Side by Side

Disclaimer: FMA is not mine.

Chapter One
And So It Begins...

"Hey! Bastard!" the golden haired teenager called as he stomped into the large house, slamming the door behind him. His bag of books was dropped unceremoniously in the hall, along with his long red jacket. "Bastard! Where are you? I'm home!"

"He's gone, Ed." said a taller, sandy-haired boy, walking into the entryway. "Why are you home so late, anyway? You were supposed to be here an hour ago."

"Don't remind me." the shorter teen muttered, clomping down the hall into the kitchen. "What's for dinner?"

"It's your day to make it, big brother."

"Damn!" he cursed, banging a fist down on the table. It landed with a hollow, metallic 'clunk.' "Aargh..." he growled, ripping off one of his gloves to examine the metallic hand underneath. "...Good, no damage." He flexed the prosthetic experimentally, it responded smoothly.

"Ah... I can make dinner if you want..." said the brunet, backing up. He didn't want to mess with Ed in one of his rages. "You should calm down a bit."

"No, it's good. I'll cook." sighed Ed, getting up wearily and beginning to search the refrigerator for food. A few minutes later, he emerged looking even more frustrated then before. "There's no damned food, Al!" he shouted, slamming the door.

"...You were the one who was doing the shopping this week." Al said quietly.

"Urgh!" yelled the shorter teen, banging both of his fists on the table. "Dammit!"

Al looked at him strangely. "Why are you so mad, anyway?" His brother wasn't usually so tempramental; he only got like this when somebody had really annoyed him.

"You know the counselor, Ms. Vyen?"

His brother nodded.

"Well, she called me in after school and told me that it seemed like something was 'bothering me.'" He formed quote marks with his hands as he said the last two words. "She wanted to know if I needed to have a little 'chat' about anything that was on my mind."

Al couldn't suppress a snort. "That's it? That's what's gotten you all pissed off?"

His older brother slumped lower in the seat. "She said if I keep acting up, I could get expelled... which is ridiculous! I've only gotten into a couple of fights this year! And those were only with that jerk, Russell! She has no right to order me around like that!" He got up again and began pacing angrily. "And then she asked me if anything was bothering me at home. Apparently she thinks that the bastard is abusive and that's why I keep getting in fights."

"Ed... you really shouldn't fight with him." the boy admonished, grey eyes wide.

The golden-haired teen slumped back into the chair. "I know, Al. You don't have to keep telling me. It's just... that bastard Russel won't leave me alone! And it's never his fault that he gets beat up, oh no. They only just bring the bad kid into the office." He 'hmphed' and ran a hand through his hair, undoing the braid and pulling the rubber band out.

"I'll make dinner." Al offered, already setting out what meager supplies they had stored in the freezer.

"Thanks, bro." Ed sighed and got up wearily. "I'll go change."

"Good afternoon, class." the short-haired woman said cheerfully. "Today we will be reviewing Japanese titles." She wrote the word '-sama' on the board in large block letters. "Can anyone give me the correct definition of this suffix, and who you would use it for?"

Suddenly, the door burst open, and a blonde teenager with a braid rushed in. He was followed by a taller sandy-haired boy. Their bookbags were slung rather haphazardly on their shoulders, and both were panting.

"Sorry, Ms. Ross." gasped the shorter of the two. "We had to stay late at school."

"It's fine, boys." replied the teacher, smiling kindly at them. "Just take your seats."

The two teenagers nodded and walked to the back of the room as Ms. Ross continued the review as though nothing had happened.

After the class had ended, Ms. Ross summoned both teens to her desk. "Edward, Alphonse," she began. "Why were you two late?"

"We had to stay at school for a while." supplied Ed.

"My big brother got in a fight with Russell again." Al elaborated. He motioned to the shorter teen's bruised knuckles and split lip.

"Ed..." sighed the teacher, exasperated.

"It wasn't my fault! He insulted Al, and called me short, and, and-"

The dark haired woman cut him off with a wave of her hand. "No excuses, please."

"But he's a JERK!" yelled Ed, face flushing with anger. "He has no right to-"

"Look, Ed." said the teacher firmly. "I'm not denying that Russell's a jerk. I'm just saying that you need to stop getting into these fights at school."

Ed slumped. "I know." he said, sounding defeated. "I'm sorry. I'll try and be better about it."

The older woman smiled. "Good. Now the real reason I asked you both to stay was because you two were both invited to travel to Japan as foreign exchange students."

"WHAT?" yelled Ed in disbelief. "Are you serious?"

The teacher smiled and nodded. "I am. Weren't you aware of this opportunity?"

"Well..." began Al. "I knew the trip was offered, but I never thought we would get it."

"You two are my best two students." Ms. Ross said, smiling at them. "I felt it was only fair to give you two the offer. You know, if you don't want to go, you only have to say so."

"Of COURSE we want to go!" shouted Ed. "When can we leave?" He was already mentally listing the items he would need to pack.

"Your flight is leaving on the first of January, and we already have the tickets paid for. You guys just need to talk to you dad about this, and find out if its okay with him. Here's your packets." She shoved a thick folder filled with many colored papers at them. "Make sure you don't lose anything. And, if you can go, we need to arrange your passports."

"Great! I can't wait!" shouted Ed, grabbing the folder and hurrying out the doors.

"Ed! Don't forget to ask your father." the teacher reminded him, smiling.

"Hellooooooooo bastard!" Ed shouted as soon as he came through the doors.

A bearded blonde man came clomping down the stairs. He had a square face partly covered with a short beard. "Hello, boys." he said politely. He looked tired, with dark smudges beneath both of his eyes.

"You know, you should really-" Ed began critically.

"We got invited to go to Japan as foreign exchange students." interjected Al before his brother could say whatever impolite thing that was on his mind.

Their father looked intrigued. "Really?"

"Yeah. All you need to do is sign these forms and then we'll be out of your hair." retorted Ed, shoving the file into his chest.

"Have you read any of this?" their father asked mildly.

"No." Ed replied. "That's your job, bastard. You're our dad."

"Here ya go, Ms. Ross." said Edward proudly, slapping the folder on her desk. It was after the Japanese class, and the teacher had once again asked them to stay. "All signed and ready to go."

"And here are our passports." supplied Al, setting down two small burgundy booklets.

The teacher opened one and looked it over. It was a standard European Union passport, containing the name of their country, Germany, and its seal, along with a list of all other countries in the EU and the word 'passport' in several different languages. On the identification page, there was a picture of a blonde teenager grinning confidently at the camera.
Name: Edward Elric
DOB: October 11, 1990
Nationality: German
The teenager had scrawled a large signature at the bottom of the page.
"These look good!" the woman said. "I'm surprised you were able to get them so quickly."

"Ah, well." Edward said, trying and failing to sound modest. "Our bastard dad has some uses after all."

"Ed!" admonished Al, hitting him lightly on the arm. "Be nice!"

Ms. Ross smiled slightly. "You really shouldn't call your father a bastard." she told the golden-haired teen.

"But he is! He's always busy with his stupid chemistry and he barely even talks to us! He doesn't even bother cooking! All he does is take up space with his stupid experiments and yell at us if we even go near them! We've been pretty much living on our own since mom died! And it was hisdamn chemicals that started the fire! It's all his fault!"

Alphonse winced at the not-so-subtle allusion to his mother's death, while Ed sobered slightly.

"I'm sorry, boys." the teacher said sincerely. "I think your host family will be better."

"Who is it?" asked Al curiously.

"Well, you two will be staying with the Rockebells. Pinako Rockbell is a cutting-edge mechanic whose work focuses mainly on prosthetics. Her granddaughter, Winry, is about your age, Al. She goes to Amestris High, the same school you both will be attending."

"Really?" asked Ed interestedly. "So she works on developing artificial limbs?" He flexed his left arm. "This should be interesting..."

Mrs. Ross smiled. "And Ed..."


"You have to behave. I was only able to secure this trip from your school if I promised you would be sent back as soon as you got in trouble. So be good. One fight, and it's over." She looked at him sternly. "Understand? This is a great opportunity, and I don't want you to miss out if you can't control your temper."

Ed looked angry for a second, and then seemed to deflate. "You're right, Ms. Ross." he said, quietly. "I'll do my best."

"Great." she said, smiling kindly at him. "Good luck, boys, and have a great trip. Just remember, keep your tickets safe. January first is only a few days away."

"Thanks, Ms. Ross." replied Al, grinning. "I can't wait!"

Ed nodded his agreement.

"And boys, since this is the last time I'll be seeing you before you leave, be safe." She pulled both teenagers into a warm embrace.

"Bye." replied Ed, extricating himself as quickly as he could. He grabbed his bag and coat and ran to the door, followed by his brother. "See ya in three months!"