“Come on, Ed. Time to get up.” Alphonse touched my shoulder, waking me from my sleep.
I opened my eyes and sat up. “Morning.” I said.
Mustang looked at me. “We’re heading back to Central today. We all need to get back to work.” He told me.
“Uh huh. What about Alex?” I asked him, rubbing my eyes. “Where’s she gonna stay?”
“Alex has an apartment at headquarters. She’s been living there since…” The Flame Alchemist paused for a few moments. “Since she was thirteen. That’s when she became a state alchemist.”
Al looked at me. “She wasn’t that much older than you were, brother. You both became state alchemists around the same time and age.” He added.
I nodded and hopped out of bed. “Huh.”
“I’m still surprised that you two found out about each other. I mean, Alex was extremely afraid of you finding out about her.” Mustang said.
“All of this time? For two years, she hid herself from us? That poor girl. She really was afraid of being rejected, wasn’t she?” I pulled on some clothing.
“She must have been. Colonel Mustang told me that whenever we were at Central, she went to Xing. Xing, brother! It’s so far away!” Alphonse cried.
My eyes widened. “She crossed the desert alone? Isn’t that dangerous? Not to mention that she has automail. That must have been horrible for her.”
The Flame Alchemist looked Al and I. “You guys can talk to her about it on the train. But we need to go. Can someone go and wake up Alex?” He asked.
“I’ll go.” I volunteered, walking out of the room. I knocked on Alex’s door twice, and when she didn’t respond, I opened her door and walked over to her bed.
“Alex… Time to get up. We’re leaving.” I said, putting my hand on her shoulder.
She stirred and opened her eyes. “Huh? Oh. Hey, Ed.” She smiled at me.
I returned the grin. “Morning, Alex. We’re leaving for Central this morning, so you might want to pack up and everything.” I said, heading towards the door to give her a chance to get ready.
I turned around. Alex was sitting up and looking at me. I walked over to her.
“Yeah?” I asked, sitting on her bed.
She kissed me on the cheek and turned a bit pink. “Thanks for being there for me last night. I really appreciate it.” She said quietly, looking down shyly.
“Oh, no problem. Glad that I could help.” I smiled at her, stood up, and walked away.
“She’s up.” I said as I entered my room.
“Great. We’ll leave when Alex is all ready.” Mustang told me.
I started packing up my suitcase. “Okay.”
A few minutes later, we heard a knock at the door. Alex was ready to go.
After we checked out of our respective hotel rooms, we walked over to the train station. While Mustang bought our train tickets, Alex bought us breakfast.
“Don’t pay me back. I’ve caused everyone enough trouble already.” She said when I pulled out some money.
I sighed and put the cash back in my pocket. “You can’t keep doing that. It’s not fair.”
Alex laughed. “I’m not going to stop paying for stuff until I’ve reimbursed each and every one of your train tickets.” She said as she handed Mustang and I each a chicken leg and a biscuit. “Sorry about the choice of food. There really weren’t that many options.”
“No, it’s fine. This is good.” I reassured her as we headed towards our train.
We boarded and got a nice little compartment. I sat next to Alex, and Mustang and Al sat across from us.
“So, Alex. I heard earlier that you went to Xing a few times. Could you tell me about that? It sounds interesting.” I said to her.
Alex smiled. “I did. For some reason, I’ve always been fascinated by the Xingese culture. So whenever I needed to get out of town, I went there.”
Al looked at her. “How long did it take to get there?”
“And how did you make it across the desert by yourself? I mean, aren’t there bandits and stuff? Not to mention that you have automail. The metal heating up must have been painful.” I said.
“It was. But every so often, I found an oasis or some sort of water hole. Taking a bath there always helped cool me off. As for the bandits, I just avoided traveling at night. I had to be pretty darn alert. It took me a good two weeks to cross the desert, if I was lucky.” She laughed.
I nodded. “Where’d you stay when you got to Xing?” I asked.
Alex thought for a moment. “I normally stayed in the capital city. They have some decent hotels in that area. Plus, they have festivals there. It’s all really cool. The food, the culture, the celebrations… I love it all!”
“Do you know why you like Xing so much?” Alphonse questioned.
“No idea. But I like it so much that my entire apartment room is based off of the Xingese culture.”
“That’s cool. What’s it like?” I wondered.
She smiled. “I’d tell you, but I want you two to be surprised when you see it.”
My eyes widened. “We’re gonna see your room?”
Alex laughed. “Of course you are. My apartment’s right next to yours, for heavens’ sake.” She said.
Alphonse looked at Mustang. “It is?”
The Flame Alchemist nodded. “You know that room next to yours that I told you was a spare room? The one labeled ‘Off Limits’?” He asked.
Al nodded. “Oh, yeah.”
“No way! That’s your room?” I remember seeing that room hundreds of times, but it hadn’t really struck a chord in me until now.
Alex smiled. “Yep. When you two were gone, the ‘Off Limits’ sign was replaced with a sign with my name on it.” She told us.
I shook my head in awe. “Wow… This is crazy! And all this time I didn’t even know that you existed…” I said quietly.
She smirked. “I took plenty of precautions to ensure that you and your brother wouldn’t find out about me, Ed. And in the end, none of them mattered.”
Alphonse rubbed his neck. “It’s all my fault, isn’t it?” He laughed.
“It really is.” Alex replied, playfully sticking her tongue out at him. “And I’m grateful for that. I really don’t know where I’d be if I hadn’t met you two.”
“In Resembool, probably. Or Xing. One of the two places.” I said, grinning.
We all laughed. Alex smiled at us.
“You know what? I know for a fact that I’m happier here than I would be without you guys. I’m just glad that I’m not alone anymore.” She sighed contently.
“You’re not going to be alone ever again. We’ll always be there for you.” Al told her.
Alex put a hand on his leg. “You brothers are by far the sweetest people that I’ve ever met. I’m so happy that I’ve gotten to know you two.”
I looked down. “Same here. You’re a really nice girl, Alex. I’m glad that you’ll be traveling with us.”
She turned a bit pink. “Thanks, Ed. You’re an amazing person as well.”
We were all quiet for a few minutes. But as the train pulled out of the station, Alex broke the silence.
“Hey, guys? Is it alright if I take a nap? I mean, I didn’t really get much sleep last night because of the storm and everything…” She started.
“Sure. Go ahead. You don’t need to ask, Alex.” I cut her off.
Alex smiled at me, rested her head against the window, and closed her eyes. Once again, I took off my cloak and laid it over her.
Mustang and Alphonse smirked a little bit, and I glared at them.
“Wipe those stupid grins off of your faces. She gets cold easily.” I said, pouting and looking out the train window.
“Oh, I know. She actually got one of those heating tables from Xing because she hates the cold so much. It’s in her room.” Mustang looked at Alex.
This got my attention. “You’ve seen her room?” I asked him, trying not to sound too interested.
The Flame Alchemist shrugged nonchalantly. “Oh, yeah. A few times. Let me tell you, she’s quite the designer. Almost everything in there she brought home from Xing. It’s all authentic.”
“Like what?” Al asked. He was tuning in to our conversation now.
“Oh, all kinds of things. She has a fountain, a few lanterns, a screen divider… You’d have to see it to understand.” Mustang told him.
“She said that I would get to see it. I’m really sure that… Wait a second. Why have you been in her room?” I looked at him curiously.
“Don’t get so jealous. I’ve seen your room too, you know.” He replied.
I glared at the Flame Alchemist. “You’re avoiding the question. Why have you been in her room?”
Mustang rolled his eyes. “Sometimes I have to get her or give her something. Or I check up on her when she’s sick. Why does it matter to you?”
“I was just curious.” I told him, gritting my teeth. I didn’t like the fact that the Flame Alchemist had been able to one-up me so easily. The moment that we got to Central, Alex was going to show me her room. Then Mustang and I would be even.