A/N: I'm back. Missed me?

XXX

For the rest of the week, the host club kept holding "test runs" for The Ouran Academy Host Club Dating Game: Spring Festival Edition. Kyoya knew that this was priciest set of them all, but because of the almost 500% increase in customers since this all began, he projected that they would be paid back many times over.

Since the first day, Mariko had not made a return to the host club. Of course, everyone still whispered around her anytime she graced them with her presence. Although no one recognized her before the incident, they sure did now. She couldn't even walk down the halls without people whispering to their friends about what happened and how unladylike and offensive she was to everyone around her. She didn't care. She was going to be the first one in history to actually date one of the host. Who would be laughing then?

Despite the incident at the kick-off of the dating game, the rest of the week was quite normal.

On Saturday at lunch time, Tamaki and Alphonse were reveling in the success of the whole shebang. Kyoya had shared the figures with Tamaki, as if that wasn't enough to convince him of how well this thing was going over.

"I had no idea this would be such a success. This being the first festival the host club has been participating in – not to mention that it's only it in it's second year – and having it turn out this well is simply amazing…who knew Edward could come up with such a good idea on a whim?" Tamaki just went on and on. Al learned very quickly that Tamaki would be satisfied with talking anyone's head off as long as they just sat there, smiled, and nodded. Suddenly his face changed, as if he had a revelation. "You know, you've been spending a lot of time here because of Edward and all. You should just become a host like your brother. You two could have your own take on the "brotherly love" type!"

Alphonse decided not to comment on the last part of his statement for now. "Haha, well, I'd like to, but…"

"…But?"

"Well…Kyoya told me that I'd have to cut my hair if I wanted to become a host."

"Hmm…why would he say that?" He honestly had no idea. They had all had their own fair share of temporary hair extensions.

"He said…girls here think long hair is disgusting and unrefined." He had a hard time getting the words out. So far, he really had no interest in any of the girls here, but it still hurt hearing those words put so bluntly towards him.

Tamaki would have to lie to say he disagreed. It's not because he was especially prejudice, but that was just the way they were all raised in this elite society. He knew full well that most of the girls here were all pretty shallow, but he knew it wasn't their fault. Males with long hair such as Alphonse and Edward were considered to not have the time nor money to get a proper haircut, so they didn't even bother. This was quite an insult to the way of the life of the elite, so they tried to keep a fair distance from people as such. However, that wasn't the point. He couldn't think of why Kyoya would say something to a host candidate without notifying him of it.

Suddenly curious, Tamaki asked, "Why do you keep your hair long, Alphonse?"

"Huh? Oh…I don't know…I guess just 'cause Ed's is long."

How peculiar, Tamaki thought. "Well, why does he keep his hair long?"

"I don't really know…" Honestly, it was just an unspoken rule that Ed simply kept his hair long. Alphonse had an idea, but he wasn't sure about it and he didn't want to go around spreading false information. But Tamaki became a fast friend of his and he was pretty sure that he could keep a secret if he asked him to. "Okay, if I tell you, can you promise not to tell anyone? Because I don't know how true it is." Tamaki nodded.

"Okay…well, our dad left us when we were very little – about two and three years old – and when we were ten and eleven our mom died of a broken heart…she tried to keep it hidden but I would be lying if I said we couldn't see the sorrow in her eyes the entire time we were growing up…"

All of this was true so far, but this is where he had to tweak the story. "After she died, he's kept his hair long. Maybe he wants to prove something. Like when this journey – this path we're on is over, maybe he'll start keeping it short again. He's prone to cling on to the past – more than anyone else I know. Really, I wouldn't be surprised if he kept his hair in a drawer or something if he ever did cut it all off."

"Oh…" Of course, Tamaki didn't know what he meant by "this journey," but that wasn't the point. Now that he thought about it, Al had never given keeping his hair long a second thought. His hair was already long from his physical body being in The Gate for so long, so he never really thought about cutting it short after that.

And when he thought about it, he didn't want to hold on to this like Ed did. They had been holding onto this for too long now. I mean, what else could they do now? They were stuck in the technology world now and there was no way going back now. They got Al's body back but there was little to no chance of Ed getting his limbs back. There was nothing else to do. They could finally actually live but Ed refused to accept that reality. Maybe cutting his own hair would send that message out to him.

"Tamaki-senpai…"

"Yes Alphonse?"

"Do we have any scissors in here?"

XXX

It would be a lie if Mariko said she wasn't a little surprised when Alphonse Elric walked into the classroom after lunch with short hair when he left with a ponytail. No one else hardly noticed though, or at least no one asked him because talking to the "new kid" would be too weird. All she could wonder was why. She didn't like him the way she liked – no, loved – Edward, but why would he cut his gorgeous hair? His hair was shinier and more beautiful than a lot of the girls here. Even if he had his reasons, why do it in the middle of school when he could just wait to do it over the weekend? What made it so urgent?

But she couldn't keep thinking about it for forever, so she pushed it to the back of her mind, despite being forced to stare at the back of his head for the rest of the day. She wasn't on a speaking basis with him (yet,) so she decided to keep it to herself for now.

She hadn't gone back to the host club since Monday for a reason. She was making a statement – that it wasn't going to be easy for Edward to catch her (though in her mind she had already accepted him as her own.) Plus, she couldn't blow her cover when he now thought that she didn't give a care about him. She didn't want to come off as obsessive or clingy – but she already had a plan set up for the official start of the spring festival.

XXX

Edward was already exhausted by this week, so how in the world was he supposed to survive the entire spring festival? He hardly even had to be a bachelor in this sadistic dating game (that he kept mentally banging his head into a wall for even suggesting at this point) but it was just draining enough being forced to watch the stupidity taking place. The only time he was even chosen as the winner was the first ever run-through with – what was her name? Mariko or something? It made sense that he wasn't ever chosen after that since he wasn't even a part of his culture – very far from it – but the question was, why did Mariko choose him all? Why didn't she act like everyone else at this damn school and more like…him? As far as he knew, she was raised in the same way as he was. Honestly, it made Ed…curious.

Anyway, that was a mere afterthought in Ed's mind at this point. There were much more important things to think about right now. Him and Al had been staying in a cheap motel about a 20-minute walk away from Ouran Academy. They couldn't mooch off the hosts forever (though was it really considered mooching when they volunteered?) and it helped that they got a major discount for staying there by looking as pathetic as possible. It was humiliating, but at least it got them something. They had been doing small odd jobs wherever they could find them. They knew they would eventually have to find more than a makeshift home. They were thinking once they each got a part-time job or two, they may make enough money to rent out an apartment or even a small house.

But the one thing that bothered Ed the most was that the more they made plans, the more permanent their residence in Japan became. Whatever happened to getting out of here as soon as possible? But when he thought about it, there was really nowhere to go. They couldn't go back to Amestris because the gate was permanently closed. When he thought about the circumstances, he mentally cursed himself for his stupidity, but he then remembered why he had to close the gate in the first place. He had thought of going back to Germany, but what was the point? When they came back through the gate, they were propelled into the future so all the people he once knew would be long gone. The sad thing was that that was the closest thing to home they had anymore and even that wasn't anywhere close. So he tried not to think about it, thought it kept coming up in his mind. He didn't even want to think about how long they'd be staying but the way things were going, it seemed like they'd have to at least finish out the school year.

XXX

Tamaki was quickly becoming Tamaki's second best friend. Kyoya would never be replaced, but Alphonse came as a close second. So when Alphonse asked Tamaki to cut his hair, while appalled by his sudden decision, he felt deeply honored.

"Are you sure about this?" he asked, standing behind Alphonse, while both stared into one of the many mirrors in the host club's private dressing room, with scissors in hand. (It's worth nothing that this was probably too late to be second guessing themselves.)

"I'm sure. I'm so ready to chop off this burden."

What exactly went off in his head that made him want to detach from this piece of himself that he had had for a few years at the least? To be honest with himself, this questioning was mostly selfish on Tamaki's part because he didn't want to be the one who would get blamed for this if Alphonse regretted his decision, thus ruining their friendship that was slowing blossoming. Why couldn't he wait to do this after school? He felt there was at least a seventy-five percent chance that Alphonse would regret his decision and then blame Tamaki for it. It was difficult enough to form a friendship with Kyoya, and Kyoya nearly killed him.

"Uh…Tamaki-senpai?"

"I…don't think you should do this right now. Wait till after school at the least – even longer than that would be preferable. I just don't want to be responsible for aiding you in this endeavor if you regret it."

Alphonse turned around to face him. "Senpai, you just made me realize that I have virtually no attachment to this hair. Why should I? It's just some keratin attached to my head. This is a key step in moving forward into a new chapter in my life, and since you're my newest friend in this chapter, I want you to help me do it."

"…"

"Well, he couldn't really argue with that."

XXX

A/N: Sorry, just had to have a short little quip at the beginning. Couldn't resist. :P We all know you wanted to get through that chapter as soon as possible anyway.

So basically the only way I can describe my lack of updating is just plain lack of motivation. Seriously, I had this chapter (and a little extra that I didn't include because this chapter was already plenty long enough) written up in a composition book for about a year now but I never had the motivation to type it up until now. I've been meaning to start up writing again and I'm trying to get into RPs on Gaia and such, but I thought this was first thing that I should update since I know this wayyy long overdue. I hope you guys can notice an improvement in my writing because honestly I was embarrassed reading chapters prior to this lol. It goes without saying that I heavily edited this chapter while I was typing it up. It's surreal that I started this story at the beginning of eighth grade and now I'm about to be a senior. :)

Hopefully I can go back to updating regularly or at the least semi-regularly.

So enough of my crap, now about the story: I know you guys are probably all pissed at me for cutting Al's hair which can only be assumed from the reaction in the reviews when I first mentioned cutting it lol. I hope you can all forgive me.

Reviews = love. If you're a loyal reader from way back when, let me know (and also hopefully how excited you are that I'm back. I know I had some harassers back in the day. ;D You know who you are.)