Study Partners

"This looks like the place," Al murmured softly to himself. It matched the directions he had received from Lieutenant Hawkeye anyway. The officer had been very kind to him, even if he hadn't remembered her. He was glad he had stopped by Central. The blond reached up and knocked on the door.

"One minute!" A voice resounded from within the house. A few seconds later a tall blond teen opened the door. He stared at Al in shock. "Ed-?"

Al felt his heart involuntarily leap at his brother's name. He controlled his emotions, knowing full well that people generally assumed that HE was the Fullmetal Alchemist, a fact he only encouraged with his outfit. Even his style appeared similar to his brother's. "Excuse me, are you Russell Tringham?"

"Yes." Russell studied his visitor. "Are you Alphonse Elric?"

Al nodded. "I'm sorry. I'm looking for some rare Alchemy books and one of my contacts suggested that you might have some resources I could use."

"Oh," Russell replied inelegantly, still looking shocked.

"Of course you can!" A slightly shorter boy popped up from behind who could only be his brother, coming to Russell's rescue. "Come in, please." He grabbed Al's hand and pulled him inside the house. He grinned. "You're shorter than you were last time."

Al blinked. Well that was a new one. Most people didn't know exactly how to react to him, at least those who had known him from "before." Al didn't have a chance to be left in that awkward state that usually resulted from encountering someone he had met during the years he had traveled with his brother. "Um, what is your name?"

The boy blinked. "I'm Fletcher. Fletcher Tringham." He gave Al an odd look. "Don't you remember? We met in Xenotime."

"I'm sorry," Al flushed slightly. "I don't remember."

"Oh." Fletcher seemed to lose his momentum for a second then bravely continued though the house. "I guess we can start over then." Al couldn't help but feel relieved at how easily Fletcher accepted his condition and immediately moved onward with his business. It was a nice change from adults who attempted to force him to recall them. The younger Tringham opened a door. "Here's the library."

It was a lovely place, just the type of room that made most alchemists feel comfortable. Every wall was covered by book shelves; several plants grew by the windows. There were two long tables, one of which was covered with test tubes and other equipment. Several comfortable chairs sat around the room, each with a small reading table next to it. "Make yourself at home. I was doing some studying of my own." He sat down in one of the chairs and picked up one of the books.

Al slowly walked around the library, eyes flickering over book spines. The Elric moved from shelf to shelf, unaware of the younger Trigram's eyes on him from the other side of the room. He amassed a good pile in a bit and sat down in the chair nearest Fletcher. The pair continued to read in silence, oblivious to the world moving around them. Finally Russell entered, having returned from a few errands. "Fletcher? Al? Are you two ready for dinner?"

"Be right there!"

"I didn't realize it had gotten so late," Al mumbled. He closed his book. "I should go."

"No, stay for dinner. Please?" Fletcher asked. "I'd like to hear what you've been doing."

"I suppose I could," Al replied. He reluctantly set the book down and followed the Tringhams out of the library.

"Stay for the night too! No sense in stay in a hotel," Fletcher continued. He then began to relate the tale of how his older brother had gotten himself stuck in a tree when they were younger and how Fletcher had helped him down with his alchemy. Russell flushed in embarrassment.

Al smiled faintly at the brother's antics, a sharp pain in his chest. He sent his mind back to the library, to the book he had just abandoned. 'Soul bonding might just be the key.' Resolve strengthened inside of him. He would get his brother back. And the information he needed might be in this very house. 'Hold on Brother. I'll bring you home.'