After the last essay on Roy incinerating Jinno's wand was handed in, the substitute teacher left with a little smirk and a wave. But even before he could step out of the room, he could already hear snatches and snippets of conversation cropping up, about a range of topics such as Hotaru's new invention, Natsume's foiled attempt at scaring Roy with his Alice, and most of all, Roy himself and the first piece of work he gave the class.

"So, Hotaru, what did you write in your essay?" asked Mikan, putting away her pen and the rest of her paper.

"I wrote about how I can invent something that can also set Mr. Jinno's lightning rod on fire," answered the inventor. "It's pretty easy. I can even make it look like Mr. Mustang himself."

"I thought it was funny," Yuu offered. "I wish I could've seen the look on Mr. Jinno's face. No wonder he was really mad when Mr. Mustang made Natsume's fireball explode outside, even though nobody was hurt. What about you, Mikan? What did you write for Mr. Mustang's essay?"

Mikan grinned. "I hope he likes mine – I also told him it was funny. If I were there, I would really be laughing and that Mr. Jinno should've been faster if he wanted to save his wand and – "

"So, you think Mustang destroying such a perfectly good wand and burning my hand is downright hilarious, eh, Miss Sakura?"

Nearly jumping out of her seat, she turned and saw their math teacher standing beside her, his arms crossed. He had a new wand, and it crackled menacingly with electricity, the sound not exactly mingling perfectly with the croak of the frog on his shoulder. Hotaru and Yuu traded looks as Mikan's proud smile turned into a sheepish expression. Amused whispers and stifled laughs provided the background, and they had already begun the moment Jinno took his first step into the classroom.

"Uh…I'm sorry, sir…we were just discussing our essays…umm…"

Jinno scowled. "One more word and you'll be sorry you heard the story!"

"But we haven't even heard the story!" Mikan couldn't help saying. "Mr. Mustang said that if we wanted to hear how he did it, we should write a nice essay about what we think of it…"

"It wasn't Mikan's fault!" Yuu added quickly.

"Yes, apparently so," answered Jinno, deflating slightly. "I'll have to have a word with your substitute teacher about how he conducts his classes later. And anyone else who laughs or brings up the subject…"

He turned around to face the rest of the class, holding his wand high as it crackled even more furiously. Elementary Class B clammed up instantly, watching nervously as Jinno took his place in front, muttering under his breath as he fixed up his things and got the discussion started.

"Now, Miss Sakura, will you please come up to the board and show us how you got the answer to the first problem in the homework I gave you yesterday? And yes, after that, I would like Mr. Hyuuga to give us his solution to problem number two…"

---

When Jinno returned to the faculty room that day, he found it abuzz, with almost every teacher clustered around one particular table. At first, he thought something had happened to Narumi and it was Serina they were surrounding, but then he saw her not too far away, gazing intently at her crystal ball. When she saw Jinno, she simply gave him a small smile, but it slipped a notch and nearly gave way to laughter.

"Narumi's doing just fine," she said in a bid to keep herself from giggling. "But the other teachers…"

"Let me guess," he muttered irately.

"Hey, Jinno, you should see these essays the kids from Elementary Class B are writing about you!" called Misaki, the science teacher. He was leafing through several pieces of pad paper. "First, I don't have to worry about Narumi stealing my bean whips for a while, and now this…these kids are good!"

"I like Mikan's essay the best, but that's just me," said Noda, the Special Ability Class moderator, more to himself than to the other teachers. "She thinks it must've been a funny scene, especially if you've been hopping up and down screaming that your hand was on fire…"

Jinno's eyes burned in such a way that it almost rivaled Roy's alchemy and Natsume's Alice. "What was that bastard thinking, telling his class about – "

"You called?" Jinno jumped as someone tapped him on the shoulder. "I need those essays; I'm not even done checking them yet. Do you want to read them, Jinno?"

Narrowing his eyes, he whipped around and jabbed a hard finger shaking with suppressed antagonism into Roy's flaming tie. "I still don't think you deserve to be a teacher in this Academy, even if your alchemy passes for an Alice. This is just like the time we let Mikan Sakura into the Academy…except that at least she turned out to have an Alice after all, even though she causes a lot of trouble…"

Roy raised his eyebrows. "I don't know; she seems like a nice kid. Very curious and outspoken, I might add. And weren't you in dire need of a substitute teacher? Well, you got one now. Would you rather have me, who can still somehow pass for an Alice or someone who has no special ability whatsoever…or maybe no sub at all? After all, the higher-ups in this Academy let me teach, and there's nothing you can do about that."

He casually passed by Jinno, punching the math teacher's shoulder lightly. Jinno gritted his teeth as he watched Roy approach the group of teachers, take back his sheaf of essays and sit down at his desk. The avid readers of Elementary Class B's essays scattered and went back to their work.

"He's got you there, you know," said Noda, flickering before Jinno. "Oh…looks like I'll be off again." Noda's profile started to blur, as though he was passing through smoke, before he disappeared completely, to time-travel against his will again.

Serina glanced up from her crystal ball as Jinno walked past her.

"Don't let him get to you. He'll only be here for a while. Besides, I think Narumi's class likes him a lot."

"Well, good for them," was the gruff reply, punctuated by a frog's croak.

---

Eastern Headquarters, Amestris

4:52 PM

"I do hope wherever the Colonel is, he's enjoying his day off," said Master Sergeant Kain Fuery, absently thumbing through the pages of a telephone assembly manual.

"At least he's not here to snag any pretty girls I might happen to have my eye on," said Second Lieutenant Jean Havoc, reading a letter and sighing deeply. "Yes, I've got a date with Grace tomorrow! Hah, and there's nothing he can do about it, 'cause I snagged her first!"

Warrant Officer Vato Falman and Second Lieutenant Heymans Breda cheered for Havoc, for lack of anything better to do.

"Good for you, sir."

"So, where'll you be taking Grace tomorrow, eh?"

"I don't know…there's this new coffee shop not too far away from here. She hinted once that she wanted to try out their new cakes…"

While the men sat around and talked, finally free of the dreaded horror that was paperwork, First Lieutenant Riza Hawkeye sat at Roy's usual desk, taking over for him and neatly arranging some of his important documents. As always, she looked serious and stoic, whenever she was doing business, and didn't even bother contributing any thoughts about their superior's day off or Havoc's date.

And then the phone rang. Riza instinctively reached out for it, and already knew exactly what to say.

"Eastern Headquarters, Lieutenant Hawkeye speaking."

Everyone else waited as she listened to whoever was on the other line. It was so silent that they could hear his voice, loud and clear.

"Lieutenant Hawkeye?"

"Sir!" Havoc, Breda, Falman and Fuery chorused along with her.

---

Faculty Office, Alice Academy

4:53 PM

"Listen…expect a letter from the Alice Academy in a few days. I'm currently there – "

"But where is this Alice Academy, sir?" Riza's voice floated into Roy's ear. "Why would they send us a letter?"

"It's in a huge city to the East. Anyhow, the Academy's behind a large metal gate, and there's a sign outside it, so you can't miss it," he replied, cradling the receiver with his free left hand as he checked essay after essay with gold pen, signing each paper as he did so. "I'm sorry I wasn't able to call earlier, Hawkeye. I'll be staying here for about a month – "

"A month?!"

He blanched at how her tone suddenly rose and became louder.

"Colonel Mustang, what will you be doing in a school for such a long time? Do you have some kind of business there?"

"Actually…in a way, yes."

"Like what?"

Roy took a deep breath. He didn't know another way to break it to her and to his comrades in the military. "Hawkeye…I'm a substitute teacher. I'm teaching English and handling an elementary class. And I'll be doing this for a few weeks until the real homeroom adviser comes back from wherever he's going, and the resident English teacher is also busy…"

A pregnant pause ensued, and all he could hear for the moment was his pen scrawling a comment on Yuu Tobita's paper. He knew they wouldn't believe him…they would think he was pulling their leg. After all, what would he, Colonel Roy Mustang, the Flame Alchemist, be doing in the Alice Academy, teaching children with special powers? Of course, Narumi had long answered that question for him…

"Sir," Riza's voice returned steadily, "did you just say you were a substitute teacher?"

"Yes, Lieutenant, I did. It's a long story. Anyway, they just sent a letter to Eastern Headquarters to inform you of my whereabouts and so you don't start doing stupid things like sending out search parties." Roy didn't see his subordinate at the other end narrow her eyes and scowl briefly. I don't know what the rest of the military would think if they heard I became a teacher, at least for a while, so maybe it would be best to keep it under wraps. I had them address the message to you."

"How will we keep this secret?"

"Try to make up some other excuse…something believable. Maybe I went to this far-flung town in the East to visit a sick aunt, something like that. I promise I'll be back as soon as my short teaching career is over. And I'll keep in touch."

There was a second's silence before Riza answered, "Yes, sir. Good luck with your…classes, sir. Goodbye."

"Thank you, Hawkeye. See you and good luck as well."

The line went dead after a click, and Roy also put down the phone, resuming his work when he realized that he had stopped and almost created a huge ink blot on Yuu's paper. But thankfully it was far from the essay.

"Who was that?" asked Noda, appearing out of nowhere in front of Roy's table.

"My subordinate," said Roy, checking Ruka's work next. "I told her that the Academy's sending them a letter and all that, so they don't have to worry."

"Her?" repeated Noda, smirking. But he was gone in a flash – literally – when he got a glowering look from the substitute teacher, who was trying to get back to work.

But Serina didn't help when she piped up, "Do you have a girlfriend, Mr. Mustang?"

Roy would have made a huge, red, zigzagging mark on Ruka's paper, if he hadn't controlled himself in time. "What makes you think that?" he asked abruptly. "No, I don't. She's my subordinate."

"I see," said Serina, turning back to her crystal ball and seemingly conversing with it. "Ah, there you are, Narumi…for a second there I thought I lost you."

Subordinate, Roy repeated to himself. But Hawkeye really is my subordinate…isn't she? Then why doesn't it sound…right?

Clearing his mind, he shook his head, concentrating on essays to be checked. When he was done with Ruka's and was absolutely sure he didn't end up messing it up, he reached out for the next paper, and had to smile at the name written on top.

Natsume Hyuuga.

This should be interesting.

Roy leaned back in his chair and started to read the essay, with a smug grin and his forehead furrowing in deep thought.

His subordinates would have to believe him when he said he had become a teacher if they saw him now.

---

Back at Eastern Headquarters, Riza had just put the receiver back in its cradle, but she still hadn't taken her hand off it. Instead, she kept staring at the phone with her reddish-brown eyes, which were more red than brown.

"Lieutenant?" Fuery piped up.

"Is it true – the Colonel's a teacher?" Breda asked, scratching his head. "How?"

"What?" Havoc burst out. He snapped out of his reverie and put Grace's letter back into its envelope.

"Why?" Falman traded looks with his comrades.

Riza frowned thoughtfully. Even she didn't know the answers to those questions. And she couldn't help but feel a little worried for her superior. What would a man like him be doing in an academy, filling in as a homeroom and English teacher? And how would he handle it? Roy didn't sound at all hassled, or frantic, or even anxious…just a bit busy. Perhaps she shouldn't be worrying too much, after all, Roy could take care of himself, so long as his plans weren't dampened

The small pun made her feel a bit better, but not completely.

"Worried about Colonel Mustang, huh?" said Havoc, taking out a lighter from his pocket and igniting a cigarette. "I don't think you have anything to worry about."

She shrugged. "I think I'll get back to fixing these files he wasn't able to alphabetize," said Riza, quickly reaching out for the documents she had left on the desk when she answered the phone. "Then maybe we can talk about this later."

"Mustang…a teacher," said Falman with a chuckle, striking up a new discussion as they heard the rummaging of papers and the opening of file cabinets. "What do you guys think? Is it really that far-fetched?"

"Are you kidding? I just can't imagine him in front of kids, let alone teaching something besides alchemy. Do you think the Alice Academy's a school for children learning alchemy?" asked Fuery, scanning the index of the book he was browsing.

Breda shrugged. "I don't even know if they practice alchemy that far in the east. Although I've heard a bit about this Alice Academy…I highly doubt they teach alchemy there. Then again, we don't know too much about it…"

"Either way…I'll only believe it when I see Mustang grading essays, telling off naughty brats, and talking to students with my own eyes." Havoc nodded, exhaling a bit of smoke. "Hey, Hawkeye, are you even sure that's Mustang on the phone? And what if he's talking in code?"

"If he was talking in code, I would have understood the underlying message by now," said Riza. "And yes, I'm sure that was the Colonel. Although I have to admit that I sort of agree with you, Lieutenant Havoc…"

Her voice trailed off, and once again their office was bathed in silence. That is, until Breda broke it.

"Seriously though, how would Mustang become a teacher?"

"Who knows?" Falman answered his question with a question. "We don't know how the Alice Academy operates, let alone chooses its teachers. They might actually make him a teacher."

"Still, it just sounds too weird," said Fuery, closing his book with a snap.

"I know," agreed Havoc.

---

NO CLASSES TOMORROW! FWEE! XD I love my college schedule. Sorry though if I rushed this…it's already late where I live.