They were bright kids. Very bright. Frankly, she didn't understand why they insisted in coming to class when they were obviously several grade levels smarter than the children their age. The only thing they ever did was whisper to each other during language lessons and sleep through math class. And if she ever decided to call on one of them, they would answer promptly and go back to whatever they were doing (whether sleeping or chatting).

Neither were they interested in interacting with the other children. They would sit under one of the shade-trees and nap during recess. The only other child they would play was Winry Rockbell and they only did it because she threatened bodily harm with one of her wrenches if they ever refused.

The younger one stuck to the older one like glue. The only time the boys were ever apart was when one had to go to the bathroom or when Winry dragged one of them off to 'play.'

Alphonse was already seven, yet he shadowed his older brother. Edward, who was a year older, didn't seem to mind. In fact, they enjoyed each other's company, unlike other siblings. She remembered fighting often with her older brother when she was their age.

Of course, when she was their age she could hardly recite her multiplication tables, much less draw complex alchemical glyphs like the Elric brothers could.

She found herself wishing that they would act like normal children, not like miniature adults. They had grown up too soon, too fast. Children should never have to experience the loss of both parents so young.

That was nine years ago.

She was claiming packages at the station when she saw them alighting the train from Central. Gathering the mail, she walked over to them. "Alphonse-kun." She greeted the taller blond boy. "Welcome home."

His lips curved into a small smile. But she noticed the smile didn't reach his eyes. He looked haggard and pale. Alphonse was supporting the weight of his shorter older brother. Edward looked as if he was asleep, his right arm slung over Alphonse's shoulders. "Nii-san. It's Miss Mathilda, the schoolteacher."

Mathilda nearly dropped her packages when Edward opened his eyes. But those eyes were devoid of life. The golden irises were dull; she remembered them shining youth and intelligence. The pupils were dilated and he stared past her, at some unseen object. She stood there, frozen as Alphonse half-dragged his brother's form into a waiting carriage.

She saw the younger boy prop Edward on the seats... as if he was a mannequin, not a living breathing human being.

As if he was a soulless doll...