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Leave a Scar

Coming Home

"Well, here we are!"

I couldn't bring myself to act like I was happy about Ed's announcement. I stayed standing by the opening of the white picket fence, barely on my own property. I guess it was my house, after what happened, but right now I was feeling like this building was the one owning me. I couldn't move. Couldn't reply to Ed's comment, couldn't look up to meet their stares. My eyes closed instead, trying to hide away in that darkness. I didn't want to be here again...

"You said the watch was outside?"

I looked up as Al turned towards me. A hint of surprise sounded from him, making me realize how obvious my emotions were. I swallowed, trying to distract myself by looking at Edward. But he was standing still, too, his face expressing the light concern that Al's couldn't.

In response to the younger Elric's question, I nodded, keeping my knuckles against my mouth. Realizing I had to speak, I carefully tilted my hand away, pointing a little with one finger. "Near the porch. To the left side."

Al went to look in the spot I directed him to, and I raised a hand to my hair, shielding my eyes away from Ed's. Doing all that I could to avoid his stare. Eventually, finally, his feet moved, bringing him and his curiosity away from me.

I deserve it. This thought nearly broke me. Being near this house... Being here again... Everything was too much.

"No, I'm not seeing anything." Ed's voice was the foreground to the sound of bushes rustling.

I saw him turn away, starting back towards me with both hands in the pockets of his coat, head held a bit high. "Guess there's nothing here, Al. We should look some other place."

I guess Al caught on to what his brother was actually saying, because the teen in the suit just nodded once. Not protesting about how they had just started looking, or how they hadn't even checked around the back of the house. Or inside...

My lungs contracted at the thought of stepping into those dark rooms again. I suddenly felt a gentle tug against my coat, seeing Ed pass by me. His fingers slipped away from my clothes, pressure leaving as softly as it had come. I obeyed the motion, turning around and stepping through the entrance of the white picket fence again, feeling a little bit like I could breathe.

I walked a few steps behind Ed, hearing Al's footsteps echo behind ours.

"Do you think someone would remember seeing a State Alchemist here?" Alphonse asked.

Ed nodded, keeping his hands behind his head. "That's what I'm thinking. Figure if that pocket watch was used at all, someone around here would remember it."

We passed by the corner of the fence, and after a few more steps, we were officially off the property.

I looked towards the home of my next door neighbor as we started by. Someone who had greeted me the day we both moved in. I shut out the memory, the sight of his face... Of the note...

"Should we ask them?" Al's voice, talking about the neighboring home.

"Doesn't look like they're home." his elder brother responded. "We'll try again later."

I knew what he was doing before I looked in the window as we passed by. Faint shadows moved behind the curtains. One of them sitting on an armchair, the other moving around.

We stepped up on the porch of the second house. Hearing Al's footsteps stop, I looked a little bit behind me, seeing him stand near the front lawn. I turned back as Ed approached the door, knocking with his left hand.

An old woman answered, and I recognized her instantly. Mrs. Silva.

"Yes? Can I help you, young man?"

"Hi," Ed began, a light smile in his voice, "I'm a State Alchemist, and I'm conducting an investigation about a crime that happened nearby. I was wondering if you had any time to answer a few questions."

"State Alchemist?" she repeated. "Oh, it's been a long time since I've seen one of those."

I sensed Ed and Al's interest perk. Ed moved his coat, and I heard the chain of his watch sound as he withdrew it from his pocket.

"Do one of these look familiar to you? Have you seen one lately?"

The woman shifted her glasses, the lens catching light as she focused.

"Not in a long while. My husband was a State Alchemist, but he passed away three years ago."

"He was in the military." Ed paraphrased, a softness in his voice. He returned the watch to his pocket. "I'm sorry."

The widow shook her head. "I'm sorry I couldn't be of more help to you, young man."

"It's alright." Ed slid a foot back, preparing to step away. "Well, thanks for your time, then."

The old lady nodded softly. She began to turn away, head bowing slightly before perking back up. Behind her glasses, I saw her squint at me. And then, she did what I was silently pleading for her not to: she recognized me.

She spoke my name, the word like a bullet to my chest. The flash of pain came a second time before she continued on. "Is that you? It's been ages since I've seen you, dear. I figured you and that nice gentlemen moved out!"

I felt tears sting my eyes and forced them down. I was not letting them break. I ignored the fact that Ed had turned around when she called my name. I ignored his stare, keeping my focus on my friendly neighbor as much as possible.

"I'm still here!" I said, faking the enthusiasm horribly. "I've just been busy, that's all."

"Hm." Her glasses shifted as she adjusted them. "Well, don't be a stranger anymore, dear! It's been a long time, and Lord knows I'm not getting any younger, that's for sure."

I hooked a grin onto my face. "Of course. I'll come by and visit soon."

She smiled, and after exchanging goodbyes with the alchemist in front of me, closed the door.

Ed spun himself around, and I was surprised he didn't question any part of that conversation. He only passed by me again, voice depressingly quiet.

"Let's keep going..."

I watched him stride over the small series of steps on the porch, my own feet soon following after. I took the steps one at a time, moving on the balls of my feet as if the steps would somehow break with enough pressure. I heard Al's voice ask how we did.

"Nothing yet." Ed responded. "But we got a lot of houses to go. Someone's gotta remember seeing something." He turned to me. "You don't have to stick around..."

I shook my head. "No, it's okay." It was something to focus on, something to distract myself with. What else would I be doing, anyway?

I shut out the memories trying to drag me back, focusing on Ed as he nodded at my response. That look was back on his face; the one that felt like he was trying to figure me out.

Finally, he turned away, starting around the fence and down the sidewalk again. "Well, okay... If you say so..."

We kept going door to door with similar, unyielding results. There were very few people who recognized me, though; my breath kept catching in my throat whenever the door would open, my heart seeming to stop as the neighbor's eyes glanced over all of us. Most of the time, no one recognized me, and this allowed me to breathe until heads were shaken and the door shut again.

It wasn't until the fifth house that our luck began to change. Ed began to go through the same routine as before, but he was interrupted at the mention of being a State Alchemist.

The guy he was trying to interview threw his head back. "UGH. Another one!"

Everyone's interest grew at that statement.

"What do you mean 'another one?'" Ed asked.

The man shook his head, stepping back a little. "Look, I already gave one of your military buddies all of the peanuts I had."

Ed and I blinked, completely lost.

"Peanuts?" Ed repeated.

The door began to close, but Edward stepped forward, forcing it open with a foot. "Wait! This guy you're talking about. Do you remember what he looked like or why he needed the… uh, peanuts?"

The door opened again with a growl. The man had one hand against his hair, thinking hard.

"I don't know. Brown hair. Wearing a pretty thick coat. I just remember he wouldn't shut up about needing all this stuff."

"What else did he take?"

"Just kinda basic household items. He left with my bleach, too."

"Do you remember where he went?"

The man leaned forward, suddenly angry. "I dunno; why don't you go ask the next house instead!"

Ed snatched his foot back just as the door slammed shut.

The alchemist spun around. "Well, we finally got our lead!"

"I hope the next person we ask is a little more friendly..." Al said as Ed and I approached him.

"Doesn't matter!" Ed tossed the broken pocket watch upwards and caught it again. "We've got a good idea of who we're looking for now, so from here on out it's a total cake walk!"

But hours later, we'd gone through so many houses. Ed was on the ground, exhausted, and I had to lean against Al in order to stand up.

Ed put his hands on his hair, squirming in anger. "WHY THE HECK CAN'T WE FIND THIS GUY?!"

"Well, we did get a lot of information on him." I opened up the notebook in my bag, thumbing past drawings and sketches.

Al noticed these, finger pointing and stopping the pages from moving. "Hey! You're drawing transmutation circles again!"

I grinned up at him, hiding the fear away. "Y-yeah. I still do that from time to time."

Ed sat up, turning to looking behind himself and stare at me. "You were gonna say something?"

I remembered, nodding and continuing to turn to the right page. Not too quick, not too eager. I wanted to make sure I looked like these drawings were normal to me. Completely nothing.

I found the right page, stopping on it and scanning down the list of ingredients. Words I heard the townspeople mention. I read everything off, including the rough unit of measurement. Ounce of this, a small amount of that.

When I was done, neither of them said anything. I began to wonder what was wrong when Ed snapped his fingers from his place on the ground, as if suddenly remembering something.

"Aster flowers." he recalled, pointing one finger towards me. "Plants have a pretty high concentration of magnesium in them."

"Oh." I quickly wrote that one down, adding it to the bottom of the list. I suddenly remembered where that ingredient came from. A house with a girl around my own age; she'd been flirting with Ed constantly, and I had to make small talk with Al in order to avoid it.

I shook the memory away, looking over the list again. My eyes stopped on the second ingredient.

"But why the need for bleach?" I asked, pen in between my teeth.

"Dunno." Ed responded. "Maybe to try and throw off whoever was wanting to follow him."

"Or maybe he needed his kitchen clean." Alphonse chimed in. Ed just stared at his younger brother and I couldn't help but laugh.

"Yeah," Ed responded, a smile in his voice, "I'm sure that was it, Al."

He got up from the ground, looking to the side as he stood up. I followed his stare, noticing the sun was setting.

"We should probably call it quits for now." he said, putting his hands in his pockets.

My heart momentarily stopped beating. This was it—they were going to ask to stay the night. I couldn't go back into that house. Not after being out again—

"There's some kind of inn around here, right?" Ed asked me.

I looked to him, feeling more appreciation than I could remember having. I don't know how he was this perceptive, but I was so thankful for it.

"Yeah." I replied. "I've never been to it, but it's fairly close to the station."

"Works for me." Ed walked away, starting down the sidewalk again. He left as Al bowed to me, low enough to show respects for both of them.

"Thanks for everything." Alphonse said. "It was nice to meet you—again!"

Hearing footsteps stop, I looked away from a nervous Al to see Edward turning to stare at me from over his shoulder. One golden eyebrow raised.

"You're staying with us, aren't you?" Ed asked. "In case you remember anything about the watch."

I've never felt so indebted to someone. The relief on my face was obvious, a soft grin arriving on my lips as I placed a hand to my chest. "Yes, of course."

Al straightened. He briefly shifted his head in the direction of my house, and I sensed something click in that brain of his. I was thankful once again. I couldn't explain even if I wanted to.

No; I could explain... I just didn't want to.

I tried to hold back the weight that set into my heart. I looked up, hearing Ed call my name.

"You comin'?"

"Y-Yes." I replied. I hurried over, smoothing out my knee-length skirt. My strides matched theirs, following behind Ed and placing me next to Al.

"So," Al began, turning his head towards me, "Do you draw anything else besides transmutation circles?"

"Uh." I saw Ed look towards me, watching from behind his shoulder, staring from the corner of his eye. "Y-yeah. I really don't sketch anymore, though. It's kind of a thing of the past." I tried to laugh this off, sure my casual tone was completely transparent.

"Yeah, that makes sense." Edward said, turning back. "We all have things we grow out of."

I sensed there was something more to that statement; like he was talking to himself in some way. My thoughts left me as Al spoke again.

"You're probably very busy with that martial art school you run, huh?"

"Al," Ed cut in, "Let's not bug her with so many questions, yeah?"

"N-No, it's fine!" I held one hand up. I had to seem like I was completely comfortable with this... "It makes sense; I mean, we haven't seen each other in so long, after all."

Ed looked at me again for a moment before turning back. He stayed quiet, allowing me to turn and answer Alphonse.

"I guess I am a little busy." I told him. "It's definitely hard work, with so many students and all."

"I bet!" Al put his hands in the air, like a little kid. "That's so awesome! They must be really lucky to have a teacher like you!"

I just smiled, trying to calm the feeling of my stomach dying. My expression fell as Al relaxed his arms, asking another question.

"But do you have to go back to teach soon?"

I understood his question; it hadn't even dawned on me.

"I... I don't know..." I told him, looking away. Part of my mind focused on the Flamel insignia on Ed's back, how smooth it looked over his slumped posture. "I guess maybe soon... Or I could always call, have someone else cover..."

I saw Ed glance back, his posture straightening a little, wrinkling the design again. Al replied, happier than ever.

"Great!" he said. "Maybe you could teach me how to draw—I've always wanted to learn!"

Please don't make me. I looked to him, faking the best grin I could. "Yeah, that would be fun!"

I heard Ed grin, laughing a little. "Maybe you'll stop drawing cats as stick figures, Al!"

"Hey! I sometimes draw them with legs!"

"Yeah," Ed held up a hand, creating the smallest amount of space in between his thumb and forefinger, "Legs that are this thin. They're completely malnourished!"

"It's not like your art is any better, Brother!"

"I never said mine was!"

"Well... At least I don't draw faces that look like puppets!"

"Puppets? Oh, you're talkin' about my drawing of Envy?" He laughed again. I was curious about the name but kept my thoughts to myself. I didn't want to ruin this moment with things that didn't concern me.

"That was years back." Ed continued, waving a hand away. "I'm sure I've gotten better since then!"

"Oh, yeah?" There was a challenge in Al's voice.

Ed stopped and turned around, a grin on his face. "Yeah." he returned.

Al stopped walking, and I halted beside him. The teen in the suit spoke again, voice directed at me.

"Can I see your sketchbook, please?" he asked.

"Uh, yeah. Of course." I ignored the feeling of complete doom as I got the book out of my bag again, feeling the dark weight leave my hand as Al took it along with a pen.

He offered both to Ed. "Prove it."

Ed just shifted his weight to one hip, grin becoming a little sharper as he took the utensils. "Prepare to eat your words, Al."

I felt more than a little nervous as he flipped open my sketchbook, his thumb releasing pages and speeding past hundreds of drawings. I didn't even realize how much I had drawn... Before…

My memories fled as Ed stopped at a blank page near the end. His pen was positioned at it, steady as the air around us grew a little tenser.

"What's a matter?" Al jeered, suddenly behind him and peering over his shoulder. Ed turned, trying to hide the sketchbook. "Afraid you're not really that good?"

"S-Shut up! I'm trying to figure out what to draw!"

"Hmmm..." Al looked around. "Well, I don't see any malnourished cats around..." He suddenly looked to me and pointed. My heart fell.

"Draw her?" Ed repeated, pen teetering in between his teeth. I failed to fight back a blush, remembering how it was in my mouth as well.

Ed turned away and looked towards the sky, irritated. "Nah, I wouldn't be able to!" he said. He suddenly looked at me again, embarrassed as he reached to take the pen out of his mouth. His expression turned worried. "Not-Not that you wouldn't be a good subject of course!" he told me. "I just... Wouldn't be able to capture you, is all."

A blush came to his face as he realized his own words. Al leaned forward and Ed drew his face away from his brother.

"You mean you really couldn't draw her?" Al asked, challenging him again.

"I... I didn't say that!" Ed yelled back.

"Then do it!" Al said, crossing his arms. "Prove me wrong!"

Ed sighed. "Fine..." To my surprise, he turned himself around with an exaggerated swing of the foot. "But after we get to the hotel. If I'm gonna do this, I'm gonna do it right."

I failed to keep the heat rising from my face again, watching Al walk behind his brother with a snicker. I smiled, falling into step behind them.

Maybe this wouldn't be so bad...