Title: A Sign
Author: Jordanna Morgan
Archive Rights: Please request the author's consent.
Characters: Edward and Alphonse.
Setting: First anime. Set two months after my story "Blood Ties".
Summary: The Elric brothers go house-hunting.
Disclaimer: They belong to Hiromu Arakawa. I'm just playing with them.
Notes: Written for the prompt word "House" at Fan Flashworks. A house acquired by the Elrics features prominently in my forthcoming sequel to "Blood Ties", as well as in a few other post-canon works of mine, so I thought I'd have some brotherly fun with a story of how they came to choose it.
"So what do you think?" Edward asked Alphonse.
The Elric brothers stood in the empty, unfurnished dining room of a large house, located in a quiet suburb of Central. Present with them was a primly-dressed, brisk-mannered young woman, watching their reactions with professional eagerness. She was the property's estate agent, who had just finished giving them a thorough tour of the place.
Over two months had passed since the brothers were reunited by Ed's return from across the Gate. Since that time, with Ed having resumed his career as a State Alchemist, they had been living out of the barracks at Central Command. For a while, it seemed much like the old days… except without all of the traveling. Ed knew there would be far-flung missions for him soon enough, but at present, General Mustang was clearly giving him time to readjust to being home.
Ed appreciated that. After two years of living in a world without alchemy, he needed the chance to reacclimate himself to his own skills.
Knowing he was never likely to lead a very settled life, Ed would have been content with the status quo. However, when he looked at Al's underaged twelve-year-old form, it didn't feel right to have him living in a spartan room at military headquarters. Al may have been intellectually an adult now, but in a sense, he still had the chance to recapture something of the growing-up he had missed. Ed wanted to give him a proper environment for that.
So at breakfast today—on what was chronologically Al's eighteenth birthday, even if his body still hadn't begun to hit puberty—Ed surprised him with the proposal that they go looking at houses for sale.
Al responded with his greatest excitement since the day of their long-sought reunion.
They had started in the neighborhood where Gracia and Elicia Hughes still lived. From their many past visits to the Hughes home, Ed knew the area to be peaceful and well-kept: a place where he could feel at ease about making a home for his brother. It was also within a very convenient distance of Central Command, which was one of his only prerequisites.
For the house itself, Ed had few particulars in mind. Content as he was with merely a bunk and a writing desk at headquarters, he would be more than comfortable with whatever made Al happy…
That is, as long as there was room for him to live around whatever cats Al started to pick up.
Because of course, that was inevitable. Ed knew it would be one of the first things to happen after they moved in; but that was alright, too. In fact, it was one more reason for buying a house to begin with. It was high time Al got to have the pet he had wanted for so long, and he could only do that in a place they were able to call their own.
The house they now stood in was the very first one they inquired about. It was a handsome two-story residence, its six bedrooms and large basement offering ample space for whatever work or recreation they wished. While it was old enough to be in need of a few minor repairs and upgrades, this would be no challenge at all for a pair of alchemists.
"Well, I like everything we've seen here," Al replied to Ed's question, a smile blossoming on his young face. "The street is nice and quiet. The house looks great, and we'd have plenty of room for friends to visit. I could even use the basement to work in when I'm in my armor overnight. …I really like the backyard, too," he added, before Ed could make any displeased comment about Al's habit of letting his consciousness roam around in his old steel shell at night, while his mortal body slept.
The beginnings of a frown slipped from Ed's face, and he glanced out the window of the dining room, which overlooked the backyard. He had to admit that it appealed to him too. The spacious expanse of grass was bordered at the rear by a stretch of undeveloped wooded land, making for a green and tranquil view. It reminded him—and Al as well, he had no doubt—of the meadows and woods where they had frolicked as kids in rural Resembool.
While they were being shown around the house, the weather had taken a turn, he noticed. The morning's sun-dappled sky had turned flat and gray, as a few large raindrops began to splash down on the veranda outside the back door.
"You think we should go for it, then?" he asked, turning back to his brother.
Al considered for a moment. "I'm not sure. I mean, the thought of a place like this being ours is amazing, and I can't think of any other features I'd want in a house. But it is kind of expensive—"
"Hey, you know I'm good for it on a State Alchemist's pay. Especially with the two years of back pay Mustang has promised I've got coming."
The younger Elric looked mildly dubious at that.
"And besides, I'm sure you'll be chipping in once you pass the Exam too," Ed concluded. That caused Al to blush—but with as much pride as embarrassment. Ed knew Al wanted to finally start embracing the responsibilities of an adult, in spite of his too-young appearance.
"Of course I will." Al shrugged, his eyes wandering around the empty room. "I guess the thought of stopping our search at the first house just feels a little weird. It's such a big decision. Maybe we should see some more of what's out there before we commit."
It was a reasonable assertion. Ed nodded, and gave the estate agent a polite grin.
"Well, you heard him. From what we've seen, this place could stay right at the top of our list—but I guess it would be smart to look around a little more first. Don't be surprised if we call you back soon, though."
The agent returned a dimpling smile. "It's my pleasure. Just don't wait too long on a house in this neighborhood!"
She escorted the pair to the front door, and let them onto the porch. By this time, the scattered drops of a few minutes earlier had multiplied into a full-fledged downpour, rain falling in windblown white sheets. A dull rumble of thunder echoed across the sky.
"Oh dear," she lamented. "I wouldn't want you to leave in that. I'm not going to, myself! Please—you're welcome to come back in and stay dry until it passes."
"Yeah. I guess we…" Ed paused, looking over his shoulder to notice that Alphonse had moved off to the far end of the front porch. There was a white-painted wooden bench there: a feature that would be pleasantly inviting in nicer weather. However, Al was now crouched and reaching for something underneath it, which seemed to be tucked far back against the outer wall of the house.
"What did you find, Al?"
There was no immediate answer; only a few soft, soothing murmurs that were clearly directed not at Ed, but at whatever Al's attention was fixed on. His shoulders hitched as he gathered something, carefully drawing it closer, to lift and cradle it against his chest.
And Ed knew exactly what was coming—even before Al turned to reveal a drenched and scrawny gray kitten in his arms.
The boy grinned up cheekily at his big brother, and said not a word. He merely shouldered his way through the unlocked door and disappeared into the house, no doubt intent on drying off his new foundling.
Standing there staring after Al, and listening to the rain pour down, a mild feeling of deja-vu tugged at Edward's consciousness. He gave a sigh and an incredulous shake of his head… but even so, he couldn't resist a faint smile as he turned to the wide-eyed estate agent.
"…So, yeah. I think we'll take it."
2016 Jordanna Morgan