Back again, Alchemist? How many times does this make, I wonder?

"Does it matter? I always get something when I do. You know what I want."

You know the rules. Equivalent exchange. What will the toll be this time?

"Whatever you need. Al deserves better than giving himself up for my sake. Take anything."

Anything?


Ed wanted to bang his head against the walls on either side of the street he walked down to get back to the small apartment he shared with a couple other high school students. Sure, the deal had sounded easy enough when Truth offered it. A day in a different world for Ed earned a day in Amestris for Al. Well, if this was what it took to give Al back what he'd lost, so be it. Yeah, but I didn't expect this place to be so boring, Ed thought with a huff. At least the language had been easy enough to learn, and thanks to the royalty he got from that one guy, Hiromu Arakawa, for letting him use the story as material for his manga, he had enough to keep up with food, rent, and his other expenses. That had actually been a fun meeting.

He'd been walking along a road not all that far from here, when someone yelled, "Look out!" He'd looked up and saw the bike charging toward him. He'd reached out with his automail arm and grabbed one of the bike handles, bringing the whole thing to a crashing stop. Unfortunately for him, his glove got torn and the person on the bike saw the metal glint underneath.

He'd crouched, ready to bolt if the need arose, but instead, the guy had asked, "Would you like to get some coffee? It's the least I can do after almost running you over."

Still wary, He'd let the other man steer him into a nearby coffee shop and ordered a latte for both of them. "Sorry about that," the man started. "There was this great sale on manga pens down the street and I lost control coming back down that hill." He'd gone on and on about his dream, to get published in a manga magazine. "But I can't seem to find the right story." He'd glanced down at Edward's hand and then back at the smooth, almost boyish face. "What's yours?"

Ed had covered the torn glove and muttered, "None of your business," and left the coffee shop, thinking that would be the end of it. Too bad the Manga artist wannabe was friends with one of his roommates.

After about the twenty-fifth time the guy had shown up at his front door and begged Ed to tell his story, he relented and told him about the episode with the fake priest in Liore. He tried not to reveal too much, but every time he left out details Hiromu would stare at him until he just gave in. What could you do against a face that looked like a kicked puppy? And even if he told anyone, who would believe him?

Then, about three weeks later, Hiromu swept Ed into a hug the minute he opened the door. "I finished it!"

Ed had backed out of the man's arms and up against the wall. "What?"

"Look!" He handed the former alchemist a brown folder and Ed slid out a row of manga pages. Then he stared. It was them! Down to the last detail. Okay, they might look a bit cartoony, but all the important stuff was there, like his braid and Al's helmet.

Hiromu cleared his throat and Ed looked up from the pages. Then manners hit him like a ton of bricks. "Come on in." The artists followed him into the living room and watched as Ed read the first chapter in what Hiromu hoped would be a series. It was thrilling for the artist, watching Ed's emotion change as the story hit different points, and he filed them away for future use on the blond' s character.

About ten minutes later, Ed laid the finished manuscript on the table. The other man leaned forward. "Well, how was it?"

Ed reached forward and tugged at one of the pages. "It'll need work. Some of the details are still missing. And why'd you have to make me so short?"

Hiromu laughed. "It makes your character more likable. Plus, it's the truth." Ed huffed. Hiromu chuckled. "I promise I'll make you taller by the end of it." Ed laughed at the memory. Hiromu had been his first friend here, although they saw less of each other now that he was busy with the work of actually creating the series from Edward's story.

Ed walked past a karate dojo and sighed. He'd tried that place just last week, and fighting their top student hadn't even made his break a sweat. And it was the same wherever he went! None of the martial arts places here were up to scratch. Even Winry had been a challenge compared to some of these places, never mind Teacher or Al. He shook his head. Why did everything remind him of Al, of Teacher, of everyone he'd left behind? He had to find something to occupy his mind before he went crazy from missing them, and something to keep him in shape too wouldn't be a bad idea. Without Al to spar with, he was starting to get flabby, and his speed and reflexes were getting worse too.

As he passed by one of the local high schools, loud cheering broke through his grey thoughts and he crossed the street to get a better look. Probably a sporting event of some kind. He saw a bunch of guys about 50 yards away from him. The ones with their backs to him were in white uniforms, with about eleven of them on the field. The visiting team-they had to be visiting team, he would have remembered those crazy helmets-was lined up facing them.

Then the shouting increased and a huge dust cloud got kicked up. He leaned against the fence, trying to get a better look at what was going on. White-uniformed players swarmed around in front of him, trying to stop someone coming up the field. Then the sun glinted off a helmet and gold eyes followed the tinted eye shield as it raced toward him up the field, leaving clumps of grass flying in his wake like the slipstream of a jet.

That person's fast! Ed thought as he watched the boy with the 21 on his red shirt charge up the field. Cutting between players, he made his way up the field. "Hmm. Agile and fast," Ed commented and the kid raced further toward him. This could be the distraction he was looking for. But he didn't just need strength and agility training, he needed…

And then the huge guy who'd been standing in the line of red guys before completely overpowered one of the white clad kids in number 21's way. That settled it for Ed. This sport was what he needed to keep his skills sharp, and this team was the one he needed to join. Who knew, he might even have some fun along the way.

I will try to make updates daily, but with a new job on the horizon and no backup chapters, it's a bit questionable. Rest assured, I have great plans for this. Please review!