Hola, chicas. Verano ha pasado. Pues, no verano sino las vacaciones de verano. Estoy en la universidad. Mi universidad, UMW.

I legit don't care if y'all know know the name of my school. I have a lot of pride in it and I trust you won't stalk and kill me with this information. ¿Verdad? …Right? ^_^"

Now, one other thing… ¿Por qué? ¿Por qué? What did I do wrong? I want to thank the *counts* …5 people who reviewed the last chapter (and a special thanks to the anon). I must say, I was quite disconserted by the lack of response to that one in comparison with that of lesser chapters. Did I write something that turned you off? I spend a few hours going over it and trying ot decipher any strongly negative elements. I don't want someone to dislike something I write, but be too shy to suggest how I might improve it because they're too afraid ot hurt my feelings.
I mean, if y'all liked it alright, then that's just fine. I'm not trying to manipulate you into giving me reviews to asuage my insecurities, don't get me wrong. Imay just be overanalyzing things as I so often do (and if so, I appologize for this little rant). Simply know that I'm open to all types of feedback, positive or negative or even just saying hi. :)

That said, I've kept y'all waiting for some time. Lo siento; college has kept me busy and I wasn't feeling that inspired.
But here it is (the title is something of a joke ot myslef).

|Sᴇᴛᴛɪɴɢ: Amestris as you know and love.
|Tɪᴍᴇ: Sunday, April 6, 1913.
|Eᴅᴡᴀʀᴅ Eʟʀɪᴄ: 14… You should know all this stuff by now.
|Aʟᴘʜᴏɴsᴇ Eʟʀɪᴄ: Should basically be the older brother.
|Rᴏʏ Mᴜsᴛᴀɴɢ: Slowly warming up to the situation I shoved him into.
|Nobody else is really in this chapter.

~ T S N

Title Subject To Change

.: 22 :.
s ʀ ʀ ɢ ʀ ʏ – d o w n t i m e
[Those who settle in]

That Sunday, golden-brown eyes opened to blink up at the white ceiling. Al rolled over to face the slumbering form of his brother. Edward lay in the exact same position as he had the previous night, mouth open in a silent snore. Al sat up, causing the bedsprings to creak and making one of Ed's golden ears twitch lightly.

What time was it? The guest bedroom didn't have a clock so Al could only guess by the position of the sun in the sky. His gaze flicked to the window. The sun was high in the sky—nearly noon? How had he managed to sleep so late? And why hadn't Mr. Mustang woken either of them up?

Curiosity got to the thirteen-year-old and he clambered out of bed as quietly as possible so as not to wake up Ed. Peeking into the master bedroom, Alphonse beheld tousled black hair and a snoring expression that comically reminded him of his brother. The man hadn't been kidding about sleeping all day. Al backed up stealthily and, with nothing better to do and not tired enough to return to bed, headed downstairs. His small feet padded lightly down the carpeted steps with only a slight limp. His ankle still pained him but it wasn't anything he couldn't push through. Besides, he was a fast healer. It was a…side effect.

Reaching the ground floor, Al stopped and realized something: he had the whole house all to himself. His tail flicked excitedly. He had been a bit hungry but now he had the childish urge to explore and get away with the things he couldn't when others were around.

Which was how he found himself in Mr. Mustang's study, scaling one of the man's bookshelves in an attempt to reach an elusive tome near the top. He was acutely aware of how strange he probably must look to the outside observer. But nobody was watching him right then. And, as such, he could give into the feline instinct that was always niggling at the back of his mind. Nab a rodent that was scurrying by, lick at a small cut, climb onto tall objects. He was beginning to lose sight of what was normal. He didn't know if Ed ever experienced the same urges; the older brother was averse to bringing attention to their…anomalies. Though Ed certainly wouldn't like this, a rebellious part of Alphonse didn't care. At times, he—like his brother—found himself longing to be normal again. But they were like this for a reason and hating something that was part of himself only made him feel miserable. He saw how it made his brother, which was partially why he determined to have a better outlook on their circumstances. And, when he couldn't manage that, he at least tried not to show his discouragement outwardly.

Book now in hand, Alphonse glanced back over his shoulder at the ground below. He removed his teeth from where he had been biting his lip before relinquishing his grip on the sturdy wooden shelf and jumping backward. He landed fairly softly, although not as softly as he would have liked. The boy flinched as he watched a small handful of books tumble from the shelf. Hopefully Mr. Mustang wouldn't notice, Al thought as he tried to put them back where he thought they belonged.

The next hour was spent with the young boy poring over the pages of the book from where he had propped himself on the ground. The wooden floorboards near the window were still warm from sunlight, something that felt irrefutably pleasant. However, Al presently became of that familiar gurgling of hunger emanating from his abdomen. With small reluctance, the boy marked his page and closed the leather-bound book.

Then he headed into the kitchen. Maybe he could repay Mr. Mustang's kindness by cooking him a meal for a change.

A familiar scent drifted into Roy's nostrils. A scent he was familiar with on a personal level. Dark eyes snapped open and the man rushed out his bedroom door, not even bothering to throw on his robe. He didn't actually touch every step on the way downstairs. But his mind wasn't on that as he beheld the scene before him. Honey-brown locks flipped around as Al's panicked face turned to look at him from where he cowered on the tiled kitchen floor.

Across from him stood the stove blazing in all its glory—fiery glory. Alright, that might be a bit of an exaggeration, but there was fire.

"It– it was an accident," the boy stuttered, ears tilted backward.

With a few choice profanities, Roy quickly dealt with the flames. He was the Flame Alchemist; this was his speciality. "How on earth did you manage to catch my kitchen on fire?!" he demanded.

"It wasn't the whole kitchen!" Coal-black eyes narrowed and Al shut his mouth. "I was just cooking."

"Cooking what?" The man observed a wisp of smoke curling through the air to freedom from the burnt remnants of whatever the boy had been trying to make.

"Toast," the younger said flatly.


Al rolled his eyes, unimpressed. "No. Eggs."

"How?" Roy asked, hand on his hip and looking pointedly at the boy who was pushing himself up form the floor. Stick with the story about toast, kid, he felt like saying. At least bread is remotely flammable.

"Well…" Al began, tilting his head a little as he tried to explain, "you had some sausage and stuff in the fridge, so I was going to make on omelet. But then the grease…" He gestured emptily with his hands. He really didn't need to explain much beyond that.

Roy peered at the roasted remains sitting inside the roasted remains of his skillet. "How about you leave the cooking to me from now on, okay?"

The kid seemed to droop a little. "I was just trying to help. You've done all this stuff like letting us stay here and feeding us…and so I wanted to make it up to you somehow."

"You don't have to repay me," the colonel relented, sighing. "This's my job."

"Yeah, but…" The boy looked down abashedly and spoke more quietly, "It seems like we're such a bother to you."

This time the man felt actual guilt tug at his chest. Sure, the brothers weren't his favorite people on earth and being made to take care of them was something of an inconvenience, but they shouldn't feel at fault for that. Children were supposed to be taken care of. And these two, regardless of who or what they were, were children.

But Roy had apparently made them—or at least the younger—feel like a burden.

"Listen," the man said sternly, "you're not a bother. At least, not one I'm not willing to deal with. Now, I think I'll make some food." He tried to ignore the look of borderline-adoration the hybrid gave him after that as he turned back to the stove.

In spite of Al's insisted help, Roy managed to cook a decent—although late—meal, which they shared over sporadic conversations. Later on, when the man went and woke up the older boy, Roy couldn't deny the amount of amusement gleaned from Ed's expression as he informed the blond that his younger was henceforth banned from ever cooking in his kitchen again.

It was evening before Ed dragged himself from the bed. He sat with his legs hanging over the edge, rubbing his face into wakefulness. Stifling a yawn, his mind recalled a trail of sleep-muddled memories. There had been Mr. Hughes and a confusing—actually, more like frustrating—game of chess. The man had sent him to bed and he remembered waking up a few times. One instance stood out. Ed grimace. He hoped it had been a dream, like the one of him and Al being circus performers on a corner. But, the more he looked back, the harder a time he had denying its occurrence.

Ed flopped back on the bed. Well, no use going downstairs now. He wasn't ready for the embarrassment of talking to the man who had practically bathed him. He just wanted to bury himself back in the blankets at the humiliation of being so vulnerable. Al was one thing, but in front of Mustang?! And, to add insult to injury, Edward began to suspect that strong figure he had dozed off against had also been Mustang.

Ed probably would have stayed like that for much longer if he hadn't been so famished. Not that he hadn't been fed; he had distinct memories of being woken occasionally and offered food. But that had been hours ago. He had dozed in and out since lunchtime, not completely willing to rouse himself. But hunger eventually did the task for him. For the first time in several days, he felt truly really hungry.

He walked down the stairs, ears alert for any sounds coming from the first floor. All was quiet but for the steady ticking of a clock. But upon closer inspection, he saw the tops of two heads—one very distinctive—in the living room. The pair of them were seated on two separate couches, each with a book in hand. Ed strolled into the room, commenting, "Well, you two look like you're having fun." Settling in nicely, huh? he thought to himself as he noted how relaxed the pair of them appeared.

Al looked up. "Hey, Brother. Yeah. Mr. Mustang has a lot of really interesting books." The book itself was testament, being opened to somewhere near the middle.

Ed just nodded acknowledgingly. Then to Mustang, "You got any food around here?"

"There's leftover spaghetti in the kitchen," the dark-haired man said, hooking a thumb behind him.

Not getting any response beyond that, Edward turned and headed into the kitchen to sit down to a plate of leftovers. Of course, he didn't mind in the least. At that moment it was the best tasting thing he'd had in a while. He ravenously devoured the pasta until a voice interrupted him.

"Geez, slow down." The man standing in the entranceway looked moderately amused. He strode over and sat down opposite the blond. "You're looking better," Mustang noted as Edward began eating again at a more reasonable pace. Ed grunted a small affirmative, hoping that the man wasn't about to bring up last night.

But he didn't. Several seconds silently passed, punctuated only by the periodical clicking of cutlery against plateware. Ed focused on twirling his fork, unwilling to meet the ebony eyes. He felt as though one of the walls between Mustang and himself had been unceremoniously demolished and now there was just this big, awkward hold that neither of them knew how to touch on nor wanted to acknowledge.

At least, that was how Edward felt. But, when he ventured a glance at the adult, the colonel appeared cool, calm, and contrastingly collected. Dark, studious eyes watched him contemplatively. This only made the teenager more uncomfortable, which he expressed through irritation.

"What, do I have something on my face or something?"

The man's eyes flitted over Ed's face before he answered, "No."

"Then what?" the teen demanded, letting go of his fork. "'Cause you're creepin' me out."

Briefly pursing his lips, the man leaned in closer. Ed instinctively pulled his face back, anticipating his personal space being violated again. But what the man said was, "As I see it, we don't really need to tell Hughes about about all last night."

"Wait– Huh?"

"Well, I mean…"—Mustang raised his palms as if to express that the issue at hand was a dull an unimportant one—"I'd rather avoid any potential lectures and you're obviously doing much better. So, I don't see the point in worrying him about it."

Edward stared blankly at the alchemist for a moment or two. Then he couldn't hold back the derisive snort that belied his inner relief. "Sure thing." He picked his fork back up, smirking. Maybe this Mustang guy wasn't as bad as he'd thought. Just maybe.

Later on that night, however, Ed changed his mind when he caught a glance of himself in the mirror and discovered that he did, in fact, have a smudge of spaghetti sauce on his face. Stupid jerk.

Short chapter is short. Al kept wanting to go OOC in the beginning and I had to scrap an entire page of it that didn't lend anything to the story besides making it drag.

So, you're down here with nothing better to do than read what I type on my new laptop (his name is Professor Plum and he's very purple). Let me take a moment to brag. When my sister turned 14, I deemed her mature enough to watch FMA. It wasn't a day later that my dad (who jokingly but uninterestedly calls anime and manga "that weird asian stuff") comes walking through the room while we're on ep 3. And he sits down and kind of passively watches it while playing on his iPad, occasionally asking question ("So why does he have a robot?"). It goes on like that for a couple of days until after the Nina episodes. There was a little conversation that went like this:

Me: You wanna go do our thing?
Sister: Sure!
Dad: What's your "thing"?
Sister: Watching our show.
Me: FMA.
Dad: I thought that was our thing.
Me: *grins*

And since, then, we have piled on our couch to watch it together. My dad even went back and re-watched the episodes he'd missed.
Achievement Get!

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