"Trisha and I want to stop at the store on the way home," Sara announced. Trisha nodded in mute agreement.

Al sighed. "You're going to make us late," he argued. "Mom's going to be mad."

"We won't be late!" Sara promised. "And besides, me and Trisha saved our pocket money, didn't we Trisha, and we were going to buy that doll that we both wanted and share it."

Al had a certain amount of skepticism about how much Trisha was a willing participant in this plan, but he had long ago learned not to question their weird girl-solidarity. "We will be late and Mom'll worry and then she'll be mad," he said, but he was less certain of himself.

"We could go to the store on Tenth instead," Sara suggested. "It's not Mr. Parker's store, but it's closer. If we hurried, we wouldn't be late."

Al thought about it. The store on Tenth was more on the way, even if it wasn't the one they usually went to...

Sara sensed his weakness. "Please, Brother?" she said. She nudged Trisha.

"Please, Cousin Al?" Trisha said, looking up at him with big round eyes.

Al knew when he was being conned. "Fine," he said, surrendering. "I don't know why anyone thinks I'm in charge," he grumbled.

"Because you're thirteen and the oldest of all the kids," Sara pointed out, unnecessarily. She continued in a sing-song. "And next is me and I'm ten and Trisha and she's five and Maes and he's three and Jian-min and he's two."

Al rolled his eyes. "You left out Elysia," he said. "She's the oldest. She's sixteen. And you left out Will and Jane and Tommy-"

Sara shook her head. "They're not Elrics," she said, impatiently. "Elysia's a Hughes, and Will and Tommy and Jane and Becky are Havocs. Anyway, come on! We have to hurry!"

When they got to the general store, Al lingered near the front, looking at model cars while the girls went towards the back to look for the doll they wanted. Al loved cars. He loved anything mechanical, really. He didn't think he wanted to be an automail engineer like Mom, but if he could build cars, that would be cool. Or better yet, if he could learn to build some of those flying machines-

Al's train of thought was disrupted by the soft, but unmistakable sound of Trisha crying. Al dropped the car he was looking at, and headed to the back of the store. "Look at that," he heard a girl- an older girl- say. "Who let this little Shinky brat in here?"

"I bet it'll give me a disease," a boy said.

Al bristled. They had to be talking about Trisha.

"Leave her alone!" Sara yelled, just as Al turned the corner.

An older boy and girl were standing across the aisle with nasty looks on their faces. They were probably older than Al; bigger, certainly. Sara was standing between them and a Trisha who was sitting on the ground and crying. "Brother!" Sara said, turning to him with fury on her face. "They pushed Trisha down."

Al smiled. /You are ugly children of idiot mothers, and you don't know who you're messing with!/ he snarled, in Xingese. Xingese had all the best insults.

"Huh?" the boy said, turning to look at him with a frown.

"So you don't like Xingese people, huh?" Al said, still smilling, his teeth sharp.

"The Shinkies should stay in their own country," the girl said. "No one asked them to come to Amestris."

"No one asked you to push down a little girl, either," Sara said.

"What do you care?" the girl sniffed. "You're Amestrians."

"Shows what you know!" Al snarled. "All three of us are Chang clan- but you're probably too stupid to know the important clans of Xing. Now, apologize to my mei mei."

The girl laughed. "I don't think so, little boy."

Al's face grew stormy. "Don't call me little," he hissed. "And you'd better apologize before I make you do it!"

The boy laughed, and shoved Al's shoulder. "Yeah right, shrimp," he said.

"Don't touch my brother!" Sara shouted, her face going red.

The fight- such as it was- was over before it started. Al and Sara had been trained by the Fullmetal Alchemist, the Life's-Blood Alchemist, and the 17th Princess of Xing- not to mention the summers that they had spent at the Curtis's place in Dublith. The other kids might be older and larger, but they never stood a chance.

"You're crazy," the boy groaned when it was over, glaring at them through a black eye.

"You're a jerk," Sara said, and kicked him.

"If you can't avoid being a moron," Al added, releasing the boy from the lock he had him in, "then at least try not to be an asshole about it."

Trisha, hiding behind a stack of boxes, watched them with wide, golden eyes.

About then, the police showed up.

"I can't believe you two did that!" Mom shouted, glaring at them. "What am I supposed to think when you're late and then suddenly you show up in a police car? And I don't care that they're not pressing charges- the police might think that being smaller than the other kids meant you were only defending yourself, but I know better!"

Al cleared his throat delicately. "Mom-"

"Do you realize that if the papers caught wind of this, it would make trouble for your dad and Uncle Roy?"

"Mom-" Sara tried.

"And Al, really, you could have killed those kids! Your dad and your uncle taught you to fight for self-defense, not so you could pick fights with neighborhood kids!"

"MOM!" Al shouted, frustrated. "They pushed Trisha down, and were calling her names 'cause she's part Xingese."

Mom blinked. "What?" she said.

"They called her a 'Shinky brat'," Sara said.

Al's face went stormy remembering it. "They said she might give them a disease," he added.

Mom's eyes went narrow. "They did what?" she said, her voice rising on the last word.

Al nodded.

Mom stood up. "I'm going to have a word with their parents," she said, grinding her teeth. She turned as she left the room. "But don't think that this excuses you two beating those kids up! You're still grounded."

Trisha looked up at Al once Mom was out of the room. "I'm sorry you got in trouble, ge ge," she said, looking down. Her cheeks were flushed red.

"It's okay," Sara said.

Al nodded. "We're all Chang clan, right? We have to look out for each other."

"We're all Elrics," Sara added. "If anyone messes with our family, we kick their stupid butts."

Al smiled down at Trisha. "And you can still sneak us desserts while we're grounded, okay?"

Trisha smiled. "Okay," she promised.

A/N: Whether little Al and Sara (and Ed and Winry) count as part of Mei's clan through Al senior is really up for debate. If they went to Xing and Mei claimed them, possibly, especially if the kids were cute and polite and spoke Xingese. That doesn't matter to little Al, of course.

This is part of the future history of Amestris which is in my brain and no one cares about, which involves increased immigration from Xing (due to the railroad that is such popular fanon and to good diplomatic relations with Emperor Yao Ling) which leads to increased awareness and resentment of the Xingese population, not unlike parts of the US in the 19th and 20th centuries.