sol 1056

Find the Moon

chapter 4.

"Fullmetal, sir," the Lance Corporal announced, and cleared his throat. Duo crumpled up the paper from his sandwiches and tossed them into the fireplace. The Lance Corporal was hovering in the doorway to the living room. "If you're done with dinner, we should be getting to the officer's barracks now."

Edward stood up, stretching, and set the last book on the pile. Duo shifted on the sofa, noting that the pile of books had grown to fifteen or sixteen volumes, with another number of books stacked by the wall in Edward's pile of second-choice books. Duo sighed and scrunched down in the sofa, getting a bad feeling about things. He watched the Lance Corporal discuss the situation with Edward, their voices low and fast. Duo could get most of Edward's speech, but the Lance Corporal's was thick with an accent making it hard to figure out his words.

Duo grabbed his coat and stood up, shoving his arms into the sleeves and brushing past Edward. Nudging the other boy slightly, Duo just smirked over his shoulder and moved past the Lance Corporal, who didn't even notice the change of the weight in his pockets. The man was too busy saying something about books and cars to Edward, and Edward seemed to be too busy glaring at the man to notice Duo bumping him.

Out on the step, Duo looked up at the cloudy sky, watching the clouds scud across the crescent moon. He jingled the car keys in his pocket, grinned to himself, and leaned against the doorframe, waiting. Edward came out a minute later, his suitcase in his hand, and a terrible glower on his face. Alphonse was subdued, and the Lance Corporal looked somewhat smug, but the expression was gone the instant he noticed Duo looking his way.

In silence, the four made their way to the car, Edward getting into the front seat while Alphonse and Duo climbed into the back. Several minutes passed, and Duo slouched down, leaning his head against the window. The Lance Corporal was taking too long, Duo thought, and considered getting out of the car, but that would instantly identify him as the culprit. Instead he clamped down on his urge to laugh, and waited.

"Lance Corporal?" Edward's voice was annoyed. "Is there something you're waiting for? Because if this is going to be awhile, I've got work I could be doing."

The man muttered something, and patted a few more of his pockets. "Keys," he finally said, frowning at nothing in particular. "I can't find the keys."

"Walk," Duo suggested. Edward twisted in the front seat, and Duo winked at him.

"No," Edward said, and got out of the car. "We'll just wait inside while you find them, Lance Corporal."

"Maybe I dropped them..." Samuels got out of the car, looking around on the ground.

Duo got out of the car as well, and sidled up to Edward, who had crossed his arms while he watched the Lance Corporal walk back and forth from the house to the car. Surreptitiously, Duo jingled the keys in his pocket, and Edward's eyes went wide. He glanced down at Duo's coat pocket. The question was all over Edward's face.

"Books," Duo mouthed. "Get the books."

He couldn't say why, but he knew there was information in those books that Edward wanted. The chimeras were gone, with at least two running around the town. As far as Duo was concerned, anyone who wanted the chimeras probably wouldn't want the information on making them to be in the hands of someone like Edward. Duo hoped Edward didn't press him for a reason why, since Duo didn't think his limited vocabulary could stretch that far. Fortunately, Edward didn't insist, but simply shot a final irritated glance at Duo, and shrugged.

"Lance Corporal," he called, beckoning to Alphonse. "It's cold out here. We're going to wait inside. Are you sure you even got the keys?"

"Oh," Samuels said, standing up. "I'm pretty sure I did."

"Well, check the house, and if they're not on the floor, just walk down and get them. We'll wait here, if you're insistent on driving."

"I am," Samuels replied. He led the way back to the house, lighting the lamps and sweeping the glow of light across the floor in the entryway before sighing melodramatically. "Fine. You three, stay here. I'm going to get the keys. Don't open that door for anyone. Those two chimeras are dangerous."

"Right," Edward drawled. When the door closed behind the Lance Corporal, Edward snickered. "Like chimeras will knock."

"That man isn't very..." Duo searched for the word, and finally tapped the side of his head.

"Smart," Alphonse suggested. Duo pointed at the suit of armor, and grinned.

"Back door is broken," Duo reminded them. "Chimera come and go if they want." He stepped forward and rapped on Alphonse's chest. "Put books in you?"

"Wait," Edward interrupted, startled. "How did you know?"

"Because I am smart," Duo said sarcastically. "Metal, nothing. Sounds different from something inside. Lots different." He rolled his eyes to emphasize the obviousness of the statement. "Open up, Al."

Alphonse giggled a little, and clanked into the living room. There he unbuckled the chest plate, and Edward began shoveling the books into Alphonse's empty cavity. Duo handed Edward the books, and soon the stack was gone, packed away. Edward buckled the straps back on, and Alphonse giggled again, listening to the books shift and settle as he moved.

Duo thumped affectionately on the suit's chest piece. "Now," he said, "I leave these to find." He held up the keys.

"How did you get those?" Alphonse's voice was astonished.

"Same way as this," Duo replied, and brought out his other hand, revealing Edward's National Alchemists' pocket watch. It had a strange design carved into the front, and the burnished silver shone dully in the moonlight through the windows. Edward blinked, then felt at his hip. The chain was gone, and he gave Duo a shocked look. "Not going to keep it," Duo said. "Just showing." He dropped the watch into Edward's outstretched, shaking hand, and grinned smugly as he strolled to the front door. At the last minute, he turned, tossing the keys to Edward. "Just say to him, you found the keys," Duo instructed.

"Brother," Alphonse whispered, but still loudly enough for Duo's sharp hearing to pick up. "How'd he get that off you?"

"I don't know." Edward snarled. "Bastard. I'm going to kick—"

"—He didn't know, brother," Alphonse said, stepping quickly in the way. Duo looked over from his position by the front door.

"Know what?" Duo stepped back into the room, puzzled. Edward's teeth were bared, and he was shaking, the watch still in his hand. Duo's eyebrows went up. "I was..." He frowned, searching for the word. "Having..." He shrugged, and made his expression suitably apologetic.

"Duo," Alphonse said. "That's my brother's pocket watch. It's what all National Alchemists carry. Taking it...well, it's important. You shouldn't have taken it."

"Of course," Duo replied, relieved at the feeling of annoyance. It was the best cover for the sudden realization that if he had truly pissed off Edward, the chances of going back had just dropped down to less than zero. Duo sighed, and hung his head. "I didn't know it was important. I was just..." He shrugged again, frustrated, and kicked with one foot at the carpet.

"Playing," Alphonse said, his tone almost a question. Duo got the meaning, though, and nodded. Alphonse sighed, and turned to Edward, his large gloved hands out, palms up.

"Don't touch it again," Edward said, latching the chain back onto his belt loop and dropping the watch into his pocket. "Did you open it?"

"Open it?" Duo was startled, but covered it quickly. "Naw, didn't bother."

Edward blinked, and his lips quirked, just the barest hint of a smile tugging at the corners of his mouth. After a second, he grinned outright. "You just like trouble," he said, stepping forward to stare Duo down, nose-to-nose.

"I have to. It follows me everywhere," Duo replied, and grinned right back.

The Lance Corporal burst into the house a minute later, breaking up the show down. He was out of breath and looking worried. "The spares are locked up, but I didn't want to leave you kids alone for too long. I should've just called from here," he said, half to himself. "I'm going to call headquarters and—"

Edward looked bored, and held out the keys. "We found them," he said.

"Oh." Samuels stared at the keys for a minute, then shook his head. "Okay, let's get you to the barracks." He led the way back to the car. Duo gave Alphonse a quick grin as the suit of armor huddled nervously at the end of the line, his arms clutching his chest as if to stop the books from shifting. Once in the car, the Lance Corporal started up the engine, and it complained a little before pulling away from the curb.

"Your brother's a big guy," he muttered to Edward, who just raised an eyebrow and smirked.

They stopped at the first intersection, and Duo turned to stare out the window, feeling at odds the farther they moved from the house. That circle in the basement was the way he'd come into this world, and at least when he was in the house, he'd felt like they were close to where he'd need to be to leave. Going somewhere else to stay seemed like he was letting himself step more into this world, and it didn't feel right. His fingers itched, tightening as though around the controls of his Gundam, and he sighed, then started. Something had flashed past the car, on the sidewalk.

"Ed," he said, "out there."

Edward turned his head in time to see the thing slip down an alleyway. "Chimera," he exclaimed, and threw the car door open. "Al, stay here with Duo and Samuels," he shouted, then saw Duo climbing out of the car, too. "Duo, I said—"

"I'm coming," Duo retorted, reaching for his gun as the two ran from the car towards the alley. Behind them, the Lance Corporal was shouting from the car, but they ignored him.

"No gun," Edward told Duo, and clapped his hands. The blade slid out from his right hand. The light from the alchemical reaction lit up the alleyway, revealing a low-slung yellowish hyena-like creature turning the corner at the end. "If they know you have a gun, they'll arrest you."

"More martial law," Duo muttered, and pulled his knives from under his shirt, instead. Damn, it really was like being back on the colonies, right down to being illegal to defend one's self. His knives flashed in the moonlight as they skidded around the corner, and Duo heard the low growl of the chimera up ahead, cornered.

"Stay back," Edward said. "I'm going in first."

Show-off, Duo thought, but he hung back, twisting his body to stand sideways, one eye behind them as Edward moved closer to the chimera. The dog-like creature turned, baring its fangs as it leaped. Edward blocked then shifted, his blade going deep into the chimera's chest. The creature yelped, the cry fading as it slid from Edward's fist. Duo put his knives away, leaning over the body.

"These are bizarre things," he said. "What are they?"

"A chimera is two things, put together, to make one thing," Edward said, sounding like he was struggling to figure out a way to say it simply. He opened his mouth to say more, but Duo nodded, understanding. "This one's probably a dog and some type of a bird." He nudged the rudimentary wings, and the talons on the creature's feet.

"Like a hoe...mun...cue...liss," Duo mused, sounding out the complex sounds. He was surprised when Edward turned, his eyes narrowed.

"Where did you hear that word?"

"You," Duo said, putting a hand to the back of his head as he thought, scratching under his braid. "And the the basement. When I woke, he was saying that, a lot, and then would write more. He wasn't happy."

"He wasn't..." Edward's eyebrows went up. "You mean, he didn't expect you." At Duo's puzzled look, Edward frowned. "The doctor was doing something else. His array shouldn't have created a homunculus. I'll figure it out, but I need more time to go over his notes and break the code."

"Break the code," Duo repeated, following Ed back down the alleyway. Duo stopped suddenly, hearing a scuffling sound, and put his hand on Edward's coat. The boy's footsteps were too loud. Edward halted, and Duo cocked his head, listening. Either there were city dogs out scrounging, or it was another chimera.

A gun fired, ahead of them. Duo took off, pounding towards the mouth of the alley.

"Hey," Edward cried, then swore under his breath as he ran to catch up.

Duo burst out of the alley in time to see Alphonse fighting off three of the creatures. The Lance Corporal was out of the car as well, his gun in one hand. Duo's knives were out instantly, and he came around the car in time to see one chimera swallow the Lance Corporal's gun, then his entire arm. Duo threw the knife, and the chimera yelped, pulling away from Samuels. The man fell to his knees with a scream, holding onto his bloody arm. Alphonse blocked a chimera's attack and turned to protect Samuels. Another chimera jumped Alphonse. The suit of armor fell back against the car but sent the chimera flying. A third chimera went straight for Samuel's throat, as the wounded chimera attacked Duo.

There was a flash of light, and Edward was in the midst of the fray. He sliced through the chimera about to leap at Alphonse, and kicked off the chimera attacking Samuels. Duo stabbed the chimera attacking him, shoving it away and slashing its throat. Several quick blocks and parries later, all the chimeras were dead. Alphonse pushed away from the car, and moved to kneel down next to Samuels.

"He's dead, brother," Alphonse said, very quietly. He glanced at Duo, and saw the blood on Duo's chest, face, and hands. "Duo! Are you..."

"I'm okay," Duo said, wiping his knives off on his jeans before putting them away. "It's the thing's blood, not mine." Duo knelt down next to Samuels, and felt for his pulse. After a second, he shook his head, closing the man's eyes before he stood up. "No," he said, shortly, and Edward nodded, his eyes wide.

Duo sighed, and reached out, steadying Edward. "I'm...I don't know the word. But I am it, whatever it is."

"Sorry," Alphonse whispered, but mostly to Samuels. "He was just doing his job," Alphonse added, his voice sounding more like a little boy's than it had before. Duo put a hand on Alphonse's shoulder, pulling at him. "Al," Duo said, "Go over there. I'll...Let me," he said. Alphonse nodded slowly, and got to his feet, going to stand on the other side of the car. Edward was still staring at the body, looking like he'd been punched in the stomach without warning.

"Ed," Duo called, and stepped between Edward and the body. "Don't look."

"How can you just..." Edward frowned. "How can you..." He turned away abruptly.

"This is what I do," Duo retorted, suddenly angry. "I don't get to choose. I fight, and I kill. I'm sorry if that's not what you expected. I told you, I wear faces, too. Just because I look happy doesn't mean I..." Duo laughed sharply, but the bitterness faded quickly. "Ed, don't..." He stopped, not sure how to say: don't get used to this. I don't want to see you getting used to this. Instead, he shoved his hands in his pockets and turned to study the body. "We should put him in the car. I'll drive us—"

"You can drive?" Alphonse looked over from the other side of the car, the armor clanking as he shifted in place.

"Can't be that hard," Duo muttered, and put a hand on Edward's shoulder. When the other boy didn't shake him off, Duo guided Edward around the car to the other side. Duo stared at the body, deciding he'd put in the front seat, so the two brothers didn't have to sit next to it. Sighing, he leaned down to grab the body's arm, pulling it upright in preparation for hoisting it over his shoulder.

Harsh lights and the sounds of several car engines screaming into the intersection made him freeze. Duo instinctively dropped the body and spun, putting his back against the car as he tried to see past the blinding headlights. Someone was shouting. Edward appeared quickly, putting himself between Duo and the cars.

"Chimera," Edward was saying, then rattled off a number of words too quickly for Duo to grasp. Ed pointed in the direction of the alley, and Duo could hear Alphonse explaining as well. Duo swallowed hard and tried to nod at appropriate moments, when he could catch a familiar word in the midst of Edward's crisp flurry.

"Fullmetal," a woman's voice interrupted.

Duo didn't recognize her, but Edward seemed to, and Duo noticed the other boy's shoulders relaxed a little as the woman saluted him. Duo's eyebrows went up at that. Edward didn't act like military, but it sure seemed like most of the military people had saluted him when they saw him. Another officer appeared, wearing a black uniform instead of the dark blue the woman was wearing. Duo studied the man's face, vaguely recognizing it from the hunger-filled daze of the night before.

"Hey," the officer said, with a smile for Duo. "You're looking a lot better, now, boy."

"Thank you," Duo said immediately, sensing something wasn't quite right. The woman officer's eyes were on him, sharp and measuring, and Duo was starting to feel skewered. Edward stepped in the way again.

"...chimera, and then Lance Corporal Samuels..."

Edward was explaining, a second time, Duo gathered. At their feet, two officers in black were wrapping Samuel's body up, and several military officers were collecting the five dead chimeras. Duo watched them work, and tried to shove down the sensation that something had gone from a worrisome wrongness to severe wrongness. He nodded when his name was called, too preoccupied with figuring out what his instincts were telling him, and said nothing as he was directed to follow Edward and Alphonse to a waiting vehicle. The occupants of the car were silent on the way to the barracks, and the three boys got out without a word to the driver. Inside, they were shown to a room with two bunks and a single bed. Edward collapsed onto the lower bunk, groaning as his head hit the pillow.

After a few minutes, Edward roused himself. "Duo, go wash that blood off your face. Should be a bathroom at the end of the hall. I'll unpack Alphonse," and he managed to give his brother a crooked smile. Alphonse murmured something, and unbuckled his chest as Duo slipped out of the room.

In the hallway, Duo leaned up against the door, trying to catch his breath before exhaling slowly and heading down to the door at the end. Trying it cautiously, he opened the door to see a row of toilets, sinks, and several showers. He made quick work of washing down his face and hands, curling his lips in disgust at the thick blood dried on his face and the back of his hands. Pulling out his knives, he rinsed them off before drying them and putting them away again. Then he leaned into the mirror until he was almost nose-to-nose with his reflection.

"Too many faces," he whispered. The words felt strange in his mouth, and he slipped back into his own language. "Everywhere I go...always the same, hunh." He sighed, and shoved away from the sink, heading back to the room.

Inside the room, Edward was back on the lower bunk. Books were spread across the floor, and Edward's nose was buried in one, with two more open on the bed beside him. Duo couldn't help but chuckle, as he dropped his coat and shoes by the door before climbing up on the top bunk. He leaned over the edge, and his braid fell down to swing in front of Edward's face.

"What's Fullmetal?" Duo reached down to poke at Edward's shoulder. "Metal...what's full?"

"It's a name," Edward replied, absently swatting at Duo's hand. Duo chuckled and pulled his hand back.

"A name," Duo said. "Edward Fullmetal?"

"No," Alphonse said. "National Alchemists get a second name and a pocket watch. Brother's title is Fullmetal."

"Second name," Duo repeated. "Ah, I know what that's like."

"You do?" Edward looked up then, his golden eyes hooded. "In your world, people get second names—"

"Not all people." Duo shrugged. "Code names," he explained, remembering the word and context Edward had used in the alley. "And other names, too," he whispered, then shook his head, not sure how to express the concept in the unfamiliar language.

"You have a second name," Alphonse pondered, his tone as inscrutable as his armor helmet.

"Yeah. The person who...makes things," he waved his hand around, taking in everything in the room. "Important person. Makes everything."

"An alchemist?" Edward gave Duo a skeptical look.

"No...well, very important alchemist," Duo said, then gave up. He was too tired to debate theology. "It's nothing."

"God," Alphonse interjected. "You mean God. The person who created everything."

"God," Duo replied, and gave Alphonse a tired smile. "Yes. God who kills." The room was perfectly silent, and Duo sighed, seeing Edward's eyes staring blindly at the page, while Alphonse had shrunk back, a little. "God of Death," Duo amended, remembering the words. "Yeah...second name."

"I think all second names are too much to bear," Edward whispered. Duo leaned over, watching Edward finger the edge of the book, before the boy looked up, pinning Duo with his mile-long stare. "I prefer your first name," Edward said, quietly.

Duo gave him a smile, and not a smirk, but a true smile. "Same, Ed. Don't stay up reading all night," Duo told him. Edward's only response was to reach out and tug sharply on the braid. Duo grinned, and yanked his braid back, rolling over on his stomach and pulling the blanket over him. The last thing he did was pull the gun from the back of his jeans and slip it under his pillow, and then he let himself drift off into sleep.

Duo awoke to the sound of the brother's voices, and he shifted in bed, unsurprised when neither stopped their whispering at the sound of the blankets sliding against his shirt. He turned on his side, peering over the edge of the bed, to see the two brothers sitting on the single bed, books and notes scattered around them, and more on the floor. Edward's fair head was bent over a book while Alphonse scribbled notes. Ed's braid was half undone, and it looked tangled, like he'd been absentmindedly running his fingers through his hair as he read.

"The curve, here," Edward was saying, and pointed to one of the open books, "is a variation on the perimeter markings in Hosten's style."

"But these interior angles negate that," Alphonse said.

Duo scowled, trying to catch the new words. His brain was still fuzzy from sleep, and a glance to the window told him that the moon was almost to the tree line. It had to have been several hours, perhaps more. He was startled when Edward slammed one of the books shut and twisted to stare out the window over the single bed.

"It doesn't make sense, Al," Edward muttered. "The doctor was creating chimeras that would specifically attack people. And we didn't just run into two, but six, tonight. So there are still seven more out there."

"But they're attacking the people here, not in Drachma," Alphonse said. He stared down at his notes, and wrote several more lines. Flipping open another book, he paged through it, carefully, looking for something. When he found it, he stabbed at the picture with a gloved finger. "Those are the interior angles on the secondary arrays, brother." He sounded scared, and Duo tensed. "Prokov's Thesis," he added in a hushed tone.

Edward flipped the book around and studied the picture, then read through several of the pages. The two brothers were silent, until Edward looked up with a tight grin. "Transportation, not transmutation," he said, then frowned. "What the hell was he going to...wait a minute..."

Duo propped his head up on his fist, resting sideways, relatively confident that once again the two brothers were too deep in their discussion to even notice his existence. He contemplated hitting one of them in the head with something, thought of Edward's instantaneous alchemical reactions, and decided against it. Hopefully they'd explain, at some point, without using words that made him struggle to keep up. Damn, he thought, this kid fights better than me, reads faster, and moves with ease in daylight and darkness. Duo let his head sink back down onto the pillow as he listened.

"This part," Edward said, running his finger over the sketch of the Doctor's array, "would do nothing more than transform. It's these six that transpose."

"That seems like a great deal of effort," Alphonse said, dubious. "To move something somewhere, when you could just get up and take it there?"

"Or perhaps he couldn't," Edward replied. He tilted his head, then, looking up at the bed with a smirk. "Come on, Duo, I know you're awake."

Duo laughed softly and rolled over on his stomach to grin at them. His braid slithered across his shoulder, but he caught it in time. Edward leaned back against the windowsill, and Duo was shocked to see that Edward was wearing only longish white boxers. It wasn't the boxers, though, but the bare legs that were revealed by them. Ed's metal leg was bare, and Duo could just see the seam where the metal encased the lower part of Edward's thigh. Edward, however, took no notice as he bent one leg under the other, balancing a book on his lap. He looked up at Duo, his expression pensive.

"How much of that did you hear?"

"Lots," Duo said, and swung around to sit up on the bed, his legs hanging down. "But I don't know all the words. Transpose?"

"Change location," Alphonse said.


"Change shape."

There were others, but Duo didn't see reason to dig for more. He rolled the new words around in his head, placing them against the context, and decided they were probably all related to Alchemy. He leaned forward, resting his elbows on his knees, and studied the two brothers. In the low light, Edward's metal arm and leg glowed with the same sheen as Alphonse's armor.

"If I want to do...a bad thing," Duo finally said, quietly, "I do not want to be there when other people find it."

Edward shut the book and set it aside, staring up at Duo. "We think the doctor's array was designed to create something, and then move it somewhere else. He also had a whole pack of chimeras, ready to attack anything that moves."

"Maybe he was making chimeras, and would move them somewhere else," Duo suggested. "That way, he didn't have to keep them."

"Not an array to create chimeras," Edward said. "Really, it's a very simple array." He snorted. "When you take it down to its basic parts, it's a lot like the time we made that doll for..." He stopped, and then stared at nothing in particular, his eyes wide. "Al..."

"Brother," Alphonse said, as though he'd understood, too.

"Hey, talk to me," Duo said, a bit annoyed. "You made what?"

"We made a doll, for a friend," Edward said, his eyes still distant. "It's a simple array, really, just a transformation of basic components like dirt, some chalk, some organic material like sticks and leaves. It's shaped into a form..."

"A person," Duo suggested. "A person who then goes somewhere else, and looks like he's been killed by a chimera."

Alphonse shifted on the bed, the metal clinking from the movement, and Edward looked up at Duo, his eyes refocusing sharply. "What would be the purpose of that?"

Duo leaned back on his hands, swinging his legs as he considered it carefully. If he was right, and the chimera were for attacking people—and he suspected he'd been proven right on that account, only a few hours before... "Who gets something?"

"Gets?" Edward frowned, but the expression smoothed into comprehension. "Who gains from having the chimera attack people, you mean?"

"I think," Duo mused, "if the military finds a body of a dead person, and then they find chimera...the military gains. More people to come fight chimera, and the more people, the more important the top person is."

Alphonse made a small sound of agreement. "It makes sense, brother. Once Doctor Kaufkorn knew he could transpose successfully, he could then extend the secondary arrays and send the chimera anywhere he wanted."

"As the town alchemist, he'd be called in to assist in getting rid of them, too," Edward added, sarcastically. "He created them, and then he'd get credit for helping to stop them."

Duo nodded, and shrugged. It sounded like plenty of the tricks he'd seen the Alliance play, in his own universe, but he didn't see reason to struggle with the words to explain to Edward and Alphonse. From where Duo sat, it looked like they were catching on just fine without his experience as a guide. Well, he thought, ruefully, no more of a guide than already. Duo realized Edward was staring at him, and he stopped swinging his legs, his eyebrows raised in a silent question.

"That's what had the Doctor so freaked," Edward told Duo. "When you showed up in the circle, he knew he'd transposed, but he didn't expect something coming back into the array. He must've thought he'd found the way to create homunculus."

Alphonse nodded, and Duo twisted to lie down on the bed again, staring up at the ceiling. The room was silent for several minutes.

"Brother," Alphonse said, softly. "If that's what Doctor Kaufkorn you think he told anyone?"

Duo perked up at the strange tone in Alphonse's voice, a combination of fear and far greater anxiety than he'd heard from the suit of armor yet. Duo rolled over on his side to stare down at the two brothers, both of whom had begun packing the books away into piles at the foot of the single bed. Duo watched, baffled, and yawned. When it became clear neither brother was going to explain, Duo spoke up.

"What's so important about a homunculus?"

"They're impossible," Edward said, flatly, turning to stare up at him. "No one's been able to make one. There's theory, and stories, but nothing successful. If the Doctor thought you were one, and he'd created one..."

Duo could see Edward's conclusion before the other boy had even spoken, and a chill slipped down his spine to pool in his belly. "If the doctor was working with the military, and told them," Duo continued for Edward, "then the military thinks they have a new way to make soldiers."

"Maybe even a new weapon," Alphonse added.

"Yeah," Edward replied, scrubbing at his face. He dropped his hand, revealing wide golden eyes in a pale face. Edward glanced up at Duo, and was silent for a moment, then a smirk began curling at the edges of his mouth. Edward leaned back, putting his fists on his hips. "But they obviously don't know what they're dealing with. Now that there's three of us...nothing to it!"