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AngelHunteress16
Chapter 1: Parting Gift

First Lt. Riza Hawkeye was standing outside Colonel Roy Mustang's office. There had been no sound coming from inside for a while and she was beginning to worry that maybe he and one of the other occupants in the room had gotten into a fight and killed each other. And, with their background, it wouldn't surprise her.

She still didn't get what was so important. Why had the Colonel summoned them? She wouldn't ask; it wasn't her place to. Still...she was a bit curious. He had dismissed her, saying it was nothing. But they had been so far away. Perhaps another mission? Edward Elric and his brother Al were doing a good job so far with the missions the Flame Alchemist had given them. Removing the high priest from Lior who had been using the people. Stopping the red water in Xerotime.

She just hoped that whatever the Colonel had planned was going to be good for them, as it usually was. She had faith in her commander, no matter how much of a pain he could be sometimes.

Still...it was a little too silent in there. Perhaps she should politely check in...?

She barely moved a muscle when a voice boomed above all of the other noise in Headquarters, making some stop in their tracks and turn their heads toward it.

"YOU WANT ME TO DO WHAT?!"

Lt. Hawkeye sighed, half in relief, half in annoyance.

At least they didn't kill each other.

------

Colonel Roy Mustang hid a smile as the blond alchemist in front of him shouted at him. He waited until the teen stopped venting, and then spoke.

"I want you to go on vacation."

"YOU HAD ME COME SIXTY MILES TO TELL ME I LOOK LIKE I NEED A VACATION?!"

Colonel Mustang leaned back in his chair, smirking, folding his hands on top of his desk. He could practically see the vein popping out of the kid's head. He knew this was going to be tough, but he still knew what methods of persuasion worked best.

"I don't think you understand, Full Metal," he started. "I didn't say you looked like you need a vacation. I'm ordering you to."

He could see Ed contemplating on whether to go against his orders. It wouldn't be the first time. Thankfully, Al spoke up.

"Where is it?" the boy in the suit of armor asked, curiosity in his voice. Ed gave him a sideways glare.

Colonel Mustang smirked at him. Hook, line and sinker. "Kedalton. All expenses paid."

That got both of the young Elrics' attention. Kedalton was a small yet beautiful town. Peaceful, a paradise, with every luxury imaginable. Also, it was once a large part of alchemical history and offered some mystery as to exactly what kind of research and discoveries were made in that small town. However, not many people ever visited Kedalton; it was so far from any town the train ride could cost thousands, which most could not afford.

He could see the spark in the older Elric's eyes at the mention of the town, but also saw the internal battle in his eyes.

Finally, the boy shook his head. "We can't right now. We have our mission. We can take a vacation later."

"You do realize that this is a direct order?" asked the Colonel. "And who knows, you might find an ancient alchemical secret to growing taller."

Immediately, Edward's face got red with anger. "WHO'RE YOU CALLING AN ANT YOU WANT TO STEP ON?!"

"He didn't say that, Brother!" Al said. A slight pause, then he continued. "Nii-san, we might find something there about the Philosopher's Stone. It is worth going there."

Ed sighed. The Colonel could tell he was giving in, albeit reluctantly. "Thanks for siding with Colonel McSparky, Al," the fifteen-year-old muttered through gritted teeth. Again, he offered a sigh, before meeting the Flame Alchemist's eyes.

"Fine, give me the tickets."

Mustang smirked again, before sliding a small stack of tickets toward him. Ed swiped it from him, smiling widely. He knew that Full Metal would be happy to go to the town. Like a kid in a candy store. No, more like owning the candy store.

"Thank you, Colonel Mustang, I'll be sure to send you a postcard and--"

"That's not all, Full Metal," Roy started, causing confusion on both brothers' part.

He smirked. "Bring your mechanic along with you."

"Winry?" Al asked, confused.

He nodded. "I did give you a third ticket."

"Why?" Ed asked, looking down, as if checking to make sure he was not getting pranked.

"You three need a break. And, if you're wondering, it was an order as well. Besides, you'll never know what will happen--"

"ARE YOU SUGGESTING THAT I WILL MAKE A MOVE ON MY CHILDHOOD FRIEND?!"

"He didn't say that, Brother."

Colonel Mustang smirked again. "Interesting. You get just as upset when someone mentions your mechanic as you do when someone mentions your height. Let me know how it goes, Full Metal, and be sure to...fill me on on the details."

And before the blonde could get the chance to retaliate the innuendo (and most likely make a mess of the office) his younger brother dragged him out of the room, kicking and screaming, with a long string of profanities trailing behind.

He looked to his 2IC standing outside the door, guarding it, who glanced at him out of the corner of her eye. Their eyes met.

"Come in, First Lieutenant," he told her, and she was almost immediately inside the room, the door closed. He handed her a slip of paper.

"Here. Do not under any circumstances let anyone know about this, understood?"

"Yes, sir," the female replied.

It was good to have such a loyal subordinate, and a loyal friend.


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The train ride was to be long. After playing cards with Al (and losing each time since Al caught onto his cheating) for a good two hours, Ed leaned back, looking out the window.
He rested his metal elbow on the window ledge, resting his chin on the metal gloved fingers. His eyes clouded over as he thought of the previous mission. The battle in Laboratory 5 was, on their part, reckless. Somewhere in the back of his mind, Ed knew that they really shouldn't've gone. But, nonetheless, he had to find out...and he did.

He was closer than ever to finding the Philosopher's Stone.

And here they were going on vacation.

Still, he supposed it wouldn't hurt to go to Kedalton. After all, it was once a great place of alchemical research. Perhaps there was something of use to them, pertaining to the Philosopher's Stone there. Maybe that was Mustang's intention after all to send them. Still...why was Winry's coming with them so important? Besides the Colonel's implications (and downright immature ones) there had to be a reason for her to come.

A small pressure on his shoulder brought him out of his trance. He looked to his left, and saw a mess of blond hair on his shoulder. Winry sighed as her eyes closed, beginning to fall into a peaceful slumber. Ed watched her, noting her breathing becoming heavier as she succumbed to sleep.

Somewhere in his mind, he wanted to move a strand of her hair gently behind her ear. But he wouldn't. He would keep telling himself the reason was that it was ludicrous to even think such things, and that Mustang's suggestions had gotten the best of his teenage hormones, but really, somwhere in the back of his mind and deep down in his heart he knew he didn't want to for fear of waking her or worse making her move away from him.

Instead, he turned back out the window, resuming his thought. Who was he kidding, anyway? She needed a vacation as much as he did. Besides, it would be one less 'mission' she would worry over. He knew that she worried over the boys every day, and he wished that he could take her with them to stop her from worrying. But of course, those feelings were rivalled (and often outmatched) by the feeling of just wanting to keep her safe. He could never put her in danger again.

That whole fiasco years ago with Barry the Chopper made him realize just how dangerous this was, and that the closer one was to Ed, the farther they should be from him.

But, while the boys were off doing research, it would be nice for her to actually get a vacation. Perhaps there were enough stores that she could do her shopping...? He inwardly cringed at how expensive it would've been had the boys taken her there (of course, he would never stay mad at her, and he would always buy whatever for her anyway) but was then reminded that it was all expenses paid.

He remembered their last conversation, when he had made the phone call from his hotel shortly after the conversation with Mustang.

----

"Hello?" answered the familiar blonde, a loud ensemble of noises in the background.

"Winry? It's Ed--"

"DON'T TELL ME YOU'VE BROKEN YOUR AUTO-MAIL AGAIN, EDWARD!" the girl shouted at him on the phone.

He let out a sigh. He wished he had. At least, for the moment.

"No, no, it's not that, Win. It's not broken! In fact, it's as good as new!" he told her, trying the next tactic: flattery.

He examined a small dent from his last fight. All right, so he lied. Maybe not as good as new, but, still...

"Good as new, huh? I don't believe it."

"No, no, promise! I haven't gotten into a single fight since last time," he lied.

"So, what is it this time, Ed?" the blonde asked, irritation and frustration at being inturrupted at some important task evident in her voice.

"Well, I was thinking--"

"Don't hurt yourself--"

"That maybe...I dunno, you could use a little vacation. Relax a little, you know?"

"Right now? Ed, you're not serious--"

"Course I am. Come on. All expenses paid."
Hook, line and sinker, he thought.

"I don't know..."

"Is that your boyfriend, Miss Rockbell?" asked a male voice.

"HE IS NOT MY BOYFRIEND AND NEVER WILL BE AND IF YOU ASK THAT ONE MORE TIME, I WILL STICK THIS SO FAR UP YOUR--"

"Okay, okay...does that mean you're single?" asked the man.

"NOW IS NOT THE TIME OR PLACE FOR THAT!" Winry shouted at him, and Ed could hear a loud bang. Perhaps a wrench to the head? He was lucky that it was not him on the table right now.

"Winry...?" Ed asked, cautiously when there was silence on the line.

"..." A sigh from her. "Where is it?"

"Kedalton."

"All the way out there?" he heard her skepticism in her voice, but behind that a wide smile. "All right, fine. When and where are we meeting?"

"Head to Central at the next train. I'll be there." Ed told her, happy that the conversation had gone so smoothly...

"I don't think I'll be able to see you in the crowd," Winry teased.

"WHO'RE CALLING A PEA YOU CAN'T SEE WITH A TELESCOPE?!"

"I didn't say that," she laughed. Promptly, they said their goodbyes to meet up in Central Train Station.

---

The train came to a stop, waking Ed. He had not realized he had fallen asleep. Checking his watch, he saw that another two hours had passed by.

The scenery outside the window was a large plain of grass. Was this Kedalton?

Wherever it was, they had finally arrived.

He looked over to the blonde resting on his shoulder. She was sleeping so peacefully. He didn't want to wake her, could bear the thought of stirring her from her sleep. He was about to when he felt something moving in his real hand. Something squirming and warm.

He looked down in alarm, and saw that it was Winry's hand in his, their fingers intertwined. When had that happened?

He smiled at the scene. It was so comfortable, the two of them. Though they were only childhood friends, they fit together so well. He didn't want to break away from this, and a part of him loved the warmth of her hand in his.

He used his other arm to do what he had wanted to before, to bring it and gently wake her by brushing a strand of hair behind her ear.

However, as he moved to try to shift to do it, the turn made Winry crash into his chest, uncomfortably as the fall didn't break her slumber.

Coming to his senses, Ed grabbed her firmly by the shoulders and pushed her back, gently shaking her awake. Her eyes slitted open, fluttering before looking at him.

"We're here," he told her, and then stood up. Al was already getting some of their luggage (mostly Winry's) from the overhead compartment nearby. Ed was glad that his little brother had not witnessed the scene, since Al would tease Ed later.

He walked over, followed by Winry as they walked out the door. There were no more passengers besides the three, and the train had to make an extra journey to the town of Kedalton since no one ever really came all the way out there.

The three walked for a few minutes through the grass, until finally they approached a large valley. Looking down, they saw a beautiful sight.

It was a paradise, that was for sure. A small town, bustling with people. It had large buildings, small buildings, with many roads. Trees surrounded the outskirts of the town in a forest, almost as if protecting it. A beautiful river ran behind it, small enough to be theirs.

Walking down the valley, they saw some people looking at them, curiously. They looked at them the same way the people had looked at Ed and Al in the Youswell Mine--at least, before the people there found out that Ed was a State Alchemist.

"We have tourists!" shouted one little boy estatically, and after that many people were paying even more attention to them.

One person in particular, however, noticed the chain sticking out of Ed's pocket.

"Hi, there," one man started, cheerily. "Welcome to Kedalton. What can we do for you?"

"Where's a hotel?" Edward asked. "We've had a very long trip here."

"I'm sure," the man agreed. "Hotel's right about...there. Two blocks ahead, three buildings to the right. Enjoy your stay here."

"Thank you," Al said as Edward started going toward the Hotel and Winry followed after him. He bowed before catching up to the two.

As they headed for the hotel, however, Winry called out. "Ed, look out!"

Ed had not known what had happened. He turned around, though, and saw a masked hooded person, wearing all black.

The person laughed, behind their cover, and held up something silver and shiny.

Ed's pocketwatch.

"COME BACK HERE WITH THAT!" Ed shouted, chasing after the person.

The person just laughed. "You'll have to catch me first."

And with that, they ran off, Ed right on their heels. A vacation, now an adventure.

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A/N: well, that's that. It's not my best, but it'll get better. I promise.
Celeste Nayamashii
Okay please don't think I'm trying to be rude or accuse of stealing or anything but this story sounds an awful lot like ShadowDragon-24's story on Fanfiction.net called Speedbumps in the Road
http://www.fanfiction.net/s/3840203/1/Speed_Bumps, especially the plot. It could always be just a coincidence, but it just seemed a little familiar is all ^^
AngelHunteress16
i'm sorry if it did sound like I stole it...I can assure you that I hadn't read it prior (I just read it now) but one of the main reasons that I hated the way this chapter came out was that it sounded too...generic. However, the plotline of my story is extremely different. Mine deals more with the supernatural and sci-fi while ShadowDragon-24 deals more with drama/romance. But, yeah. That opening chapter...I know what you mean. (Kinda scary, too!) I can change it, even though I never intended for it to sound like someone elses. Sorry if I offended!
Celeste Nayamashii
No no, coincidences happen all the time in stories, so it's no big deal. I just though I'd point it out so you don't get flamed or anything like that. happy.gif I'd say probably work on your detailing more. I got a bit lost at this part:

"I don't think I'll be able to see you in the crowd," Winry teased.

"WHO'RE CALLING A PEA YOU CAN'T SEE WITH A TELESCOPE?!"

"I didn't say that," she laughed. Promptly, they said their goodbyes to meet up in Central Train Station.

---

The train came to a stop, waking Ed. He had not realized he had fallen asleep. Checking his watch, he saw that another two hours had passed by.

The scenery outside the window was a large plain of grass. Was this Kedalton?

Wherever it was, they had finally arrived.

He looked over to the blonde resting on his shoulder. She was sleeping so peacefully. He didn't want to wake her, could bear the thought of stirring her from her sleep. He was about to when he felt something moving in his real hand. Something squirming and warm.


So you just went from the phone conversation to them on the train? What I'd try and do is put in their meeting place and what they do when they meet up, maybe even have Winry pick on Ed some more about not seeing him in the crowd xD Other than that, keep it up happy.gif It's good!
AngelHunteress16
Chapter 2: It's Kind of a Fight

Chapter 2: It's Kind of A Fight...

The wind whipped in Ed's face as he ran to catch up with the thief. He was running at full speed, the rhythymic clanging behind him signalling that Al and Winry were still behind him, though running a little more slowly.

The thief rounded a corner, which Ed followed. He would not let this klepto swipe his watch. His one possession he couldn't do without...

The thief turned right, and Ed followed again. It was evident that this person was trying to lose him. And, he had to admit, if he were just a regular city-person, one who wasn't trained and who didn't have an auto-mail leg, that he would've lost sight of the thief minutes ago.

After more twists and turns, the thief ran out of places to go. Swiftly, without breaking path, the thief ran into the forest, Ed tailing behind. He had not heard Al's armor clanging behind him, nor Winry's sneakers hitting the pavement for quite awhile, but it didn't stop him nonetheless. He knew they would catch up eventually.

Ed was already loosing the thief, as it seemed that this stranger was running incredibly fast. The headstart that the thief had taken at the hotel was growing bigger, no longer just a gap but now a great distance.

And, to make matters worse, Ed tripped on a protruding root, falling face down on the ground with a loud frustrated growl.

The thief turned back around, pausing to look at the noise, but then quickly turned back to continue running.

"Oh, no you don't!" Ed shouted, clapping his hands together to make a circle and then slapping them to the ground.

The ground rumbled, and large bolts as if they were lightning emerged from the spot, travelling fast in a line to the place where the thief stood, then, supassing their running speed. A stump rose from the ground, tripping the thief and knocking them to the ground. Ed stood up and raced toward the robber.

He saw the watch, grasped tightly by the thief's right hand. He took this opportunity to try to take the watch back, however the thief was quicker.

The thief's left leg shot out, catching Ed squarely in the stomach and using him as leverage to get another running start.

Ed fell down hard, but still had to stop this thief from getting away. He kicked out, catching the thief in the ankle and made the thief fall on their knees. He stood, the thief also standing, turning to face him.

"Give me back my watch!" Ed shouted.

The thief didn't answer, but turned back to run again. Ed caught the thief by the arm, and when he did he got a fist in his face. The blow wasn't hard, but it did the trick. He got mad.

"I didn't want to, but--" he started, and threw a punch with his left arm, his flesh arm, so he wouldn't seriously damage the thief. After all, it seemed it was just a klepto, not a 'bad' guy.

The thief blocked with their own left, swiftly. Again, it did not seem as if the thief was targeting him but only wanted the watch. More than once, he was reminded of the girl Paninya, who did something similar in Rush Valley.

Again, Ed threw a punch. This time with his right, but going a little easy on the person. Well, easier than he would if he were fighting a homunculi. He was starting to get more than a little annoyed and right now he wanted nothing better to do than to unmask this bastard who stole from him and then picked a fight.

Again the thief blocked, this time, a little surprised at the force behind it (which was really just the metal) and Ed took this opportunity to trip the thief with a low kick. The thief fell on the ground, on their back, crashing on the leaves with a soft oomph!

As Ed tried to jump on the thief and therefore immobilize them, the thief rolled quickly to the side, and Ed landed on his knees in a pile of leaves.

"Brother!" "Ed!" shouted Al and Winry at the same time. He heard the rustle of leaves and the sound of metal hitting the ground.

Ed smirked as he stood. However, he did not waver the slightest or look back as he smirked. "Took you guys long enough."

"Do you want me to...?" Al asked, as the thief rolled backward, landing on their feet in the process, and then got into a fighting stance.

Ed smirked, pride getting the best of him. He would bring this amateur down by himself. "No, Al. I got this one."

He charged at the thief, feigning a punch with his right when he really was going in for the left. The thief however, noticed this and blocked the punch with their leg, raising it in as they had tried throwing a roundhouse kick in the process.

Facing each other again, Ed tried to punch the thief with his right, expecting to be blocked. The thief fell for it, and Ed took the opportunity to use his left to hit the thief in the gut. The thief doubled over, and Ed promptly tripped them.

The thief fell backward, breathing heavily, the watch tumbling inches from their hand. Ed jumped on the thief, grinning, leaning over to take the watch from the ground. Now the next thing to do was see the person's identity...

"Gotcha now, you bast--" he stopped when he yanked the hood off.

Long light brown hair tumbled down. Dark eyes looked up at him, rolling in defeat...

He turned toward his brother and childhood friend, grinning.

"Look, Al, I caught a girl."


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"I'm really sorry," the girl started, more disappointment in her voice than guilt. "I was going to return it, I swear. And, um...I hope I didn't hurt you."
They had led her back to their hotel room, about twenty minutes after the fiasco. Ed had his watch returned, putting it back in his pocket (without the chain sticking out this time) and they were asking her who she was.

She was sitting on the edge of the bed, Al sitting on the floor to the left of her, Winry sitting on the bed on the right, and Ed sitting across from her, in a chair.

He looked at the girl intensely, wondering why she would want to steal his pocketwatch.

"Where'd you learn how to fight like that?" he asked instead. "I thought Kedalton was supposed to be a peaceful town."

"I...I learned it from some people who used to live here," the girl replied, biting her lip. "But really, you shouldn't've gone so easy on me."

"What do you mean 'easy'?" asked Ed, a little mad.

"You always went for the left. Your right was always a fake-out or when you did throw your right it was always too soft," she replied.

Ed smirked. So she had noticed. Maybe not as amateur as he had thought. However, her fighting techniques could still use a little work.

"I'm glad, too, Ed!" Winry grinned, a devious look in her eyes. "Because if you had broken my auto-mail again..."

Ed's eyes widened and he cringed at the thought of another wrench to the head. "I think I've had enough concussions, Win."

"Auto-mail, eh?" the girl smiled. "No wonder. But for the future, I'd suggest that you actually try. I'll even try, too." She laughed.

"You went easy on him?" Al asked.

"Yeah, right!" Ed laughed. "You're just saying that because you know you can't beat me!"

"You wanna bet?" the girl challenged. "Come on, show me your moves, pipsqueak!"

"Who're you calling pipsqueak you pint-sized klepto!" Ed stood up, yelling.

"Metal leprechaun!" the girl stood up, too, facing Ed, her face red with anger.

"Pickpocket elf!"

"You know," Al started, whispering to Winry loudly. "I think she's as small as Ed."

"WHO'RE YOU CALLING SMALL?!" both yelled in unison, turning on Al.

They turned and faced each other. The girl brought her hand over her head and then measured the distance to Ed's head. It was the same!

"How old are you?" the girl asked suspiciously.

"Fifteen," Ed replied.

The girl grinned, then, out of nowhere, hugged Ed estatically. "Me too! Haha! I'm the same size as another fifteen year old! My life is complete!"

She laughed, and Ed thought that she was crazy.

"So...about the watch," Al started, and the girl stopped laughing, her face turning serious. She sat back on the bed, a slight blush creeping across her cheeks. "Why'd you take it in the first place?"

"It's silly. I just..." she started. Her hazel eyes stared intensly out the window, not looking at them. The small blush grew to a deeper shade of red. "I wanted to learn alchemy."

"You could've just asked, you know," Al told her.

She looked at him incredulously. "You're the dogs of the military, though. You could've just gotten another one. Besides, it's not like State Alchemists help people much anyway."

Ed looked out the window, not replying. Of course, he was known for being the State Alchemist who also helped the people, but thievery was a whole different story...

"Why do you want to study alchemy so bad?" asked Winry.

The girl sighed, looking out the window and following Ed's gaze to a group of kids playing in the streets. "I...I just wanna help."

"What do you mean?" asked Al.

"It's...a long story...never mind," the girl replied. She stood up, getting off the bed, and smiled. "I should get going. My family's probably wondering where I am. I'll see you guys--!"

"Wait!" Ed stopped her. "You just tried to steal from us and don't even give us a good explanation why?"

The girl smiled, another small pink blush on her cheeks. "I'm Keiko. Keiko Lyria. Feel free to stop by my house. I'll tell you everything."

She started to run to the door, but then she turned back, slightly cringing. "Just, um, please...don't tell them what happened? I can make it up to you however you want, but if someone catches wind of what I did, my family could be banished. Kedalton's a peaceful town."

And with that, she ran out, the door closing softly behind her. Ed clasped the pocketwatch, smiling deviously.

"Brother?" Al asked.

"Come on, guys. I have a feeling that she knows more than she's letting on." He walked toward the door where Keiko had just exited from, then turned and looked back got off the chair he was sitting on, positioned across from the seat that Keiko was just sitting in on the bed.


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It was a peaceful night. Townsfolk were out and about, sitting around a fire, talking, telling stories. Kids were playing peacefully with each other, chasing one another in a game of 'tag' while teens were hanging around, whispering gossip and playing games in the forest.
However, it was not a good night for all.

In a building, serveral floors below ground, a man's scream ripped out, though no one in the village above ground could hear.

Another man was tied to a chair, his eyes wide in fear and his face and shirt drenched with sweat. The lights were on, pointed at him. He could hear the man screaming, perhaps being tortured or just hired for special effects? He shook his head, but that made his head throb. Somewhere in the back of his mind, he knew he was getting delirious.

A man, dressed up nicely with short cropped hair in a blue uniform approached him, two guards behind him, one female the other male. Both guards were wearing a gas mask. The uniformed man, however, was not.

The uniformed man held something up to the light to show the man bound to the chair. It glinted in the light, the carvings in the silver standing out to him more than ever. The bound man showed no expression in his face.

"So, this watch. It's the crest of State Alchemists, is it not?"

The bound man said nothing.

"What is your name?" the uniformed man asked.

Still the man said nothing.

"According to the picture, it says that you're the legendary State Alchemist, the Silver Lance Alchemist. Merrick Sario, if I'm not mistaken?"

And still the man said nothing.

The uniformed man walked up to Merrick, getting into his face, sneering. "Come on, Mr. Silver Lance. I'm willing to go easy on you. Just...tell me the truth and I'll let you go."

"You can kill me if you want, but I'll never tell you anything," spat Merrick.

The uniformed man turned toward his subordinates, shrugging. He took a few more steps backward, taking an unused mask from the female guard.

"Well...I'm sure we can find a way to compromise," the uniformed man smirked. He put on the mask, holding up a small vile of red liquid.

He dropped it, red vapor rising into the air. Merrick held his breath, trying not to inhale, but within half a minute it was no use. He breathed heavily, out of air, but then tried not to inhale again.

"This is an Ishbalan truth serum called Pentathol. One little whiff of this and you'll be telling what we want to know. And then some. Of course, the side-effect to this can be quite troublesome. Like with any truth serum, Pentathol is imperfect. I believe there is an active poison in this that can take a few days to get rid of. It will be a slow and painful death, but I will have my information."

He laughed, as did the guards.

"Well, it seems you got yourself in a perdicament, eh?" the man grinned. "Well, it does seem as if you gave me no choice. Now..."

He leaned in closer to the man, his breath invading Merrick's nostrils.

"I heard that there were two boys that came in today."

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A/N: I hope ya'll liked that! It was kinda hard to do this chapter. Yes, I am using the titles for the 100 themes of EdWin if you haven't noticed. I'm not sure if it counts, but I'm still trying to do the 100 Themes while having a big plot connect them all. I don't really know how those work...anyway.
RavenHair
I like your story so far. I'm very interested to see what this Keiko girl is all about :-) I've been writing a story myself, it's on here somewhere. It's called Home. I'm up to chapter 6 on it and I have alot of ideas for it but trying to piece them all together is the fun part. I think your doing a good job so far so I wouldn't worry to much. Your chapters are improving. I wouldn't recommend reading mine yet lol. I have to edit chapters 1-4 due to some grammar issues when I pasted it over lol. But I'm really looking forward to your next chapter :-)
AngelHunteress16
Thank you guys for all your positive feedback! Truthfully, I don't really like the way this chapter came out. I dunno...I know I could do better. I might (probably) edit it later. Anyway. Enjoy. And Merry (late) Xmas and Happy New Year! :D

Chapter 3: Silver Watch

The sky was a blue-black with stars glittering brightly. The small town of Kedalton was dimly lit by these, as well as a small fire in the town centre, and as well as various and sparse lights hanging from the walls of various buildings. The village was quiet farther out, with only the sound of crickets chirping heard, and toward the center the sound of fire cackling, music playing, and people laughing and talking was audible.

However, there were three people exiting a small inn that had no intention of partaking in these events. As Ed, Winry and Al left the hotel, they headed down toward the center of the town. Ed and Al were dressed as usual, and they stood out more among the crowd, but Winry was the only one who was dressed differently. She tucked away her mechanic outfit in her vacation bag (which she had already unpacked) after she and the boys went into the village. There she had purchased a gorgeous skort--a local fashion--made of a thin, cool yet velvety turqoise fabric which she loved to feel (and had everyone else feel, much to Ed's protest and embarassment when she asked him to feel her skort). On top she wore a cool halter top that came down in a square-neck cut, and wore her hair down fully for the first time in ages, falling gently over her shoulders. On her feet she wore brown sandals. She looked stunning, and even though she was dressed like the locals, she still stood out. Many teenage boys were looking at her as the trio walked along the dark brick road.

Yet that fact was ignored by all three. As was the fact that there was a large and festive event in the town center. However, as they crossed through the town center, both out of necessity of information and that the more residential area was on the other side of the center, all three couldn't help but feel pulled toward the activity in the square. It looked so fun, so inviting. However, there would be no time for that now; they could enjoy that later. Right now they were on business.

They approached a group of adults who were the more quiet, talking amongst themselves. There were two women and three men, their age ranging from around fifteen to forty. A blond woman of about thirty turned to them first, her hair the color of honey and brown. She smiled.

"You must be the new visitors!" she greeted. "Welcome! I hope you are finding your visit most welcoming?"

"You could say that," Ed muttered. "We're looking for a girl that we ran into earlier. She was a...kind hostess, you could say. Keiko Lyria?"

A shadow crossed a few faces for a second, but passed. Ed caught it. Perhaps they knew of Keiko's thievery? But the woman smiled again.

"Mr. Lyria and his family are inside their houses now. They usually are out during the festivals, and were out for a little while but had to go in shortly after. It wasn't an important matter, just a slight fever developed by one of their young boys."

"Could you show us their house?" Ed asked her. "We would like to visit, since there wasn't any time to talk then. Stop by and just...pay our respects?" He smiled slyly, though it was very slight.

The woman smiled again, then pointed a slender finger at a small house on the corner. It was two stories high, with orange-yellow eminating from the windows. The building was a soft white, with wooden window panes and a bluish-gray door.

Ed smiled, his eyes glowing. He would have his adventure and not just a stupid vacation. Maybe even find something useful. And all that was between him and more answers was just a door and just steps...

He repectfully bowed, then headed off toward the house. Al and Winry caught up to him, and Winry was obviously shocked.

"Wow, Ed, I think that was the first time I've seen you being actually nice to a person," Winry said sarcastically.

"What do you mean? I'm always nice!" Ed protested.

"Do you really think we'll find anything?" Al asked, perhaps to avoid a fight and a possible concussion from a wrench.

"Maybe," Ed replied hopefully, crossing his arms behind his head as he continued walking. "At least it'll give us something to do while we're here."

"But Colonel Mustang gave us this vacation to take a break from all of that," Al reminded him, though it was evident he was just as curious about the new mystery as his brother.

"And you better not get into more fights, Ed!" Winry started. "Cause if you break my auto-mail..."

"We're here," Ed said, putting a finger to his lips as they approached the blue-gray door. The light from the steps reflected off his amber eyes as he spoke to them.

He tentatively yet not at all hesitantly raised his fist and knocked on the door three times. After a few seconds, a few sounds from behind the door were heard, and then the door swung open.

A girl stood in the doorway, about Keiko's age, with long dark hair and brown eyes. She was slight and slender, tall and wore an in-style top while her bottoms were a pair of long and worn-out pants. She looked at the three, looking them up and down, while giving them a 'what?' look. Her tone, however, was more polite.

"Hi. What can I do for you?" she asked, her voice sweet and high.

"Hi," Winry started politely. "We're looking for--"

"Where's Keiko?" asked Ed, peering in the doorway, though it was almost impossible because the brunette was towering over him and blocking his view.

The girl once again looked at them, her eyes widening with recognition. "You're the new guys. I was wondering why you dressed so weird. Well, come in. I'll go get her. Take your shoes off."

The three stepped in the house, took off their shoes and the girl started to walk away. However, she stopped, and noticed Al for the first time.

"Wow, you must be really hot in that. I mean...aren't you?" she asked, her eyes widening at the towering suit of armor.

"It's okay," replied Al's tinny voice, brushing it off. "I'm fine, thank you."

"O-kay," the girl replied, still staring wide-eyed at him, before turning around again and disappearing up the stairs.

The house was small, nothing to brag about. The small hallway that led to the door led into what seemed to be the living room. The walls were lined with shelves of books and disorganized piles of paper. One wall, however, was had a cabinet filled with various figurines and collectibles, odd ones at that. In the center of the room were four couches, surrounding a small table in a square. Behind the wall which had the cabinet of figurines was another hall, where the girl disappeared to, a flight of stairs. The bottom carpeted stair and a part of black railing were the only things visible to them, as the wall cut off everything else from Ed's sight.

The small hallway that led to the door continued to the opposite side of the living room and into what looked like a kitchen. Before that and to the left, directly opposite from the stairway was another corner, whatever it led to hidden through the walls.

A series of thumping brought Ed back to see the two girls running down the stairs. The first girl was the brunette, jumping off at the second and landing softly on the floor and then heading down the unknown hallway and turning out of sight. The second girl followed the brunette, hopping off the stairs and gliding a little.

She turned toward the three and smiled. "I was wondering when you guys would show up," she grinned.

"Well, after your little welcoming party, we just couldn't resist," Ed retorted.

Keiko rolled her eyes and then smiled. "I told you already. I'm sorry. From the bottom of my heart." She grinned, though her voice was only half-sarcastic.

"So, was that your sister?" Winry asked.

Keiko shook her head, smiling at Winry. Not the same sarcastic one she reserved for Ed, but a different one. "Nah. That's my best friend, Emelise. Our familes are pretty close; we see each other like every day. Her brother's got a fever, so we're taking them in while their parents try to fix him up." She looked toward the other hallway sadly, then smiled again, the sad expression disappearing.

"So, how can I help you guys?" she asked.

Ed grinned. "In exchange for me not telling anyone about your little thievery, you have to tell me why you did it and anything else I wanna know."

"Aw, come on. You don't wanna know why. It's boring." she replied. "I mean, I can do like chores or something. Pay it off? I mean, I'll even take you out to dinner if that's okay with your girlfriend."

Ed smirked, and Winry let out an angry gasp, but didn't say anything. "See, now I know you're hiding something. If it was so small, you wouldn't be so quick to do something much harder like labor unless you had a psychotic obsession with to do work. So, what is it?"

"You're good," Keiko smiled. "You didn't even take the bait about her being your girlfriend. I mean, unless she is...?"

"An idiotic remark like that doesn't affect my curiosity," Ed replied, smirking.

"What's that supposed to mean!" Winry shouted. "Are you saying I'm not pretty?"

Immediately, Ed was at a loss for words in his defense. He held his hands up defensively. "No, no, Winry! I mean--you're beautiful! I mean--ahh!"

How Winry kept that wrench hidden in her seemingly pocketless clothing was beyond any of them. But right now she had it out in her hand, smacking it threateningly against her other palm.

"Winry, remember we're guests in this house!" Al cried.

Reluctantly, Winry put the wench back, glaring at Ed. Keiko looked between the two.

"Are they always like this?" she asked Al.

"Only on good days," Al replied.

Keiko chuckled, and then sighed as she saw Ed turn to her.

"So," Ed started, his calm tone returning along with that curiosity. "Are you going to tell us?"

Keiko looked over toward the hallway where that other girl, Emelise, went. Then her eyes shifted back to them. "Let's go upstairs. But, I wanna ask you: are you sure you want to hear it?"

"It could be something important to us. Besides, if I don't get it out of you one way or another, I'll gladly tell your family about your new hobby." Ed said matter-of-factly. An empty promise, Winry and Al knew, because as much as he would do it quickly if it were a person who seemed to do it out of fun, but he knew that it wouldn't be good to not only banish an entire family because of one teenager girl's thievery, but also cause trouble in a peaceful town. However, Ed was a good actor, and Keiko thought he was absolutely serious, as his tone implied.

"Fine. We could use an alchemist anyway. What's your title, anyway?" she asked.

"I'm the Fullmetal Alchemist," he said proudly. "Maybe you heard of me?"

"You're the Fullmetal Alchemist? No way! You're too short to be--"

"STOP CALLING ME SHORT!! YOU'RE MY HEIGHT! YOU JUST CALLED YOURSELF SHORT!"

"THAT'S CAUSE I'M A GIRL! GIRL'S ARE SUPPOSED TO BE SHORTER THAN THE GUYS! EITHER YOUR GIRLFRIEND'S GOING TO BE A LEPRECHAUN OR HAVE TO BEND DOWN EVERY TIME SHE KI--"

"Kay? What's all the shouting?" called a man's voice from the hallway.

Keiko stopped in mid-sentence, her face growing red in a blush. "Oh, hi Dad."

A man emerged from the hallway, looking at his daughter. Mr. Lyria was a man in about his forties, tall, with a mess of brown hair and brown eyes. He was thin and yet looked very powerful, perhaps not someone to cross, but behind that he seemed very peaceful and easy going. Perhaps the powerfulness was just the parenting of a teenager.

He turned to look at the three newcomers, studying them carefully. He eyed the two brothers, who were dressed oddly, then looked at Winry quicky, perhaps dismissing her as a local girl because of her attire. He then let out a small smile.

"Are they bugging you, Kay?" he asked, not looking at his daughter.

"No, Dad. I-it's fine," she assured the man, again blushing. Ed was enchanted by Keiko's sudden change of personality because of this man.

"Okay," he replied, nodding and seemed to relax slightly. "And who might you be? I've never seen you around here."

"We're visitors," Al started politely. "From Central City."

"Central, eh? Big city. Must be very different coming out here to the countryside." He paused, then looked at Ed once more. "I hope you enjoy your stay. And I really do hope Kay's being friendly. I know she can be quite the troublemaker sometimes."

Keiko turned a bright shade of red.

"Keiko's been more than welcoming," Ed replied. "In fact, she's giving us a tour around here, free of charge."

The man chuckled. "I see. In that case, you can visit anytime you like. I know this town can be pretty expensive, so I invite you all to dinner tomorrow night."

"Thank you, Lyria-San," Al said respectfuly.

"How's Cody?" Keiko asked her father.

"Uncle Marcushas calmed his fever down a lot. He'll be fine by morning. There's no reason to worry," he assured her with a smile. He looked at the three others. "You'll have to excuse us. A close family friend's son is sick. There's a lot of confusion right now, so please excuse the chaos."

"We understand, perfectly, Mr. Lyria," Winry told him. "I hope he gets better."

Mr. Lyria nodded, smiling slightly. "I'm sorry. I didn't catch your names."

It also occured to them that they hadn't even told Keiko their names yet. "I'm Winry, that's Al and the short one's his brother, Ed."

Ed didn't shout, but growled, looking as if he were ready to pop a vein.

Mr. Lyra let out a light chuckle. He turned back to Keiko. "Your friends seem nice, Kay," he said, and then turned back to them. "Excuse me, I should get going."

And with that, the strange man left, going back down the hallway from which he came.

Ed turned to Keiko, who was biting her lip nervously. She met his eyes, and he smirked, raising an eyebrow. She sighed in defeat.

"I guess we should go upstairs, then," she said reluctantly, and Ed could almost hear the 'and get it over with' attached to it.

She led them up the stairs, Ed following first, then Al and then Winry. Winry turned to look back down the unknown hallway where Mr. Lyria disappeared to. The hallway was nothing fancy, just white-walled. However, there were three rooms, each of them closed. Still...she got a chill looking at the door directly across from the stairwell. As if something were off...

But that was all in a split second. She turned back quickly, following the others up the stairs.

---

They were sitting down in Keiko's bedroom.

It was a similar situation like the Hotel room, with Keiko on the bed, Al standing beside her, Ed sitting in a chair across the bed, and Winry sitting at the head of the bed, turned to Keiko.

Keiko sighed. "First off, I guess I should apologize for what I did. Okay?"

Ed said nothing for a second, glancing out the window. "Tell us why you did it."

Keiko sighed again. "I...I wanted to learn alchemy, all right?"

"That's all?" asked Al. "You could've just asked."

"I mean...I know some things about alchemy. I've learned a lot from this town. But I couldn't learn it on my own."

"The trip to Central would be too expensive?" Winry asked.

Keiko shook her head. "No, it's not that. We probably could be able to afford it. But my dad would never let me learn alchemy. Ever since the Ishbalan Massacre he's been so quiet. He's seen a lot. And he said that alchemy is the root of all evil. It only causes pain, like the Massacre. Did you know that the Massacre was caused by alchemy? That's what he told me, anyway. So, if he were to ever know that I wanted to learn it...When I was little I took some old scraps and made a doll for my mother. When he saw it he threw it on the ground and told me never to do that again. That if I learned alchemy the only thing it could bring to the family would be shame and death. I never tranmuted after that, but I've always been fascinated by alchemy. I've researched as much as I could, me and a few others from the village. But we've never been able to really do anything. And when I saw that watch I knew you were a State Alchemist. It was the only thing we needed to be able to transmute something, so..."

"So, figuring we were dogs of the military, you decided to take it," Ed finished for her.

Keiko nodded, then turned to Al. "I didn't think you'd guys would be okay with it if I asked you. I mean, I've heard stories about State Alchemists. I guess I just didn't want to take any chances."

Ed sighed, standing up. "I think we've heard everything there is to hear," he said, slightly frustrated. "Let's go."

"But, Brother--"

"We didn't find what we were looking for, Al. Just a girl who wanted to learn alchemy. Thanks, Keiko, for having us over." Ed got up, walking over to the doorway.

"You won't tell?" Keiko asked, standing up.

"Not this time," Ed told her. "Just don't count it if you do it again. There are better ways to getting what you want, even if it takes a little longer."

"All right," Keiko seemed a little hurt. "At least...at least let me walk you guys out."

Ed nodded, then walked out the door and down the stairs and headed toward the door. Al and Winry followed closely behind, Keiko only a few paces behind Winry.

Ed started back toward the hotel, not pausing to say goodbye to Keiko. He was frustrated that he didn't get his adventure, as he was so sure he would. He was a little distance away, though when he saw an odd movement in the darkness.

It was like a ripple, knocking through people and objects. However, as the movement got closer to Ed he saw it was not a ripple, but a person. A male, wearing dark clothing, running wildly with great speed and fear.

The man pushed past more people, almost stumbling himself, but then made it into a clear area between the crowds and Keiko's house. Keiko, who had been talking to Winry, noticed the man rushing toward her house. She pushed past Winry, running past Edward to meet the man halfway.

"Merrick!" she shouted.

The man ran to her, and then collapsed by her feet. Ed, Winry, and Al crowded around them worried for the man and also wondering what was going on.

"Merrick!" she called to him again, crouching at his side. "Merrick, what happened? What--"

"Keiko, I...I'm sorry...they...they're dangerous..." the man gasped. His forehead was sweating profusely as if he had a spiked fever.

"Merrick! Stay with me! What did they do to you? Who did this to you?" Keiko shook him as he seemed to be slipping into unconsciousness. She grabbed his hand, squeezing it. It was cold and clammy.

"They're...m-more...powerful...than we...th-tho-thought...tell him... tell him...I'm sorry...I could not...pro...tect you."

"Don't talk like that, Merrick," she pleaded him. His breathing had become very jagged, rising too much, falling too little. His neck was shining with sweat, his pupils dialated, almost black. They were half-closed. His dark hair was slicked with sweat. Yet he put his other hand on Keiko's, something inside it.

"Keiko...ta-take...th-th...," his eyes rolled up, white, and his hand was limp in hers. He stopped breathing.

"Merrick? Merrick! Merrick! Don't do this to me, dammit! DAD! DAD!" Keiko screamed at the top of her lungs. Tears started to well in her eyes, but they did not spill over.

Mr. Lyria was out within seconds, with the girl from before, Emelise behind him. They stopped when they saw the man on the ground. Mr. Lyria's breath hitched and he walked up to the man and put his arm around Keiko's shoulder. She leaned her head on him as he checked Merrick's vitals.

"He's alive," Mr. Lyria said. "Barely, though. Emelise, get your father and bring him out here."

Emelise nodded, running back inside. Within a minute (even though it seemed like seconds--everything was happening so fast) she came back, a man behind her. He had honey colored hair, and dark green eyes. He and Mr. Lyria both picked up Merrick and carried him inside the house.

Keiko stood frozen, staring at the doorway where Merrick was carried.

Winry walked up t
AngelHunteress16
Thank you guys for all your positive feedback! Truthfully, I don't really like the way this chapter came out. I dunno...I know I could do better. I might (probably) edit it later. Anyway. Enjoy. And Merry (late) Xmas and Happy New Year! biggrin.gif

Chapter 3: Silver Watch

The sky was a blue-black with stars glittering brightly. The small town of Kedalton was dimly lit by these, as well as a small fire in the town centre, and as well as various and sparse lights hanging from the walls of various buildings. The village was quiet farther out, with only the sound of crickets chirping heard, and toward the center the sound of fire cackling, music playing, and people laughing and talking was audible.

However, there were three people exiting a small inn that had no intention of partaking in these events. As Ed, Winry and Al left the hotel, they headed down toward the center of the town. Ed and Al were dressed as usual, and they stood out more among the crowd, but Winry was the only one who was dressed differently. She tucked away her mechanic outfit in her vacation bag (which she had already unpacked) after she and the boys went into the village. There she had purchased a gorgeous skort--a local fashion--made of a thin, cool yet velvety turqoise fabric which she loved to feel (and had everyone else feel, much to Ed's protest and embarassment when she asked him to feel her skort). On top she wore a cool halter top that came down in a square-neck cut, and wore her hair down fully for the first time in ages, falling gently over her shoulders. On her feet she wore brown sandals. She looked stunning, and even though she was dressed like the locals, she still stood out. Many teenage boys were looking at her as the trio walked along the dark brick road.

Yet that fact was ignored by all three. As was the fact that there was a large and festive event in the town center. However, as they crossed through the town center, both out of necessity of information and that the more residential area was on the other side of the center, all three couldn't help but feel pulled toward the activity in the square. It looked so fun, so inviting. However, there would be no time for that now; they could enjoy that later. Right now they were on business.

They approached a group of adults who were the more quiet, talking amongst themselves. There were two women and three men, their age ranging from around fifteen to forty. A blond woman of about thirty turned to them first, her hair the color of honey and brown. She smiled.

"You must be the new visitors!" she greeted. "Welcome! I hope you are finding your visit most welcoming?"

"You could say that," Ed muttered. "We're looking for a girl that we ran into earlier. She was a...kind hostess, you could say. Keiko Lyria?"

A shadow crossed a few faces for a second, but passed. Ed caught it. Perhaps they knew of Keiko's thievery? But the woman smiled again.

"Mr. Lyria and his family are inside their houses now. They usually are out during the festivals, and were out for a little while but had to go in shortly after. It wasn't an important matter, just a slight fever developed by one of their young boys."

"Could you show us their house?" Ed asked her. "We would like to visit, since there wasn't any time to talk then. Stop by and just...pay our respects?" He smiled slyly, though it was very slight.

The woman smiled again, then pointed a slender finger at a small house on the corner. It was two stories high, with orange-yellow eminating from the windows. The building was a soft white, with wooden window panes and a bluish-gray door.

Ed smiled, his eyes glowing. He would have his adventure and not just a stupid vacation. Maybe even find something useful. And all that was between him and more answers was just a door and just steps...

He repectfully bowed, then headed off toward the house. Al and Winry caught up to him, and Winry was obviously shocked.

"Wow, Ed, I think that was the first time I've seen you being actually nice to a person," Winry said sarcastically.

"What do you mean? I'm always nice!" Ed protested.

"Do you really think we'll find anything?" Al asked, perhaps to avoid a fight and a possible concussion from a wrench.

"Maybe," Ed replied hopefully, crossing his arms behind his head as he continued walking. "At least it'll give us something to do while we're here."

"But Colonel Mustang gave us this vacation to take a break from all of that," Al reminded him, though it was evident he was just as curious about the new mystery as his brother.

"And you better not get into more fights, Ed!" Winry started. "Cause if you break my auto-mail..."

"We're here," Ed said, putting a finger to his lips as they approached the blue-gray door. The light from the steps reflected off his amber eyes as he spoke to them.

He tentatively yet not at all hesitantly raised his fist and knocked on the door three times. After a few seconds, a few sounds from behind the door were heard, and then the door swung open.

A girl stood in the doorway, about Keiko's age, with long dark hair and brown eyes. She was slight and slender, tall and wore an in-style top while her bottoms were a pair of long and worn-out pants. She looked at the three, looking them up and down, while giving them a 'what?' look. Her tone, however, was more polite.

"Hi. What can I do for you?" she asked, her voice sweet and high.

"Hi," Winry started politely. "We're looking for--"

"Where's Keiko?" asked Ed, peering in the doorway, though it was almost impossible because the brunette was towering over him and blocking his view.

The girl once again looked at them, her eyes widening with recognition. "You're the new guys. I was wondering why you dressed so weird. Well, come in. I'll go get her. Take your shoes off."

The three stepped in the house, took off their shoes and the girl started to walk away. However, she stopped, and noticed Al for the first time.

"Wow, you must be really hot in that. I mean...aren't you?" she asked, her eyes widening at the towering suit of armor.

"It's okay," replied Al's tinny voice, brushing it off. "I'm fine, thank you."

"O-kay," the girl replied, still staring wide-eyed at him, before turning around again and disappearing up the stairs.

The house was small, nothing to brag about. The small hallway that led to the door led into what seemed to be the living room. The walls were lined with shelves of books and disorganized piles of paper. One wall, however, was had a cabinet filled with various figurines and collectibles, odd ones at that. In the center of the room were four couches, surrounding a small table in a square. Behind the wall which had the cabinet of figurines was another hall, where the girl disappeared to, a flight of stairs. The bottom carpeted stair and a part of black railing were the only things visible to them, as the wall cut off everything else from Ed's sight.

The small hallway that led to the door continued to the opposite side of the living room and into what looked like a kitchen. Before that and to the left, directly opposite from the stairway was another corner, whatever it led to hidden through the walls.

A series of thumping brought Ed back to see the two girls running down the stairs. The first girl was the brunette, jumping off at the second and landing softly on the floor and then heading down the unknown hallway and turning out of sight. The second girl followed the brunette, hopping off the stairs and gliding a little.

She turned toward the three and smiled. "I was wondering when you guys would show up," she grinned.

"Well, after your little welcoming party, we just couldn't resist," Ed retorted.

Keiko rolled her eyes and then smiled. "I told you already. I'm sorry. From the bottom of my heart." She grinned, though her voice was only half-sarcastic.

"So, was that your sister?" Winry asked.

Keiko shook her head, smiling at Winry. Not the same sarcastic one she reserved for Ed, but a different one. "Nah. That's my best friend, Emelise. Our familes are pretty close; we see each other like every day. Her brother's got a fever, so we're taking them in while their parents try to fix him up." She looked toward the other hallway sadly, then smiled again, the sad expression disappearing.

"So, how can I help you guys?" she asked.

Ed grinned. "In exchange for me not telling anyone about your little thievery, you have to tell me why you did it and anything else I wanna know."

"Aw, come on. You don't wanna know why. It's boring." she replied. "I mean, I can do like chores or something. Pay it off? I mean, I'll even take you out to dinner if that's okay with your girlfriend."

Ed smirked, and Winry let out an angry gasp, but didn't say anything. "See, now I know you're hiding something. If it was so small, you wouldn't be so quick to do something much harder like labor unless you had a psychotic obsession with to do work. So, what is it?"

"You're good," Keiko smiled. "You didn't even take the bait about her being your girlfriend. I mean, unless she is...?"

"An idiotic remark like that doesn't affect my curiosity," Ed replied, smirking.

"What's that supposed to mean!" Winry shouted. "Are you saying I'm not pretty?"

Immediately, Ed was at a loss for words in his defense. He held his hands up defensively. "No, no, Winry! I mean--you're beautiful! I mean--ahh!"

How Winry kept that wrench hidden in her seemingly pocketless clothing was beyond any of them. But right now she had it out in her hand, smacking it threateningly against her other palm.

"Winry, remember we're guests in this house!" Al cried.

Reluctantly, Winry put the wench back, glaring at Ed. Keiko looked between the two.

"Are they always like this?" she asked Al.

"Only on good days," Al replied.

Keiko chuckled, and then sighed as she saw Ed turn to her.

"So," Ed started, his calm tone returning along with that curiosity. "Are you going to tell us?"

Keiko looked over toward the hallway where that other girl, Emelise, went. Then her eyes shifted back to them. "Let's go upstairs. But, I wanna ask you: are you sure you want to hear it?"

"It could be something important to us. Besides, if I don't get it out of you one way or another, I'll gladly tell your family about your new hobby." Ed said matter-of-factly. An empty promise, Winry and Al knew, because as much as he would do it quickly if it were a person who seemed to do it out of fun, but he knew that it wouldn't be good to not only banish an entire family because of one teenager girl's thievery, but also cause trouble in a peaceful town. However, Ed was a good actor, and Keiko thought he was absolutely serious, as his tone implied.

"Fine. We could use an alchemist anyway. What's your title, anyway?" she asked.

"I'm the Fullmetal Alchemist," he said proudly. "Maybe you heard of me?"

"You're the Fullmetal Alchemist? No way! You're too short to be--"

"STOP CALLING ME SHORT!! YOU'RE MY HEIGHT! YOU JUST CALLED YOURSELF SHORT!"

"THAT'S CAUSE I'M A GIRL! GIRL'S ARE SUPPOSED TO BE SHORTER THAN THE GUYS! EITHER YOUR GIRLFRIEND'S GOING TO BE A LEPRECHAUN OR HAVE TO BEND DOWN EVERY TIME SHE KI--"

"Kay? What's all the shouting?" called a man's voice from the hallway.

Keiko stopped in mid-sentence, her face growing red in a blush. "Oh, hi Dad."

A man emerged from the hallway, looking at his daughter. Mr. Lyria was a man in about his forties, tall, with a mess of brown hair and brown eyes. He was thin and yet looked very powerful, perhaps not someone to cross, but behind that he seemed very peaceful and easy going. Perhaps the powerfulness was just the parenting of a teenager.

He turned to look at the three newcomers, studying them carefully. He eyed the two brothers, who were dressed oddly, then looked at Winry quicky, perhaps dismissing her as a local girl because of her attire. He then let out a small smile.

"Are they bugging you, Kay?" he asked, not looking at his daughter.

"No, Dad. I-it's fine," she assured the man, again blushing. Ed was enchanted by Keiko's sudden change of personality because of this man.

"Okay," he replied, nodding and seemed to relax slightly. "And who might you be? I've never seen you around here."

"We're visitors," Al started politely. "From Central City."

"Central, eh? Big city. Must be very different coming out here to the countryside." He paused, then looked at Ed once more. "I hope you enjoy your stay. And I really do hope Kay's being friendly. I know she can be quite the troublemaker sometimes."

Keiko turned a bright shade of red.

"Keiko's been more than welcoming," Ed replied. "In fact, she's giving us a tour around here, free of charge."

The man chuckled. "I see. In that case, you can visit anytime you like. I know this town can be pretty expensive, so I invite you all to dinner tomorrow night."

"Thank you, Lyria-San," Al said respectfuly.

"How's Cody?" Keiko asked her father.

"Uncle Marcushas calmed his fever down a lot. He'll be fine by morning. There's no reason to worry," he assured her with a smile. He looked at the three others. "You'll have to excuse us. A close family friend's son is sick. There's a lot of confusion right now, so please excuse the chaos."

"We understand, perfectly, Mr. Lyria," Winry told him. "I hope he gets better."

Mr. Lyria nodded, smiling slightly. "I'm sorry. I didn't catch your names."

It also occured to them that they hadn't even told Keiko their names yet. "I'm Winry, that's Al and the short one's his brother, Ed."

Ed didn't shout, but growled, looking as if he were ready to pop a vein.

Mr. Lyra let out a light chuckle. He turned back to Keiko. "Your friends seem nice, Kay," he said, and then turned back to them. "Excuse me, I should get going."

And with that, the strange man left, going back down the hallway from which he came.

Ed turned to Keiko, who was biting her lip nervously. She met his eyes, and he smirked, raising an eyebrow. She sighed in defeat.

"I guess we should go upstairs, then," she said reluctantly, and Ed could almost hear the 'and get it over with' attached to it.

She led them up the stairs, Ed following first, then Al and then Winry. Winry turned to look back down the unknown hallway where Mr. Lyria disappeared to. The hallway was nothing fancy, just white-walled. However, there were three rooms, each of them closed. Still...she got a chill looking at the door directly across from the stairwell. As if something were off...

But that was all in a split second. She turned back quickly, following the others up the stairs.

---

They were sitting down in Keiko's bedroom.

It was a similar situation like the Hotel room, with Keiko on the bed, Al standing beside her, Ed sitting in a chair across the bed, and Winry sitting at the head of the bed, turned to Keiko.

Keiko sighed. "First off, I guess I should apologize for what I did. Okay?"

Ed said nothing for a second, glancing out the window. "Tell us why you did it."

Keiko sighed again. "I...I wanted to learn alchemy, all right?"

"That's all?" asked Al. "You could've just asked."

"I mean...I know some things about alchemy. I've learned a lot from this town. But I couldn't learn it on my own."

"The trip to Central would be too expensive?" Winry asked.

Keiko shook her head. "No, it's not that. We probably could be able to afford it. But my dad would never let me learn alchemy. Ever since the Ishbalan Massacre he's been so quiet. He's seen a lot. And he said that alchemy is the root of all evil. It only causes pain, like the Massacre. Did you know that the Massacre was caused by alchemy? That's what he told me, anyway. So, if he were to ever know that I wanted to learn it...When I was little I took some old scraps and made a doll for my mother. When he saw it he threw it on the ground and told me never to do that again. That if I learned alchemy the only thing it could bring to the family would be shame and death. I never tranmuted after that, but I've always been fascinated by alchemy. I've researched as much as I could, me and a few others from the village. But we've never been able to really do anything. And when I saw that watch I knew you were a State Alchemist. It was the only thing we needed to be able to transmute something, so..."

"So, figuring we were dogs of the military, you decided to take it," Ed finished for her.

Keiko nodded, then turned to Al. "I didn't think you'd guys would be okay with it if I asked you. I mean, I've heard stories about State Alchemists. I guess I just didn't want to take any chances."

Ed sighed, standing up. "I think we've heard everything there is to hear," he said, slightly frustrated. "Let's go."

"But, Brother--"

"We didn't find what we were looking for, Al. Just a girl who wanted to learn alchemy. Thanks, Keiko, for having us over." Ed got up, walking over to the doorway.

"You won't tell?" Keiko asked, standing up.

"Not this time," Ed told her. "Just don't count it if you do it again. There are better ways to getting what you want, even if it takes a little longer."

"All right," Keiko seemed a little hurt. "At least...at least let me walk you guys out."

Ed nodded, then walked out the door and down the stairs and headed toward the door. Al and Winry followed closely behind, Keiko only a few paces behind Winry.

Ed started back toward the hotel, not pausing to say goodbye to Keiko. He was frustrated that he didn't get his adventure, as he was so sure he would. He was a little distance away, though when he saw an odd movement in the darkness.

It was like a ripple, knocking through people and objects. However, as the movement got closer to Ed he saw it was not a ripple, but a person. A male, wearing dark clothing, running wildly with great speed and fear.

The man pushed past more people, almost stumbling himself, but then made it into a clear area between the crowds and Keiko's house. Keiko, who had been talking to Winry, noticed the man rushing toward her house. She pushed past Winry, running past Edward to meet the man halfway.

"Merrick!" she shouted.

The man ran to her, and then collapsed by her feet. Ed, Winry, and Al crowded around them worried for the man and also wondering what was going on.

"Merrick!" she called to him again, crouching at his side. "Merrick, what happened? What--"

"Keiko, I...I'm sorry...they...they're dangerous..." the man gasped. His forehead was sweating profusely as if he had a spiked fever.

"Merrick! Stay with me! What did they do to you? Who did this to you?" Keiko shook him as he seemed to be slipping into unconsciousness. She grabbed his hand, squeezing it. It was cold and clammy.

"They're...m-more...powerful...than we...th-tho-thought...tell him... tell him...I'm sorry...I could not...pro...tect you."

"Don't talk like that, Merrick," she pleaded him. His breathing had become very jagged, rising too much, falling too little. His neck was shining with sweat, his pupils dialated, almost black. They were half-closed. His dark hair was slicked with sweat. Yet he put his other hand on Keiko's, something inside it.

"Keiko...ta-take...th-th...," his eyes rolled up, white, and his hand was limp in hers. He stopped breathing.

"Merrick? Merrick! Merrick! Don't do this to me, dammit! DAD! DAD!" Keiko screamed at the top of her lungs. Tears started to well in her eyes, but they did not spill over.

Mr. Lyria was out within seconds, with the girl from before, Emelise behind him. They stopped when they saw the man on the ground. Mr. Lyria's breath hitched and he walked up to the man and put his arm around Keiko's shoulder. She leaned her head on him as he checked Merrick's vitals.

"He's alive," Mr. Lyria said. "Barely, though. Emelise, get your father and bring him out here."

Emelise nodded, running back inside. Within a minute (even though it seemed like seconds--everything was happening so fast) she came back, a man behind her. He had honey colored hair, and dark green eyes. He and Mr. Lyria both picked up Merrick and carried him inside the house.

Keiko stood frozen, staring at the doorway where Merrick was carried.

Winry walked up to Keiko, placing a hand on her shoulder. Keiko looked at the blonde, dazed.

"Are you all right?" Winry asked. Slowly, Keiko nodded, then turned back toward the door.

"Do you want to go back in?" Al asked her.

She shook her head. "I-it's my fault he's in there in the first place." She looked down at her palm, the one holding something. It was as if she realized it was there for the first time.

She opened it up, revealing a silver watch. It was almost identical to Ed's watch. A State Alchemist's watch.

"I thought you didn't know any alchemists," Ed raised his eyebrow challengingly.

She sighed, turning toward them. She looked distraught. "Guys...I lied to you. I didn't trust you then, but...come with me. I'll tell you everything."


--------------------------------------------------------------------------------


A/N: Sorry for the dumb ending! Gr...I dunno. It seems as if my muse is on vacation. She must not like the cold weather. Anyway. I know it's the day after Christmas, but still. Merry Christmas and Happy New Year if I don't update by then! And be aware I may be editing this chapter. I don't like the way it played out.
RavenHair
I thought I left you a comment on this next chapter to your story.... I guess Ididn't anyways love the new chapter! I know your weren't crazy about it but I thought I thought it was good. I like the new characters that you have add to this story as well.
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