Written: June - September 2004
"Brother... Is that... is that it?"
"I think so." The small figure close to the shimmering red stone swallowed. "The Philosopher's Stone."
The larger shadow made a nervous sound, a rattle echoing in the small cave. "Be careful, Brother."
"You worry too much." The older brother chided as he stepped closer. With a grin that was equally parts nervous and triumphant, he put his hand on the red stone.
The light from the stone flared, bathing everything in the area a vibrant blood red colour.
"Wow..." The white clad young man breathed in awe from the rooftop of the highest building in the area. "This might really be it."
The red stone shimmered in his hand, as if agreeing with him. "Pandora..."
Swallowing once to settle triumphant nerves, he held the stone up to the full moonlight.
The stone lit up from within, bathing everything in the area a vibrant blood red colour.
The stone's light suddenly increased, an array drawing itself into the air around the stone. A powerful wind began to howl in the enclosed area, dragging its holder into the magical circle.
"It's booby-trapped!" The boy growled, bracing his feet against the stone floor, resisting the pull the best he could.
His brother reached out for him, grabbing an arm. "Brother! Look out!"
The stone's light suddenly increased, momentarily blinding it's holder as circles began to draw itself into the air around it.
"Is that supposed to happen?" The boy yelped, bracing his feet against the floor, resisting the pull the best he could.
A door opened up, a taller blond-haired teen running out onto the rooftop, panting for breath. He spotted the other boy and ran towards him. "I've got you now!"
The taller figure pulled the smaller one away from the glowing light.
The taller figure tackled the smaller figure into the glowing light.
A deafening crack, like a lightening strike echoed in the small confines of the room as all four figures fell down like a stack of dominos. The stone, being held by the two in the middle, suddenly extinguished, falling dormant once more.
Silence descended in the cave as everyone lay still, attempting to catch their breath.
It was broken by a plaintive sigh from the blond boy on the end.
In retrospect, Hakuba mused, that was not one of his wiser moves. He made a mental note for the future to avoid the Kaitou Kid around glowing rocks. Yes, strange unusual glowy things were bad.
Beneath him, the Kid tensed, his head coming up and glancing around. "St-"
:POOF: Kid vanished in a cloud of pale pink smoke, Hakuba hitting the rough stone ground as the Kid's body disappeared.
"Teme!" He shouted after the escaping thief. "Get back here!"
Too late, the Kid was well and truly gone. "Kuso." He grumbled, rising to his feet and dusting himself off. The motion brought the other inhabitants of the room to his attention, a giant suit of armour and a short boy dressed in red and black. "Gomen nasai." He apologized in Japanese. "Did you see which way he went?"
Gold eyes looked at him warily as the owner shifted to a fighting crouch. The man in armour looked at him as well, eyes glowing at him from the depths of the helmet. Not Japanese then. He switched over to English. "I apologize for the interruption."
No recognition. "Je vous demande pardon." He apologized in French.
He was trying to remember if he knew any Italian or Russian that might help him with the smaller boy spoke up. "Wo kommen Sie?"
It took a moment for his brain to catch up and translate. 'Where did you come from?' Hakuba relaxed slightly. "Sprechen Sie Deutsch?"
The boy blinked. "Ja."
They spoke German. Which was good and bad. He knew the language, but it had been quite a while since he had used it on a frequent bases. "Ich heiße Hakuba." He belatedly remembered to switch his name around when introducing himself, family name second instead of first, like in Japan. "Saguru Hakuba."
They had communication.
Okay... now they were making some sort of progress. Ed relaxed marginally. He wasn't about to rule out the idea that they were dealing with Homunculi, not with the other figure having disappeared in a cloud of smoke like that, but Saguru at least didn't quite feel like one. And they'd yet to run into a Homunculus that had blond hair for some reason...
"Edward Elric." He introduced himself, rising out of his fighting crouch. "This is my younger brother, Alphonse."
Al waved from his sprawled position on the ground, looking much like someone who had just eaten too much and had passed out. "Nice to meet you." Al said politely.
Saguru bowed slightly in response. "The pleasure is mine." Ed resisted the urge to roll his eyes. If Saguru turned out to be as polite as Al, they were never going to be able to get anywhere, each trying to motion the other to go through a door first.
"I apologize for my speaking." Saguru's forehead wrinkled, clearly searching for the correct words. "I am afraid I'm rusty with this language."
"Where did you come from?" Ed repeated. There was something odd about the eyes... the golden colour reminded him of Al's, from when they were children, but the shape of the eyelid was just a bit off.
"Ekoda." The word sounded strange, the vowels pronounced differently. "Nippon, known as Japan."
"Japan?" He exchanged looks with Al. Al shook his head marginally. He'd never heard of it either.
"Ano... I've also lived in Britain for a great many years." Saguru continued, clearly reading their expressions. "London, to be precise."
Ed shook his head again. Saguru's face fell into a thoughtful frown. "Where are we?" He finally asked.
"We're currently in a cave." Al supplied helpfully.
"Thank you, Al." Ed grumbled. "We're..." He trailed off, his brain catching up as he scoured the area, realising his hands were empty. "The Stone! Where did the stone go?"
"The Kaitou Kid probably still has it." Saguru sighed, adopting a long-suffering tone. "He was holding it when we..." A hand waved circles in the air, a silent fumbling for 'tumbling through the portal and crashing into the hard ground.'
"Kitty Kid?" Ed growled. The boy in white who had disappeared. He was going to hang him from a very tall object then squish him to death. He lost the stone! How could he have be so stupid!
"Kaitou." Saguru corrected, backing up a step. "A thief. But if he has it, he'll probably return it to you shortly."
"A thief who returns what he steals?" Alphonse echoed, slowly getting to his feet, swaying a bit. "How interesting. Has he ever been caught?"
"No." Saguru shrugged. Ed almost spared him a snicker. Obviously a sore point. But they had sealed up the walls behind them when they entered the room to prevent anyone from following them or preventing them from getting the stone, so there was a limited number of places someone could hide in the room.
Like nowhere. All he could see aside from the fairly smooth walls were himself, his brother and the strange Saguru.
There was still that 'poof' thing, a new kind of magic perhaps? Teleportation ability?
"Then I'm sorry to break his record..." Alphonse opened up his chest cavity and pulled out a startled looking lanky teenager in white clothing by the collar, like a magician pulling a rabbit out of his hat. "But I think you should come out now before my brother gets really mad."
Kaitou Kid +
Oh... kay... In Kaito's scale of expertise, as both the Kid and as his usual dashing self, giant suits of armour were -not- supposed to move. Especially when there was most emphatically nothing in them.
At least at least the giant moving suit of armour had -sounded- polite...
That was more than he could say for the little blond monkey that was shouting something incomprehensible at him, waving his fists in the air with what he could only call murderous intent. Well, at least that's what it looked like. The words didn't make any sense, but the actions certainly did. That there was a stabby death, that motion was a strangly death, okay, he wasn't sure about that one but it certainly looked painful, that was a shooty death...
The large suite of armour was starting to make soothing sounds at the blond monkey, not that they appeared to be having much of an effect. Kaito slipped out of the iron-knuckle grip and perched on the armour's giant spiky shoulders. Illuminated by the lantern behind him, he couldn't see any exits to the stone room they were in, hiding in the armour again was out, so height sounded like a very good idea right now.
"He wants you to return the Philosopher's stone to him." Hakuba spoke up, staying on the other side of screaming monkey.
"It's -Pandora-." He corrected stubbornly, adjusting his stance slightly as the armour moved so that the rotating head didn't hit him. "You can understand what they're saying?"
"I speak many languages." Hakuba commented smugly before returning his attention to the monkey, who now had a homicidal gleam to his grin. Hakuba said something in the harsh-sounding language that the other two were using, the only thing Kaito was able to understand being the word 'Pandora'.
"Pandora?" The monkey repeated, before launching into another tirade that included a finger being pointed at him and waved around.
"He says he needs to use the stone to return his brother and himself back to normal." Hakuba translated.
Kaito frowned, the stone appearing in his hand with a small puff of smoke. It had felt weird to him when he had grabbed it again, heavier, but he hadn't been able to examine it very well. It had stopped glowing by the time he'd opened his eyes and ducked into hiding. Now that he had a chance to look at it again, it was now twice the size it had been. The shape was different as well, more round than the rough shape he had seen before getting tackled.
The monkey screeched again, making the armour move again and make more worried soothing noises.
He looked down at the fighting... brothers, then at Hakuba, whose posture -screamed- uncertainty and a touch of fear.
"I think we need to know more."
This is the first time since Al had been turned into a suit of armour that he'd been used as a stepping stool, Al mused to himself as the white clad boy clung to him. Well, maybe not a stepping stool exactly. Jungle-gym perhaps?
And it -did- keep him out of Brother's reach... Well out of reach, even if it was blasphemous to think.
The Kitty Kid something to Saguru in that soothing sounding language, but there was a jarring note in the seriousness of the tone. Saguru cleared his throat, gaining Brother's attention. "I think we need to... talk. Understand what's going on."
Brother snarled several very impolite things that basically boiled down to 'bastard, gimme, stone and mine'. Saguru cleared his throat again and awkwardly mentioned that the person hanging onto Al's head didn't understand what anyone was saying.
Which was a bit troublesome, seeing as though he could make the stone disappear and reappear at will.
Brother was certainly not going to be happy. They had finally found their cure -Brother could be whole again!- but it was dangling just out of reach of their fingertips.
"We should sit down and talk." Al said slowly. Here was probably as safe as a place was they were going to get. They had sealed up the walls after them so no one could ambush them, just in case, making for a temporary safe haven. "Find out exactly what just happened. I didn't recognize that array."
It took a moment before Brother sat down and begin to talk with Saguru, but once they did, Al sat down too. Kitty Kid patted his head affectionately and slid off his shoulders, taking a seat in front of him, using the metal limbs as a backrest. Kitty made him think of a feline, all wary eyes and graceful limbs. He looked like one too. When he peered under the shadows caused by the hat and monocle, Kitty's eyes were curved like a cats.
Al was reminded of those stories that their Mom used to read, full of mystical creatures from a different place. They could disappear too. He racked his brains trying to remember what they were called.
The way Saguru talked, he sounded a bit like an Alchemist, all big words and explanations. Only he didn't know any thing about Alchemy. Evidently, he was a Detective, trying to capture Kitty. Brother explained to him what they needed the stone for, the two of them tuning out Al and Kitty.
Kitty pulled out a deck of cards and began to play some sort of game, placing alternating colours of cards in a descending order on top of each other. Al watched for a while, figuring out the rules to the one-person game. It was a one-person game, but he didn't seem to mind when I pointed out a possibility he had missed.
The thief smiled at him when Al pointed out a possibility he'd missed, silently inviting him to join in the distraction. It was an entertaining way to pass the time, even if Kitty was just staying close to have a handy wall to hide behind.
There were occasional advantages to being gigantic after all.
They played several rounds of the game before Saguru and Brother realised that they could only go so far in the conversation without the input of the current holder of the stone, finally looking at them. Kitty appeared amused by their lack of information. What ever his relationship was with Saguru, Al noted, close it was not.
The problem with continuing the conversation was that it would take forever. Kitty saying something, Saguru translating it, Brother saying something, Saguru translating it... And Al wasn't exactly how sure someone non-friendly, either from Military or a Homunculus, were. The Philosopher's stone drew many people.
Brother's face became serious, having calmed down now that he had some more information to ponder over. Or what little information they could get at the moment. "What does he want the gem for?" Brother finally asked Saguru. After all, everyone looking for the stone wanted it for -some- reason.
Saguru paused a moment before translating for Kitty. Kitty froze in mid-movement, his hand hovering in the air, caught in the movement of setting a card down. Kitty's tone was perfectly calm when he answered, but the response startled Saguru, causing him to fumble over the translation.
"He says... he says he wants to destroy it."
Hakuba Saguru had never seen someone's head explode before.
And upon watching Edward Elric get ready to do just that, he was pretty certain he never wanted to.
It appeared that the Kid, with the convenient shelter of the much larger Elric brother at his back, had the right idea. Even if Alphonse appeared to be a giant suit of armour.
"Brother!" Alphonse reached for his brother, the thief abandoning the cards in favour of vanishing as Edward reached for him. "Calm down, Brother!" The giant wailed, attempting to hold back his flailing cursing sibling.
"Kid!" Hakuba shouted, rising to his feet. "Just what the hell is that thing and why do you want to destroy it!"
"None of your business!" Kid shouted back, having completely disappeared from sight. Hakuba quickly discounted Alphonse as a hiding spot again and scoured the cave with his eyes. Damn, sometimes he wondered if the kaitou was part ninja...
"It IS my business now!" He growled. "In case you haven't noticed, we're not in Japan anymore! We may not even be on our world!" Wow, now there was a thought to wrap his brain around. Later. "Pandora or what ever you call it may very well be our key to get back home!"
Kid didn't have a witty comeback to that. And when he spoke again, Hakuba had to strain his ears over the yelling.
"People are willing to murder for this stone in our world, Hakuba-kun." The words were uncommonly sombre, causing the hairs on the back of his neck to prick upright. Is this what had driven the Kid to such lengths? That someone close to the Kid -had- been killed over it? "The less you know about it, the safer it is."
"It's a bit late for that." Hakuba pointed out. He sighed, straightening his clothing to calm fidgeting hands. "Look, Kid. I need that stone to get back. That means I need you to get back too. And like it or not, you're going to need me."
"Ho?" The tone was just this side of condescending.
"You don't speak Deutsch and I do. According to Edward-kun, it's the common language here. And if they're any indication of the natives, you aren't going to get very far around here without help. -I'm- not going to get very far without help." It hurt to admit that. But this was a strange country and he was unfamiliar with a lot of what Edward had talked about. Alchemy, transmuting things into other objects? It just hurt his head. Too much like stepping into a fairy tale. At least the phantom thief was solid, familiar. "We're going to need each other on this."
"What makes you so certain you can trust them?" Kid pointed out, clearly playing devils advocate.
"Do you?" He retorted.
Another slight pause as the Kid debated this. Hakuba finally spotted him, clinging upside-down on the ceiling like a spider, the cape tucked around him so as to not give away his location. He couldn't see the Kid's expression, but the white clad body was stiff and tense.
Of course, that may simply been caused by hanging from the ceiling by his fingertips...
"Yes." Kid finally decided, his voice coming out in a whoosh, the voice clear and determined. "For now."
"Fair enough." They didn't' have enough facts, both of them knew that. And he was a detective, he'd figure things out. Kid would most likely have his own feelers out anyway. "The stone?"
"I won't destroy it, not just yet." Kid concluded. "But I'm not just handing it over."
"I will tell them that." He turned towards the brothers, Edward seemed to be calming down slightly, his teeth slightly less sharp and face less demonic.
"Hakuba-kun?" Kid's voice cut him off.
"Yes?" He looked back up to find Kid looking at him gravely.
"Are you planning on continuing your attempt to capture me while we're here?"
He swallowed. He'd forgotten about capturing the thief for the moment. "Am I going to need to?" A thief was a thief, no matter where they were. If Kid started sending out notices here, he was going to have to get creative to find a way to incarcerate the Kid.
"Not anymore." Kid shook his head, the hat still miraculously staying on. "I got what I was looking for."
Hakuba had never entertained the possibility that Kid might retire from thieving. He felt the world tilt and take an abrupt nosedive, throwing everything off balance. "Okay then." He got out.
He turned to face the brothers, hiding his disquiet behind his usual stoic facade.
"STUPID RAT-FINK FACED BASTARD!" Ed howled, fighting his brother's strong grip. "GIMME BACK MY STONE! I'LL SHOW YOU WHAT A BEAN SPROUT CAN DO, I'LL RIP YOUR HEAD OFF AND SHOVE IT UP YOUR EARDRUMS!"
"BROTHER!" Al wailed. "Calm down!"
"Ahem." Saguru cleared his throat. "Kid says he will not destroy the stone. I think we will need it to get back home."
"Give it to me!" Finally! Progress! He slipped out of Al's grip, landing on a crouch on the floor.
"Can't do that." Saguru spread his hands apologetically.
"WHAT!" He stepped towards the other blond, who backed up a step.
There was a sound that had become familiar over his time with the military. A glance back showed the Kitty Kid standing on the far side of the cave, a bulky looking gun aimed at him. The white clad thief's expression was disturbingly close to Hawkeye's when she was getting ready to take someone out.
"Kid doesn't like violence." Saguru said slowly, holding his hands up in a placating gesture, one towards him, one towards the armed thief. "He mentioned that people have been killed for what ever this stone is where we come from, so I -think- he wants to destroy it to keep it out of those people's hands."
"Brother." Al rumbled. Ed let his hands drop, giving the thief a dirty look. Dammit. They were So. Close. and the stupid thief was keeping it from them.
"People are willing to kill for it here too." He growled. Saguru visibly flinched at that.
"Brother, they probably will need the stone to get back to where they live." Al pointed out, stepping closer to him in a comforting gesture.
"And how are they going to do that?" He grumbled. "I don't recognize the array that they came from and they don't know a thing about Alchemy!"
He could almost feel the pieces slide into place as he glanced up at Al and saw the same realisation there. "Library."
"Main branch would probably have the best books." Al mused.
"Central's at least a week away." Ed agreed. "They'll have to come with us."
"Wouldn't be polite to leave them stranded here."
"Nope." Ed grinned at Saguru, who was watching the exchange with an expression of mild confusion and nervousness. "Make a deal with you and your friend."
"Yes-?" Saguru said cautiously.
"We get you back to your world, you give us the stone." Ed felt the smug grin stretch across his face. Equivalent Exchange.
Saguru held up a hand, turning to the still armed thief and speaking in the other language. Kid was still for a moment, the scary expression still on his face. Hakuba added something else, longer than the original comment and Kid growled something in response, the gun disappearing to parts unseen in a smooth gesture.
"I told him the agreement." Saguru's hand dropped as he addressed them once more. "Then I mentioned that you'd need to research it at a city about a weeks travel away. He said he wanted to know more before he agreed."
"How do we know he's not going to run off?" Ed grumbled.
Saguru sighed, like he'd had this conversation before. "I need him because he's got the stone to go home. He needs me to translate for him. We need you because you know the area and how to get home. You want the stone. Therefore, it is logically sound for us all to stick together."
"Equivalent Exchange." Al agreed sagely.
Ed shrugged. Close enough. They had a plan of action at least. "Let's go then."
He clapped his hands together, grinning slightly as he felt the alchemical charge race through him before putting his hands on the wall. Violet energy flashed and flickered against the rock, a doorway forming under his hands. Al reached down and picked up the lantern they'd brought with them as he pushed open one of the doors, it opening into the corridor they had come in from.
"You ready?" He shot over his shoulder. He paused, realising that he didn't hear any other footsteps other than his brother's.
The thief had his hand on Saguru's shoulder, murmuring something soothing as the nearly white-faced boy obviously fought to keep from hyperventilating.
He blinked and looked up at Al. Al shrugged. "Guess they really are from out of town."
It was nice, Alphonse had decided earlier, to have someone else to walk with as they travelled. Saguru and Kitty had no idea who they were or about alchemy or anything so neither of them saw his brother's limbs or the fact that he was hollow as strange, other than it was another oddity in this world that they found so strange. Which was refreshing in and of itself.
Once Saguru had recovered from his near fainting spell, he and Brother spent most of the walk talking, Brother explaining more about this world, Saguru describing where they had come from. Brother also talked more about alchemical theory, Saguru soaking up the information like a sponge and asking questions in return. They'd involve him in the discussions occasionally as well, but mostly he kept an eye on Kitty.
Who, despite Saguru's disparaging comments, had stayed close and observed everything with those too-wise cat eyes and a vaguely puzzled smirk. And did magic while he walked. Like pulling out a long piece of string and turning it into complex patterns between his fingers. Or juggled. A flick of the wrist and multi-coloured balls appeared in the Kitty's limber hands, which he tossed up in dizzying circles. He'd smiled when he noticed Alphonse's attention at it and silently began to teach him out to do it.
Juggling was fun. He wasn't nearly as good as Kitty, but he could foresee himself practicing a lot of it in the future.
It beat not having anything to do with his hands when he was waiting.
But that had been yesterday. Right now... Kitty wasn't sticking so close. Despite the fact that he was wearing a flashy white outfit, he was quickly fading into the pre-morning darkness. The town that they were going to catch the train was about another hour's walk away, they had decided to camp out tonight due because of the way Kitty stuck out. Alphonse was used to sticking out from the crowd, but it was usually dismissed as his being in a suit of armour. There was no way to hide that Kitty was anything other than what he was.
He grabbed a stick, quickly scribbling a note in the dirt where Brother could find it and followed the thief through the forest.
Kitty paused in a clearing, standing like a spectre as he looked up at the moonlight like he was greeting a long lost friend. Then he was moving, jumping from tree branch to tree branch until he was up in the air, the cape snapping open like wings and the air bore him off.
Well, the stories said Fairies could fly...
Alphonse picked up his speed to a quick jog as he followed, one eye tracking Kitty, the other avoiding any obstacles in his path. Running was still slower than flying however, and Kitty disappeared into the village before he got there.
The sun was well up by the time he finally found Kitty, standing on a wire stretched out between two buildings above the main courtyard. The thief's clothes had changed; he was now dressed in black pants and shoes, white vest, white gloves and a black domino mask hiding the strange eyes.
And he appeared to be doing gleeful back flips above a substantial crowd who were vocally admiring his antics in the early morning light.
... and in the case of several swooning girls, the lack of shirt.
Although several of the women were commenting on how skinny he was. Given very little opportunity, Kitty would find himself not lacking in meals for quite a while.
His charge found, Alphonse stood back and watched the performance, clapping and cheering along with the rest of the people while Kitty flipped, twisted, juggled and made flowers appear in his hands.
He'd have to ask Saguru to translate for him later, to ask Kitty how he did this kind of magic. It looked like fun.
Kaitou Kid +
There was nothing like performing, Kaito grinned to himself as he glided back to the camp, securely back in his guise as the Kid. Pushing his body and limits, the roar of the crowd below, the rush of light and air, it was addicting. Granted, he'd never done tightrope tricks for an audience before strictly for entertainment value, but it had been fun. He had needed that, a chance to exercise his creativity and muscles in something familiar.
The top hat full of money wasn't a bad perk either. At least this way he could at least pay his way and hopefully part of Hakuba's instead of depending on the Elric brothers as heavily as they had been.
And hopefully they hadn't missed him too much. It was still early in the morning and it wasn't like they were planning on leaving early.
The camp was disturbingly easy to locate, he could hear the cussing before he spotted the flash of red that marked the older smaller Elric. He grabbed a perch on the trees above their camp, looking down and spotted Hakuba, who was clearly annoyed, muttering several uncomplimentary things under his breath as he paced back and forth.
Okay... so they were up. And cranky. Someone obviously needed their coffee this morning.
... did they have coffee here? He'd have to ask about that or Hakuba was going to be nigh near impossible to get along with.
He dropped down to a lower branch, the shaking leaves gathering their attention. "Yo!"
"Kid!" Both blonds looked up, the glare in both sets of golden eyes enough to make him do a double take. Sheesh, Hakuba could easily pass for being one of the Elric Brothers...
"Where were you!" Hakuba demanded as Edward shouted something in the guttural language of his.
"Making money." He grinned, dropping down to ground level and holding up a handful of coins. "Hey, could you ask about their currency? I'm not exactly sure how much I got."
Hakuba's eyes went wide as he began to sputter, before grabbing Kaito's wrist in a painful grasp. "You STOLE this!"
He jerked his wrist out of the larger boy's grasp, backing up a step and out of reach. Jeez, what crawled up his ass and died? Do something to help out and they think the worst of you. "I earned it, not that it's any of your business." He growled back.
Edward waved his arms, shouting something again that Kaito didn't understand and Hakuba didn't bother to translate, being too busy yelling at him. "Of COURSE it's my business if you're going out and robbing people! What did you do? Sneak into people's houses and leave a calling card after you!"
"I did -not-!" He snapped back. Did Hakuba really think so little of him that he thought that he was going to go out and steal people blind the second the detective's back was turned?
Edward grabbed Hakuba's arm, swearing at the other blond, the only thing Kaito understanding was Edward's brother's name. He had seen Alphonse watching the show in town, he could guess that the gentle armoured giant was either still in town or on his way back.
-On the way back, he amended as Alphonse made his appearance, shouting something as he reached for his brother. Edward turned his attention towards the larger brother, shouting at him while Alphonse waved his hands and attempted to communicate back, causing Edward to then turn and start yelling at him as well. Hakuba continued his tirade, half of it unintelligible because he kept rapidly switching between Nihongo, English and what ever this Deutsch language was.
Kaito took a deep breath and came to the conclusion that he'd had already had a busy morning and a nap sounded good right about now. Preferably away from the angry screaming people.
This thought firmly in mind, he ignored Hakuba and Edward as he stalked over to Alphonse, opening up the chest panel like a door, crawled inside, curled up and slammed the panel shut after him.
Which felt damn good but was also a terrible move on his part, having failed to take into consideration that Alphonse's hollow body echoed really really well...
"Get out of there!" Edward raged, pounding a fist on his brother's armoured chest. It made a hollow bell-like gong sound. "Thief! Don't make me turn you into a real cat!"
An annoyed yowl answered him. "Don't like that do you? Ha!" He raised his fist to do it again, only to be stopped as Alphonse wrapped his arms around himself protectively, much in the same manner a pregnant woman would cradle her swollen belly.
"Brother, stop it!" Al insisted, backing away. "He didn't steal any thing!"
"Then where did he get the money?" Saguru demanded, his features and tone cold.
"He earned it." Al's voice turned admiring. "He put this rope between two rooftops in the market place and did acrobatics, juggling and made things appear and disappear. People put coins in his hat when he passed it around later."
"He did WHAT!" Saguru spouted off what sounded like an impressive stream of curses in several different flavours of language. Ed caught 'show-off' and 'magician', but that was about it.
"And no one thought he looked unusual?" Ed questioned. If word got around about a strange foreigner wandering around, it would probably cause quite a bit of trouble. And the last thing he needed was to give Mustang more ammo.
"He made a mask." Al shook his head. "No one thought he was anything other than another street performer, although silent."
"Thank god for small favours." Ed crossed his arms. "What did he do that for anyway?"
"Just what I want to know." Saguru muttered darkly. He cleared his throat, switching over to Kitty's native language.
Whatever the responding answer was, it was -far- from polite. Saguru flushed white, then pink. Ed hid a snicker. Looked like a lover's tiff to him.
"He, uh... declines to state at this time." Saguru translated diplomatically.
"Right." 'Eat shit and die' more like it. "Well, since we're already standing and ready to go, lets go catch our train."
The other two nodded, following his lead as he ambled towards the town, Al still keeping a protective arm around his middle, guarding the thief from them. Ed shook his head in amusement. What was it with Al and cats anyway?
Saguru distracted him by asking about the trains, which were evidently quite similar to older trains to their world, the conversation lasting until they got to the depot. They were in luck, there was a train leaving for Central in a few hours, meaning they didn't have to wait a few days.
"Four to Central." Ed requested from the attendant at the window, pulling out his watch for identification for the bill to be sent to his tab.
Al's chest opened, a white clad arm sliding out to drop a handful of coins on to the counter before retreating back to the safety of the metal shell.
The attendant gaped.
"Ah-ha-ha-ha." Al laughed nervously. "Didn't mean to startle you, the change got loose inside the armour."
"Right." The attendant nodded and turned his attention to processing the tickets, accepting the explanation without complaint.
"So that's what he wanted to earn the money for." Ed mused out loud. Saguru raised a stoic eyebrow and nodded in agreement.
"Keep out of Al!" Hakuba resisted the urge to do something impolite as Edward continued to rant at the Kid, who crept out of the giant after the train started moving. Kid remained seated next to Alphonse, watching the short blond with a long-suffering air of someone who was currently craving popcorn for a jolly good show. "He is not your personal hotel!"
With the Kid's limited vocabulary, it probably sounded closer to 'Blah blah blah Al Blah Blah' with lots of arm throwing anyway. Hakuba had given up attempting to translate it a while back, half the words he didn't understand and were probably insults and the other half going by too rapidly for him to bother to keeping up.
Kid nudged him. "What's he ranting about?"
Hakuba sighed and paraphrased. "Bad, Kitty, Bad. Stay out of Alphonse."
"Ah." Kid nodded, unrepentantly. "Kitty?"
A gloved hand curved up like a paw. "Mao?"
"Entschuldige, wenn ich dich unterbreche..." Alphonse excused himself for the interruption. "Ist Kitty eine Fee?"
Hakuba blinked, trying to remember the word. Fee... fee... he head heard that in some Märchen, Fairy Tales... Oh! Of course. Fee, Fae, Fairy. Was Kid a Fairy?
Kid waited patiently for the translation. "He wants to know if you're a magical person." Hakuba decided on. It was giving him a headache translating between three languages. But English was the closest to Deutsch and the easiest for him to translate the questions to when he was stuck. It was also the language he'd been speaking when he'd learned Deutsch.
The thief lit up, grinning at the large suit of armour. "Ja! Ich..." He trailed off, looking for the word before looking at Hakuba questioningly. "Ano...'Sukoshi' wa?"
"Ein Bisschen." Hakuba supplied. He supposed he shouldn't have been surprised at the thief's effort to pick up the language.
"Ich ein Bisschen Fee!" Kid beamed, the joy of being able to communicate even a little bit making his face glow.
Alphonse couldn't actually smile, but he radiated pleasure at the thief's accomplishment. Edward appeared less then enthusiastic.
Hakuba quickly excused himself and walked briskly out of their car to the next one before allowing himself to burst out laughing.
Yes, the Kid was just a little bit Fae...
"Brother." Edward stirred from his half slumber as Al called his name. "We've got trouble."
"Trouble?" Ed leaned forward, looking out the window. They were just pulling into Central Station, the platform bustling with people. Including quite a few in blue military garb. "Dammit."
Saguru peered through the window as well. "Not friends?"
"I'm not seeing any." He didn't see anyone that he recognised. Except... "Dammit. There's Archer. I don't like that guy."
"Brother works for the military." Al explained. "We have some friends, but there's... politics."
"I'm a dog of the military." He grumbled. "You don't have to be polite about it."
Saguru used the chance to translate the conversation to Kitty to avoid commenting. Kitty made a speculative sound, then barked softly. Ed decided to strangle them later, they had other things to concentrate on currently.
"Brother?" Al whispered. "Do you think they're here for us?"
Ed gave Kitty a look from the corner of his eye. "Wouldn't surprise me if there's a rumour going around that we found what we were looking for." They weren't the only ones looking for the Philosopher's stone and Mustang wasn't the only one with a spy network. Honestly, he was surprised that the train ride here was as quiet as it had been. "And it looks like they're checking disembarking passengers."
Saguru looked concerned. Between what Kitty had said and what they had said, the other-world boy was getting an alarming wake up call of exactly what they were dealing with here.
"We to find out what's going on." Al mused.
"Mustang." Ed wrinkled his nose, not looking forward to the upcoming visit to his 'Superior'. "Best place." Probably the safest place as well, especially with two out of towners immediately involved, one of which stuck out like a sore thumb and couldn't speak the language. They had to get them somewhere they wouldn't get into trouble before he could get to the library and do some research.
"Distraction?" Saguru suggested, giving the thief still mostly hidden by Al's bulk a speculative look.
"What are you suggesting?" Al asked, obviously worried. Of course, Al being the size he was, he did tend to stick out, which made for a good distraction. But if the military -was- looking for them, Al would be the first thing they'd spot.
"Well, -one- of us has plenty of experience creating lots of attention for himself." Saguru drawled.
Both Ed and his brother's gaze followed Saguru's.
"-And avoiding authority figures."
Kitty stiffened, then turned to look at them with a wide-eyed expression.
"He did an excellent show back in town." Al added helpfully.
Kitty muttered something in his language that Saguru didn't need to translate for them. 'I despise you' transposed many language barriers.
Rapid-fire conversation flew between Kitty and Saguru, the words furious despite the fact that their expressions stayed neutral. Finally they both nodded, having reached an accord.
"Two things. Where can we meet and is it possible for you to use your alchemy to create something different for him to wear?" Saguru switched languages back.
"Wear?" Al asked, confused.
"He's protective of his name and reputation." Saguru said dryly. "And this isn't a heist."
"It's a distraction." Ed nodded. He'd get odd looks for the unusual clothing among the crowd, but Kitty wasn't known as a thief here. He'd need something that screamed 'look at me' to be really effective. And white wasn't good for camouflage, if the thief was going to ditch his pursuers meet up with them safely later. "I don't like the idea of him just wandering around with the stone."
"We still need you to get home." Saguru assured him, but he too cast a worried glance at the thief. Kitty squared his jaw back, as if daring them to doubt his abilities. "Consider it insurance to guarantee that doesn't get caught."
Good point. "Fine, fine. We can meet outside of the headquarters. It's towards the middle of the city, has an emblem like this." He pulled out his pocketwatch and held it for Kitty to see.
Saguru translated as violet eyes inspected the watch and nodded.
"Brother." Al warned. The train had long since stopped and they were the last ones left in their car. It would look odd if they didn't move soon.
"This won't hurt." He warned the thief, clapping his hands together. There was a poof, a cloud of smoke covering Kitty as he rested his hands against the thief's chest. Lighting crackled against his fingers, transforming the now-dark material to something more colourful. He barely removed his hands when a second cloud of smoke followed on the second, the thief disappearing.
"Give him a minute." Saguru held up a hand to stall them, mouth moving in a silent countdown. At the silent count of '10', shouting started.
"Let's go." They rose en mass and 'casually' walked towards the exit doors. Quick movements drew attention; it was better to avoid that.
Al leaned his head out the door. "We're clear." His high voice whispered. He let Ed and Saguru pass first, before following them, his armoured footsteps muted slightly.
A motley coloured figure was bouncing manically at the other end of the station, a wave of men in blue rushing towards him. Over the din, a voice could be singing. It wasn't Kitty's native language but still mellower than their usual language, accompanied by lots of barking.
Saguru looked pained. "Who let the dogs out? Woof, woof, woof." he translated, grimacing. "Dammit, I knew I shouldn't have introduced Kuroba to American movies and music."
What ever THAT meant.
Kaitou Kid +
Polka dots, paisley and plaid.
Kaito swore that Edward was getting revenge at him for keeping Pandora from him. He looked like a freaking -clown-.
At least it worked damn well as a distraction. Ha. And Hakuba had argued when he had said that he didn't want to do this as Kid. But with the only change of clothing on him being his school uniform.
Somehow, he hadn't anticipated universe hopping when planning the heist.
A quick helter-skelter dash through the ranks of the military had divided them from their guns, which he quickly made disappear. He'd been going through his third blue man group when the first finally made an uproar, catching on to his plan.
It was a bit strange facing off against someone other than Nakamori and his men. The timing and the rhythm was slightly different. The men moved differently too, more stiffly. That didn't make them any less fast or dangerous.
People started grabbing for him, which he dodged, grateful for the crowd around that seemed to prevent them from arming the soldiers with anything more then rifles. And that he didn't see the odd coloured electricity crackle that signalled the 'Alchemy' transformations that the Elrics did. Hakuba had said that it was common in this world.
He disarmed the next group, silently wondering what he was going to do with this many guns.
Shots were fired towards him, which he ducked low to avoid. People screamed and began to run. A quick glance out of the corner of his eye revealed Alphonse and the backs of two gold heads disappearing in the rush to exit the building. Barking orders gain his attention as he jumped into the next knot of soldiers, leaving them in disorder before rushing on.
Food, he was definitely going to have to eat something after this. And drink. This was hard work.
A few of his remaining smoke bombs tossed randomly through the crowds caused more chaos for the military men, allowing him to slip away, disappearing into the rafters of the train station. A skylight from there allowed him to slip outside, roof hopping to a nearby building, where he curled up in the wings of a friendly gargoyle, watching the proceedings as he caught his breath.
And it was so nice to be away from the other three for a bit. The Elrics seemed nice enough and all, but he sincerely did not need Hakuba's paranoid bullshit.
The breeze felt good on his skin, tossing hair into his face. Freedom. Yeah, this was living.
A car pulled up in front of the station, people making a big deal out of it. A man with a large moustache and an eye patch stepped out, standing tall as people saluted and talked to him. Interesting. Grand Poo-bah. Commands were snapped and people rushed away, order once more being restored
And tin boy and the blonds were no where around. His job was done. Good. Hidden by the gargoyle and he shadows, he rose and stretched, feeling joints and vertebra pop. Time to fly.
The Grand Poo-bah turned, the uncovered eye unerringly finding him tucked back into the shadows. Kaito froze, Every. Mental. Alarm. Screaming.
His mouth went dry as he slipped farther back into the shadows, taking a somewhat hasty retreat. Grand Poo-bah was -scary-. Somehow, that guy knew that he was there and exactly where he was. Like he had seen him.
Like he knew that Kaito had Pandora.
He retreated until he was several buildings away, completely out of view of the station before changing back into Kid and activating the hang glider. Taking to the sky, he took the very long scenic route around town before spotting a large building with the same insignia that Edward had on the pocket watch. He landed on a rooftop, spotting Edward and Alphonse almost immediately, the brothers walking down the street towards the building.
He waited until they were close to him before scrambling down the building and back into what was rapidly becoming his favourite hiding place, inside Alphonse, before anyone was the wiser.
Al wondered if he should have told Kitty that Saguru was currently hiding inside of him. Then he figured that by the time Kitty was all the way hidden inside of him that the thief had probably figured it out.
Especially by the sudden clanking and shifting from his insides. It somewhat reminded him of when he had been younger and had eaten something that didn't agree with him, making his stomach rumble and make funny noises.
Only his stomach back then hadn't used words that would make his mother wash his mouth out with soap and demanded that Kitty get his face out of Hakuba's crotch.
Brother twitched, pausing in mid-step. Kitty hissed something back that was most likely along the lines of Hakuba getting his crotch out of Kitty's face.
Al was highly grateful that he couldn't blush and began to whistle softly. Brother buried his head in his flesh hand as he reached back and tapped on the metal front plate with his automail hand, making a thudding sound. It sounded differently with people inside of him instead of his normal hollow self.
His passengers thankfully shut up, lowering the volume to muted grumbling as he carefully treaded the steps to Mustang's office. He didn't want to accidentally shift and pinch somebody's limbs or fingers by accident.
Brother led them through the building, slouching slightly and hands in pockets, obviously not looking forward to the up coming meeting. Al did his best to walk as normally as he could and not slouch or look guilty. Not many people could or actually would bother reading his body language, but all of those who would were currently in this building. Fortunately for his peace of mind, no one stopped them or even glanced at them funny.
People looked up when they finally entered Mustang's offices, welcoming them both back with smiles and warm greetings. Brother grunted in return, walking steadfastly towards Mustang's office. Al paused to thank them, silently apologising for his brother's behaviour, which every one waved off, well used to it by now.
He felt something shift inside of him before he heard the squawk and his head fell off.
Dead silence filled the room as everyone including himself froze, looking at Saguru's head sticking out of his neck.
"Uh... Um, Could someone hand me back my head please?" Saguru said, his voice higher than normal. "I'm not used to the quite armour yet..."
Silence continued to fill the room. Brother covered his face with both hands, a faint groan coming from his throat.
Hawkeye finally walked forward with business like movements, crouching down to pick up the helmet and handing it to him. Al gratefully took it. "Thank you kindly." Saguru said as Al put his head back on his shoulders.
"He's waiting for you." Hawkeye said in return, motioning them forward. She turned and walked back to her desk, obviously putting the entire incident out of her mind. At least for the moment. Brother groaned again and plodded forward, his head drooping as he knocked on the door.
"Come in." Mustang greeted them pleasantly as they walked in, Al shutting the door behind them. The dark haired man then proceeded to give them a friendly smile. "And please, introduce me to our guests."
Brother began making grumbling comments about 'know it alls', 'not bothering' and 'bastards going to some very uncomfortable places' that Al was not going to repeat.
Even if -his- mouth could no longer be washed out with soap...
"Guten Morgen!" The warm press of the Kid's body against Hakuba's legs vanished, accompanied by the annoying 'Pon!' of the thief's magical disappearing routine. Hakuba sighed and followed the more conventional way, climbing out of Alphonse's chest cavity, popping joints back into place as he did so. The ride had been less than spacious, especially with the addition of a second person.
"Guten Tag." He corrected absentmindedly. Kid must have picked that up in the market place. It was no longer morning, but afternoon, hence the change from 'Morgan' to 'Tag', or from 'Morning' to 'Day'.
Edward made grumbling introductions, introducing the two of them to his commander, one very smug looking Roy Mustang. He didn't bother to translate most of it other than giving the Kid the smirking man's name.
Kid looked vaguely impressed, watching the interplay between the shortest member of their group and his superior officer. "Wow. Talk about sparks flying." Kid commented softly.
He raised an eyebrow. "Sparks?" He echoed. Edward did not seem to care much for the company of Mustang, that much was clear. On the other hand, Mustang seemed to be amused by the braided boy's reactions. Much like an older sibling with a bratty little brother.
"Just watch." Kid grinned.
"Now that the pleasantries have been dispensed with, your report please, Edward." Mustang requested with the politeness of a cat before an unaware mouse.
"I've missed you ever so much, come over here and give me a lap dance." Kid translated in a bored monotone.
Hakuba stared at the Kid, wide eyed. He had not expected such pervertness from the thief.
"Why don't we skip it," Edward retorted back. "Since you already know everything anyway."
"Why don't you come over here and blow me first."
"Yes, but your report makes everything complete." There was a slight flash of teeth there, the hint of anticipation as the game began. "And your reports do so liven up my day."
"You would prefer your lap, my face?"
Hakuba felt his cheeks heat up. He wasn't sure if it was from embarrassment, mortification or something else. At least no one -else- could understand the Kid's comments.
"So glad to liven up your otherwise dull existence." Edward growled. Mustang may have been a cat, but Edward was far from without fangs of his own. "Where do you want me to start?"
"Can't we just cuddle a bit first?"
He was pretty sure his ears were turning red now too.
"From the beginning of course, my dear Edward." Mustang sat back, as if preparing for a highly entertaining show.
"We can do that later, after we've screwed like rabid weasels in he-"
Hakuba placed his hand over Kid's mouth, cutting him off. "While you are talking, would it be possible for my companion and I to get something to eat?" Hakuba said quickly. Kid's eyes were silently laughing at him from above his hand. It was as good of an excuse as any to leave, it had been a while since their meagre breakfast on the train. "He's complaining of hunger."
It was damn good that Kid probably did not understand what he was saying or he'd really be in for a ribbing over that comment.
From the amused look on Mustang's face, the older man didn't buy his hasty explanation one bit. Not that Hakuba blamed him. Mustang picked up a phone and spat some fast orders into it, too fast for Hakuba to catch completely. A moment later, the stiff blonde woman opened the door and saluted.
"This is my Second in Command, Liza Hawkeye." Mustang introduced her politely. "She'll escort you to a conference room and lunch will be brought up to you shortly. Alphonse, if you care to follow them while I debrief your brother?"
The brothers exchanged looks a moment before Edward made a slight shoo-ing motion with a gloved hand, granting tact permission. "Alright." Alphonse agreed.
"This way." Hawkeye lead them out of the room, Hakuba noting that everyone at the desks seemed completely absorbed in their tasks, apparently not seeing them. He wondered about this as a second door was opened, leading to a large but rather plain room with a table, chairs and no windows. A normal conference room, in other words.
A highly defendable room, the sole exit leading to the soldiers in the main office. Kid caught his eye, noticing this fact as well with some unease on his part.
"Your meals will be here in a few minutes." Hawkeye informed them briskly. "Please make your selves comfortable in the mean time."
"Thank you." He inclined his head, taking a seat. Alphonse sat across from him, Kid choosing to lounge in the corner farthest from the door. She nodded back, and then stepped back into the main room, shutting the door behind her.
Hakuba turned towards the Kid. "Kid?"
"What? You don't think they make a cute couple?"
His answering growl was only met by delighted laughter.
"So, to paraphrase. You and Alphonse believe that you have found the Philosopher's stone, only to have it summon these two people from a different place of existence. The white clad thief carries it on him, calling it 'Pandora' and refuses to hand it over believing it is what he and the other one require to return to their home."
Ed sighed. "Yup." The story telling had gone much faster without the others in the room, a small favour he was grateful for. Even if he'd be required to type an edited version of events later into a report. Stupid reports. "He'll be willing to trade it, if we can figure out how to send them home."
"Can you send them home?" Mustang wanted to know, all serious now.
"I don't know yet." Ed confessed honestly. "It'll take some researching in the library, I've never heard of something like this happening before."
Mustang's brows came down, as if he were mulling over the tomes he had read. "Do you believe the stone is safe with this Kitty?" He finally asked, gravely serious.
He shrugged. "As safe as it can be, I guess. He's tricky. You could probably strip him naked and never find it anywhere on him."
The dark haired man appeared to contemplate this for a moment, as if debating actually attempting it. Ed was partially afraid that he -would- try it. Mustang shook his head slightly. "You have noticed Saguru's similarity to you and your brother?"
"Yeah." It was mainly a matter of colouring than features, his eyes having a bit of that odd shape that Kitty's did.
Mustang nodded, apparently reaching a decision. "I'm going to move your quarters." He announced. "So that the four of you remain together. Take Saguru with you when you go to town or the library, make it visible if possible. Alphonse will need to stay behind, to look after Kitty."
Ed was silent for a moment; anger at being separated from his brother stewing in the background as mentally prodded what Mustang was up to -this- time. "You want people to mistake Saguru for Al." He realised.
"Exactly." The dark haired man looked pleased by his deduction. Less confusion about the armour for when he did get his brother back, made sense. "We're going to need to do something about Kitty in the meantime or he's going to attract unwanted attention."
"Camouflage." He picked at a sleeve of his red coat, ideas running around his brain. Battle plan, break things down logically and solve it bit by bit. Just like any other conflict. "Both of them are going to need new clothing."
"I'll leave this in your hands." Mustang informed him loftily. The officer did not shop for people, people shopped for him. "You'll be reimbursed."
"Thanks." He commented dryly. Like he needed to worry about money.
"You're welcome. I'm sure you can figure the rest out." It almost sounded like an insult, that he always got himself in and out of trouble. Mustang waved him out the door. "Dismissed."
He waved and made his leave, taking a small fiendish delight in slamming the door shut after him.
Food first, then execute battle plans.
After all, Growing Alchemists needed their energy...
Kaitou Kid +
Bored. Bored bored bored bored bored.
He sighed from his hiding spot up in a tree, keeping a lazy eye on Alphonse playing with the small girl Elysica below him. He supposed if he were so inclined, he could go help Gracia in the kitchen but at the moment lacked the enthusiasm to do so. She was a nice lady and all, and he appreciated the fact that she was giving four teenage boys the run of her house, but he was tired of being cooped up.
They had been at this house for almost a week now. Edward and Hakuba would leave early in the day, going to the library where they wouldn't return until late in the day, the Alchemist bringing with him stacks of books that he and his brother would then pour over, either in silence or talking back and forth so rapidly that he couldn't understand it and Hakuba seemed to be unable to keep up with. He and Alphonse usually stayed behind, helping with chores and doing repairs on the house.
Kaito pushed the sunglasses he was wearing higher up on his face, still adjusting to wearing them all the time. Gracia's deceased husband, Maas, had worn glasses all the time and she had given him an old pair to disguise his features. The long square frames didn't hide his face as much as his monocle, but they weren't nearly as awkward either. It was a bit of a relief as well, he wasn't used to being 'Kid' for so long and it was starting to strain his nerves a bit. As much as he enjoyed being the Kid, he needed to be Kaito too.
And it wasn't like he cared if the Elrics or Gracia knew that the Kaitou Kid was Kuroba Kaito, it didn't matter to -them-. But when, not if, they got back home, he'd still have to deal with Hakuba and the whole thief thing. With that thought in mind, he'd managed to get Hakuba to talk the alchemists into getting rid of the prescription and tinting the lenses as a lesson in the Alchemy that the blond was so interested in. The lenses had somehow turned out a golden yellow instead of grey, but worked well to distract from his eyes.
Elysica had liked it, saying it made Kitty look even more like a kitty.
That was another odd thing, not being able to just blend in. He couldn't just take off the costume and be another face in the crowd. Here he was exotic looking, a stranger in a strange land. There was really nothing familiar to him here. The language, the food, the architecture, the clothing, all of it was strange. Even the rice tasted different. There was nothing of -home- here. Not even Hakuba seemed familiar anymore, having taken to this place like a duck to water.
And there was no sign of the Elrics being any closer to getting them back. They had lives here, other priorities that would eventually call them away.
Leaving them here. Leaving him here.
Unease settled in his stomach, leaving a bad taste in his mouth. He missed home.
He wondered how his Mom and Aoko were doing.
Laughter from Elysica and Alphonse drew his attention away from the almost physical longing for his family. With a shake of his head and a stretch, he dismissed the thoughts from his mind.
Focus. He knew that the likelihood of just being able to go home was minute, this took research. The last thing any of them wanted was to be accidentally taken to a different place, even stranger than here.
Stupid red stone. Root of most of his problems. That was one good thing of this whole mess. The more he watched the Elrics, the more comfortable he was with leaving Pandora with them when he left. Edward really did want to turn his brother back again. And hopefully they'd figure out a way to destroy it afterwards, they were all too aware of its risks. Even if they didn't, it was out of the hands of Snake and those idiots in black.
In the mean time, he should take advantage of this opportunity that was given. They had 'normal' clothing, he had his glasses to hide his eyes and he wanted to get out of here and mingle with people again. Too much solitude wasn't good for the soul.
He wondered what it would take to convince someone to escort him around town...
While Al didn't mind learning new things, such as Kitty teaching him how to juggle, he generally preferred if the clean up from learning new things was fairly simple and not so messy.
Unfortunately, this was not the case. It was a lot of fun however.
Kitty had introduced them to something he called 'Shibori' and Al knew as 'Tie-dye'.
Elysica called it 'fun splashing in the many colours'.
Gracia called it 'colourful' and let them pattern and dye just about everything they could get their hands on. Kitty had some interesting ideas with thread and pressing leaves or blocks of wood against the fabric so that the dye didn't colour it, resulting in new drapes for the windows with geometric shapes on them. Gracia said that it brought new colour and life into the house and Al was hard pressed to argue.
Saguru and Brother had found it amusing, when they had had finally returned from the libraries. Brother had a particularly wicked smirk on his face as he made a comment about waiting until Winry saw him with the tie-dyed loincloth, especially with the spiral right in the middle of it.
There were times he was grateful he couldn't blush. Especially around Brother. On the other hand, Brother turned many different shades of red, usually when Colonel Mustang was around.
He had long ago decided not to inquire too deeply as to Brother and Colonel Mustang's relationship, despite the... frisson between them. As long as Mustang didn't hurt Brother, he didn't have to hurt the Colonel.
But the Colonel was protective of Brother, something Al could understand. And as much as he liked Kitty and Saguru, he missed the company of his brother. Kitty wasn't very good conversationalist, although he was learning.
A knock at the door drew his attention as Gracia answered the door. A large booming voice informed them that Kitty's escort was here.
Elysica poked her head into the doorway to see what was going on and Al followed her as well, just in time to see Kitty bounce down stairs.
Suddenly, he understood the purpose behind the tie-dyeing.
And once again, Al was slightly grateful for the fact that he still couldn't blush, nor could his jaw drop.
"I don't need to walk around in circles, walk around in circles, walk around in circles, walk around..." Saguru hummed to himself as he sat on the steps to the Central Library. It was true, he didn't need to walk around in circles, even if that was what they did frequently. Ever shrinking circles that focused around the Shrine to Books, known as the Library. And an impressive library it was too, even if he wasn't allowed inside.
No, he didn't need to walk around in circles.
He just needed to draw circles.
Lots and lots of circles.
Alchemy reminded him a lot of chemistry, mixed with geometry. Instead of writing out the formula and the processes out with formulas and equations, you did it with symbols. He was still a little vague on the power source bit of it. The Elrics had walked him through a few transmutations, most noticeably changing the lens in the glasses for Kid, which he had goofed on by changing the colour of the glass, but he had noticed that he was drained afterwards. He had eaten like Edward as well, much to his embarrassment.
But it was interesting, and addicting.
Which made it a wonderful distraction for while they cooled their heels while Edward researched a way for them to go back home.
Hakuba flipped the paper over to draw on the blank side as he started humming a camp song from when he was younger. "Gee Mom I wanna go, but they won't let me go, Gee Mom I wanna go home..."
This place was nice, but it wasn't home. It wasn't Japan or his other home, England. And if he was homesick, it must be even worse for the Japanese thief.
A familiar voice caught his attention. A dark haired person wearing an EXTREMELY vibrant and colour shirt was walking past, followed by a mountain of a man with a curl on his forehead. The giant seemed to be a bit on the frazzled side.
... or he could be adapting himself just fine...
A second commotion behind him caught his attention and he glanced back to see a group of military men marching down the steps. The one in the middle, a man with a proud bearing, moustache and eye patch noticed him. The man slowed as the group passed by his seat on the stairs.
"Waiting for Edward, are we?" The man asked, looking amused.
Hakuba blinked stupidly for a moment. "Yes, sir." He held up the board with the papers he was drawing circles on. "Practicing, sir."
"Very good." The man patted him on the head and continued walking, a faint chuckling sound coming from him. "Carry on."
Hakuba watched the man and the group of people until they disappeared into a car at the base of the library. He ran a hand across the top of his head, verifying that yes, he had just been patted on the top of the head like a good boy, or a dog.
That had been strange.
Shrugging, he went back to drawing circles and waiting for Edward to finish in the library.
"People are strange, when you're a stranger, faces look ugly when you're alone ..."
"So..." Mustang gave him a grin that was one part mischief, one part smug bastard, add a dash of malice and stir. "Hear the latest about your guest?"
Ed gave him a thoughtful look as he sprawled out on the couch. Since Saguru had been with him all day, that left "Kitty?"
Mustang nodded. Ed frowned. What had the thief been up to now?
The Colonel folded his fingers, leaning forward in the manner of someone who had some very very good news and was all too smug about it. "Our dear thief got cabin fever and expressed is wishes to explore the city. With the understanding he'd keep a low profile and someone was to accompany him at all times."
"I'd heard about that." Saguru had been the go between for that and had mentioned it during one of their walks. While Ed didn't mind the other boy, he just... wasn't Al. And he missed Al's calming presence around him.
"Did you happen to hear who the escort was?"
Mustang's grin turn lazy. "Armstrong."
Ed blinked. Oh... dear.
"It appears 'low profile' got lost somewhere in translation." Mustang leaned back in the chair, committing himself to the telling of the story. "Between the strangely coloured glasses, the brightly coloured shirt with clovers on it and him bouncing around asking 'Vas ist das?' he caught a number of people's attention. Quite the talk of the town."
"I'm sure that Armstrong did nothing to attract attention either." Ed smirked. "After all, he's very low profile himself."
An eyebrow rose. Touché. "He decided to take the next couple of days off." Mustang drawled. "After a comment about 'herding cats', I suspect he'll spend them recovering."
"I'm sure." He chuckled.
"In other news." Mustang's face went serious again, not that he'd showed much amusement before. "How are things on your end."
Ed ran a gloved hand across the top of his head and tugged on the hairs. It helped distract him form the minor headache. "I think I may have found how to send them back." He said cautiously.
Mustang smiled. "Excellent."
"I'm not positive, however." He tugged on scalp again. The older books were harder to read, partly because of the archaic language and partly because of the faded or in some cases, invisible, text.
"And if it does?" The eyebrow rose again, this time questioning.
He sighed. "Then we all go back." Kitty and Saguru to their world, he and Al back to the Rockwell's. And from there... he wasn't sure. They'd figure out something.
But that was IF the array worked, IF the combined Pandora/Philosopher's stone worked the way he hoped, IF things didn't screw up. If, if, if, if, if.
Ed was starting to hate 'if'.
Mustang chuckled at him, not unkindly, but he felt his hackles rise anyway. "Go get some rest. And keep me informed on your progress."
He shot him a dark glare, but rose to his feet. "Yeah, yeah." He grumbled. "Later."
Mustang waved him out. Ed rolled his eyes and staggered to his feet.
He'd follow Armstrong's example. Sleep first, eat, then deal with creating the frikkin' huge array.
Kaitou Kid +
He nearly fell out of the tree. "You're kidding."
Hakuba shook his head. "Rarely. You should know that by now."
Kaito grinned, hanging by the tree branch by his knees so he could look the detective eye to upside down eye. "Edward's figured out how to send us home?"
"He thinks so." Hakuba said cautiously.
"Wahoo!" He cheered, straightening his legs and allowing gravity to pull him down. He caught the ground with his hands, using his momentum to roll back up onto his feet. He gave Hakuba a big grin before running into the house. "Edward-kun! Alphonse-kun!"
The brothers looked up from the papers they had scattered around the living room. He gave Alphonse a huge bear hug, or at least as much of one as he could being the diminutive size he was and considering the giant armour boy's bulk, then grabbed Edward and tried to swing him around in a circle. Edward was a lot heavier than he looked, so he settled for a happy glomp and rubbing his knuckles into the blonde's hair.
Alphonse looked pleased by the reaction, although sometimes it was hard to tell. Edward elbowed him in response, but had a happy look in his eyes as he grumbled something good-naturedly in that harsh language of his.
"Kid." Hakuba chided from the doorway. "Let them study. They still need time."
Alphonse protested, saying something about morning. He patted him on the head and skipped out anyway. Better to let the brains do what they were best at and study rather than end up some place strange.
"You're really happy to be heading home, aren't you?" Hakuba commented dryly, following him as he bounced back outside. Gracia's house was nice and all, but he preferred the openness of the backyard.
"They're nice people and all, but yes." He nodded. "I'd really rather prefer if my retirement started at home instead of here."
The detective frowned. "You're serious about that, retiring?"
"Oh, yes." Yes, yes, yes. A thousand times yes. While he enjoyed being the Kid, sometimes he thought he enjoyed it a bit too much. The thief was taking over his life, leaving Kuroba Kaito floating around unfettered.
He knew what Kid could do. It was time to focus and see what he could do as himself, not his father's shadow.
And if nothing else, this trip had proved he really didn't care to live with the shadow of suspicion laying over all of his actions for the rest of his life. He liked the freedom that came with no one constantly looking at his every move. And Pandora was safe enough with Alphonse and Edward, if their actions and his gut instinct was any indication. He liked the brothers.
Hakuba didn't look so pleased by it. In fact, he looked downright depressed by the thought. "I'll miss you." He said cryptically, patting Kaito on the upper arm companionably before turning to head back into the house. "You might want to head to sleep a little early tonight. We're going to be busy tomorrow, saying goodbye and drawing the array."
Kaito watched him go, then turned to watch the sun set and wait for the stars to come out.
Even the stars were unfamiliar...
"I think we're ready." Brother looked a little tired, but determined. The array was huge, over twice as long as Al was tall, but finally complete. And it looked similar to what he could remember of the flash of light that brought their guests to them.
It was amazing what a little bit of hard work and a lot of research could accomplish.
"Where's Kitty?" He asked, looking around. Saguru grumbled something by his position by the door, keeping an eye on the entrance.
"He'd better be here." Brother snapped.
Saguru cleared his throat. "He will be."
On cue, the door opened and a white shadow slipped in, a huge grin on the thief's face. Saguru glared at him. Kitty whispered something in the detective's ear, Al making out the words 'Mustang' and 'Whoopie Cushion'. Saguru's eyebrows rose, then he closed his eyes, pinching the bridge of his nose in a pained expression. "I think we'd better leave as expediently as possible."
Brother chuckled. "Oh, I don't know... It's kind of nice to see someone else in trouble with him other than me."
Kitty made a twisting motion with one hand and a fist size red stone appeared. The thief waggled his eyebrows at them. "Okay then," Brother punched a fist into the palm of one hand. "Ready to go?"
Their tearful goodbyes to the Hughes family had already been said, Elysica hadn't wanted to let them go and Gracia had fretted over them. Their thanks and farewells to Mustang and Armstrong had already been passed on, it was just them that needed to say goodbye.
Kitty handed the stone over to Brother. "Doo arigatou."
Brother blinked. "Uh?"
"Thank you." Saguru translated, pushing himself off the wall. "That goes for me too. The stone is yours."
Brother smiled, taking the stone. "You're welcome." He and Kitty shook hands, grinning like madmen.
Saguru held his hand out to Al, smiling. Al shook it, making a pleased sound. "Good luck."
"Same to you."
He found himself with a Kitty plastered against his back. "Thank you." Kitty said sincerely, patting his head. "Safe."
"You're most welcome." It wasn't often that he invoked a sense of safety for someone instead of terror. Kitty beamed at him. Behind them, Brother and Saguru made their goodbyes.
Kitty slipped off his back with one last friendly pat, the others straightening as well. "Stand in the middle." Brother instructed, placing the stone in a circle at one edge of the array. The two foreigners carefully made their way to the centre, not touching any of the lines as he and Brother took their positions at the other two circles.
"Ready?" Brother yelled.
Saguru grabbed Kitty's arm. "As we're going to be." Kitty nodded, grabbing Saguru in return.
He nodded. He and Brother placed their hands on the array, the lines glowing blue, then purple and finally red as the stone began to glow as well. It grew brighter, then with a flash of light, they were gone.
Brother slumped backwards, taking a deep breath. "Whew." They had done it. Hopefully the others were where they belonged.
Al rose. "Brother, the stone is still here."
"What?" In a heartbeat, Brother was next to him, examining the still large glimmering stone. "Yes!" Brother began a happy dance that involved much wiggling and throwing of fists into the air. Al laughed, picking up the stone.
The door opened, Colonel Mustang entering, holding a large pink cushion with a sour expression. "They're gone, Colonel." Al informed him. The Colonel nodded, distracted by Brother's gyrations.
Brother tapped his shoulder with the automail arm, making a gong sound. "Ready, Al?" He grinned, the promise of the end of their quest glowing in his eyes.
Al could practically feel a heart beating in his chest again.
+ Epilogue +
"Stop!" Hakuba commanded as he chased a robber down the alleyway. The robber ignored him and he swore he could hear the sound of snicker.
Honestly, chasing after the Kaitou Kid had spoilt him. There was honour in the phantom thief, as much as it pained him to admit it. And the heists had been a hell of a lot more fun then chasing after some random purse-snatcher or figuring out why someone would commit the unpardonable sin of killing other people for petty reasons. The Kid was a challenging paradox.
But true to his word, the Kid had retired after their return from... wherever that glowing portal had landed them. He had never learned the name of the country they had been in. The lack of intellectual challenge was wearing.
And in a completely unrelated train of thought, Kuroba Kaito had taken to wearing a pair of yellow tinted glasses with square lenses during his free time. Nothing that could be proven, of course, but an interesting coincidence.
Kuroba was also taking lessons in Deutsch.
Hakuba kept his opinions, no matter how amused, to himself. He wished the other boy luck in his now legal ventures.
And who knew? The Kid was retired, not dead. Retired meant there was still the possiblity of future matches. And now he had a bit of his own edge for dealing with the Kaitou.
"Last warning!" He warned the running bandit. Yes, that was definitely a snicker from the other end of the alley.
He sighed, slowing his pace to a trot then stopped, pulling a piece of chalk out of his pocket.
Honestly, when were people going to learn that 'stop' meant 'cease motion' instead of 'run faster'?
Hakuba placed his hands against the quickly sketched array and watched with some not so small satisfaction as it lit up, blue energy crackling along the wall, by passing the running man. A second later, a huge stone fist grew out of the wall, the robber running into it and knocking himself silly.
Oops. He'd meant to try to grab the man, not knock him out. He grimaced, drawing a second array and triggered it, the fist melting back into the form it had been before. He winced, feeling the energy drain as he moved to grab the fallen robber before he regained his senses.
But then, such were the perils of being this world's only practicing alchemist.
And he was still learning.
Ed hesitated before knocking on the familiar door of the Rockbell household, suddenly feeling awkward. They shouldn't have come here, it was too soon. But the military would be bound to show up sooner or later, wanting to know what happened to the Philosopher's stone. Mustang would want to know, never satsified with just the breif letter he'd left behind during their sudden departure. And it was probably best to tell Winry and Pinko in person. They owed them that much, after all these years.
"Ready, Al?" He whispered. Al shifted and made a hesitant noise that he took as agreement.
A second later, Den's barking echoed through the house and he heard Winry's voice scold the dog as footsteps moved towards the door. Ed felt a split second inclination to flee again, but stopped when Al patted him in a reassuring manner.
"Ed!" Winry's face lit up as she opened the door. "I'm so glad to see you! And... Al!"
"Hi, Winry." He smiled weakly. Al grinned at her, waving a hand.
"Alphonse... he's human again!" She squeaked. She looked between the two of them for a moment, eyes sparkling. "You did it! Can I... would you mind a hug?"
Al's grin grew bigger as he held his arms out. Winry squeaked in delight, hugging the younger brother.
Ed found himself relaxing, a genuine smile crossing his face as she ushered both of them in and shut the door behind them. Things may not have turned out exactly like they had hoped after their rather odd guests had returned home, but it was a good start to begin with.
And in the meantime, it was good to be home again.
Songs Hakuba's singing:
"Walk around in Circles" by Soul Coughing
"People are Strange" Lyrics by the Doors.
We are quite aware that this fic needs major edits. We do not care. This may change sometime in the future, until then, we're leaving it as.
Posted here because we had numerous requests to do so. Fanart and sequels can be found on