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.

Finishing her tale, Kisa has a small, wistful smile as she shifts on the sofa.

“I really enjoyed staying with Aunt Izumi and Uncle Sig. It was a lot better than staying with the rest of the refugees at the hotel.”

“I noticed you’re calling them ‘aunt’ and ‘uncle,” Maes grins. “They must’ve really treated you well to earn your respect.”

“They accepted and welcomed me into their home without hesitation,” she explains, her expression turning thoughtful. “I wasn’t being gossiped about or pressured into marriage nor was I criticized if my opinions differed. With them I didn’t have to be on guard all the time against being molested or dragged off by perverts.”

She pauses in remembrance before continuing.

“Well, there was one time Aunt Izumi asked me to sweep outside and this creepy man came up to me and asked if I’d go home with him, saying he’d make it worth my while.” A flush spreads across her face as she reluctantly adds, “He was touching himself inappropriately and the look on his face was making me very uncomfortable. I told him to leave me alone, but he told me he’d tip me if I was a good girl.”

Maes watches as an odd expression crosses her face. It’s a combination of awe and terror as she continues her tale.

“For such a small woman, Aunt Izumi is a deadly powerhouse. She came out in time to hear the last part before sending him flying down the alley into a stack of crates. The police had to take him to the hospital first before they could arrest him for solicitation and harassment.”

“She sent him flying?” Maes blinks in shock.

Slowly Kisa nods.

“If I didn’t see it for myself I wouldn’t have believed it. I guess I shouldn’t have been surprised,” she shrugs. “Aunt Izumi had taken out two of the thugs who tried dragging me to the roof the day we met.”

“I’m not surprised then,” Maes smiles, shaking his head. “Now that I think about it, Roy told me the role they played during the Promised day. Izumi had to be an incredibly capable fighter to help them out.”

His expression softens as he shifts to perch next to her on the edge of the sofa before gently pulling her into a hug again.

“I’m so sorry for not telling you about Al before,” he apologizes into her hair. “I didn’t think about putting it in my letters. To be honest, I’m not sure how I could’ve worded it, but I still should’ve said something.”

“It’s not your fault,” her muffled voice reassures him softly, squeezing him tighter. “I would’ve still reacted that strongly. There was no good time or way of telling me.”

“Maybe,” Maes sighs heavily, “but it doesn’t ease my mind much.”

“It doesn’t ease my mind much either. It still hurts,” she softly admits.

“Kyo would’ve found it hilarious,” Maes points out, trying to lighten the mood.

Pulling back slightly she snorts, “He would’ve started thinking of what kind of mischief we’d all cause together.”

“Are you serious?”

She smiles softly and nods.

“Thanks to our older brothers we’re well versed in causing mischief. By the end of the day of our first meeting Ed and Al, Kyo would’ve had a long list of targets and pages of notes filled with prank ideas.”

Maes busts out laughing for a few minutes before becoming serious again.

“Will you be okay if Ed and Al stay with us for a few days?”

Taking a deep breath, Kisa closes her eyes briefly.

“I don’t know,” she reluctantly admits. “Part of me dreads the idea, but I also wonder how alike or different Al is.” Her gaze drops to her lap. “I can’t change the fact they look alike.” In a quieter voice she adds, “Kyo’s dead. Nothing can change that and Al is not Kyo.” Meeting concerned green eyes, she continues, “Besides, they’re close family friends. They should be able to stay here comfortably as guests. I have no right to interfere with that.”

“You’re wrong,” Maes shakes his head. “You’re family; remember? Promise me that if it becomes too uncomfortable, or unbearable, you’ll tell me. Ed and Al won’t be offended and could stay at a military hostel.”

Kisa looks away uncertainly, unable to meet his gaze. Maes reaches out and gently turns her face toward him.

“Will you promise me?”

“I promise,” she reluctantly agrees with a deep breath.

Smiling warmly, he hugs her again before releasing her to look at the clock.

“There’s still some time until dinner,” he states, turning back to her. “Would you like to get out of this room for a little while and hang out with Gracia and Elicia?”

“I’d like that.”

Without another word he hefts her into the wheelchair and rolls her into the kitchen.

The following morning Maes surreptitiously observes Kisa during breakfast. The conversation had turned towards Ed, Al and Winry’s possible visit and the dinner party they’re planning. Being it’s Saturday he isn’t distracted by thinking about what he has to do before getting ready for work.

As usual, Kisa remains quiet, but he notices she’s not as attentive as usual. He’s sure she’s thinking about Al. He makes a mental note to let Winry know about the situation when he calls to invite her later, so she can help make the boys aware and they don’t unintentionally upset Kisa.

After helping collect the dishes for Gracia, he steps behind the wheelchair to roll the girl out of the kitchen and into the sitting room.

“Uncle?” Kisa hesitantly asks as he’s unlocking the brakes on the chair.

Looking up from his crouched position he replies, “Hmmm?”

“May I call Aunt Izumi? She wanted us to call her when I got settled in.”

“Certainly. Let’s do that now.”

He wheels her out of the kitchen and down the hallway into his study. Maneuvering her as close as he can to the desk, Maes locks the brakes on the chair again before gently lifting her up and shifting her into his padded office chair. He moves the phone closer to her and rolls the wheelchair out of the way before glancing over at her.

He has to bite his tongue to keep from laughing when Kisa holds the handset upside down with the earpiece to her mouth. Grinning, he nonchalantly grabs it and positions it correctly, earning him a blush and an annoyed glare.

Still grinning, he waits long enough to watch her correctly ask the operator to connect her to Izumi Curtis in Dublith before leaving the office, pulling the door closed behind him. He won’t tease her about her goof, though. He’s well aware she never used a phone before in her life until arriving at Izumi’s. After helping Gracia in the kitchen, he checks on her a half hour later. Noticing him peeking in, Kisa waves him closer.

“He just stepped back into the office,” she informs Izumi as he crosses over to the desk. Looking back at him, she adds, “Aunt Izumi would like to speak with you, Uncle.”

Taking the handset he greets Izumi.

“Good morning, Izumi.”

“What the hell is being done to punish the moron who ordered Kisa’s arrest?” she demands.

Ignoring her lack of greeting, Maes chuckles before briefly explaining what’s being done, watching Kisa’s confused expression because he hadn’t told her some of these details yet. It’s obvious to him she doesn’t understand the significance of Hakuro’s offense.

“Hakuro better not get off scot-free,” Izumi huffs in irritation once he finishes.

“He won’t,” he firmly assures her. “I sure as hell won’t let him and there are others lining up to back me up.”

“All right,” she grudgingly acquiesces. “Put Kisa back on the line.”

Grinning, Maes hands the phone back to Kisa.

“Honest, I’m fine. Yes, Aunt Izumi. Yes. I will. All right. Yes. I promise. Yes. You too. Goodbye.”

Maes watches in amusement as the girl wearily hangs up the phone, closing her eyes briefly while sighing softly in irritation.

“I don’t know how many times I have to assure her I’m okay and will let you and Aunt Gracia know if I need anything and that I’ll take care of myself before she’ll stop ordering me to do all those things repeatedly,” she grumbles looking up at Maes.

“Izumi is rather insistent,” he comments with a chuckle.

“Demanding is more like it,” she snorts derisively.

“Apparently only with people she cares about,” he teases causing Kisa to blush again.

Cocking her head, she asks, “Why does everyone want to punish General Hakuro so severely? He went overboard, but he was only trying to protect Amestris.”

Incredulous, Maes gapes before sighing heavily and running a weary hand over his face. Lifting his right leg, he partially perches on the edge of his desk.

“There’s more to it than just going overboard. Hakuro ignored laws he has sworn to uphold as a soldier of Amestris and even if you aren’t a legal citizen, those laws still protect you. A large part of the problem with the old regime was they chose what laws to follow when it was convenient. It bred so much corruption that we’re still cleaning it up and will be rectifying it for years to come. It’s more important now than ever to follow the law because Amestris was weakened severely by the attempted coup and, besides that, Hakuro needs to know he isn’t above the law.”

Kisa nods in understanding before frowning in confusion.

“Amestris always seemed like a strong country. I read about the coup, but I don’t understand how it could’ve happened. How could there have been so much corruption in such a well functioning country? Azambra was politically unstable for years before the monarchy was finally overthrown, but Amestris didn’t have that history of instability or they never could’ve expanded their borders.”

“It’s a really long story and I’ll be happy to start sharing it later when Elicia is napping,” Maes grins. “Although, I probably won’t get far since you’re still worn out from your injuries. Suffice it to say the corruption was well hidden and deeply rooted in the highest levels of the military.” At Kisa’s irritated look, he adds, “It’s quite an incredible, long story, but one you can’t discuss beyond a select few. It’s part of the reason I ended up in Azambra in the first place.”

“If it involves something important, maybe you shouldn’t tell me,” she suggests apprehensively.

“It could affect national security,” Maes admits, smiling at her fondly. “But it really has to do with the fact the story is so out there few would believe it. I’ve wanted to tell you about it for sometime now. I trust you because you and Kyo could’ve turned me over to the cadres. Instead, you helped me when I could’ve been a spy or betrayed your family.”

“We’d do the same thing again regardless of the risk, uncle,” she firmly states. Ducking her head slightly, she sheepishly admits, “It definitely sounds intriguing, but as for it being hard to believe, there are many things in the world that are hard to understand and are beyond logical and scientific explanation. It doesn’t mean those things aren’t true, just means exercising a little faith and open mindedness.”

“Glad you feel that way, but don’t say I didn’t warn you,” he chuckles, rising to his feet. “Let’s go see what Gracia and Elicia are up to.”

Without giving her a chance to reply, he transfers her back into the wheelchair and wheels her out to join Gracia and Elicia in the sitting room.

The following day Maes enters the sitting room to check on Kisa who had been napping while Gracia took Elicia to the park to meet with her playmates and enjoy the beautiful spring afternoon.

“Good, you’re awake,” he comments when the teen looks up from the newspaper she’s reading to smile in greeting.

“I woke up a little while ago and didn’t feel tired enough to fall back asleep,” she explains.

“Well, I have a surprise for you,” he announces.

Cocking her head in curiosity, she folds up the paper and reaches over to set it on the coffee table before shifting into a sitting position with his help, giving him room to settle next to her on the sofa.

When she’s ready he hands her an envelope and stack of small books, watching as she gasps in realization. With his help she immediately opens it. Her left hand flies to her mouth and her eyes tear up as she stares down at the family photos and books she gave him over two years ago.

“Thank you, thank you,” she barely manages through her tears.

Maes pulls her into his arms as she breaks down crying. It takes several minutes before she manages to pull herself together again. After handing her a handkerchief to dry her eyes, he hands her a glass of water off the coffee table, encouraging her to take a drink before setting it back down again. Patiently he watches her slowly look through the photographs before flipping through the books with a sad smile on her face.

“The next time you head upstairs, would you store the books in one of the drawers in my room, please?” she finally asks. Feeling the need to explain further she adds, “They belonged to my ancestors who originated from Xerxes.”

“Sure,” Maes automatically replies before registering what she said. “Wait, Xerxes?” At her nod he frowns in confusion. “I understood the entire civilization disappeared in one night and there were no survivors.”

“There weren’t,” she agrees. “Which is why what happened is buried in conjecture.”

She shifts into a more comfortable position, prompting Maes to stand up to help her adjust her pillows so she’s leaning against the opposite arm of the sofa facing him. Once settled comfortably he sits on the far end before she continues.

“My family originated from slaves owned by a traveling merchant from Xerxes. They had been out of the country on business and returned months later to be greeted by the rancid stench of rotting corpses on the wind. They searched and found no one, not even the animals, alive. A couple of the slaves couldn’t accept the horrors. One jumped off one of the highest buildings and another ran crazed into the desert, never to be seen again. The merchant had no family, so with his remaining slaves he went to what was left of his home and gathered what they could carry of value.”

“They wandered south. Apparently the merchant didn’t like the cold, so heading north was out,” she smirks, earning a knowing chuckle from Maes. “There wasn’t much west and the merchant didn’t particularly like the clan system of Xing, so eventually he settled in what became Azambra. However, custom prohibited the owning of slaves, so he freed his servants and hired them as employees. Two of them married, becoming the origins of my family. When the merchant died he divided his assets among his former slaves and left the business to my ancestors, which is why my family has such deep roots in business. The grandchildren of those former slaves later formed the Merchants Guild after seeing the example of a similar guild in what eventually became Creta.”

“So your family originated from slaves and basically helped shaped the economy of Azambra?” Maes affirms, suitably impressed.

Kisa smiles again and he grins at the glint of pride lighting up her eyes.

“In a way, yes,” she admits with a nod. “A strong economy makes for a strong government. Even a military based government can’t survive without adequate funding. Father drilled into our heads the importance of good, honorable business practices. It wasn’t just about making money to support a family, but helping society at large and crooked tactics only takes a merchant so far before turning back on them negatively.”

Maes nods in understanding. “So the books are ancient Xerxes business codes?”

“Not at all,” she shakes her head. “They could be considered ancient alchemical notes; early studies of alchemy.”

He gapes at her before grinning.

“Don’t mention that to Ed and Al. They’re both insatiable knowledge buffs, especially when it comes to alchemy and they’ll be hounding you into letting them look at those books.”

“Over their dead bodies,” she growls, her gaze becoming flinty. “They’re family heirlooms.” Taking a deep breath and calming somewhat, she adds, “Besides, unless they can read Xerxian they won’t understand them. They probably wouldn’t get much out of them anyway if they’re already that knowledgeable. The notes will pale in comparison to what they know about modern alchemy.”

“It’d probably be more out of professional curiosity that they’d want to see them,” he points out reasonably

“No, it’s not happening,” she glowers firmly. “Should they stay in the house I’m hiding the damn things just in case.”

Taken slightly aback at her cursing, Maes’ amusement returns.

“You won’t have to do that,” he assures her with a smile. “But if it makes you feel better I have a safe in my office to store important documents.”

Kisa considers it before relenting with a nod.


“Well, since you’re awake and Gracia and Elicia aren’t home yet, how about I continue telling you about the Promised Day?” he suggests.

“Yes, please. Because the story was getting really interesting when we stopped yesterday.”

“That’s because you fell asleep on me,” he teases, causing her to flush in embarrassment.

“Sorry about that,” she apologizes shyly.

Resisting the strong urge to keep teasing her, Maes resumes telling her the story about the events leading up to Promised Day until he has to stop when Gracia and Elicia return home. Despite having to hear the tale in pieces over the next few days, Kisa finds it incredible and, admittedly, hard to believe at times.

“I’m sorry, uncle, but how can something intangible as souls be extracted and converted into a solid like a Philosopher’s Stone?” she asks two nights later while comfortably propped up on her bed.

Gracia is giving Elicia a bath, which in turn gives Maes the perfect opportunity to continue telling her the long, complicated story.

“Apparently souls are a form of energy. Either that or they radiate energy.” Shifting in the wingback chair he sighs in frustration. “I’ll be the first to admit I don’t understand it myself. You’ll probably have to ask an alchemist like Ed or Al when you get the chance because they can probably explain it a hell of a lot better.”

Kisa considers it a few moments.

“Souls being a form of energy are a fairly easy concept to grasp. I know alchemy utilizes tectonic energy while alkahestry uses the more organic energy flowing through the land.”

Maes blinks at her in surprise.

“Sounds like you know more than just the basics. I have trouble understanding the differences.”

“I only know that much because my brother Kiyoshi dabbled in something like alchemy,” she shrugs her left shoulder.

“He was an alchemist?”

“Not at all,” she shakes her head sadly. “Kiyoshi studied what he could in secret because father was strict with my brothers about learning to be merchants. He considered alkahestry the same as being a doctor, impractical in supporting a growing family, but Kiyoshi found alkahestry fascinating and there were Azambrans of Xingese descent that practiced it. He heard about alchemy, but since there weren’t any alchemists in Azambra he learned what he could on his own. Two of the books you’re keeping in the safe are his research notes.”

“Didn’t you say those were notes belonging to your ancestors?” Maes frowns in confusion.

Confused, Kisa blinks before blushing in realization.

“I’m sorry for not being clearer, uncle. I’m too used to thinking of Kiyoshi’s notebooks as being one in the same as those ancient alchemy notes. The antique books were his and sparked his interest in alchemy.”

“Father would burn his notebooks if he found them and then beat him for dabbling in stupid nonsense,” she explains further, adjusting the throw covering her a little. “So Kiyoshi studied in secret and created the fake books to blend in with the others knowing father wouldn’t dare burn our ancestor’s books. He learned to read and write in Xerxian and bought blank antique notebooks to write his research in so they’d blend in better. Father never had much interest in them and had no idea how many books there actually were.”

“Kiyoshi was scared when he caught Kyo and I trying to read the books,” she softly admits, her eyes growing distant in remembrance. “We were playing hide and seek and found their hiding place. The weird writings and diagrams fascinated us and he only relaxed when we kept asking questions about them and seemed genuinely interested in what they said. In exchange for helping him hide the books from father, he taught us to read, write and speak Xerxian.”

“You can speak ancient Xerxian?” Maes asks, suitably impressed.

Nodding, the blonde smiles shyly.

”Kyo and I really had no interest in alchemy or alkahestry, but we didn’t think it was so bad for Kiyoshi to study it and we didn’t like seeing him punished for something he really enjoyed doing. It was fun learning a different language and we’d practice speaking to each other in it to drive our brothers and sister crazy. Father knew about Kiyoshi teaching us, but thought learning another language was good for us. Kyo and I would also act as distractions if father or our oldest siblings approached wherever Kiyoshi was studying. Kazuki and Kohaku didn’t care and wouldn’t tell father the truth, but Kyoko and our oldest brothers Katashi and Katsuo would, so we had to be careful around them.”

“So if your parents didn’t approve of your interests and hobbies they’d punish you?” Maes quietly asks.

Kisa sighs heavily and nods again.

“Our parents had very specific goals in mind for us and we were greatly discouraged from deviating from them.” Waving it off, she dismissively adds, “I didn’t really understand Kiyoshi’s notes or anything he said about alchemy. Science was never my strong suit since I wasn’t allowed to attend school as long as Kyo. I learned the basics before I was withdrawn to learn from mother and Kyoko how to run a household.” Thoughtfully she muses, “Maybe I’d understand the concept of human transmutation better if I knew more about science and alchemy.”

“It might’ve help,” Maes agrees, inwardly mulling over what she said.

Both look up when Elicia races into the room with Gracia following sedately behind.

“Kisa, can you read me a story?” the little girl asks, holding onto a book while climbing onto the bed.

“Yes,” Kisa smiles.

Holding out her arm a little, Kisa waits until Elicia is cuddled into place. Gracia sits on the edge of the bed, prompting Maes to relocate behind her and wrap his arms around her waist. While they listen to Kisa read, Maes’ mind drifts back over their conversation. He isn’t sure how, but one way or another he will undo as much of the damage Kisa’s parents have caused and do whatever it takes to make her life fulfilling.

The days pass quickly and soon it’s Thursday. Having taken the day off, Maes spends the morning helping Gracia and preparing to take Kisa for her first visit back to Central Command for her follow up appointment with Dr. Knox.

Taking a break from helping Gracia in the kitchen, he checks on the girl in the sitting room. Looking up from the newspaper she smiles as he walks over to the sofa.

“Breakfast will be ready soon,” he informs her while settling onto the cushion next to her. “I’ll handle cleanup while Gracia and Elicia help you get dressed.”

“I get two dressers? It makes me feel like a nobility having two people help me get dressed,” Kisa quips.

“You should enjoy such pampering while it lasts,” he chuckles. Becoming more serious he irritably adds, “It’s no thanks to Hakuro you’re getting such treatment.”

“Is it really a good idea to return to Central Command so soon?” she hesitantly asks, her smile dropping. “I know it’s important to follow up with Dr. Knox, but my presence might trigger him into acting out against you.”

“I’m not worried,” Maes waves off dismissively. “Hakuro would’ve done something by now. He won’t because the Fuhrer is keeping close tabs on him and he’s being made an example to anyone else that might get some funny ideas.”

“Okay,” Kisa concedes, not fully convinced.

“Now let’s go see if breakfast is ready,” he suggests before transferring her into the wheelchair and rolling her into the kitchen.

After breakfast, Maes carries her upstairs so Gracia can help her get dressed. Leaving the ladies alone, he returns downstairs to clean up the kitchen.

“I feel like a little girl needing help to get dressed,” Kisa states lightly, but Gracia catches the underlying tone of frustration.

“Your injuries weren’t minor, Kisa,” Gracia reminds her as she opens the armoire to reveal her clothes. “You’re still experiencing a lot of soreness and tenderness, which is limiting your movement a great deal. You still have to wear a sling, so naturally you’ll need help getting dressed.”

Pausing, Gracia pulls out one of Kisa’s skirts and unfurls it from the hanger.

“Getting you into one of Maes’ old shirts is fairly easy, but this looks a little more complicated,” she grins at the teen.

“It looks like a gigantic handkerchief, only prettier,” Elicia eagerly declares.

“One would have to have a really big nose to make use of my skirts like that,” Kisa grins at the little girl, prompting Gracia to laugh. Turning to the older woman she adds, “The skirts aren’t that complicated. The biggest difference from Amestrian style skirts is that they are one piece and are tied.”

“I’m curious at how it’ll stay up,” Gracia murmurs thoughtfully before asking, “Which one would you like to wear?”

“I like the bright yellow one with the butterfly,” Elicia points at another hanger with a yellow skirt draped on it with a large, black butterfly with scroll-like detailing in the wings.

Gracia reaches over and fingers a black skirt on another hanger, stating, “I have to admit, I love this one with the blooming fiery orange orchids on the ends.”

“As much as I’d like to wear either one, I need to go a little more subtle. I felt uncomfortable with all the attention I was attracting at Central Command the first time,” Kisa points out to Gracia after glancing briefly at Elicia who is still enthralled with her favorite yellow one.

“It’s who you are. You shouldn’t adjust your habit like that,” Gracia reasons.

“I know and I don’t plan to,” Kisa assures her. “Besides, everything I have is colorful and stands out. I just won’t go too dramatic.” Eyeing all her clothes hanging in the armoire she comes to a decision. “I’ll go with the red one with the gold bamboo stalks creeping like vines across it.”

Gracia reaches into the cabinet and holds up another hanger.

“This one? With the backgammon design on the borders?”

Kisa nods then points to the shirts.

“I’d like to pair it with the dark gold shirt. The one that has a v-neck collar.”

Gracia hands the shirt and skirt to Elicia to take off the hanger and set them next to Kisa.

“Would you please pull out the red head scarf, Aunt Gracia?”

Gracia nods and pulls the one Kisa indicated. She walks over to the bed and with Elicia’s help they begin getting Kisa out of the oversized shirt she’s been dressing in since she arrived. It was easier and more comfortable for the teen to keep using Maes’ old shirts while recuperating. Then they help Kisa to her feet and follow her directions to help wrap it around her waist.

“Please help me tie this off,” Kisa asks Gracia when she gets to the end.

Gracia ties it off for her. She and Elicia then help Kisa ease back onto the bed. They watch her take the headscarf and drape it around her head.

“I know Ishvalan women wear headscarves because of their religion,” Gracia comments. “Do you wear them for the same reason?”

Kisa shakes her head.

“Our reasons are more practical. It keeps the sap and bugs falling from the trees from getting tangled in our hair. Some men wear headscarves, but most prefer to wear Amestrian style hats.”

Gracia nods before stating, “If you’re ready, I’ll go get Maes. He should be done with the kitchen and loading your wheelchair into the car.”

Kisa nods and waits with Elicia who continues asking her questions about Azambra until Maes comes for her. It’s only a few more minutes before she’s in the car and they’re on their way to Central Command.

“By the way,” Maes breaks the silence at a stoplight. “If you feel up to it, we’ll be going shopping after your appointment,” At her surprised expression he continues while accelerating for the green light. “Since you’re living with us now you should personalize your room. Gracia mentioned you might be in need of more personal clothing items as well.”

“But, uncle…”

“Your room looks too much like a guest room,” he cuts off her protest. “It’s your room to do with as you wish unless you like one of the other bedrooms better. Either way, you should decorate it the way you want.”

Kisa grumbles, “There’s no convincing you that I don’t need anything is there?”

Grinning, Maes replies, “Nope.”

Her only reply is to glare before sullenly gazing out the window.

They arrive at Central Command a short time later. It takes Maes a few minutes to untie the wheelchair and get Kisa settled in it before guiding it to the lift for the long ride to the main floor. He always felt the design was ridiculous, but understood after the homunculi and their plans were revealed. They felt superior and this fortress towering over the city was a testament to that arrogance.

After a long ride to the top Maes wheels Kisa through the hallways. She avoids eye contact with anyone they pass as much as possible, trying hard not to attract attention.

“Look, Kisa, you can see the spires of the National Library from here,” he declares, pointing out the windows to their left.

She automatically looks up and unintentionally meets the gaze of a couple of soldiers walking by as they finish saluting Maes. After they pass, she looks over her shoulder to glare at him. He merely smirks back, confirming he’s doing it on purpose when she’s trying hard to appear as inconspicuous as possible. To her immense relief they soon arrive at the medical wing.

Within minutes of checking in, a nurse ushers them into an exam room to wait for Dr. Knox.

“Good morning, General Hughes, Kisa,” the young brunet greets them a short while later as he steps into the room.

“Good morning, Dr. Knox,” Maes greets back.

“Good morning,” Kisa echoes.

“How are you feeling today, Kisa?” Knox smiles while stepping over to start gently unwrapping the bandage around her head.

“Good. My head doesn’t hurt anymore. It also doesn’t hurt as much to breathe. My leg doesn’t hurt as much, but my shoulder is still sore,” she answers while he carefully examines her eye.

He hums his approval and continues bombarding her with questions while examining each of her injuries. He takes his time checking her range of movement and for any signs of pain. Taking a penlight, he checks her pupils and tests her memory with several questions. After finishing the exam he settles on a nearby stool facing the two of them.

“Well, Kisa, I must say I’m pleased with your progress. I thought your healing would be severely affected by your history of prolonged malnutrition. You’re not healing as fast as you normally would if you were healthier, but all things considered you’re doing well. You don’t appear to be suffering from any lasting damage from the concussion. Continued rest will clear that up completely.”

Reaching over to a side table near him, he grabs a chart and scribbles down a few notes before continuing.

“The healing of both dislocations would’ve taken longer if the bones of your joints had sustained fractures or the muscles and ligaments were damaged, but since that wasn’t the case they’re progressing as well as can be expected. You can probably start your physical therapy today, assuming your tour at the lab this afternoon doesn’t take too long.”

“That’s good to hear, doctor,” Maes nods. “Do you think you’re up for it?” he asks Kisa.

Shrugging one shoulder she says, “Probably. I’d like to start as soon as possible.”

Knox smiles.

“Before I let you two go, I want you to talk to our dietician and then Dr. Gaines, our orthopedic surgeon.”

“Sounds good. My wife had consulted our family doctor over the phone for advice, but it’d be great to talk to a dietician,” Maes explains.

“I’ll be back in a minute then,” Knox nods as he rises from his seat and exits the room.

It isn’t long before the doctor returns with the dietician. While the man spends several minutes going over the things Kisa will need to focus on regarding her diet, Dr. Knox re-bandages her head. There are very few changes since she’s already off to a good start, focusing on the right kind of foods. When the dietician leaves, Dr. Knox summons Dr. Gaines.

“Kisa, this is…” Knox begins introducing the other doctor who promptly sits on the stool and reaches for Kisa’s left hand. “Dr. Gaines,” he finishes in amusement.

“You’re just as bad as your father, wasting more time running your jaw than getting down to business,” the old doctor grouses as he carefully examines what’s left of her severed knuckles.

“I wouldn’t call his father talkative,” Maes comments, arching a brow. Judging by Gaines’ white hair and craggy features, he guesses the old doctor to be in his sixties.

“Pfft,” Gaines snorts while testing the range of motion of her index and thumb. “For a man whose patients are mostly dead, his mouth runs marathons. He spends more time bitching and grousing than my wife.”

“And we all know what a great expert you are, you cranky old fart,” Knox retorts, rolling his eyes from his position right behind Gaines.

“Shut up and let a real doctor do his job,” Gaines snaps over his shoulder before gruffly asking Kisa, “What happened to your fingers?”

She hesitates, shifting uncomfortably under the heavy gazes of all three men. Her eyes drop to her hand nestled within Dr. Gaines’ hands.

“They were cut off,” she answers softly.

“I’m going to need more details,” Gaines prods, eyeing her while pressing his fingertips along the length of her forearm.

Nodding, Kisa takes a deep breath, keenly aware Maes is watching her.

“They were cut off by dull scissors over a year and a half ago.”

“Doesn’t look like the wound was sutured,” Gaines casually observes. “What was done to stop the bleeding?”

“It was cauterized with a cigar,” she quietly admits.

Gaines mutters a curse under his breath.

“That sure as hell has to be one of the worst things to use to stop a bleeding wound.”

“I didn’t choose to do that. The ones who cut them off did then treated it with some ointment and wrapped it in rags.”

Gaines’ eyes flick up to her face, but she’s unable to hold his gaze.

“Looks like it got infected pretty good a couple of times.”

“Ever since I lost them, my hand keeps getting infected,” she explains. “Sometimes the swelling gets so bad my entire arm swelled past my elbow.”

“Sounds like it happened more than once,” he murmurs thoughtfully while turning her hand over. He glances up in time to see her nod.

Finally releasing her hand, Gaines straightens up with a heavy sigh.

“I’m not going to lie. The infections caused a lot of damage to your circulation and nerves and chances are real good you’re going to lose your hand and maybe part of your arm. Right now there isn’t any sign of infection, which is good.”

Crossing his arms across his chest he continues.

“We’ll have to monitor it closely because it’s obvious you’re prone to them. Improving your diet will strengthen your immune system and might save your hand. But,” he unfolds his arms to hold up a finger to emphasize his point. “Don’t pin your hopes on that. The prospect of avoiding amputation isn’t that good.” He gives Maes and Kisa a minute to absorb the news before continuing. “I’d like to do a follow up in about six months.”

“I was able to sneak you in for a look on Hakuro’s dime this time, but we can’t justify it for next time since she’s neither military personnel or a civilian employee,” Dr. Knox frowns.

“Like I care,” Gaines huffs. “Even if Gruman himself comes to bitch me out I’ll tell him exactly where to stick it. This young lady is my first patient in a long time injured by torture and I can help her. No other doctor will have my experience.” He turns and pins Maes with his gaze, “Bring her in for that follow up.”

“We can do that,” Maes nods.

“Good,” Gaines replies. “Unlike Knox, I’ve got work to do. I’ll see you both in six months.”

“Thank you, doctor,” Maes replies while Gaines disappears from the room with a dismissive wave.

Knox smiles reassuringly at Kisa who is unable to hold his gaze. Sighing softly, he focuses on Maes.

“Let’s schedule her for next week to get those stitches removed.” At Maes nod, he continues. “Her over all prognoses is good. She should continue resting and not overdue it.”

Glancing briefly at Kisa, who remains quiet, Maes replies, “Thank you, doctor.”

Knox leaves the exam room as Maes steps behind Kisa’s chair and wheels her out into the hallway. He glances up at a clock hanging above the nurse’s station as they pass.

“Looks like we’ve got nearly an hour before lunch and two hours until your physical therapy appointment. We’ve got a lot of time to kill. You think you might be up for meeting my staff? Denny and Maria have been asking about you.”

“That’s fine,” Kisa quietly murmurs, barely loud enough for him to hear.

Frowning at her subdued tone, he adds, “Or we could see if Roy is busy and bug him since you haven’t met him.”

“That’s fine too.”

Sighing in frustration, Maes stops in the deserted hallway and steps around to drop to one knee in front of her.

“What’s wrong?”

Kisa shakes her head and looks out a nearby window.


She closes her eyes briefly then reluctantly meets his concerned gaze before looking down at her lap.

“It’s not that I don’t want to meet your colleagues. I feel up to it,” she tries explaining.

Maes watches her inwardly struggle with her words.

“You’re thinking about your hand.”

Still downcast she nods slowly.

“I’m not surprised I could lose it and maybe part of my arm. When it gets infected it hurts and takes a long time to go away. I’ve been worried it could get bad enough to kill me. It’s happened to others. I just don’t want to lose what’s left of my hand.” Sighing heavily she raises her eyes to finally meet his. “I accept there’s a good chance it’ll happen, but it’s still upsetting.”

Without a word Maes wraps his arms around her and holds her. After a few minutes he pulls away.

“You’re not alone in this,” he reminds her, holding her gaze. “We’ll have to wait and see what happens and confront it together.”

Taking a deep breath, Kisa manages a soft smile and nods.

He studies her for a moment before declaring, “We’ll go bug Roy.”

Kisa blinks in surprise as he gets up and starts pushing her again.

“What if he’s busy? Isn’t he a general too?”

“Don’t worry about it,” he assures her airily. “Roy is too driven and focused for his own good. It’s my job as his friend to get him to lighten up since he hasn’t found a good woman to settle down and get married with. Besides, Colonel Hawkeye has been asking about you as well. I could take you to my office, but I just remembered Lt. Col. Armstrong is in today. He’s a really nice guy, but if we run into him now we’ll miss lunch and probably end up late for your appointment.”

“Is he really that bad?” Kisa cocks her head slightly.

“You have no idea,” Maes mutters. “Remember what I told you about Armstrong. He’s really ebullient and exuberant to the point of scaring people.”

Incredulous, she twists to look over her shoulder.

“How can that scare people?”

Maes stops the chair again to come around and stand in front of her. Leaning down, he braces himself on the armrests to bore into her eyes.

“Armstrong is a physically intimidating man and is as big as the major who hit you, but he’s not scary because of his stature, nor is he mean. His nature is far too kind and gentle. No, he scares people with his powerful emotional outbursts and verbal declarations.”

“He can’t that bad,” she eyes him skeptically.

“Yes, he is,” Maes grins. “Obviously it’s something you have to see for yourself.” Straightening up he resumes pushing her again. “I asked Armstrong to tone it down when you finally meet him. However, I doubt he can help himself. So we’ll simply wait on meeting the rest of my staff until after your appointment. That way if he’s too much we can head straight home. We can go shopping tomorrow; maybe take Gracia and Elicia along. I just wanted to make you aware of how Armstrong is so you won’t be so scared.”

“You’re scaring me a little by telling me all this,” she mutters causing Maes to chuckle. “If he’s merely a bit over emotional then meeting him probably won’t be so bad.”

“Good to see you being positive about it,” he quips.

“I’m trying to be when you’re bound and determined to terrify me before I’ve even met the man,” she huffs irritably.

He chuckles again, causing a shiver to run up her spine.

Leaning over he states softly in her ear, “The reality is I work alongside a bunch of nut jobs.” Straightening up he loftily adds, “There’s no such thing as normal in the military.”

“You’re not exactly inspiring much confidence.” Eyeing him over her shoulder. “If you work with a bunch of crazies, as you claim, how is it that the nation is even functioning?”

Laughing outright, Maes calms enough after a few moments.

“Considering everything I’ve told you, don’t you think that crazies are needed to run this country?”

She considers it before conceding, “Good point.”

Minutes later they enter the outer office of Mustang’s section. Pausing just inside the doorway, Maes notes everyone is too engrossed in their work to notice them and muses Roy must’ve procrastinated until the last minute again and his people are hustling to meet a deadline. He begins pushing Kisa towards Roy’s office when Breda calls out a greeting.

“Hey, general!”

He stops with Kisa as the robust man approaches, his smile dropping into a dumbstruck look as he gapes at Kisa.

“Morning, Breda, this is…” Maes starts introducing her.

“What happened, chief?” Breda interrupts. “This is the most beat up you’ve been in a long time.”

Kisa looks at him blankly, wondering why he’s calling her ‘chief’. Maes is stunned speechless then kicks himself mentally for dropping the ball on telling anyone besides Roy about her.

“Breda you’ve got…” he tries to explain when Falman appears before them, leaning down to get a closer look at the still visible bruising around her eye.

“When did you get back into Amestris?” he asks her. “I understood you’d still be studying alchemy in the West.”

Realizing they’ve confused her with Ed, Kisa opens her mouth to correct both men when she hears Maes begin saying, “Guys, she isn’t…”

“Ed is supposed to be returning around this time. Give or take a couple of weeks,” Fuery points out, cutting Maes off.

Breda lets out a low whistle.

“Who’d you piss off, chief?”

Maes jumps in, “She isn’t Ed.”

All three men simultaneously snap their surprised gazes to Maes before slowly tracking down to look at Kisa again. Shifting uncomfortably under their stupefied stares, she finds it creepy how in sync they are.

“Fellas, this is Kisa Namikaze who arrived from Azambra last week and is moving in with my family,” Maes introduces her, amusement coloring his voice. Pointing at each man in turn, he informs Kisa, “This is Heymans Breda, Vato Falman and Kain Fuery. They are Roy’s staff.”

“It is my honor,” she greets them properly.

Gingerly easing both hands into the prayer position at her chest and bowing slightly. Her arm is still very sore, but she’s grateful she can bow without much pain. The stunned silence stretches out as the three men continue gaping at her. Glancing over her shoulder at Maes, he shrugs.

“What’s wrong?” he asks them. “Kisa happens to look like Ed, but it can’t be that shocking.”

Three gazes snap up to Maes again to incredulously stare in perfect unison.

“Knock it off and get back to work,” Riza’s voice orders.

Fuery and Falman jump as if shocked and scurry back to their desks. Glaring, Breda places his hands on his hips.

“It’s the damnedest thing I’ve ever seen, colonel. Never did I think the Fullmetal boss had a doppelganger, much less that it’s a girl. It’s a bit much to take in,” he huffs. He gestures at Kisa’s glower. “See? Right there she looks just like the chief!”

Riza continues eyeing him indifferently as Fuery states, “It’s said everyone has a doppelganger in the world.”

“‘Double’ is the correct term,” Falman helpfully corrects. “Doppelganger’s are ghostly apparitions that are harbingers of bad news or death. If a person sees their own doppelganger, it is a foretelling of their own death. If someone else sees the doppelganger, it is merely foretelling bad news or an event.”

Everyone stares at Falman before Fuery cocks his head thoughtfully.

“But she’s not an apparition and certainly not Ed’s double or she’d be a boy,” he muses.

“I’m still in the room!” Kisa snaps in annoyance, drawing all attention to her. “It’s rude to talk about someone like they’re not there! I can’t help I look like Edward Elric, but it’s disrespectful not to properly greet me after I greeted you. The military personnel of any country are supposed to be of higher standing than the average citizen, but your behavior does not reflect well on that perception or your superiors, especially when you’re ignoring your respective duties to behave so boorishly.”

She continues glaring daggers at the men who visibly cringe.

“S-sorry about that,” Breda stammers out. “I just remembered the paperwork I’m working on has to be delivered soon,” he declares before promptly returning to his desk and intensely scrutinizing his work.

“And I’ve got to run out to the supply room for a radio fuse in a little bit too,” Fuery mutters, huddling over his file.

Having already returned to his desk, Falman merely hunches further over his work.

Maes leans forward to see Kisa’s surly expression. Grinning, he looks at Riza now standing next to them.

“If I didn’t know better I’d think she took lessons from you,” he teases.

Riza’s only answer is a smirk.

“If she took lessons, she’d be firing at them,” Roy’s voice cuts in.

“True,” Maes laughs before calming to introduce Kisa to him. “Kisa, this is one of the people I’ve been telling you about, Roy Mustang.”

“It is my honor,” Kisa formally greets him, repeating her bow.

“It’s nice to meet you as well,” Roy replies, inclining his head.

She then turns to Riza, “It’s nice to see you again, Colonel Hawkeye.”

“It’s nice to see you too, Kisa,” Riza replies. “Glad to see you’re feeling better.”

“I am, thank you.” Focusing back on Roy, she studies him for a moment. “You were in the room when the Fuhrer summoned me the other day.”

Roy arches a brow.

“You barely spared a glance at anyone and I was standing among several people.”

“A lot can be seen from a glance if a person is paying attention.” At his intense gaze she blushes slightly before admitting, “I’m good at getting a lot of detail from a glance.”

“Is that because of your training as an informant?” he asks curiously.

Sucking in a sharp breath, Kisa stiffens as her gaze drops to the floor. Her head tilts subtly so she can glance through her peripheral vision to see if anyone else heard. She then feels Maes’ hand on her shoulder.

“It’s okay,” he quietly reassures her. “I told Roy everything and you’re among trusted friends. They won’t say anything.”

Kisa solemnly meets his gaze before looking back at Roy and Riza.

“It’s not something I’d like to get around,” she quietly and reluctantly admits. “I don’t deny what I’ve done and, yes, that is where I learned to do that. However, it’d be very bad for me if that got out.”

“What do you mean?” Riza frowns.

Kisa takes a deep breath.

“Among Azambrans, informants are viewed as the worst criminals. It’s a death sentence.”

“Informants weren’t given a choice,” Maes protests.

“It didn’t matter,” she shakes her head. “More than once at the camps word got out that certain people were informants. Within a day they disappeared and their pieces were scattered across the slums.” More quietly she adds, “And I do mean pieces as in parts were difficult to identify.” Her gold eyes drop to her lap again. “I’m being a bit of a coward, but I really don’t want to learn first hand what would happen before I disappear from the world. Azambrans have far too many examples to draw upon for inspiration to make the experience as painful as possible.”

“We’re not judges, but that information won’t leave this room,” Roy states.

Relieved, Kisa sighs, closing her eyes briefly. Roy glances at his subordinates who all nod solemnly before focusing back on their work.

Opening her eyes, Kisa smiles softly.

“Thank you.”

Nodding, Roy turns to Maes.

“Isn’t today supposed to be your day off? Why are you coming around to harass my people?”

“It is,” Maes grins. “But I had to bring Kisa for her follow up. We just finished with Dr. Knox and have some time to kill, so I wanted see if you and Riza would like to join us for lunch.”

Roy looks over at Riza who promptly states, “You don’t have anything scheduled.”

“Great! You two can join us. I’ve got some pictures of Elicia and Gracia to show Roy,” Maes happily announces.

Kisa watches in confusion as Roy growls at Maes now waving several photos in his face. Riza sighs wearily and steps behind her chair and starts rolling her out, not even bothering to see if they were following.

“That’s normal. It’s best to just ignore them,” she explains to the teen.

“Oh. Maybe it’s because Kyo and I enjoyed it when uncle Maes showed us his family pictures that I’m confused at General Mustang’s reaction.”

“Since you’ve been adopted as part of Maes’ family you don’t have to be so formal in addressing Roy or I,” Riza gently corrects. “Treat us as you would any family friend and call us by our first names.”

“Alright,” Kisa reluctantly agrees. “It just seems rude since we just met, but I understand why.”

“You’ll get used to it. So Maes showing you and your brother his family photos didn’t annoy you?” Riza asks in curiosity.

Kisa glances over her shoulder and smiles.

“It wasn’t like we had anything else to do. Besides, all our nieces and nephews were dead when we met uncle, so it was nice hearing about Elicia. We bombarded him with stories and pictures too.”

Riza laughs quietly.

“Well, that’s not something you see everyday,” Roy’s voice cuts in.

“Indeed,” Maes agrees from behind the two ladies. “Riza must really like Kisa if she’s allowing herself to laugh in public.”

Without turning around, Riza succinctly states, “I’m usually too busy getting the general to complete his duties on time that I don’t have the energy left to laugh.”

“Ouch,” Kisa mutters as Maes sniggers.

“And General Hughes doesn’t help with his daily disruptions with family picture time,” she continues. “As cute as Elicia is, I’m starting to think he orchestrated that ritual as a means to help the general delay his work.”

“Hey!” Maes protests while Roy takes his turn smirking.

“Uncle’s whipped,” Kisa quips, causing Riza to chuckle.

“You’d do well to watch what you say,” Maes crisply retorts. “I know where you live.”

“Idle threats won’t work,” Kisa drolly replies. “You may be the commander, but I’ve got the support of the troops. You’re forgetting Aunt Gracia and Elicia like me.”

“I’ve been usurped in my own home,” Maes petulantly grouses.

“No, the ladies merely teamed up right under our noses,” Roy drolly points out. “It simply means it’s going to hell for us from now on.”

“No kidding,” Maes grins as they arrive at the mess hall. Turning to Riza, he suggests, “Why don’t you take Kisa on ahead to the line while Roy and I claim a table.”

Riza nods and pushes Kisa across the room while Roy and Maes settle at an empty table on the outer row.

“Kisa isn’t as tense as I’d imagine she’d be returning to Central Command considering what happened last time,” Roy muses, glancing over to Riza progressing through the line.

“She definitely had her reservations. She’s still tense, but that’s understandable since she’s surrounded by military personnel. She obviously feels comfortable around you and Riza with all the talking and teasing she’s doing,” Maes muses.

“She’s certainly similar to Fullmetal in terms of the resilience she demonstrates.”

“No kidding,” Maes agrees. “She’s sometimes so similar to Ed it’s scary. I’m seeing that more now that we’re not looking over our shoulders or fearing every strange noise like we did in Azambra.”

Riza arrives at that moment, giving Roy and Maes the chance to take their place in the food line. She rolls Kisa up to the open end of the table before removing the tray from the girl’s grasp and sets the food on the table. Settling onto the bench to Kisa’s right, the two chat until the two generals to return with their own food. Maes sits to Kisa’s left while Roy settles on the bench next to Riza.

Kisa mostly listens as the others talk, deciding to simply enjoy their company until Riza asks, “How did your appointment with Dr. Knox go?”

Swallowing her food, she wipes her mouth before answering.

“He’s pleased with my healing. He thought it’d be slowed because I’d been starving for so long. He also brought in a dietician who advised me on my diet who said we’ve been doing everything right so far. After that he brought in Dr. Gaines, an orthopedic doctor. He examined my hand because of my missing fingers.”

When she doesn’t share what Gaines said about her fingers and looks uncomfortable, Roy observes, “Dr. Gaines must not have had anything good to say about your hand.”

“Chances are good she’s going to lose her hand and possibly part of her arm,” Maes explains for her.

Roy and Riza stare at him in shock and steal subtle glances at Kisa who is eating slowly, refusing to look up at anyone.

“She suffers from chronic infections that affected her circulation and damaged her nerves,” Maes continues. “Gaines said an improved diet should boost her immune system and might save her hand, but isn’t optimistic about it.”

“The war is over and you left your country behind, but you’re still dealing with the consequences,” Roy muses.

Meeting his gaze, Kisa silently nods in agreement.

“Maybe you should consider getting an automail arm,” Riza suggests.

Kisa looks confused before hesitantly asking, “What’s automail?”

All three adults gape at her.

“Didn’t you tell her about automail if she loses her hand?” Riza asks Maes.

“I didn’t want to overwhelm her with information, not when there’s a chance she won’t lose her hand,” he indignantly huffs. At Roy’s arched brow he sullenly adds, “Fine. I forgot, okay?”

Riza shakes her head before turning to Kisa who’s smiling softly at Maes. She briefly explains to the teen what she knows about automail. When she finishes, Kisa absorbs the information.

“There’s a lot I’ve got to learn. First alchemy and now automail,” she muses thoughtfully.

“You’re interested in alchemy?” Roy looks at her curiously.

“Not really,” Kisa admits, causing him to arch a brow.

“I told her about the failed coup, all of it, and there are certain questions I couldn’t answer about alchemy,” Maes explains.

Nodding in understanding, Roy turns back to Kisa.

“I’m an alchemist and can answer your questions.”

“Good,” she replies. “I know a little bit, but there’s a lot I don’t understand. I’ll ask later when we’re not in such a public place, if that’s all right.”

“Alchemy is common knowledge,” Riza frowns in confusion. “You can even go to the library and find many books on it.”

“Unless it involves specific research and techniques developed by an alchemist there’s no need for secrecy,” Maes adds.

Kisa holds his gaze, choosing her words carefully.

“There are things that shouldn’t be discussed in public. Might be offensive if overheard by the wrong person.”

At Maes’ arched brow he watches as her gaze doesn’t waver from his, but she casually flips her fork like she’s playing with it, pointing the tines off to her left side. Out of his peripheral he sees Roy surreptitiously glance in the direction Kisa indicated as Riza nods, subtly confirming someone is eavesdropping at the next table.

“It’s not something we have time for right now since lunch is almost over,” Roy nonchalantly states.

“Especially when we have a deadline to meet thanks to your procrastination,” Riza retorts, earning a glare from Roy.

Maes laughs at Roy and Kisa smiles. The four finish eating and clean up before gathering outside the mess hall several minutes later.

“Why don’t you two stop by the office after Kisa’s appointment so she can ask Roy her questions regarding alchemy,” Riza suggests.

“It depends because I want to introduce Kisa to my staff,” Maes replies.

“Apparently meeting Lt. Col. Armstrong might be too much for me,” Kisa comments. She frowns at Roy’s flinch and Riza’s inscrutable expression. Looking over her shoulder at Maes standing behind her, she states, “I’m not sure I want to meet this man.”

“Probably not,” Riza replies.

“Although you’re not likely to avoid it,” Roy adds. “Armstrong would seek you out at home and that’d be much worse.”

“This way is better,” Maes assures her. “We can use the excuse you’re too tired to make our escape. It’s easier once Armstrong gets going. Worse case scenario is I throw Denny and Maria at him as a distraction.”

Kisa shakes her head as Roy and Riza chuckle.

“I can answer your questions regarding alchemy later when it’s more convenient,” Roy informs Kisa.

“Thank you,” Kisa smiles shyly and bows to both him and Riza. “I enjoyed having lunch with you both.”

“We did as well,” Roy nods back.

“And on that note, we’ll see you two later,” Maes waves with one hand while wheeling her off in the opposite direction.

Riza and Roy wave before turning to walk back toward the office.

“I’m surprised Kisa noticed the eavesdropper,” Riza comments.

“Makes sense considering the training she had to undergo,” Roy reasons. “Living over five years under an oppressive rule where saying the wrong thing could get you and your entire family killed probably made her hyperaware.”

“Still, I thought being far from the horrors she grew up with would’ve made her comfortable and complacent already. Besides, most girls her age aren’t sharp enough to catch on to something so subtle.”

Roy glowers, grumbling, “Because most girls are too busy trying to land a cute boyfriend.”

Riza smirks knowingly.

“You’re only grousing because of those girls who kept squealing and swooning over you during that last school tour. Not all teenage girls are like that. Winry wasn’t at that age.”

“Apparently Winry was the exception. That tour wasn’t the only time that happened,” he points out irritably.

“You’re reading too much into the other times,” she drolly retorts. “You’re over inflating your desirability to hormonal teenage girls.”

Roy glares at the colonel who continues walking unaffected.

“If that were the case I’d be claiming Kisa is guilty of the same thing.”

“If she is, she’s playing her cards close to the vest,” Riza coolly replies. “Seems to have a natural talent for surveillance. No wonder she was recruited as an informant.”

“Bristol is smart to try recruiting her.” Quietly he adds, “We’re going to have to help keep an eye on her. If word gets around regarding her talents she’ll attract the wrong attention.”

“What do you mean?” Riza eyes him in confusion.

“Secret Intelligence would love to forcibly recruit someone like her.”

She sucks in a breath.

“She’s already a pretty girl, so they’d probably use her for seductions.”

“That’s not ignoring the fact there are plenty of other idiots like Hakuro. As it is, that was one of Hakuro’s men attempting to eavesdrop.”

“Hakuro thinks he can get around the Fuhrer’s orders.”

“Indeed,” Roy agrees. “I want everything you can dig up on that lieutenant. Taking the pawn out of the game will remind Hakuro that we’re still very much onto him.”

“Aye,” Riza acknowledges. “After we meet today’s deadline.”

She pointedly ignores his glare as they walk into the office.

Maes and Kisa arrive early to the physical therapy lab. The receptionist hands them several forms to fill out while they wait for the therapists to return from lunch. The opening of the door attracts Maes’ attention and he’s surprised to see Havoc wheeled in by Breda.

“Well, I didn’t expect to see you in here today,” Maes grins at them.

“It’s Havoc’s monthly PT appointment,” Breda explains, his surprised expression melting off his face.

He positions Havoc’s chair in front of where Maes sat with Kisa and then stands next to it.

“Yo, Hughes,” Havoc waves in greeting as his gaze drifts over to Kisa. “Hey, chief! I thought you’d still be out West for a couple more weeks. What happened to get you so beat up and end up in here?”

“Um, she isn’t the chief,” Breda points out.

“What?” Havoc frowns in confusion.

“I’d like you to meet the newest addition to my family, Kisa Namikaze. She recently moved here from Azambra.” Maes grins at an utterly baffled Havoc before turning to Kisa. “Kisa, this Jean Havoc, another of Roy’s minions.”

“It’s my honor,” Kisa greets Havoc with a bow.

“Wait a sec, is this a joke?” Havoc manages after awkwardly gaping at her for a few moments.

“Since when did the chief wear skirts?” Breda rolls his eyes.

“You might’ve saved yourself some trouble earlier had you noticed ‘Ed’ was wearing a skirt,” Maes chuckles.

Breda can’t help chuckling in embarrassment as Havoc’s eyes drop to Kisa’s legs.

“You don’t have an automail leg like the chief,” he observes. “You’ve got nicer legs, in fact.”

Blushing slightly, Kisa mumbles, “Thanks. I think.” Turning to a still chuckling Maes, she glares in weary annoyance. “Didn’t you tell anyone about me?”

Rubbing the back of his head, he grins at her in embarrassment.

“Sorry about that. I told Roy, Gracia and Elicia about you, but things were so busy I didn’t have the chance to tell anyone else.”

“I understand,” she wearily nods. “But I’m getting tired of people mistaking me for Edward Elric. Maybe I should stitch a disclaimer across my blouses from now on.”

The three men laugh before Breda quips, “It might’ve been helpful when you were in the office earlier.” Becoming more serious, he adds, “I’m sorry for my reaction, but I honestly thought you were the chief.”

“I understand,” she replies, smiling in reassurance.

Havoc shakes his head, muttering, “The resemblance is uncanny. How did you get injured?”

Kisa reluctantly tells them how Hakuro thought she was a spy hiding among the other refugees and had her arrested.

“That was you?” Breda incredulously asks when she finishes. At her nod he explains, “I heard about Hakuro ending up in deep shit because he had someone falsely arrested.”

“Watch your language,” Havoc admonishes Breda. “You’re in the presence of a lady.”

Kisa blinks before blushing.

“It’s nothing. I’m used to that language by now.”

“We’re gentleman and should behave better in front of a lady,” the blond explains before winking at her.

Maes and Breda gape at Havoc in disbelief. Their eyes meet and they exchange a look before rolling their eyes. Breda reaches out and flicks the back of Havoc’s head.

“Word is that Hakuro is claiming he was set up,” he explains, ignoring Havoc’s irritated glare. “That he’s being railroaded in an attempt to sully his reputation and possibly get him demoted. He’s suggesting it’s an attempt to cover up another power play by Mustang.”

“Does Roy know?” Maes’ expression darkens.

Breda shakes his head.

“I just overheard this at lunch. Gossip calmed down since word of Hakuro getting busted a week ago. No one knew much so speculation died out quickly. The newest rumors must’ve been triggered by your appearance today.”

Maes groans as he rubs a hand across his face under his glasses. Kisa’s gaze drops to the floor.

“I’m sorry for causing so much trouble, uncle.”

Maes drops his hand to glare at her, but Breda replies to her instead.

“Why are you apologizing?” he frowns. “Hakuro had it out for Mustang for years and tries to make him look bad at every opportunity.”

“Yeah,” Havoc snorts. “Hakuro had his panties in a twist since the chief and Al saved his ass during a train hijacking.”

Breda smacks Havoc on the back of the head, snapping, “You’re the one going on about watching the language!”

Kisa appears confused, repeating under her breath, “Panties in a twist?”

“Are you staying?” Maes asks Breda.

“I always stay for Havoc’s PT.”

“Good,” Maes nods. “Would you please keep an eye on Kisa? If Hakuro knows she’s here he might try pulling another stunt.”

“Sure,” Breda agrees.

“Where are you going?” Havoc asks as Maes rises to his feet.

“I’m going to compare notes with Roy. We can’t afford to delay.” Resting a hand on Kisa’s shoulder he hands her the completed paperwork. “None of this is your fault. Unfortunately, political power plays are a way of life among the higher ranks. You did nothing to get involved and shouldn’t feel guilty. Give those papers to the physical therapist and stay with Havoc and Breda until I get back.”

“My shoulder is still healing and I can’t walk on my own. How would I wander off?” Kisa gives him a flat look.

Maes laughs as Breda and Havoc chuckle.

“I’ll be right back,” he grins as he departs.

Kisa sighs heavily as she watches him leave.

“Don’t worry about it,” Havoc states, attracting her attention. “It really is business as usual around here.”

“So how did you meet Hughes and end up all the way in Amestris?” Breda asks, changing the subject.

Now knowing that Maes trusts them, she spends the next few minutes briefly telling them about how they met and how she and Kyo helped him escape to Amestris.

“When Azambra was liberated, and since my family was dead, I decided to accept Uncle Maes’ offer of sponsorship and immigrate, which is how I ended up here,” she finishes her tale.

“Wow, that’s some story,” Havoc mutters in amazement.

Two men enter the room from another door and approach, interrupting their conversation.

“Hey, Havoc!” a stocky, dark-skinned man with black hair pats Havoc on the back. “Nice to see you again.”

“Hey, Herb,” Havoc greets back, shaking his hand. “You know me, got to get these legs going again.”

“Well, let’s see how you’re progressing then,” Herb replies, stepping behind Havoc’s chair and wheeling him to the other side of the room.

The remaining man smiles at Kisa and holds out his hand.

“You must be Kisa, I’m David and I’m going to see what I can do to help you get back on your feet.”

Returning his smile, Kisa shakes David’s hand before greeting him traditionally.

“It’s my honor and thank you for helping me.

“Let’s start with a tour and I’ll explain what our goals for you are, then we’ll go from there,” David states as he steps behind her chair and wheels her away from Breda.

Leaning against a wall with his arms crossed, Breda gets lost in thought. He puzzles over why Hughes was in Azambra in the first place; eventually conceding he’ll have to bug Mustang to find out. It doesn’t take a genius to realize Kisa played a major part in saving Hughes’ ass despite her downplaying her role and it explains Hughes’ attachment to her. Yeah, Hughes has a soft spot for kids, girls in particular, but this is more than casual affection. He wouldn’t be that devoted to someone outside his family unless the bond was born out of a significant event.

Breda watches in disinterest as Havoc walks the length of the parallel bars. Noting his friend is walking much better he makes a mental note to warn Havoc off on trying to date Kisa. He knows he’s not the only one who saw the smoke from gears spinning furiously in the blond’s head. The chief isn’t a bad looking kid. As Ed’s female version, Kisa is understandably pretty and attractive to Havoc. He isn’t picky about age either. She has to be around sixteen, legal, but still almost ten years younger than him.

Sighing heavily, Breda figures Havoc will lose interest quickly. They don’t have much in common and it wouldn’t be fair to her if Havoc dumped her out of boredom. And if Havoc broke her heart, Hughes will likely confine him to a wheelchair again because of the two broken legs he’ll give him.

Gazing across the room, Breda notices the therapist has moved from testing Kisa’s range of motion with her arm to testing the ability of her leg to bear weight by standing. He wonders why Hakuro would risk defying the Fuhrer’s orders. It’s obvious Hakuro is trying to rally support and drum up sympathy while sullying Mustang’s reputation, probably trying to make it look like Mustang is manipulating Hughes.

Kisa finishes her therapy before Havoc’s. David wheeled her back over to Breda who listens while the therapist instructs her on what she’ll have to do at home. When David leaves, he turns to her.

“If it’s okay, I’d prefer if we stay until Havoc is done with his session. It shouldn’t be much longer.”

“Certainly,” Kisa replies.

She sits quietly and watches as Herb sets Havoc up with crutches. Breda shamelessly takes this chance to observe her. It doesn’t take long to realize that her similarities to the chief seem to end with their appearance. He also finds it refreshing she isn’t the talkative type. She’s a keen observer, her eyes taking in every detail and clearly doesn’t like having a lot of attention focused on her, preferring to be unobtrusive. He muses he’d probably be the same way if he had to survive Azambra. Like everyone else, he has been following the news reports coming out daily.

Glancing over, Breda smirks when he notices she dozed off with her chin propped up on her left hand and her elbow carefully perched on the arm of the chair.

His gaze drifts back over to Havoc. The blond’s session is taking longer than usual. He’s doing pretty good maneuvering through the obstacle course they set up of stationary objects and stairs. He did so well Herb sets him up with a pair of crutches with instructions to start working with them a little every day.

Havoc is grinning like a maniac when he wheels himself over to Breda and Kisa. By this point Kisa is awake, having been startled by another patient noisily entering the physical therapy lab minutes earlier.

“Nice job, Havoc,” Breda congratulates. “You’re getting back on your feet a lot sooner than later.”

“It’s a lot easier to do things standing than sitting,” Havoc grins.

Breda glances over at the clock hanging above the reception desk. Looking back at Kisa, he asks, “Do you mind going with us to the mess hall? It’s closer than Mustang’s office.”

“We’re meeting my mother for tea,” Havoc explains. “Why don’t you join us?” he eagerly asks. “Hughes can meet us there.”

“I’d like that,” Kisa shyly agrees.

With a nod, Breda steps over to the reception desk, informing David, who is presently sitting behind it.

“Tell General Hughes if he comes back here to meet us in the mess.”

“Sure thing,” David replies.

Breda gets behind Kisa’s chair and rolls her out of physical therapy. Havoc wheels himself out. Maneuvering alongside the pair, he flirts with Kisa and shows off by occasionally popping wheelies.

“Be careful, you might fall backwards,” Kisa warns.

“Nah, I’m a pro at this,” Havoc brags.

“I’ll laugh my ass off first before bothering to help you back into the chair,” Breda snorts.

Havoc snorts back. On his next wheelie he tilts too far and gracelessly hits the floor in an awkward heap. As promised, Breda busts up laughing.

“Are you okay?” Kisa asks, struggling very hard to keep the amusement out of her voice.

Having rolled onto his stomach, Havoc glares at his laughing friend.

“I’m fine,” he mutters then hammers his fist down hard on Breda’s foot.

Breda yelps and curses under his breath before glaring down at a smug looking Havoc. Righting the chair, the husky man grudgingly helps his friend back into it. Once the blond is settled, Breda none too gently smacks him on the back of the head.

“You’re the idiot for not heeding the warnings to be careful, Mr. ‘I’m a pro’!” he snaps.

Rubbing the back of his head, Havoc glares at Breda before winking at a still amused Kisa before they continue toward the mess.

Maes really didn’t expect his impromptu meeting with Roy to take so long. However, he didn’t think he’d end up helping Roy with his paperwork either so they could talk. It was his compromise with Riza so they’d meet their deadline. He will get Roy back for this, but went along with it in order to discuss the rumors Breda overheard.

“I’m not surprised,” Roy mutters when Maes finished outlining everything. “Hakuro is trying to rally the rank and file to his side since the Fuhrer considers the matter closed.”

Handing Roy another document to sign off on, Maes replies, “My only concern is if Hakuro tries to drag Kisa back into the eye of the hurricane.”

Signing off on the document, Roy muses, “We’ll just have to make sure to prepare for Hakuro’s next move.”

When Maes doesn’t hand him another document, Roy looks at him expectantly.

“We’re all done,” he replies, answering the unasked question. Glancing up at the clock, he adds, “And long before your deadline.” Turning to arch a brow at Roy, he comments, “It’d make your life much easier if you did your work sooner rather than later.”

Roy’s only answer is to narrow his eyes dangerously and glare. Grinning at his friend, Maes rises to his feet.

“Well, I better see if Kisa is done with her therapy. Catch you later,” he waves while heading out the door.

Entering the physical therapy department several minutes later, Maes looks around, frowning when he sees no sign of Kisa, Breda or Havoc.

“General Hughes!”

Turning toward the voice, Maes watches a wiry man with light brown hair approach him.

“I’m David, Kisa’s physical therapist,” he introduces himself.

“Nice to meet you,” Maes shakes his hand. “I take it that since I don’t see her, she’s all done?”

“Yes, sir,” David nods. “First Lieutenant Breda left a message that they’d be waiting for you in the mess hall.”

“Good,” he nods his approval. “She’ll be somewhere more comfortable while enjoying some refreshment. Do you have a minute? I’d like to hear how her session went and what her at home instructions are.”

“Certainly, I don’t have anyone else coming in,” David replies. “She’s doing pretty good. If it weren’t for the soreness, she’d probably be mobile. However, all it’d take is one wrong move or lifting something wrong and she’ll re-injure herself. Our goal is to strengthen her joints so that doesn’t happen and she regains mobility. I’ve already gone over the exercises I want her to do twice a day. She just needs to come back on Monday so we can see how she’s doing.”

“I won’t be able to take the day off,” Maes muses. “It’ll have to be in the afternoon.”

“How does two sound?”

“Perfect,” Maes nods. “I better go get her. Thanks for talking to me, David.”

“Anytime,” David waves as Maes disappears out the door.

He heads straight for the mess hall. Stepping inside the main doors, he spies them across the room in a corner. Approaching, he grins when he notices Kisa is struggling to keep a serene countenance, especially with Breda sniggering at Havoc.

“So here I have all the ladies from the auxiliary gathered in our living room and Jean appears dressed in my white slip,” Mrs. Havoc continues telling Kisa.

“Mother, please…” Jean groans, covering his eyes with his hand.

Ignoring her son, she cheerfully continues.

“He had a couple of branches with leaves tucked behind his ears and climbs onto the nearest chair, nearly falling over because he forgot to pull the skirt up. Eventually he managed to get up and started saying, ‘Friends, Romans, countrymen! Lend me your ears! I am the great and mighty Cesar!”

Kisa barely represses a snort of laughter while Breda and Maes bust up laughing. Mrs. Havoc smiles fondly at her son who buries his face in his hands, attempting to hide his flushed face.

When Maes calms a little, Kisa turns to greet him. “Hi, uncle.”

“Nice to see you again, General Hughes,” Mrs. Havoc greets.

“Good to see you as well, Mrs. Havoc,” Maes greets back. “You’re looking well.”

“Thank you,” she smiles. “I’ve been enjoying Kisa’s company and I must say she’s an absolute delight.”

“That’s great to hear,” Maes replies, grinning at Kisa’s embarrassed blush. “I take it you weren’t confused by her looking like Ed?”

“At first I was surprised,” Mrs. Havoc concedes. “But I quickly realized the difference.” Her smile turns mischievous as she adds, “It was her skirt and the fact she looks like Edward that reminded me of a couple of stories where my son dabbled in cross-dressing.”

Havoc glares at his mother through his embarrassed blush.

“Want to join us for more embarrassing stories about Havoc?” Breda snickers.

Maes glances at Kisa, noting how tired she’s looking.

“No thank you. If we don’t stop by my office before heading home I’ll never hear the end of it from my staff.”

“Plus, we don’t want to miss our train, right, mother?” Havoc reminds his mother.

Mrs. Havoc leans in to whisper loudly to Kisa, “I’ll save the rest of the embarrassing stories about my son for the next time.”

“Hey!” Havoc protests while Breda and Maes laugh. Huffing in irritation, he smiles at Kisa. “Hey, don’t let Breda and the other clowns annoy you too much. They lack refinement,” he winks at her.

Breda and Maes both roll their eyes.

“Riiiiiight,” Breda drawls sarcastically. “You’re such an expert, o’ mighty Cesar!”

Both Mrs. Havoc and Maes laugh with Breda at Havoc’s renewed blush, while Kisa struggles valiantly to hold back her laugher and hide her smile behind her hand.

“We better get going,” Maes replies, amusement coloring his voice.

“Thank you for inviting me for tea,” Kisa adds, bowing to Mrs. Havoc.

“I hope to see you again next time, Kisa,” Mrs. Havoc smiles at the teen.

“You two have a safe trip back,” Maes waves before pulling Kisa’s chair away from the table.

“Thank you,” Mrs. Havoc waves back.

“See you next time, Hughes,” Havoc calls back as Breda gives them a short wave.

Maes pushes Kisa toward the exit and down the hallway.

“Do you feel up to meeting my staff?” he asks her moments later.

“I’m tired,” she admits “But I’m up for it.”

“We’ll keep it short and then head home. We’ll leave the shopping for tomorrow.”

“I doubt I’ll be up for that.”

“Okay then,” he nods, wheeling her into Sheska’s office.

Maria and Denny are standing at Sheska’s desk chatting with the studious woman and look up in pleased surprise.

“Hey, General Hughes,” Denny salutes Maes along with Maria. Smiling down at Kisa, he greets her warmly. “Hi, Kisa, how are you doing?”

“I’m doing well,” Kisa replies as Maria leans in to examine her partially exposed eye closely.

“That’s good to hear,” Maria murmurs. “What I can see of your eye, it’s looking a lot better.”

“I really am doing a lot better,” Kisa assures her. “Uncle, aunt Gracia and Elicia have been taking good care of me.”

“No thanks to that jerk Hakuro,” Denny rolls his eyes.

“It can’t be helped and I am healing,” Kisa shrugs.

“Kisa, I’d like you to meet Sheska, she’s my personal aid,” Maes interrupts to introduce her to the brunette. “Sheska, this is Kisa Namikaze. She just immigrated from Azambra and is joining my family.”

Sheska steps forward and greets Kisa.

“It’s nice to meet you. Welcome to Amestris.”

“It’s my honor,” Kisa bows. “And thank you.” She flushes slightly, adding, “I’m surprised you didn’t confuse me for Edward Elric.”

Maes chuckles, explaining, “I forgot to mention this earlier, but I did tell the rest of my office staff last week about how we met. So they knew about how you and Ed are nearly identical.”

“That’s refreshing,” Kisa sighs in relief, eliciting chuckles from Maria and Denny.

Sensing someone behind him, Maes glances over his shoulder to see Armstrong standing behind him. Knowing it’s now or never, he greets Armstrong.

“Hi, Armstrong.” Turning back to Kisa, he takes a deep breath. “Kisa, I’d like to introduce you to Alex Armstrong. I’ve been telling you about him.”

“It’s my honor,” she greets him in her usual manner.

“It is my pleasure as well,” Armstrong greets back with a slight bow. Straightening up, he adds, “I’m amazed at your resemblance to Edward Elric.”

“Everyone is,” Kisa smirks, causing the room to break out in chuckles. She’s finding Armstrong to be very nice and is amazed at how big he is. She thinks Maes must’ve over exaggerated his eccentricities.

“Has it been difficult adjusting to Amestris since it’s so different from Azambra?” Sheska asks.

“Not really,” Kisa shrugs. “Although, I haven’t been outside of uncle’s house much to see the diff…” she trails off when she notices a strange expression on Armstrong’s face, drawing everyone’s attention to him.

“Crap,” Denny mutters.

“Here we go,” Maria sighs.

Dumbstruck, Kisa gapes as Armstrong boisterously declares, “It is an honor to meet such a remarkable young woman! You honor Amestris by choosing to immigrate here! To travel so far from your homeland to begin a new life in a country far different from your own is inspiring!”

Kisa’s mind screeches to a halt when he suddenly becomes shirtless, striking a pose showing off his rippling muscles.

“You should take inspiration to recover quickly and resume continuing your remarkable life in Amestris!” he proudly declares.

Maes rubs a hand across his forehead fighting off his headache before realizing Armstrong paused to pose for Kisa.

Taking his cue, he announces, “Kisa is exhausted and I must take her home before she becomes ill.” Before anyone can react he steps behind her chair and heads for the door. “As you were. Keep up the good work!” Before disappearing through the door, he calls to Armstrong over his shoulder, “Hey, Armstrong, inspire them a little more before allowing them to resume their duties.”

“Yes, sir!” Armstrong happily agrees with a salute.

He focuses his attention back to a quivering Denny and Maria as they try to make their escape past him. Maes saw Sheska dive under her desk when Armstrong’s assault began and hasn’t emerged yet.

Mere minutes later, in record time, Maes makes it out to his car, settles Kisa inside and has the wheelchair tied securely in the trunk. He finally relaxes with a soft sigh of relief when he pulls away from Central Command. Glancing over at the passenger seat he realizes Kisa has been quiet the entire time.

“Are you okay?” he worriedly asks.

Finally she turns to him with an incredulous expression asking, “Was that a prank?”

Blinking in confusion, he says, “No, what made you think that?”

“There’s no way anyone can be that outrageous without faking it,” she arches a brow in silent challenge.

“It’s no prank,” he smirks. “That is exactly how Armstrong is.”

“So that wasn’t a prank?” she hesitantly asks in disbelief.

Maes grins, “Afraid so.”

Kisa blinks in shock a few times. Without warning she erupts into laughter. Frowning in confusion, Maes watches her wrap her left arm over her ribs while futilely covering her mouth with her other hand as the tears run down her face. Finally laughter bubbles out of him as he joins in her mirth, inwardly rejoicing to finally hear her laugh. He can’t remember her laughing once in Azambra.

“Ow, that hurts,” she breathlessly says when her laughter finally fades minutes later. “That was the most ridiculous thing I have ever seen,” she adds, amusement coloring her voice.

“I’m sorry,” he chuckles. “But there’s no preparation for meeting Armstrong.”

Wiping her eyes, her voice still thick with mirth, she asks, “So he really is like that?”

“That’s true blue Armstrong,” Maes quips. “It’s not an act.” Smirking, he adds, “You should be glad he didn’t try to hug you. You might’ve ended up with more fractured ribs.”

“You’re serious,” Kisa studies him in disbelief.

Maes nods, “If you ever think Armstrong is going to hug you, jump out of reach and run. He’s a lot faster than he looks.”

“Duly noted,” she smiles before settling back to enjoy the scenery.

It’s not long before he notices she dozed off. Smiling softly, he continues driving. She didn’t even wake up when he parked the car and gently carries her into the house.

Gracia had been in the sitting room when she heard the car pull up. Glancing out the window, she confirms it’s Maes’ car before rising to her feet to open the door for him.

“Hi, honey,” Maes greets her quietly while climbing the front step.

“Hi,” she replies back, matching his quiet tone. “Is Kisa asleep?”


“I prepared the sofa in case she wanted to take a nap.”

“Thank you,” he replies, stopping briefly to kiss her cheek before stepping inside the front door and detouring into the sitting room.

Maes eases Kisa onto the sofa. He grabs a quilt and begins covering the girl while Gracia adjusts the pillows under her head after removing her headscarf. He heads back out to the car to unload the wheelchair as Gracia draws down all the shades in the room. She steps into the foyer when Maes rolls the chair inside and shuts the front door. Stepping aside, Gracia waits as he puts the chair in the room before joining her and shutting the door so Kisa can rest undisturbed.

Smiling at his wife, Maes pulls her into his arms and kisses her breathless.

“I’m home,” he huskily declares, resting his forehead against hers.

“I’m glad,” she smiles back. “How about I make us some tea and you can tell me how it went? Elicia just went down for her nap not fifteen minutes before you came home.”

“Sounds good,” he replies, releasing her so they can head into the kitchen.

“I’m surprised at how soundly Kisa is sleeping,” Gracia comments while filling the teapot with water and setting it on the stove to heat up.

“It’s been an exhausting day for her,” he chuckles.

Reaching into a cabinet for the tea flavor he wants, he begins detailing their visit to Central Command. By the time he finishes, the teapot and two cups sit empty and forgotten on the table.

“I wish there was a better prognosis for Kisa’s hand,” Gracia comments in dismay. “It’s also upsetting to hear General Hakuro’s proclamations that Roy set him up.”

Reaching across the table for her hand, Maes rubs a gentle thumb along her knuckles.

“Roy and I can handle Hakuro,” he reassures her. “We just have to keep a very close eye on Kisa whenever she’s at Central Command.”

“She shouldn’t have to be guarded or wary in our own nation’s capital.”

“No she shouldn’t,” he agrees. “But corruption was the exception to the rules for the longest time. It’s going to be awhile before we can eliminate that mindset.”

Gracia nods before smiling.

“It’s amusing to hear of Havoc’s interest in Kisa and your concern for her, Maes. She’s the daughter we never knew we had considering how protective you’re being of her.”

“True,” Maes can’t resist chuckling. Becoming serious, he admits, “It’s unsettling to see his interest. There’s a big age difference and they have nothing in common.”

“That you know of,” Gracia points out. She’s amused at his gob smacked expression. “Honey, even if they were to date it’ll be fine. Kisa made it clear she’s not interested in getting married according to Azambran custom.”

“She doesn’t have experience going on one date,” he protests.

“True, but she certainly wouldn’t be interested in casual relationships. Havoc is a casual dater. He repeatedly declares he has no luck with women, but we all know that he’s never been one to put much effort into his relationships.”

Sitting back in his chair, Maes considers it.

“I don’t think Havoc would deliberately hurt her, but I don’t want to see him hurt her with his careless ways.”

Gracia smiles fondly.

“It won’t hurt as much as some of the things she’s experienced already. She’ll easily survive a relationship with Havoc and learn from it. It’s merely a part of life.”

“All right,” he reluctantly agrees. “I’ll do my best not to interfere. I’m not going to deny her the experience.”

Looking over the cluttered table, Gracia states, “I’ll clean up. Why don’t you call Winry to invite her to come stay with us? The dinner party may be another two weeks away, but you need to give her the chance to travel to Central and spend time getting to know Kisa.”

“Great idea,” he nods. Rising to his feet, he leans over and kisses her on the cheek.

Leaving the kitchen he walks down the hallway and disappears into his study. Settling behind his desk, he picks up the handset and places the call.

“Rockbell Automail,” her cheery voice answers.

“Hi, Winry, long time no hear.”

“Mr. Hughes!” she gasps in surprise.

Rolling his eyes, Maes sighs in exasperation.

“Winry, when are you and Al going to call me ‘Maes’? Calling me ‘Mr. Hughes’ makes me sound like an old fart.”

“Uh, well, I guess,” she hesitates before admitting, “It feels weird calling you by your first name.”

“I’m not giving up on you calling me that,” he teases before changing the subject. “It’s been a few months since we last talked. How are you doing?”

“Fine,” she replies. “Granny is as spry as ever, but has pretty much retired from making automail. She still does maintenance for our longtime customers when I’m not here. Being hunched over at a workbench for hours is getting too hard for her. I still go every month to Rush Valley since Mr. Garfiel made me a partner in his business. Lately things have been so busy that even when I pass through Central on the train sometimes the next train to Rush Valley is leaving as soon as I get there, which is why I haven’t visited you guys,” she finishes apologetically.

“Don’t worry about it, Winry, we haven’t moved since your last visit and don’t plan to in the near future.” He pauses to let Winry laugh. “By the way, have you heard from Ed and Al?”

“Yeah. I talked to each of them over the past three weeks. Soon they’ll both be heading back home to Resembool.”

“Really? I thought it’d be another few months before they floated back home.”

Winry laughs again. “I was surprised too. Al will likely be arriving here on an early train Monday and Ed should be arriving the following Monday at the latest.”

“So the last beating you gave Ed finally convinced them both to call in regularly to check with you?” he teases.

“That and making them swear on their mother’s grave,” Winry laughs. “The guilt of breaking such a promise keeps them in line. From what Ed told me, he’ll be stopping briefly in Central on Thursday. He has to switch trains and has a few hours before his train to Resembool departs if the schedules don’t change.”

Seizing on the opportunity, Maes asks, “Would you be interested in dragging Al up to Central to meet Ed and stay with us for a couple of weeks? There’s a new member of our household and in a couple of weeks we’re hosting a dinner party in her honor.”

“Her?” Winry asks in confusion.

“Yes. Her name is Kisa Namikaze. There’s a very long story involved in how we met, which I’ll save for if you decide to come up.”

“There’s no if,” she states firmly. “Al and I will be there. Ed is currently staying at place with no phone service, so someone will have to meet his train on Thursday to keep him from catching the next one to Resembool.”

“That won’t be a problem. I can arrange that,” he assures her. “I have to warn you so you’re not so surprised when you two meet, but Kisa is a dead ringer for Ed.”

When the silence stretches out, Maes pulls the handset away to glance at it, wondering if they got disconnected. He arches a brow when he places it back to his ear and hears Winry laughing.

“You almost had me,” she chuckles. “That’s funny, but I have to go. I just heard Granny calling for me.”

“It’s not a joke,” he insists.

“Sure it isn’t,” she replies, amusement still coloring her voice. “I’m sorry, but I really have to go.”

“Okay, I’ll talk to you later than. Take care, Winry.”

“Thanks, I will. Bye.”

The line goes silent and Maes slowly replaces the handset. Gazing at the phone, an amused grin spreads across his face. Leaning back, he props his feet onto his desk.

Tucking his hands behind his head, he muses into the otherwise empty room, “It’s going to be an interesting visit.”

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