Fullmetal Alchemist characters, settings, and ideas belong not to me but to Arakawa Hiromu.

Miniature Adults

By Taliya

Part II: Alphonse Elric

Spring of 1914

The afternoon sun was warm on his back as Roy Mustang made his way to the townhouse that he never sold after relocating to East City. Hands in his pockets, he took a deep, slow breath, savoring the crisp spring air. The leaves, budding in shades of yellow and green, whistled as the breeze carried the remnants of the hoary winter. He had taken the afternoon off to run a few errands, and to get some time away from work. He was currently visiting Central City for an assignment, and relished the chance to be home. Even still, he missed the company of his subordinates. He enjoyed the company his coworkers provided—he really did, but sometimes his Second Lieutenants Havoc and Breda's jokes would get out of hand, Warrant Officer Falman and Sergeant Major Feury's chatter would become distracting, or First Lieutenant Hawkeye would get a little too pushy with the paperwork.

And then there were the Elric brothers, State Alchemist Edward and his younger brother Alphonse. In the four years that Edward had been under his employ, he had been by turns delighted, gratified, irritated, exasperated, entertained, angered, and terrified. The now fifteen-year-old imp had generated more paperwork than he had ever anticipated, racked up bills both damage and medical like nobody's business, and given him more pseudo-heart attacks than all of his time during the Ishval campaign.

The fourteen-year-old younger brother Alphonse was the foil to Edward's character. Where Edward was brassy, impulsive, and ostentatious, Alphonse was unobtrusive, thoughtful, and practical. It was amusing to watch the general public confuse the two: Edward's title of the Fullmetal Alchemist was often mistakenly bestowed upon Alphonse, whose body comprised a complete seven-foot-tall suit of armor. Edward's comparatively diminutive stature was a constant source of grief and annoyance for the teen; any comments about his lack of height provoked swift and merciless retribution. It was one of the few sources of simple pleasure that Roy indulged in, for it required no intricate thought and maneuvering. Just a straightforward jab at Edward's vertically challenged nature and he would foam at the mouth and erupt like a volcano. It was great stress relief for the colonel.

Alphonse was more difficult to ruffle, and Roy was infinitely glad of that fact. It meant that he probably had backup whenever his young subordinate disagreed with anything he said. The younger Alchemist was assuredly the more levelheaded of the two, and therefore was highly likely to side with Roy in an argument, especially if there was logic involved. There were several times over the past years with the Elrics when Roy had come across Alphonse alone. The youth was intelligent—frighteningly so, with an ability to intuitively grasp ideas faster than anyone the colonel had yet to come across—even his older brother. Alphonse's quiet nature also lent him spectacular perceptivity, particularly since he lacked three of his five physical senses.

As he approached his townhouse the sounds of school children at play filtered in between the residences. The large schoolyard spread itself behind his home, and had he the opportunity on weekdays he could watch the five- to eleven-year-olds play games of tag or kickball, or horse around on the playgrounds with built in slides and tubes in the sandbox. The chance to watch the children in all their carefree glory was rare and therefore savored. He slid between the fencing demarcating his home and the next, popping out on the back road that skirted the school grounds. A chain-link fence separated the residential grounds from the educational. He stood, eyes taking in the energetic movements and ears taking in the enthusiastic squeals. A glint of silver caught his eye and he turned, brows rising in surprise as he found Alphonse watching the children as well.

"Alphonse," he called in greeting, and the suit of armor's head swiveled in his direction.

"Mustang-Taisa," the young Alchemist replied with what sounded like false cheer, padding over to where Roy stood. In his hand rested a small black kitten, curled contentedly in his palm as his other hand stroked the fur along its spine. "What are you doing here in Central? Won't Hawkeye-Chuui be upset with you for leaving early?"

Roy hid his suspicion about Alphonse's mood and chuckled, knowing full well that the boy was imagining his first lieutenant cocking her handgun menacingly. "No, I took the afternoon off to get a few errands done but I'm returning to East tomorrow. Chuui is currently keeping watch in the office for me," he said, turning his gaze back to the shrieking kids. "I heard Hagaren was in the hospital again and stopped by this morning. What brings you out this afternoon?" When Alphonse did not immediately reply, Roy glanced at the boy. The young Alchemist had his helmet bowed and his solid shoulders seemed slumped, even as his fingers continued to lavish tender caresses on the small feline. Brow furrowing with concern Roy asked slowly, "Alphonse?"

"Ah!" he exclaimed, popping up and waving his unoccupied hand disarmingly before him. "Ah, sorry, I just got lost in thought. I just felt a little antsy and decided to take a walk since Onii-san still hasn't woken up. He's not going anywhere for a while, not while Ross-Shoui and Brosh-Gunsou are standing guard over him." He stared out at the school children, quiet once more as he automatically resumed petting the kitten. "They're so young…" he murmured to himself, almost wistfully.

Despite the absolute lack of expression on his face, Alphonse was incredibly expressive with his voice. While he masked it with believable aplomb, for Roy, who by his very nature was observant and analytical, it was clear to him that Alphonse was troubled. This led to an easily resolved conundrum for the colonel: did he let it slide and allow Alphonse to suffer in silence, or did he confront him and allow him to vent his frustrations? Alphonse was such a considerate soul who felt for anything and everything that Roy felt it was only fair if he leant the boy a figurative—perhaps not so much literal—shoulder to cry on.

What is going on? Alphonse almost never leaves Hagaren on his own, especially when he is injured. Roy refrained from voicing his thoughts. "You're not that much older than they are," he said quietly, his eyes once again back on the screaming bundles brimming with the widely-perceived yet completely imaginary "cooties". "The oldest here are what—eleven years old? You're only fourteen, Alphonse. Not 'ancient,' as Hagaren so kindly calls me." The musical giggle that was pure Alphonse Elric held only a sliver of his usual good humor. A breeze ruffled his hair and Roy instantly felt contrite for the simple ability to feel the wind on his skin when Alphonse had not been able to for nearly five years. "What's on your mind, Alphonse?" he asked softly, the draft carrying his words to the younger Alchemist.

"I'm worried about Onii-san," Alphonse replied immediately, and Roy sensed immediately it was not the answer he was searching for. It was a truth, for it was plain to see that the Elrics cared deeply for each other. But it was not the truth, the primary source of Alphonse's disquiet. Roy would bet his year's salary that it had something to do with the two of them sneaking into the Fifth National Central Laboratory last night. He recalled that just this morning his friend Maes Hughes had mentioned that since the Fullmetal Alchemist had been admitted into the hospital yesterday evening with severe injuries, Alphonse had been distant and brooding. The colonel took in the damage the armor had sustained. There were scuffs on the forearms of Alphonse's armor, along with elongated, linear indentations. Had he been hacked at with a blade of some sort?

"Whether he believes it or not, there are a lot of people who care about him," Roy replied. Alphonse made disheartened a noise of agreement. "But those very people also care about you too," he added, keeping his eyes glued on the little kids who were now being corralled by their teachers back inside the school building. Sensing Alphonse's intense attention entirely on him, he continued. "Hagaren's drive to accomplish the feats he does stems from the fact that you exist. If you weren't here, he would be a broken shell of a boy who wouldn't have lasted long on this plane."

The two of them stood in contemplative silence, Alphonse carefully digesting Roy's words as he continued to stroke the purring kitten and Roy unobtrusively monitoring Alphonse's mood. As the sun began to sink into the horizon, Roy stretched and turned away from the deserted school grounds. "Come," he invited the younger man, "let's go into the house. I'll inform the hospital staff of your whereabouts so that Hagaren doesn't take down half the city searching for you when he wakes up, alright?"

Alphonse glanced at the small feline in his hand. "Mustang-Taisa…" he trailed off, refusing to look at the man directly. "Could I… could I give the kitten some milk?"

Roy gave the kitten and appraising stare, noting that despite its scruffy, homely appearance it seemed highly approving of Alphonse's efforts. He grinned slightly. "I don't see why not," he answered as he led the younger Alchemist into his small backyard. "I'll go inside and grab a saucer. Please wait here." He unlocked the back door of his townhouse but paused. "And also…" Roy turned, catching Alphonse's gaze, "please call me Roy. You aren't military and therefore aren't required to address me as 'Mustang-Taisa,'" he added and disappeared inside.

The suit of armor stared at the door. "R-Roy?" he murmured, testing out the name. A warm feeling bubbled up in his metaphorical heart. Alphonse had never heard anyone besides Maes Hughes address the man so casually, and to be counted as the sole other—to his limited knowledge—touched him deeply, as though the colonel had somehow known the root of Alphonse's unease and indirectly addressed it. He continued to pet the kitten, and it nuzzled his fingers appreciatively with a soft mew as he settled himself on the steps leading up to the back door. Roy returned shortly with a small saucer of milk. He carefully handed it to the suit of armor, who then lowered it to the ground. Alphonse tipped his occupied hand, letting the small cat slide off his palm and onto the ground next to the dish. It sniffed the edge of the porcelain experimentally before beginning to lap up the rich sustenance. Alphonse watched the kitten silently, and Roy discreetly watched Alphonse as he situated himself next to the youth.

The brighter stars were beginning to prick through the evening darkness, small pinpoints of light visible even with the light pollution of Central. Roy watched the sky deepen from a warm rose to cool violet to somber midnight. The kitten, long since finished with the milk, had once again resumed its position in Alphonse's hand, its continuous purr an accompaniment to the orchestra of evening sounds. A breeze ruffled the trees and brush, adding a whispering rustle to the dusk's orchestra. "It's a beautiful night," Roy commented offhandedly, testing Alphonse's mood. "I rarely get a chance to watch the sun set." He leaned backwards, resting his elbows on the step behind him as he continued to watch the few stars emerge. "I've lived in a city all my life. It must be so different to have grown up in the countryside. I'd imagine the view of the night sky in Resembool was spectacular."

By now the cat had cleaned the saucer of its contents and once again resumed its position in Alphonse's hand. The younger Alchemist tilted his helmeted head to gaze upwards as well. "I do miss it," he said, voice heavy with wistfulness. "You could see every star in the sky, and across the center flowed a belt of them, a hazy glow that arced across the heavens. During the summers, Winry, O—Onii-san, and I would lie in the grass and trace pictures out of them." He had barely paused mentioning his brother, just the faintest bit of hesitation, and though he had recovered swiftly the colonel had caught it.

Roy kept his eyes upwards, trying to imagine the sky that Alphonse's words painted. He felt a yearning in his heart to see such a sight, along with a familiarly deep, aching longing to have such stories to share. It was a common feeling for him, one that with time he had become unwillingly accustomed to pushing down. Still, the bitter pill of growing up with a lack of siblings was difficult to swallow, especially when confronted with stories such as these. It was a small but significant factor as to why he was so protective and possessive of his team of officers. "Do you still see that sky when you look up during your travels?" Roy asked softly, genuinely curious.

"If we are far enough away from any significant lights," Alphonse replied softly. He took a breath as if to continue his train of thought but stopped, exhaling softly and lowering his gaze to the small grassy lot of Roy's backyard, then to his hand. "Oh! I should let him go now," he said hurriedly, standing up and crossing over to the gate in the fence. He knelt, tipping the contented cat onto the ground. It purred and nuzzled his gauntleted hand before disappearing into the night.

Roy watched the younger Alchemist lumber to the gate to release the feline, his hulking form glowing from the lights from his neighbors' windows. A frown creased his lips and a furrow settled in his brow. There was definitely something that did not sit well with the younger Elric brother. The way he walked, there was a metaphorical heaviness to his steps and an invisible bowing of his back that normally was not present. So how to get the boy to talk? Offerings of food and drink would be insensitive in his current state, as well as the warmth of the fireplace. However, it was rapidly cooling, and Roy felt his toes and fingers protesting by ignoring him and going numb. "Alphonse, would you like to go inside? I'm getting a little chilled now that the sun has gone down, but I would like to talk to you a little more, seeing as I haven't really had a chance. If you don't mind?" He stood and opened the door, holding it open for Alphonse to enter past him.

"No, not at all," Alphonse replied, stepping past the elder Alchemist with a murmured, "Thank you." The colonel led the younger Alchemist through the kitchen, directing Alphonse to the living room and offering him a seat on a dingy, threadbare couch as he lit a fire in the hearth. Alphonse sat and looked about curiously as Roy doffed his coat and boots in a coat closet by the foyer before retreating to the kitchen to place a call to the hospital. The couch was accompanied by a small, worn coffee table, and these were one of the few pieces of furniture in the entirety of the downstairs. There was a breakfast table, but the walls were barren with no décor in the least. It was frankly, depressing to see a home with such meager offerings of warmth and welcome after a long day.

"It's not much, is it?" Alphonse jumped, having not heard Roy's approach without his usual boots.

"No—I mean, yes! I mean—" he exclaimed, flapping his hands in agitation. "It's not that, it's just…" Alphonse paused, struggling to come up with a word that was not too demeaning to the state of Roy's home.

"It's all right, Alphonse." The colonel lowered himself onto the sofa with a groan and leaned his elbows on his knees, staring out into the empty room with a rueful smile. "I'm not home often enough to really appreciate my home as a home. It's just a place I happen to eat, sleep, and store my belongings in." He chuckled self-depreciatingly, dipping his head down so that his chin nearly touched his chest as his shoulders shook. "Not so glamorous being an officer, is it?"

The suit of armor turned his head down to the distressed walnut floor. "I thought that you would have a home that was more… luxurious, considering your reputation…" He trailed off, wondering instantly after he spoke whether or not he had crossed a line.

"Debonair womanizer?" Roy chuckled that sardonic laugh once again, his shoulders shaking. "I guess I deserve that," he said ruefully. "My reputation precedes me apparently."

Alphonse turned to study the man. "So you don't bring home a woman every other night?"

The older Alchemist laughed, throwing his head back, but it was not a free and easy laugh. There was a tinge of bitterness and a hint of loneliness in that laugh that made Alphonse shudder ever so slightly. When he had managed to control himself, he gave Alphonse sheepish grin. "If I did that, I would never get the sleep I need to get through the day, and then Chuui would get on my case for being lazy and threaten to put a bullet through my—bits—for being too promiscuous and wasteful with my energy and focus." They shared an amused laugh this time, both knowing full well that First Lieutenant Hawkeye was not one to dawdle—or appreciate others' dawdling. "No, while I do go out on a date every now and then, I don't follow exactly what my reputation claims I do."

"It's a cover to force your opponents to underestimate you, isn't it?" Alphonse asked shrewdly.

Roy's eyes darted piercingly to Alphonse, blatantly assessing the youth. "You're a sharp one," he finally stated after several moments' pause. "I'd almost wager you're sharper than Hagaren."

Alphonse hesitated in his answer. "I'm not so sure. I… I don't think I could have known how to create a blood seal, even under normal conditions."

Again, there was that pause, that niggling feeling that not all was right in Alphonse's world. Roy's eyes studied the younger Elric brother, not bothering with facial expressions but with body language. Alphonse's posture hinted at discomfort, anxiety, and fear that was directly contradictory with the forced cheeriness of his voice. Seeing how the younger brother was clearly hurting, Roy decided to be blunt in order to get to the root of the problem. "Alphonse," he said, gazing directly into the warm red glow of Alphonse's eyes. "I am going to be frank. Please answer me truthfully. Has Hagaren done or said something to upset you?" Alphonse seemed to stiffen before cocking his head to the side in apparent confusion, even though Roy knew he would rather turn his head away and not face him. It seems as if he's caught on.

"What makes you say that?" he asked, his voice not quite as steady as it usually was.

Trying to evade the question, Alphonse? I'm too old and experienced to let that slide for a second, he thought. "You left the hospital while he is still there in a mild coma from the trauma he's suffered. Normally you would never leave his side. I'm going to take an educated guess that whatever is bothering you has to do with the events that occurred when the two of you sneaked out to the Fifth National Central Laboratory. What happened there, Alphonse?"

The boy was silent for a long while, the crackling of the wood-burning fire filling in the quietude as he studied the flames. Finally Alphonse replied. "Onii-san, he… he didn't actually do anything," he said slowly.

Roy's confusion was evident by the furrowed brows and frown as he digested this tidbit of information. "But he had to have," he reasoned. "Otherwise you wouldn't be this upset."

"It wasn't him, I promise. It was… something that… someone else said," Alphonse replied, instantly looking up to meet Roy's eyes, and the initial swiftness of his reply confirmed to the colonel that the youth spoke the truth. Alphonse looked away again, as though he was guilty of revealing too much.

A cool rage swept over him, demanding that he hunt down the idiot who had upset this gentle soul. The surge of protectiveness that filled his chest did not take him quite by surprise, for had he not felt the same for the older Elric brother when they had sat down on this very couch just over three years ago? Reigning in his emotions, Roy prodded, "Then who was it?" When Alphonse did not reply immediately, he asked gently, "Al?" The concern in his voice was clear to the both of them, and Roy felt the beginnings of a dizzying sense of déjà vu.

"He called himself 'Barry the Chopper'," Alphonse whispered, eyes once again firmly glued to his feet.

Roy narrowed his eyes in thought. 'Barry the Chopper'? I remember that name from somewhere… Ah, yes. It was a case Hughes was assigned to. The man was a butcher who began killing women and was arrested before the Elrics arrived in Central for the State Alchemy Examination. But how…? "He was executed several months ago. I remember reading that in the morning paper, so how did you meet him when he's already dead?"

Alphonse's posture radiated with discomfort. "His soul was attached to armor, like mine, so he is like me: dead, yet alive." His voice was so soft, quiet, and so achingly distressed that Roy knew that if Alphonse possessed the capability, he would assuredly be shedding tears.

He scooted closer to the towering suit of armor and gently tugged at the boy's left arm until he had Alphonse's hand clasped in both of his own. "Are you bothered by it?" he asked softly, his dark eyes steady as they observed his unofficial charge.

Alphonse's gaze had wandered from his feet to his hand that was held a tender prisoner in Roy's own. He shook his head slightly. "Not specifically by that," he murmured.

Roy leaned forwards, catching Alphonse's downward gaze. "Then what did he say that upset you?"

The suit of armor looked away, seemingly ashamed. "He said… he said…" Alphonse struggled to repeat Barry's words. "Mustang-Tai—Roy, am I real?" he burst out suddenly, catching Roy's eyes as he leaned forwards, right hand pressed against his chest plate. There was desperation and terror laced in his voice, and the sound of it sent Roy's pulse leaping as his own instinct to protect roared and surged forth, even as his mind suffered whiplash from the sheer peculiarity of the question. Alphonse panted in anxiety, and his armor trembled ever so slightly as he both yearned and dreaded Roy's answer.

"Are you—? What do you—?" he sputtered, his mind valiantly attempting to rally. "Of course you are real! Why would you not be?" he exclaimed, lightly shaking Alphonse's captured hand as he leaned forwards, earnestness and befuddlement written clear across his face. Roy watched as Alphonse's right hand slid from his chest piece into his lap, his helmeted head dropping. When no reply was forthcoming Roy once again gently prodded, "Al?"

"Barry said that since Onii-san was the one to draw my blood seal, he could have created me like an animated doll." The depression was clear in his voice. He pulled his hand out of Roy's, holding both out before him, palms up and fingers curled slightly, as though Alphonse were seeing them for the very first time. "Did I ever exist before this as a person? Am I just a construct made by Onii-san to keep him company?"

Roy huffed incredulously. "That's nonsense, Al. Hagaren wouldn't go through the trouble of losing an arm and a leg just to create something for fun, regardless of how lifelike it is." He scooted so he was next to the suit of armor and rested a hand between the spikes on the shoulder. "I said this earlier and I will say it again: everything Hagaren has done since you lost your body has been done with the sole purpose of regaining that body in mind. That kind of dedication is enviable. There aren't many people willing to go to the lengths Hagaren has done for you. Don't you see, Alphonse?" he asked, giving the spiked shoulder a gentle shake. "Without you, the Edward Elric we know today would not exist."

"But there is no proof that I once lived," he said, his voice soft and unsure as his hands dropped into his lap with metallic clunks.

"Then talk to him, Alphonse. Explain your concerns," Roy coaxed. "I'm sure you are worrying over nothing."

Alphonse shook his head. "I… I can't…"

Roy's hand slid off the spiked shoulder and he folded his arms across his chest. A deep frown marred the expression on his face. "Why ever not?" he quietly demanded, the beginnings of anger kindling in his chest at Alphonse's continued stubbornness.

The younger Alchemist was slow to answer. "I'm afraid of his question."

His frown deepened as confusion added itself to the mix of his emotions. "His question?" he asked, baffled. "What question?"

"He—he didn't say… but he admitted that whatever it was, he was afraid to ask me," Alphonse replied softly.

Roy exhaled silently, leaning back into the couch. "It's obviously deeply important to him if he's afraid of your answer."

"It doesn't mean much if he refuses to ask me because he can't face me," the armor retorted somewhat sulkily, turning his face away from Roy and towards the fire.

The elder Alchemist shot Alphonse a look that held some heat. "There isn't something you're afraid to ask him then?" he asked, skepticism clear in his tone. When the younger Alchemist failed to reply, Roy exhaled again, a little more gustily. "So there is. If you have the same reservations as Hagaren, I find myself somewhat surprised that you aren't as sympathetic to his plight." The hint of rebuke in his voice was evident to Alphonse, for he seemed to curl in on himself slightly in response.

"He doesn't question his existence every second of every day," he muttered petulantly, twisting his helmeted head just enough to watch the colonel out of the corner of his eye.

Roy's arms slid to the couch and he stared at Alphonse in incredulity as his irritation ballooned rapidly. "That's what's been bothering you ever since you talked to Barry?" he asked, his voice stridently chastising. "And so now you're going to hurt him by keeping your distance from him instead of asking him directly while he's recovering?"

Alphonse reeled, head snapping to face Roy. "Ho—how did you know about that?"

The colonel smirked. "I have my ways," he said slyly. The grin dropped abruptly. "But in all seriousness, when he wakes, he's going to want you to be the first person he sees."

The suit of armor turned away again, head bowed. "I'm just a distraction for him. Memories can be fabricated. It's just data, after all. He just doesn't want to be alone." His voice was morose and his body language mirrored that.

Roy took a deep breath to control his annoyance. "Al, nobody truly ever wants to be alone. But even so, that is not an excuse for Hagaren to bind a soul to a suit of armor simply for fun, taboo aside," he stated firmly.

"But there's no substance to me. I'm simply an empty shell of fantasized memories…" he argued, voice trailing off into a whisper.

That damned Elric stubbornness… Roy mentally snarled as his patience finally snapped. "Alphonse Elric," he growled, instantly gaining the young boy's attention as he leaned into the youth's personal space. "You listen to me. You are the single person Hagaren holds in the highest esteem. I understand your concerns with what Barry said, but take those poisonous words and put them out of your mind this instant! His words were aimed precisely to hurt you and make you question your existence. But I and everyone on my team have seen how dedicated Edward is to his goal of retrieving your body. If you cannot see his devotion to this cause as proof of your existence, you are a fool."

Alphonse stared at Roy silently, his body language expressing nothing but surprise. Roy could sense the wheels spinning rapidly in the youth's mind as he began to formulate arguments against his words, even as he recognized Alphonse's resistance crumbling in the face of his words. He continued, heading off any attempts of Alphonse's to rebuff his claims. Roy was determined to beat this fact into the boy's skull.

"Don't force me to insult your intelligence, Al," he said with a sigh, modulating his tone into something not as harsh. "You know your brother better than anyone else. Talk to him. Explain your doubts, and in turn give him the opportunity to ask that question he is so afraid of. He tries so hard to constantly be the strong big brother, but even he needs a break every now and then. Cut him a little slack, let him step away from that role for a moment, and face each other as equals. I think you will be pleasantly surprised to find that you had nothing to fear."

Roy's stomach decided at that moment to announce itself, and the pair of Alchemists glanced downwards. The colonel flushed in embarrassment and the both of them chuckled awkwardly. "I guess I should find something to eat," he said, rising off the couch. Alphonse stood with him. "I don't have anything here, so I'm going to have to go out." He snuffed the flames, gathered his coat, and slid on his boots, locking the door behind him once Alphonse had also exited. As they stepped out into the brisk evening, Roy murmured, "Think about what I said, Alphonse. For all Edward's bark and bite, everything he has done has been with you in mind. You know that."

"Roy," Alphonse said thoughtfully, pausing and forcing the colonel to stop as well. He gazed into the elder Alchemist's open countenance. "I know. Thank you."

The colonel smiled gently. "You should get back to the hospital. He'll want to see you when he wakes."

The younger Alchemist nodded. "See you later," he said, and headed off in the direction of Central Command.

Roy watched Alphonse's large form disappear into the night and turned, intent on finding a meal before his stomach decided to devour itself. It grumbled, and he frowned as he looked down at his belly. "All right, all right!" he snapped as he hurried towards the market district.

Midafternoon several days later brought Maes Hughes to his door in East City. The Lieutenant Colonel blew into his office with a wide grin on his face and a jovial, "Yo, Roy!" as his subordinates peeked up momentarily.

Roy glanced up from his stack of paperwork. "Hughes-Chuusa," he greeted with decorum, resuming his perusal of the document before him. "How are they?" There was no need to clarify who "they" were. Roy had left Central before Edward had woken up, and so his youngest subordinate had no idea his commanding officer had paid him a visit.

"Already out on their next mission. They had a falling out while Edward was still in the hospital," Maes reported, his earlier enthusiasm tempered with somber tenderness.

The colonel paused in his reading and looked up at his friend. "Oh?" Alphonse and Hagaren had a fight? Emotionally or physically?

The Lieutenant Colonel shrugged with a grin. "They fought verbally, Winry clarified a few things for Alphonse, they fought physically, Edward won, Alphonse apologized, they talked, and now they are back on good terms with each other."

Roy snorted. Figures that Hagaren would settle disputes by fighting, even when hospitalized. "No additional injuries?" he queried.

Maes shook his head. "They aired their grievances and got it settled."

"Good." Roy leaned back in his chair, laced his fingers together while propping his elbows on the armrests, and shared a rare indulgent, knowing look with Maes that all parents understood.

Never forget that you are real, Alphonse, for with Hagaren's stubborn determination, I bet it won't be long before I get the chance to meet you in the flesh.

Taisa – Colonel

Chuui – First Lieutenant

Onii-san – Older brother

Shoui – Second Lieutenant

Gunsou – Sergeant

Hagaren – Roy's abbreviation of Edward's full title, "Hagaren no Renkinjutsushi" – Fullmetal Alchemist

Chuusa – Lieutenant Colonel

Author's Note: This one was so much harder to write! Not sure this was as poignant as Part I, but I think I adequately expressed Alphonse's insecurity and Roy's annoyance. Again, not entirely happy with the ending, but I am glad to have it done. I think Roy needed a slightly different approach to talking to Alphonse, and I hope that it was again not too out of character. I hope you enjoyed it.

Completed: 10.01.2014