "Yes, you remind me of Kyo, but you're not him. I shared mother's womb with him and was there when he died. You aren't my only reminder of him."

Her eyes grow distant as a soft smile spreads across her face.

"You're easy to talk to like Kyo," she fondly admits. "I feel like I can tell you almost anything. I can also tell you worry and take care of you brother like Kyo used to of me." Taking a deep breath and letting it out slowly, she reluctantly adds, "I did want to shout out angrily at the world when I first saw you emerging from uncle's car earlier. I'm not begrudging anyone else for still having their family, but why couldn't I still have Kyo?"

"I'm sorry," Al guiltily apologizes in a soft voice.

"Don't be," Kisa replies. "It's a question no one can answer and maybe one with no real answer. Either way it's my reality. I do sometimes wonder what I must've done in a past life to deserve having everyone taken away."

Al blinks in shock before pointing out, "But you have the Hughes."

"Now," Kisa smiles sadly. "But not for the past year." Taking a deep breath, she explains, "When I spoke with General Mustang and he explained human transmutation to me, he said people commit that sin either to resurrect a lost loved one or to create a puppet to use as a tool." She pauses briefly in thought before quietly admitting, "I understand why someone would consider committing that sin to resurrect a loved one the most. I couldn't help but wonder how long it would take me to learn alchemy to try it."

Al gasps in shock and opens his mouth to speak, but she cuts him off.

"I'm not going to do it," she assures him. "I only thought about it. Besides the fact he emphasized it's impossible to bring someone who died back, I doubt I'm smart enough to learn it. Kyo is far better off wherever he is and he's probably with our family." She smiles sadly again. "Your looking like Kyo doesn't make me feel this way. I feel his death far deeper than anyone else's and some days it's been hard to make it through." She pauses as her smile fondly brightens. "Thanks to uncle those days have been fewer lately and I'm growing to appreciate what I have now. It's hard missing the past, but now it's easier to live not wanting what used to be."

Her gaze drops to her lap as the thoughtful silence stretches out. A moment later she's surprised when Al reaches out and gently grasps her left hand, prompting her to meet his smiling gaze.

"You've got a new family whether you like it or not. Now you're surrounded by people who value and care deeply for each other." Al's smile changes to a smirk. "Certain people will vehemently deny that, though. Anyway, we already accepted you and not just because of what you did to save Maes. You've become a part of our eccentric, eclectic family." Smiling fondly, he adds, "We won't leave you alone anymore because we all understand to some degree what it's like to be alone when there's no one left to care."

Kisa gapes before hesitantly saying, "But you have your brother. How can you understand?"

Considering his words, Al studies her for a moment.

"Brother and I have gone through a lot," he begins explaining. "We lost our mother when I was five and our father was long gone before that, so it was just the two of us for the longest time. After we started studying alchemy we had an accident during an experiment and brother thought I was dead. I wasn't, but for a short time he really thought he lost everyone." Pausing his eyes grow distant in memory. "I didn't understand the anguish brother must've felt. I never thought about it until I believed I lost him forever for almost an entire day not long before the Promised Day. That's when I really understood the horrible, oppressive loneliness. I never felt so lost," he finishes in a near whisper.

Kisa worriedly studies Al's distant eyes, easily seeing the depth of his pain. Squeezing his hand, he focuses again on her as she smiles softly. He returns her smile in mutual understanding.

"Thank you," Kisa quietly states.

"Try having a little faith in all of us," Al suggests with a brighter smile. "It's hard, but worth it."

"I'll try," she nods with a soft sigh. "It's hard because I lost all the people I had faith in. What if I lose you too?" she asks worriedly.

"It's a risk," Al states after a few moments of consideration. "But I've learned from alchemy that a theory can't be proven without some risk. All you can do is try."

Still holding her hand with his left, Al let's her think about it while digging his pocket watch out with his right hand and checking the time.

"It's not very late, but it's going to be a long day tomorrow," he observes before releasing her hand and putting his watch away. "I'm going to head off to bed too if you don't mind."

"Not at all," she shakes her head slightly. "Besides, apparently there are quite a few people coming over. It's a good idea to be well rested."

"Especially considering one of them is Lt. Col. Armstrong," Al smirks. "If you haven't met him yet, take my word for it, you'll need to be well rested as well to meet him."

"I already have," Kisa laughs. "Afterward I asked uncle if a prank was played on me because I couldn't believe anyone was really like that."

"Oh he is," Al laughs. "And he's a bit much to take in."

"That's a nice way of putting it," she grins.

"I try," Al chuckles. "He's a good man. It's just best to either take him in small doses or become immune to his personality." Smirking, he adds, "I have yet to meet anyone who has successfully achieved the latter."

"I'll keep that in mind along with attempting to flee quickly should it look like he's going to hug me."

Al laughs again as he gets up on his feet before asking, "Do you need anything before I go?"

"No, thank you," she shakes her head. Reaching for the history book, she opens it in her lap, stating, "I'm going to read a little more before going to the bathroom again and turning in."

Nodding, he crosses the room. Opening the door, he stands in the doorway shifting sideways to look back at her.

"Goodnight, Kisa, I'll see you in the morning."

"Goodnight, Al," she smiles as he closes the door behind him.

After closing the door, Al is startled when he turns around and sees Ed and Winry's backs as they tiptoe away.

"What are you two doing?" Al whispers, freezing them in place.

Turning around, both offer sheepish grins. Recovering first, Ed silently waves for them both to follow him downstairs. Moments later all three teens enter the sitting room where Ed shuts the door to the foyer. Al sits in the armchair while Winry settles on the sofa.

"Were you eavesdropping?" Al asks them disapprovingly with his arms crossed.

Taking a seat next to Winry, Ed retorts, "I wasn't trying to. I was heading to bed after washing the dishes and saw Winry standing outside the doorway. She waved me to be quiet and I couldn't help but overhear your conversation."

Al looks over at Winry with an arched brow.

"I was coming to speak to Kisa and only meant to wait for a break to step inside and interrupt, but your conversation was getting so interesting," she admits, blushing furiously.

Al rolls his eyes and shakes his head, muttering, "You guys should've come in."

"Why? You were doing a really good job with Kisa." Grinning mischievously, Ed teases, "Little brother should consider becoming a motivational speaker."

Al glares at Ed before lobbing a throw pillow at the grinning fool.

"And it just didn't seem right to interrupt such a private conversation," Winry shyly adds.

"But not private enough to keep you from eavesdropping was it?" Al asks pointedly, arching a brow.

Ed and Winry look away in embarrassment unable to meet his gaze or answer his question.

"Never mind," Al sighs heavily. "It can't be helped now." Rising to his feet he stifles a yawn with one hand before stating, "It's been a long day and I'm heading off to bed. I'll see you in the morning."

After Al leaves, Ed looks at Winry.


Instead of answering, he shifts closer to her and pulls her close.

When she relaxes into his hug, he suggests, "You've got to just go talk to Kisa." Ignoring her stiffening in his arms, adds, "Kisa isn't going to bite you. Well, not that I know of."

"It's not that easy," she protests looking up at him.

Leaning in he kisses her.

"Yes it is," he smirks at her blush when he pulls away. "You're just making it harder than it should be. Just go to her and say you're sorry for being a temperamental gear head. Oof!"

He rubs his stomach where she elbowed him hard as she climbs to her feet and stalks out.

"I'm not a temperamental gear head and can't just say sorry for almost cracking her skull in!" she mumbles while disappearing out the door.

Amused chuckling drifts from behind, prompting Ed to glance over his shoulder to see Maes standing in the doorway leading to the dining room.

"Your life won't be boring with a fiery wife like that," the older man muses in amusement.

Ed twitches before growling, "We're too young to get married yet! And aren't you supposed to be in your study working?"

"I stopped to head off to bed," he chuckles again, stepping fully inside to sit in the armchair Al vacated. "I heard you come downstairs and wanted to see what you were up to."

"You're making it sound like we're plotting something," Ed scowls.

"Well, three teenagers sneaking into a room and shutting the door is very suspicious," Maes teases. Sighing in mock relief he adds, "Now that I know you guys weren't up to mischief I can go cuddle with my wife in our warm bed."

"Too much info, Hughes!" Ed grimaces in disgust while practically bolting towards the stairs. "I'm going to bed."

Maes resists laughing out loud at the fleeing Elric. Chuckling quietly instead, he rises to his feet and steps over to the light switch to cut the lights before heading upstairs, feeling victorious.

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