Al doesn't question Roy's presence in his brother's kitchen. Instead, he fills the kettle and sets it on the stove before beginning the laborious process of lighting the burner his brother "improved" a week ago. A lot of things had been altered during that bout of sudden activity.

Roy doesn't acknowledge Al's presence in any noticeable way, and Al isn't even certain Roy knows there's another person in the room. He doesn't even know if Roy knows where he is. He can't stand to look at Roy like this, so he focuses on the gas and match - he almost forgets to put his body between Roy and the flame, to shield it with his body. The gas finally catches, the right mixture of air and heat and explosive elements, and he drops the match in the sink. It lands in a bowl of soggy cereal his brother left there last night and lets out a burst of acrid smoke before dying completely. Al stares at it until the kettle shrieks deafeningly into the quiet.

He likes the individually-packaged bags of tea his brother buys. They're convenient and stand up to almost anything and don't leave as many leaves in the bitter dregs of the cup. He sets a steaming cup in front of Roy, right behind his hands so that empty stare might actually see it, and starts washing the dishes. There aren't many since he washed them yesterday afternoon. When he dries his hands and turns around, the tea is held between Roy's palms. He nearly lets out a sigh of relief. Instead, he gets a plate and some biscuits and sets those by Roy as well. Roy's hand shifts and touches the back of Al's, and he nearly jumps away at the sudden motion.

"I drink coffee," Roy murmurs, never looking up from his cup.

"I know." Al looks up at the door and sees his brother standing there, hair unbound and limp across his shoulders. The clench of Ed's jaw is a familiar determination, and Al inwardly rejoices to see it. Five quick steps, two hitting harder than the other three, and Ed puts his arms around Roy's head and pulls, pressing that blank stare against his ribs. Al thinks it's coincidence that one hand splays over the empty socket.

"Shut up," Ed growls. "You drink tea."

Al has to turn away then; they look too delicate and still, like china horses on a shelf. He hears Roy's coughing laugh, and that hurts to hear, but he listens anyway. It's the least he can do. He gets out a pen and paper and begins his daily ritual at the other side of the table.

To Ms. Hawkeye, he writes. I hope this finds you well. I expect the office is quiet, and I hope it's not because of our absence. Risenbool is very serene this time of year, but the birds make a terrible racket outside the window every morning until brother frightens them away by making an even bigger racket. We've been visiting the river a lot, but we can't seem to catch any fish. I suppose they've caught onto the ways of fishing by now; every summer a dozen lines trail over the banks as the schoolchildren make little wooden hooks and dig up rotting logs.

Ed glances over at his letter and snorts. "Your code sucks, Al," he murmurs. Al pretends Roy isn't hiccupping.

"It's better than yours, brother. You would just doodle in the margins, then write something about books." Al pauses to re-read what he's written, to make sure it fits the code and makes sense as a letter. Satisfied, he keeps writing, and is more than a little relieved when Ed finally releases Roy. He's surprised at himself when he picks up a napkin and reaches across the table to gently swipe under Roy's eyes, though. Roy's surprised as well, startled into actually looking at him, and the dark stains around his eyes are nearly redundant.

"There," Ed says as he beelines to the fridge. "You see? You drink tea after all."

Roy smiles at Al for the first time in a week, and murmurs weakly, "Your code sucks, Fullmetal."

They both are amused by the resultant fit of swears, and it helps that Ed's grinning through his scowl. Once he winds down again, Ed is surprisingly placid, although he doesn't let Roy butter his own toast. Al doesn't quite understand why, but he thinks it might have something to do with the way Hawkeye's hands shook when she ushered Roy into Ed's house. Roy's coat is still somewhere in the living room. They haven't left the house since he arrived, so there's been no need for it. Al watches the other two eat and quietly remembers how Roy stood in the doorway, expression blank but with his jaw clenched and his shoulders braced. Ed had taken it as a challenge, and had nearly fallen over himself when Roy quietly accepted his insults, the set of his shoulders falling a bit with each word until finally his face crumpled and he had to look away. He had almost walked right out the door then, with Ed on his heels demanding the Colonel face him like a man, but Hawkeye had caught his arm and said-

He realizes his brother and Roy are watching him expectantly, and he starts and waves their stares away. "Ah, ah, what was that? I'm sorry, I was thinking that the radio said it would rain tonight and we need to go shopping and… um…"

Ed rolls his eyes, used to his brother's sometimes odd behavior, and Roy laughs awkwardly. "We can shop this afternoon, then," Ed points out, and Al hesitantly agrees. He's not sure if his brother used the right pronoun; surely they won't leave Roy alone, and surely he'd be recognized if they brought him with them. East City was no stranger to this man - although he might not be recognized out of uniform. It certainly made Al look twice most mornings, and he's caught Ed watching Roy out of the corner of his eye with a slight frown between his brows like he's found something that doesn't match with his research.

Ed distracts him by starting to make a list of the things they'll need to get, and Roy wordlessly takes Al's pen and a scrap paper and passes them to Ed when the list quickly becomes too long to remember. Al adds his own thoughts to the hastily-scrawled list, and Roy tries desperately not to laugh when Ed starts pacing, using his automail as a portable desk. Al's sure they'll never decipher his brother's handwriting and quietly starts making his own copy, which causes Roy to burst into brilliant, deep chuckles.

To Ms. Hawkeye:

I hope this finds you well. Today has been wonderful; Brother and I went shopping, and on the way back he nearly fell in the river. This would not normally be a wonderful thing, except that it was very amusing at the time, particularly when it was noted that he was tall enough to stand in the river and hold his head above the water. There was an episode where our visitor used him as an armrest later, though, and that was nearly disastrous. Sometimes my brother can be very violent.

All in all, though, it was a wonderful day. The sun seemed warmer, although it's going to rain tonight. Brother promised to fix the hole in the roof he made today, but I don't think he'll remember until the carpet is ruined. That's all right, though; we can fix it together.

Best of wishes, Alphonse Elric