Hello everyone! Thank you, thank you, thank you for being so plain… awesome!

November is finally over, and NaNoWriMo successfully completed! WOOT! =] 50,000 words written, and a second book 40 pages in the process. Wish me luck!

As I got a request to know exactly where in the Fullmetal storyline (manga verse) this fan fiction takes place, I will clarify. Al's soul detached from his armor in the middle of book 16 right before he and Ed head north from Central in order to pursue May. Up until that point they were attempting to study rentanjutsu in the library and discover May's location. They know there is a plan, but they don't know about the promised day. Soon after, Al's blood seal begins to become unstable. Hopefully this clears up some story placement issues. If you notice any inconsistencies with this new detail please let me know and I'll correct them.

Now, back to the story!

It was kind of funny. The worse things seemed to get, the more Al seemed to think. It must have been some sort of ironic testament to the type of life he'd led up until now. He just couldn't stop thinking. Wits had kept him alive this long, and out of sheer force of habit, his brain wouldn't quit functioning.

Now, with the leader of the sand village captured and another life pulled from the brink but just waiting for an antidote, Al found himself homesick. A stupid time to be burdened with emotions, but the sudden down time did him in. The first few days after awakening in this place had been bad enough. He hadn't known the language, hadn't been able to communicate at all besides simple sign language. There had been nothing to distract him from his thoughts. All the plans he left behind – the people. He'd almost worried himself sick.

The lives of everyone he knew could be at stake, and he was sitting in bed. Even while delighting in all the new tastes, smells, and feelings, that thought remained with him.

He was useless.

Now, he'd regained almost full mobility and could speak the language, but nothing had really changed. They had no reason to trust him, and no reason to help him even if they could. His biggest secret had been revealed, but there'd been no equivalent exchange. Al probably would have done his best to help if he were in their shoes, but he'd always known he was an abnormality. The amount of kittens left on the street was a testament to that fact.

He leaned against a wall in the hospital room as he watched the ninjas. Longing left a pain in his chest, and for the first time in a long time, it was a physical pain as well as emotional. He missed everyone. The more he watched Naruto, the more he was reminded of Edward. Every second waiting was a second further away the Kazekage was taken. Naruto could hardly stand it, and Edward wouldn't have stood for it. If possible, Ed was even more impulsive. Ed would have burst from the room and given chase leaving Al to follow or be the sensible one and collect information before just rushing out. Here, Al didn't even have that privilege.

He was the outsider. They had no reason to take or trust his advice, and even less of a reason to accept his assistance. The spiky white haired ninja was playing the role of Mustang – cool, collected, but just as concerned as anyone else. The oddest part was seeing Ed actually listening to him. That never happened.

The weight in his chest that had settled into place ever since he'd learned how very far away he was from home was almost crushing now with nothing to distract him from it. Al did his best not to let it show. Hopelessness was beginning to gnaw at his defenses, but if there is one thing that Elrics are famous for, it's stubbornness. Until every last rout had been inspected and every possible solution attempted, Al wouldn't give up. This wasn't just for him. Still, there was almost no point in getting home if he had to lose his body again to do so. His soul probably wouldn't even end up in the armor again. He'd have to be desperate to try.

The boy on the bed winced and his eyes flickered. Al, being the closest, was the first to notice. The boy's eyes seemed confused as they flickered open and took in Al's face. Not the person he'd been expecting. He groaned and the noise alerted the rest of the ninjas in the room.

The speed with which the ninjas arrived at the bedside proved the concern they'd been trying so hard to disguise. "Kankuro!" Naruto skidded to a halt almost running into the side of the bed. "Um… hey. How are you?" His voice was quieter than normal.

"Naruto?" The brown haired boy, Kankuro, sounded more than slightly confused. "And…" he blinked looking at everyone else in the room, "why are you all here?"

Kakashi placed a hand on his shoulder as he tried to sit up and calmly forced him to lie down. "You should wait until the medics return before trying to move. There are still traces of poison in your system. It would be best not to stress yourself."

Kankuro scowled slightly, but relaxed anyway.

"Do you remember what happened before you were knocked unconscious?"

Kankuro's eyes were dull for a moment as they searched the recesses of his brain and then suddenly flashed in recognition. "Gaara!" Kakashi's hand was already there to force him down.

"That's exactly the reason we need your help. You were the last to see the Kazekage's kidnappers, and we need any information you have." The single eye was focused squarely on Kankuro's face.

The Sand Ninja opened his mouth to respond, but was interrupted by a noise on the far side of the room. Sakura and the old lady were back.

Hinata scooted closer to Naruto to make room for Sakura around the bed. "I'm glad to see you're awake, Kankuro." Sakura's voice smiled. "If you could hold out your arm, I just have to administer the antidote to neutralize the last of the poison." Kankuro didn't even wince from the sting of the needle. Sakura moved some of the pillows so that Kankuro could sit up slightly.

The rest of the ninjas had all fallen silent while Sakura was taking care of her patient. Apparently, Alphonse thought, I'm not the only one who's slightly afraid of Sakura.

Once Kankuro was situated, Sakura moved back and dropped the 'no-nonsense' air she'd been gathering about her. Kakashi resumed his questioning by raising an eyebrow at Kankuro.

The brown-haired ninja took a deep breath before launching into a story about the blond Akatsuki member who could manipulate clay and had flown off with Gaara, and the hunched, red-haired puppet master who had poisoned him. Al noticed the old woman give a little gasp at this and step back, but she waved off the concerned looks and motioned for Kankuro to continue with his story.

Kakashi's eyes twinkled betraying the smile hidden beneath the mask when Kankuro told about the bit of cloth that his puppet – Al would never be able to pronounce it's name – had caught on its arm. It was a piece of the cloak the other puppeteer had been wearing.

Al didn't see exactly what was so exciting, but he'd already seen so many things that seemed to upset the normal laws of physics that if there was a way to track such a faint smell across the ever shifting sands of the desert, it wouldn't really surprise him.

After that, things began to move much faster. The bedside group scattered to gather supplies for the rescue mission, and one of the assistants returned with the small scrap of red and black cloth. Alphonse almost jumped out of his skin when, with a few simple hand motions, a bunch of dogs appeared around Kakashi. As long as he convinced himself that it was simply some type of impossible teleportation instead of creating life out of nothing he could get by. He was just starting to get used to the idea when one of them actually talked. Al felt all of the blood in his face drain away. It took a lot of mental effort to convince himself this wasn't some new type of human chimera and that he should leave Kakashi's head on his shoulders where it belonged.

Even so, he couldn't prevent himself from wondering if he could do the same thing with cats. He would have to practice these – jutsu – things more.

But for now, at least he had alchemy. And, with alchemy, he could make a difference. This wasn't his world, but he wasn't just going to stand by and let a country be torn apart either way. They were still people, and they needed his help.

Alphonse squared his shoulders and wove his way across the room to approach Kakashi. By now, the dogs were gone, and the white haired Jounin was going through his pack and hurriedly sorting weapons.

"Kakashi." The older man's eyes flicked upward from his pack. "I want to come with you on the rescue mission."


"I promise I'll- wait. What?"

Kakashi began repacking his equipment. "No."

Al's mind ran one hundred miles an hour into a brick wall. No. He really hadn't expected that. When you were the brother of the Fullmetal Alchemist, a better martial artist to boot, and a more than proficient alchemist yourself, being told 'no' for something as simple as a mission request was not an everyday occurrence.

"But… you said these guys are powerful. Shouldn't you want all the support you can get? Why can't I come?"

Kakashi sighed. "The 'no's' final. Talk to Sakura, she'll explain. I'm busy."

Alphonse blinked in shock as the white-haired ninja resumed ignoring him. Apparently, he really was going to have to look for that flash of pink if he wanted to get some answers. Hopefully, Sakura's answer would be different.

It didn't take long to find her. Al caught the flash of color as it passed by the open door. With a quick yell down the hallway, she paused long enough for Al to catch up. He could tell by the set of her face that she was already annoyed. Probably not a good thing, but oh well. Nothing I can do about it now.

"What do you want, Al?" Sakura sounded like she was trying to keep any of the annoyance from spilling over onto him.

"Well…" It would probably be better to just spit it out and not take up any extra of her precious time. "I want to help with the rescue mission." Sakura's eyes widened, but Al plowed onward before she had time to speak. "I know I don't know him very well, but from what you all say, he's a good person and this town needs him. And I really-"

"Al, hold up." Sakura was smiling now her entire posture relaxing. "I think that's really sweet of you to offer, but I'm not the one you should be asking. You should talk to Kakashi, not me. He's the team leader."

"I already did. He told me that I needed to ask your permission." Okay, so that wasn't exactly true, but Sakura didn't need to know.

Her forehead wrinkled the pleased smile fading off her face. "It's up to me, is it?" Sakura muttered something under her breath that Al didn't quite catch, but he'd bet his right arm that it contained at least one swear word directed Kakashi's way.

Sakura closed her eyes for a moment and took a deep breath. When she reopened them, her face was set in a calm mask. "I'm sorry, Al, but you can't come with us. You're not a ninja. That's what the lazy excuse for a Jounin should have told you."

"But… but even if I'm not a ninja, I can fight. I want to help."

"I'm sorry, but even if you could fight," she said that like Al hadn't been trained to fight since he was little, "we don't know your strategies and you don't know ours. You'd be more of a liability than a help."

"But I can fight. You saw what I did against-"

"Against a single ninja, yes. Not the Akatsuki." Her tone was final. "I'm sorry, Al, but you have to stay here."

Al knew that tone of voice. It was the same one that Granny Pinako always used on him and Ed when they were growing up. Sakura was treating him like a little kid. It was nice, in a way – he hadn't been treated like a kid for years since he ended up in that suit of armor – but at the same time it was supremely annoying.

Al bowed his head slightly. "I understand, Sakura. Thank you."

He returned the way he'd came and sat down, unnoticed, in a corner of the room. If he couldn't go on the mission legally, he'd just have to find a way to help on his own. Now, all he needed to do was a little bit of "research."