Author's note: I do not know the gender of Rose's baby, so I assumed that it was a boy.

"Al…you're studying again, aren't you?"

The young woman stood at the front door, closing the door behind her before the howling winds could blow the rain into the small house. As the door was shut behind her with a little click, she took off her navy-blue coat and hung it on a hook beside the window that reflected the bleak, gray sky. She saw a small, square table in the middle of the room beside a well-worn couch and with four chairs around it, covered in books and documents of all kinds, old or new, thick or thin. A staircase tapered to the top behind the table, and just beside it was a door perhaps leading to the kitchen.

And there, sitting at the table, was a man who looked not older than twenty, his long auburn hair pulled back into a ponytail. His eyes were scanning the text of the large tome he was reading so quickly that they seemed like a blur. His hands were on the table, clad in white gloves. A red cloak was draped over his chair, and he wore a simple black jacket on top of a black undershirt, with matching pants and boots. But his eyes stopped abruptly at the sight of his visitor and shifted upward from the mass of words it had been skimming through.

"It's nice to see you, Rose," he greeted her in a gentle baritone. "But it looks like the rain's just begun. You might not be able to get home in time…and what about your kid? Who's he with?"

"He's currently staying with his cousins," said the woman called Rose. "I thought it would be nice for him to spend some time with the other members of my family…and actually, I had to make sure he was out of the way before I called pest control. The apartment I bought in Central was actually infested with termites."

Alphonse Elric swore under his breath and muttered, "Swindling realtors. If I were there…"

"It wasn't their fault," Rose replied, as she walked over to him. "The place was very nice when I first settled in…you know, after everything that happened…"

At first, neither of them spoke, remembering some of the unpleasant events that had transpired a few years ago, especially Al. For a moment all they could hear was the beating of the rain against the windows and the distant boom of thunder, coupled with the flashing intervals of lightning that dramatically illuminated the serene scene.

"So…anyway," Rose broke the ice, pulled up a chair and moved a little closer to Al. "You're still studying?"

"Yeah," he replied with a little shrug. He had the exhausted but somewhat fulfilled look of someone who had been working for a while. "The alchemy exam's in a few weeks, and I really want to pass."

"Why didn't you take the test with Ed?" Rose wanted to know. "You know…several years ago?"

"The test has an interview portion," said Al. "It probably would have decreased our chances of getting in if they knew we performed human transmutation – so it was only my brother who pushed ahead. Now, I'm getting a second chance, so I'm doing my best."

Rose smiled, giving him an encouraging pat on the back. "You can do it," she said, surveying his tired face.

"Thanks." He smiled back, wiping a bead of sweat from his brow. "Wait…so why'd you suddenly decide to visit me on a day like this? Were the exterminators already there?"

"I thought I'd…fancy a walk," replied Rose, gazing at the ceiling for a second.

"Fancy fancying a walk on a gloomy day," observed Al, nodding as another crack of thunder sounded.

"Well, the sky was cloudy, but not that gloomy when I left," she added. "It was a good thing I brought my coat…it was getting really chilly. Then I decided to see what you were up to."

There was a shuffling noise as Al shifted some of the papers on his table, organizing them into one stack and setting them aside. "Now you know what I've been up to," he noted lightly. "Still studying for the alchemy exam – at least they won't mistake me for the Fullmetal Alchemist again and spare Ed the trouble of having to convince people that he's got that title and knows how to use it."

"Speaking of which, how's he in the military?" asked Rose. "I heard he was promoted."

"That's him, Lieutenant Colonel Edward Elric," was the reply. "According to some rumors around Central headquarters, he may be up for promotion in a short while again. The Fuhrer will make sure of that…as long as my brother stays out of trouble and doesn't use his smart mouth on him just like he did years ago."

Rose giggled. "I see." She blanched as a particularly loud crack of thunder startled her. Al grinned and put an arm around her, and she craned her head to look at him. A strange, giddy feeling rose from within her, but she quelled it, and with a little difficulty, slowly removed his arm from her shoulders.

He blushed slightly as he withdrew his arm, looking away for a while before turning back.

"Well…I'm really sorry if I disturbed you and your studies," said Rose, brushing away a few stray pink bangs from her face. "Maybe I should go now…"

"Don't." Al placed his hand on Rose's left shoulder, and when she saw him he arranged his face into a matter-of-fact one. "You'll just get caught in the rain. The storm's getting worse, even. And no, you're not disturbing me. It's always a pleasure to have you around."

It was Rose's turn to blush. She felt her cheeks burn at that compliment. "Thanks," she replied absently.

"You seem to be…thinking about something," her friend noted, pointing out her now-creased forehead and her glazed stare. "I know, I'm really nosy, but I'm just…concerned. Are you sure that apartment you're living in right now is okay? Everything's okay?"

"It's just that…actually, when I came here, I wanted to tell you something," blurted out Rose.


"I need to tell you something, Al. That's why I came here. I kept on putting it off, but now that there are exterminators wreaking havoc on the termites in my home, it gave me a good reason to get out and see you."

Al inched his chair closer to her, so that they were only an inch away from each other.

"I'm listening," he said reassuringly. "Whatever it is, I'm going to listen."

"But Al…you might not understand," said Rose adamantly. "You might not…"

He held up a gloved hand, and she could see the transmutation circle clearly sewn on the palm. "Rose, trust me. Just get to the point." Al closed the book that was open in front of him and set it aside. "There, now I'm really ready to listen."

Before she could even open her mouth, a particularly startling blast of lightning blinded them for a moment.

After that episode, Rose finally said something. "I…Al, I…"

"You better speak up," encouraged Al. "You're not making any sense, stuttering like that. And it's just the two of us. No poky big brothers around."

She had to laugh shortly at that statement. "Yeah…you see…" Rose's voice trailed off, as though recalling her words. "Alphonse…"

Now Al really knew that it was something important, as she had just said his real name. He sat up straight, ready to receive whatever news would come spilling out of her.

"Alphonse…I…I…" Rose knotted her hands together on her lap, feeling them tremble ever so slightly. She had to get this off her back…she had to say it now, or never. Besides, didn't Al just say he was willing to take whatever she would throw at him?

"Alphonse, I…love you."

Her voice seemed to echo throughout that little room. She gritted her teeth as if praying that she could take her words back, and her hands began to tremble even more as she saw the unfathomable look on Al's face. He was unmoving as he pondered on what she said.

But Rose still had more to add.

"As in, I love you more than just a friend. I…I want to be yours. It's been nagging me for so long, and I just had to say it, Al. If you don't want me to…"

She knew she was babbling endlessly, but didn't care. But Rose didn't have to keep on rambling for long.

Al took her shuddering fingers and locked them with his own, and slowly moved forward, touching his lips with hers. Rose stopped speaking instantly and relished the kiss. It wasn't hard, or forceful, but it was gentle, so gentle that she felt a light, floating sensation ripple within her. In fact, as Al broke away, she resisted the urge to pull him back again.

"Is that all you wanted to say?" he whispered. "Rose, I never thought…you'd be the first…but I too…"

"You've had feelings for me too?" Rose asked, incredulous.

"I didn't know how to say it," he admitted shyly. "Then…when you said that you loved me, I knew then and there that I shouldn't be waiting around any longer. You were ready for a relationship. As long as you are…I am."

She sighed, resting her head on his shoulder. "Oh, Al…it's just so funny how we feel the same way…"

"Love can be funny that way," he said, stroking her cheek. "So…are you sure that's all you needed to tell me? Because…now I have something to say to you, my dear Rose. I love you too, in the same way. I am willing to take you into my arms, to shield you from the cold, cruel world, and to always be with you…because I want to. Rose, you are indeed, my tender, sweet rose."

He paused for a moment, drumming the fingers of his other hand on the table.

"Well, now I just sound stupid, don't I? If you thought you were babbling awhile ago, you should've heard me right now. But I meant every word I said, even if they were just crazy babbles from someone like me…Rose…I do love you. I mean it."

Al cupped her chin into his hand and kissed her again. She sighed, despite the howling storm outside, content and loved. For a while, she could forget about her termite-infested apartment and her turbulent past, and just huddle beside the man who would truly show her love.