Duo lay curled up on the sofa, the blanket thick and warm, the cushions soft under his body for the first time in what seemed like days. He'd seen a bathroom upstairs, while wandering around behind the suit of armor with a boy's voice, but other than using the facilities, he'd balked at taking a bath. He just wasn't sure yet what the blond-haired boy wanted, or what the deal was with the suit of armor. And until then, he wasn't positive he wanted to be naked and covered with hot water if anything happened. It was one thing to have a gun in one's hand, but being naked and dripping wet—even with a gun—tended to undermine one's credibility. He stifled a snort, and continued listening.
The words filtered in, and Duo settled back, listening carefully. Words were words, and languages couldn't be any more difficult than the first time G had sat him down to learn advanced physics. It was just a matter of figuring out the syntax, and Duo was pretty sure he'd gotten that one already. Unlike his own language, which tended to use a verb-subject-object construction, this new language seemed to be more of a subject-verb-object format.
Without knowing the content, it was a little harder, but really no harder than chemistry or programming, Duo decided. Knowing the syntax meant he could reasonably expect that a new thought was begun with a pronoun or noun, and he had a whole bunch of those dancing in his head, after Al's lengthy recitation of nearly every object in pointing distance, down to sheets, faucets, socks, and doorknobs. Pronouns were simple enough, although Duo wondered whether the third-person form had a female version. He'd have to find a way to ask Al, since Ed seemed to be more interested in the books around them than in speaking at length with Duo.
He wasn't sleepy, not after a day, maybe two, maybe more, of sitting in the darkness once the lights had sputtered out. The creatures in their cages had fallen silent, rousing him only once footsteps were heard outside the door. And while having a full stomach was pleasant, it didn't make him feel groggy, but restless. There was nothing to be done about it, though, Duo thought, a little philosophically. He needed to get back—he had to get back—but it was just like flying between colonies. Space, for the most part, looked the same, if you lost sight of the earth. If you didn't know where you were, you couldn't figure out how to get where you wanted to go. That meant, Duo knew, that until he figured out where here was, there was little chance he'd be able to come up with a means to get back to there. He grimaced. Assuming, of course, there was a way back to there.
"I am not...call...he...talk..."
Duo sighed, and opened his eyes to slits, seeing the two figures silhouetted by the firelight. The shorter of the two was sprawled on his stomach, flipping through pages of one book, with another resting in his left hand. The right hand came up, tugging at the braid, and Duo caught a flash of metal.
"Brother...I don't...but the...in..."
Odd, Duo thought, and opened his eyes wider, trying to see. The boy had been wearing white gloves, he recalled, but now they were gone, as the boy bent to scribbling something on a note with his left hand. Ed sat up, stretching lazily, and spread his legs out in front of him, twisting sideways to grab another book with his right hand.
"Al, look...this page...he isn't...no, he's...I think..."
Damn. The right hand was not flesh, but jointed metal, like a Gundam's fingers. The suit of armor, meanwhile, was turned away from Duo, hunched over, paging slowly through another book. The thump of Duo's fingers against the metal, earlier, had told him immediately that the armor was hollow; he hadn't spent all that time around machinery without being able to recognize the sound of a machine lacking its engine. That didn't answer the question of how the suit of armor was speaking without a person in there, but given the other strange things, Duo was in no shape to spare energy worrying about it. As long as the suit of armor didn't suddenly become one of those nightmarish creatures in the basement, or sprout wings and a beam cannon, Duo wasn't going to worry about it. Al seemed to be a good person—if such a word applied—and Duo was willing to trust his instincts that told him Al was sincere.
"Do you...all of...books...talk...him..."
Duo sniffed, and his nose wrinkled at the smell coming off him. Perhaps in this world, being stinky was acceptable, and that's why Ed hadn't said anything, or even reacted. I'm only willing to adapt so far and no further, Duo told himself, and slowly eased out from under the blanket. The two figures by the fireplace didn't turn around, and Duo grinned. Carefully he undid his boots, setting them by the sofa as a sign of his good-faith return. He'd noted most of the creaking floorboards while investigating with Al, and he was relatively confident he could be upstairs and in the bath before they noted the water running. Given what he'd seen of Ed, however, Duo was distantly certain that Edward probably wouldn't even note the water running, at that.
Hell, Duo thought, the boy might not even notice if the house fell down around his head, if it happened while his nose was in a book. It made Duo smile, remembering the complaints Hilde had lobbed at Duo when he was in working mode.
"No, not going...Mustang...he wanted..."
A few quick steps, and Duo was out of the living room, padding his way up the stairs on socked feet. His clothes were filthy, too, but perhaps those he could wash in the shower, and maybe they'd be dry by morning. The voices trailed up the stairs behind him, and he listened with half an ear, absently registering that more and more of it was making sense, but still not enough to determine what the two brothers were discussing.
"Brother, if we...ask him...what..."
The tub filled quickly, the water steaming hot. Duo didn't wait until the tub was full before he shucked off his clothes, tucking his gun under the shirt, but just within reach. Sliding into the water, he leaned back, sighing happily as the water continued to pour onto his ankles and fill up around him.
Fuckin' heaven, he thought.
Sitting up, he struggled with his braid for several minutes, undoing it as he studied the row of bottles against the tub's edge. Picking one at random, he sniffed it carefully before determining it was soap of some kind. Shrugging, he lathered it into his hair, working it all the way down to the ends with a pleased smile. The water sloshed as he slid down until he was submerged, lazily rinsing the soap from his hair. It was hardly an efficient way to do it—a turn of phrase that made him think of Heero, and he grinned—but it would do, for the time being. Pushing his hair over his shoulder, Duo began soaping up his body, paying extra attention to his stomach and between his toes, just because scrubbing those parts always felt so good.
The water was a light brown color when he was done, and he stood up, grabbing a large towel. Tucking it in around his waist, he shivered in the cool air and dumped his clothes in the water, leaving the gun by his knee where he could reach it. He wasn't keen on having his back to the door, and he was careful to wash his clothes with as little turbulence as possible, scrubbing quickly before rinsing, his ears trained for any sounds.
He'd finished with his shirt and was halfway done cleaning his jeans when he heard the creak of a floorboard outside the door. Instinctively Duo spun, his hands on his gun without even thinking. The door banged open, and Edward was standing there, one arm raised as though he'd just punched the door open. Duo kept the gun level, waiting. He was annoyed to discover that even with a towel, feeling half-naked wasn't much of an improvement over being naked when it came to being taken seriously. Meanwhile, Edward had slowly lowered his hand, taking in Duo's wet hair, and the shirt hanging over the towel bar.
"I didn't...you...to wash," Edward said, with a few other words Duo couldn't catch.
Duo snorted, and set the gun down. He stood up, bringing his wet jeans with him, and began wringing them out. He didn't turn completely away from Edward. He kept his back to the wall where he could see Edward in the mirror's reflection over the sink, and still have the jeans pouring soapy brown water into the tub.
"Hell, yeah," Duo retorted. "Look, you can stink if you want to, but I like water. It's kind of a luxury." He looked up to see Edward's puzzled frown, and sighed. "I..." Damn, now the words are gone, he thought. Okay, let's see. "I want to wash, I want tub...I..." He made a face.
"Wanted to be clean," Edward supplied, quietly.
"Yeah," Duo said. He shook out the jeans and turned around, tucking them over the towel bar next to the shirt. "Maybe I should put these by the fireplace," he muttered, half to himself.
Edward seemed to be thinking the same thing. One hand reached out for the shirt, and Duo caught the words, "You...fire...warm...the shirt and pants will dry..."
Duo nodded, with a grin, and looked down to see the hand holding the shirt was fully metal. Surprised, he followed the jointed fingers up to the elbow, wires visible in the interior bend, and up to the shoulder. There were several caps, sliding across each other to duplicate the ball-and-cup shoulder joint. A bolt in the main shoulder piece looked like it was attached to Edward's collarbone, and Duo winced, seeing the scars on Edward's chest, under the plate where metal kissed skin. The edges of the scars disappeared under the black tank top, and Duo looked up to see Edward staring in return. Duo frowned, confused.
"What's this," Edward said, softly, a hint of a smile at the edge of his lips as he realized Duo was staring at his arm. Edward pointed with his left hand, at Duo's chest.
"Knife," Duo said, remembering the correct word in time. He shrugged, pointing to another scar, a round pucker just under his collarbone. "Gun. Knife, knife, knife..." He paused, not sure. "Wood," he finally said, not sure what the phrase was for baseball bat. Doubt they even have baseball, he thought, and figured 'wood' was close enough. Duo studied the few scars around the metal prosthesis, and realized that Edward's other arm, also exposed by the black tank top, was free of scars, and lightly golden. Duo glanced at his own chest, and sighed. It was the pale white of the colony born, and covered with a fine crossing of scars, stretching back years. If Edward wanted to know the story behind each, they'd be here all night. He realized Edward was regarding him with a confused, and somewhat sad, expression.
Duo shook his head, and pulled his hair around to his chest, trying to untangle it with his fingers. "I don't...What's..." Damn it, Duo thought. I need them to talk more. Right now, my vocabulary consists only of household items and twenty different ways to say book.
"Brush," Edward said. He turned, rooting around in the drawers under the sink, and pulled a brush out, reviewing it carefully before shaking his head at it. Setting it back down, Edward beckoned. "Come on, we'll sit...and...you...brush." He turned, looking Duo up and down with an assessing glance. He added more, but the only word Duo caught was "clothes," in a firm tone.
"Sure thing, Ed, whatever you say," Duo muttered, taking his jeans, boxers, and socks down from the towel bar. He grabbed his gun at the last minute, tucking it in into the bundle in his arms, and followed Edward down to the living room.
It took Duo about an hour to carefully brush out all the tangles in his hair, starting from the bottom and working with intent, careful gestures. Edward had flipped open a suitcase, digging through it and pulling out a second pair of black jeans and another black tank top. Duo had been tempted to roll his eyes, seeing his own trait of finding one style and sticking with it. What really aggravated him, though, was pulling on his boxers, once they were dry, and then pulling on Edward's jeans. First, they were a bit larger in the waist, but not too bad. The problem was they were easily two inches too long, necessitating Duo rolling up the cuffs. He'd looked up to see Edward's nose in another book, but the boy had looked suspiciously smug.
Bastard, Duo thought, and went back to separating his hair, braiding it quickly and efficiently as Alphonse watched, fascinated. Duo held up the braid, waiting until Al gave him the word for it, and nodded, tossing it over his shoulder. Sliding off the sofa, he set the brush in the suitcase and picked up one of the books. It took only a single glance for him to sigh and set the book down. None of the characters looked even remotely familiar, and he wasn't going to tackle reading when just speaking and listening was hard enough.
"Do you know...of the words...?" Edward's eyebrows were raised, his glance darting from the book to Duo's face.
"No," Duo said, a bit annoyed. "No words..." He frowned, running through the words in his head. "Nonsense," he said, finally.
"The words don't make sense," Alphonse translated. Duo nodded, repeated the phrase under his breath, and smiled. "Duo," Al said, then, the armor clanking as he shifted, if a suit of armor could look nervous. "Brother and I thought, if you don't mind, we want..." He made a little shrugging motion with his hands, and pointed towards the kitchen. "The basement," he said.
Oh, right. Duo nodded, and stood up. Edward closed the book with a snap, and set it on a pile by the suitcase that was quickly growing to mountainous size. Duo eyed the pile a bit apprehensively, stepping around it on bare feet, as Alphonse stood up, letting Edward lead the way. Duo took a breath, feeling the gun at the base of his spine, and wishing he had it in his hand. His knives were tucked into his boots back by the sofa, so he only had one knife at each hip, slipped into the jeans. Duo pulled his braid around, patting it protectively, feeling the protuberances of the lock picks, and smiled at his own peculiar ritual. What amazed him was that neither Al nor Ed seemed to catch any of the sleight of hand as he returned everything to its proper hiding place; in fact, he doubted they'd paid much attention at all. It was strange, Duo thought, watching Al's metallic body thump down the stairs ahead of him, to be in a place where people could be so at ease as to not be attuned to everything a stranger did.
Duo's thoughts scattered the minute he stepped into the basement. Edward lit several of the lamps, and they guttered and sparked before catching. Duo watched, then took a deep breath as he stepped out into the middle of the room, turning in a circle as he stared at the walls.
"Do you remember?" Edward's voice was gentle, and his expression was troubled as he stared at one of the symbols on the walls.
"I was working," Duo replied, searching carefully for the right words. "Blue light. It was good, but...I woke up, and saw that." He pointed at the ceiling. "I was," and he mimed something hitting him in the back of the head. Edward frowned, but nodded, and Alphonse supplied the word. Duo shrugged. "Hit. Right. When I woke up, I was..." Duo scratched the back of his head, and turned again, looking at the room. "No, not here."
"In there," Alphonse said, pointing to a door.
"I guess," Duo replied. "I don't know. I don't remember. But this," he stopped, staring at one of the symbols. Something about it seemed curiously familiar. He chewed his lower lip for a second, then turned to Edward with a hand outstretched. "Pen? To write?"
Edward raised an eyebrow, but dug around in his back pocket, producing a stick of chalk. Duo regarded it for a second, surprised, and Alphonse told him the word. Duo nodded, and turned back to the symbol. It took only a few minutes, but soon he had marked up the entire diagram for the left-side of the ECM unit. The swishes of the original symbol were identical to the arrows he'd drawn, indicating the connections between the unit's sensors.
"It's the same," Duo breathed, no longer sure which language he was speaking, too busy stumbling backwards as he stared. Spinning, he headed for another symbol, marking it up in the same way. Again, it fit. "Shit," he whispered. A third symbol was marked up, and Duo rubbed his forehead, letting his face rest against the palm of his hand before he tossed the chalk to Edward. "My work," he said, pointing. "I work with..." He frowned, and stepped over to tap on Alphonse's armor. "This."
"Armor?" Edward frowned.
"Yes, no..." Duo suspected, from Edward's expression, that the word wasn't the right one. Annoyed, he pointed at Edward's arm, instead. "That. Not-you. I work. That's my work."
"Auto-mail?" Edward's voice went up a note. "Metal?"
"I think he means machines, brother," Alphonse said quietly.
"Machines," Duo repeated, nodding emphatically, and threw a thankful grin to Alphonse. The suit of armor might be a mystery, but it seemed to understand what Duo meant, despite the language barrier. It reminded Duo a little of Quatre, and he shoved the homesickness away. "Machines. I work with...these are pictures. They help me, I see, I work." He pointed to the symbols he'd altered. "My machines, here," he said, moving to the center of the circle. "There, there, there," he spun in a circle, pointing at the arrays on the walls. "Drawings. When my machine go, I see blue light. Blue light comes there, there, there," he turned again, pointing. "Good, but...not right. Then, I'm here."
Edward's eyes were huge in shock, and he said a few things at rapid speed that Duo couldn't catch. Edward shook his head at Al's response, and said something else, but Duo could only catch 'alchemy' and a few pronouns.
"Hey!" Duo finally shouted, his hands on his hips. "I'm right here. Talk to me."
"There's nothing to say," Edward retorted, shoving his hands in his pockets. "I'll figure it out. As soon as I can. I promise."
"Promise," Duo repeated, weighing the context carefully before deciding the new word meant what he suspected. "Okay," he said. "What do we do?"
"Do?" Al shook his head. "We study and read, now."
"All night," Duo responded, kicking angrily at the floor. "You study, you read. I watched! I want...no, I need to go—" He broke off, frustrated. He just didn't have enough words, yet.
"Home," Al said, quietly. Edward snorted and turned away, heading for the wooden door set in the wall. Alphonse sighed. "I'm sorry. Don't mind my brother. He's..." Al waved one hand, vaguely, as he searched for a simple way to put it. "Brother wants to help, but first we need to know how it happened."
Duo groaned, waving Al away as the suit of armor turned and headed through the doorway, after his brother.
I know how it happened, Duo thought, frustrated, and kicked at the floor's symbol again. I deconstructed my buddy, ripping out his innards and setting up the system surrounded by lasers. I connected the relay of lasers in a circle, aimed at the ECM, and was attempting to calibrate the ECM so the lasers would no longer bounce, but would be absorbed. It's the only way to successfully manage a stealth attack in space, by being on the same wavelength as the radar systems, since avoiding enemy radar isn't possible. But how the hell am I going to rebuild the ECM in a world where they're using fireplaces to heat homes, and don't even have showerheads in their bathrooms? He hadn't seen a single vidscreen anywhere, and the pens the brothers used were ink, not ballpoint. Where was he going to find the technology for the circuit boards he'd need? Did they even have silicon plates in this world?
Hell, Duo thought, leaning against the wall, and crossing his arms. I'm stuck, I'm stuck, I'm stuck. He kicked the wall once more, wincing as his bare foot slammed up against the stones, and scowled. Hilde's going to kill me, he thought, but the wry comment didn't even make him grin. Instead, he sighed, wishing there were some way to let her know he was okay.
It seemed like a long time before Edward reappeared, a handful of papers in one hand, but it was probably no more than five minutes. Edward jerked his head at Duo, and pounded up the stairs, Alphonse a few seconds behind him. Duo huffed and followed, noting as they reached the top of the stairs that early morning light was beginning to seep in through the windows. It dawned on him that Edward and Alphonse hadn't slept all night, either, and he wondered how they'd managed. In the living room, Edward was flipping open several more books, comparing them to the notes in his hand, and muttering under his breath.
"And Hilde says I'm bad," Duo complained, mostly to himself. He ignored Al's glance, and headed to the sofa, throwing himself down with a groan. The gun was hard against his spine, and he wriggled, pulling the gun out and sliding it under the sofa pillow. Pulling the blanket over him, he flipped onto his side. Those brothers could stay up all night and all day, but Duo was going to get some more sleep. He'd need all the sleep he could get, if he was going to be up to building advanced space technology from scratch in a world that hadn't progressed past the combustion engine.
Duo woke up when the afternoon sun hit his face, and he rolled over to see Edward stretched out on the carpet by the fireplace. The boy's braid was draped across his shoulder, the end trailing down to be hidden under a blanket. There was a pillow under Edward's slack face, although Duo could see several books peeking out from under the pillow. Edward was sleeping on his side, his human arm thrown over his face. One bare foot stuck out from under the blanket, and Duo sat up, seeing the foot was also metal.
Damn, Duo thought. Their cars are rudimentary, but they have the ability to create kinetically capable artificial limbs? The priorities seemed somewhat out of whack to Duo, but he paused, considering it. We have mobile suits, and Gundams, magnificent creatures of war, he thought, but we can't do much more than slap a piece of plastic on a person if they lose a leg. He'd seen enough war victims on L2; he knew that anyone in his own world, in Edward's place, would be walking around with one arm and one-half of a set of crutches. Suddenly, the notion of a lifetime of war seemed even lonelier. Duo wondered what his world might have done with its knowledge and resources, if constant war weren't a threat.
He sat up, trying to be quiet and not wake Edward. Alphonse was nowhere to be seen, and Duo tiptoed to the fireplace, testing his clothes before shucking off Edward's clothes and pulling his own back on. Pulling on his socks, he laced up his boots and slipped his knives back into their various holsters, feeling a bit more like himself.
Clean, refreshed, and now, he decided, I just need food. Alphonse entered the living room at that point, carrying two large bowls of soup, and Duo grinned.
"You read my thinking," he said, cheerfully, accepting the bowl and spoon.
"You read my thoughts," Alphonse corrected, with a soft giggle. He set the bowl down next to Edward's nose, and the blond boy sniffed sleepily, opening one eye.
"Food," Edward muttered. He lowered his hand, rubbing his eyes with the heel of his palm, and sat up, pushing the blanket off him. "Thanks, Al."
"Brother," Al said, settling down by the fire to add more wood. "You really should call the Lieutenant Colonel. We should let him know."
Duo paused, looking back and forth between the two brothers. Alphonse's tone was hesitant, and Edward's shoulders were hunched. Ed growled at his soup. Duo raised his eyebrows, curious, but neither brother seemed to notice his reaction, so he waited.
"I don't want to," Edward grumbled. He spooned some spoon into his mouth, slurping noisily, and scowled. "He's going to spend at least half the conversation taunting me for not finding anything, and then he's going to remind me of all the other times I didn't find anything, and then he's just going to be smug about it. Bastard."
Duo repeated the words in his head, comparing Edward's tone and expressions to the words. It was clear, despite the gaps in his comprehension, that some of the words would be pretty useful. Spend, conversation, taunting, remind, find...bastard. Duo grinned around his spoon, almost positive he knew what the last word was. He'd used that tone to refer to G, often enough.
Edward finished off his soup quickly. Standing, he stretched noisily before stomping off towards the kitchen, his bare foot making a light thump, while his metal foot clattered. Duo finished his own bowl, and waved Alphonse back down, following Ed to the kitchen. He could hear Edward's light tenor speaking quickly into the phone, and Duo attempted to look nonchalant as he took Ed's bowl from the countertop and rinsed both in the kitchen sink. He set them upside down on the counter to dry, just like Hilde was always telling him to do. Duo leaned a hip against the cabinet, watching Edward.
The boy's face was amazingly expressive. First he stood up straight, murmuring agreement, but slowly his shoulders drooped as he continued to listen. "Ah, well," he said, then, his face screwed up in a parody of innocence, but he scowled suddenly, his shoulders hunched as he glared at some distant point. "Sir," he said, then, but nothing followed, his mouth in a round 'o' as his right hand clenched into a fist. Finally, after a long pause, he nodded, then cleared his throat. "Yes, sir, I wanted to...ah, yes, well..." He frowned, and exploded, pulling the phone away from his face to yell at it. "Is there ANYTHING we do that you don't already KNOW? What's the POINT!" Edward put the phone back to his ear, and flinched at the response. He was quiet, then grunted and shoved his free hand in his pocket as he kicked at the floor. "Yes, sir," he muttered. "Right. Right. Yes, sir." He hung up the phone and sighed, then turned to Duo with a smug grin.
"Mustang doesn't know everything," he announced, and shrugged at Duo's baffled look. Edward preened. "He's got no idea about you. So we're okay for..." He added a few words that Duo didn't get. Edward caught Duo's response, and was quiet for a minute, before opening the cabinets and pulling out glasses. Duo watched, baffled, as Edward set them all on the countertop, arranging them into a line.
"More alchemy?" Duo hopped up on the table, swinging his legs.
"No," Edward replied. "Something important. You need to know this."
"Ah," Duo said, grinning. "There's...things I need to know." He waved his hand. "There's...a, and a, and a..."
"Hunh?" Edward looked up from the glasses, his face a picture of concentration before he brightened, his eyes flashing. "Lots! You mean lots."
"Right. Lots I need to know." Duo laughed, and nodded at the glasses.
"One...two...three..." Edward continued down the line, pointing at each, as Duo repeated the numbers under his breath. "Nine...ten." He broadened his arms to include all ten glasses. "Ten, and two...twenty."
Duo nodded. "Forty, five-ty, sixty, seventy, eighty, ninety, ten-ty."
"Fifty. Not ten-ty, one hundred." Edward leaned against the cabinet, looking smug. "You're fast."
"Fast. That a good thing?"
"Yeah. Anyway, this means we have twenty-four hours before we have to deal with Mustang." Edward's smile turned a bit sharp. "It's worth trying, at least," he muttered, and turned to put the glasses away. Duo hopped down from the table and helped, and soon the kitchen was neat again. Duo chuckled, and Edward gave him a curious look.
"At...there," Duo said, frowning as the word slipped away, "my...Hilde...says I never do things."
"Oh." Edward's look turned sly. "Girlfriend?"
"Girlfriend," Duo repeated, his eyes narrowing, and then he shook his head, backing up. "No, no. Hilde's not a girlfriend. She's also a works-with-machines. She...drives," he said, figuring that was close enough.
"Drives?" Edward looked dubious. "Drives what?"
"It's nothing," Duo said, feeling a stab of worry in his chest. Hilde had to be frantic by now, and there was nothing he could do about it. "She's important, but not girlfriend-important. She's...military-important."
Edward blinked, then nodded slowly. "You're soldiers."
"Ah," Duo said, registering the word and the context. He put a hand to the back of his head, abashed. There was no way he could explain it, and he was beginning to suspect he shouldn't. Was it something Edward needed to know? Or was it...Duo stopped, sighing, and dropped his hand. "It's nothing," he mumbled, and left the kitchen.
In the living room, Alphonse was straightening up, setting the books in stacks. The suit of armor looked up at Duo's cheery wave, and stood up. "Did brother call him?"
Duo shrugged, letting Edward do the talking as he entered, and instead sat on the sofa, staring at his hands. He could feel Edward throwing him curious glances, but Duo wasn't willing to look up. Why do I need to get back? He was a little hurt that he'd even think that, but he knew the answer already. I have a reason for fighting, and that reason isn't in this world. There are people I want to make happy, and those people aren't here. He glanced up, watching Edward's animated expression as he chattered on, relaying the phone conversation while Alphonse looked about as worried as a suit of armor could manage. It was an astonishing amount, once Duo stopped thinking of it as a hulk of metal and just watched the body language.
Edward has someone to protect, Duo thought. But...he's just a kid. He's paid, I can tell that much, and he'll pay more, if my history's any sign. Duo couldn't help but groan quietly at that thought, and stood up as Edward made noises like he was going to leave the house. I wouldn't wish my track record on anyone, Duo wished silently.
"...Have to talk to Holt," Edward was saying. He pulled on a red coat, and stepped back into the living room as he struggled into the cape-like garment. Duo noticed a strange insignia on the back, and waited. Edward glanced his way. "You, stay here with Alphonse, and I should be back soon."
"No," Duo was startled to hear himself say. "I want to see more. I can't read, to help study, and I'm not doing help with those things in the basement." He shuddered. "I'm..."
"Bored," Alphonse whispered. Duo grinned up at him.
"Yeah. I'm going."
"You don't have a coat," Edward pointed out. "It's freezing out there."
Duo crossed his arms. "You're an alchemist," he replied, in a reasonable tone. "Make me one."
"He's got you there, Brother," Al said, amused.
Duo allowed his smug smile to get a little bigger, as Edward growled for a second, then nodded, giving in. Edward disappeared into the hall closet, digging around before he returned with a coat. Throwing it to Duo, who put it on, Edward regarded the material carefully before nodding to himself. His grin was suddenly razor-sharp, and he clapped his hands together then placed them on Duo's chest. The blue light shot outwards as the alchemical reaction took place, and Duo laughed, feeling the energy rush across his body. When Edward pulled his hands away, Duo was wearing a black coat just the right size for him, but now it was long enough to reach Duo's ankles.
"Cool," Duo said.
"Cool?" Edward pursed his lips, and grinned. "Cool," he repeated. "Come on, we'll need to hurry. Al?"
"I'll come, too." Alphonse set down the stack of notes, while Duo busied himself tucking his braid under the coat. "Don't give him too much trouble," Alphonse whispered, making a worried gesture, but Duo just grinned. Together, they took off after Edward, who was already out the door.