I looked at Alex. My cloak had slid off her legs again. I carefully pulled it back up for the second time.
“Brother?” Alphonse asked me.
“Yes?” I looked at him.
“Can Alex stay with us?”
I rolled my eyes. “We already asked her. She said yes. So, yeah.”
“No, Ed! Can she stay with us?”
“What do you mean?”
“Can she travel with us?”
I sighed. “Al, we barely know her. Asking her if she wants to stay with us in Resembool was a big enough risk. Besides, if we do, what would Mustang say?” I said. Not that I didn’t want to be with Alex, but I didn’t really know how we would provide for her. And I doubted the military would be happy if I just brought a stranger into the headquarters.
“I don’t know, Ed. She just seems nice. I want to be friends.” Al replied.
“You have the whole train ride and our time in Resembool.”
“Okay…” Alphonse looked out of the window.
A thought appeared in my head. “You haven’t gotten feelings for Alex, have you?” I asked, smirking.
Al got a funny look on his face. “No! I mean… Well… You’re the one who’s been making sure she’s comfortable this whole time! I should ask you the same question, brother!” He turned the question around on me.
I turned red. “No… I just want to make sure she’s happy.” Wait. Why had I blushed? I sighed. Dang it. I barely knew her! We had just met the girl not two hours ago! No. No feelings for Alex. None whatsoever. She was just a friend. Not even! More like an acquaintance. There. An acquaintance. She was an acquaintance.
Alex opened her eyes. I blushed again. DANG IT! Why me?
“Hey, boys.” She said, sitting up. My cloak slid down her chest and rested on her thighs.
“What the…” She looked at it. Her eyes widened. “Okay…” She picked it up and handed it to me gently. “Um… Thank you. You didn’t have to…” She murmured, blushing. Alex looked behind her and saw my shirt pillow. “Oh.” She folded my shirts and handed them to me. “Heh. Thank you.” She said.
“No… Problem.” I said, rubbing my neck.
A bit of awkward silence followed my reply. Alphonse finally broke it.
“So… Alex… How was your nap?” He asked.
“Good, thanks for asking. Sorry I keep falling asleep. I didn’t get any shuteye last night.” She said, looking at the ground.
“Oh, no, that’s fine. I understand. I’ve had plenty of those types of nights.” I replied.
Alex nodded. “Yeah.” She looked at me apologetically. My heart sped up. Dang! Dangdangdang! I tried to smile normally, but I’m pretty sure I looked like I was grimacing. I was such an idiot. A grimacing idiot. What the heck was wrong with me?
“What’d I miss?” Alex asked. Alphonse and I exchanged glances.
“A long, boring conversation about very uninteresting things.” He said, way too quickly in my opinion.
Alex raised an eyebrow. “Okay. Sounds good.” She said, laughing. “I’m sorry for invading your privacy. I’m usually alone, so I don’t really talk to people that much.” She looked down, embarrassed.
“No, Alex, you’re fine. Nothing really interesting happened.” I looked at her. “Do you like being alone?”
She made eye contact with me. “I guess… I don’t know… I mean, I haven’t had a choice, you know…” She said slowly.
“Do you get lonely?” Al joined in the conversation.
“Maybe. I guess. I mean, yeah.” She responded. “What’s it like having a brother?”
“Cool. It’s like having a friend who knows all about you and has your back. Sure, you have fights sometimes. Everyone does. But it’s awesome to have a brother.” Alphonse said. I smiled. So did Alex.
“Aww… That sounds nice. I’m an only child.” She shrugged. “My friend Piper’s kind of like a sister, but I don’t see her that much anymore.”
“If you don’t mind me asking, Alex, why didn’t you go live with Piper?” I asked. I didn’t want to pry on her personal life, but I wanted to learn more about her.
“There were a couple of reasons. First, I didn’t want to be a burden on her mom. Piper’s dad died when she was a baby. The last thing Piper’s mom needed was another kid, in my opinion. Second, there were too many memories in Resembool. I looked to the left, and I saw the tree that my mom and I had picnics under. I looked to the right, and I saw the meadow where she and I used to play. It was too painful for me.” She paused. “So I packed a suitcase and left. I haven’t been home since that day.”
She finished her little monologue. I blinked. Alphonse looked at me as if to say, “What the heck have we gotten ourselves into?”
“Well.” I said, unintentionally sounding a bit awkward. Alex apparently got the wrong message.
“Sorry if you didn’t want to hear that. If I ever start talking too much, just tell me to shut up.” She looked at the ground. “I just haven’t had company in so long.”
“It’s okay.” I said quietly. “I understand.”
“I’m really sorry. I’ve said too much.”
“No, Alex. You’re fine. Don’t worry about it.” I said. The last thing I wanted to do was make the poor girl more uncomfortable than she already felt.
“Yeah. You’re a really interesting girl. I like hearing about you.” Al stepped in. He was a heck of a lot better than I was at making her feel better.
“Really?” Alex’s eyes started to brighten again. Girls were so freaking CONFUSING.
“Absolutely. You’re an awesome alchemist with a cool personality and a pretty girl with a beautiful story.” I said impulsively. Alex blushed.
“You think I’m… Pretty?” She asked, looking at me.
I tensed and unintentionally adopted an embarrassed expression. Alphonse got an interesting look on his face. Holy crap. What had my idiotic self gotten into now? “Um… Yes… And you’re a great friend.” I said, trying to steer the conversation clear of where it was bound to go.
Alex took the hint. “Thank you. You’re an awesome friend too.” She quieted and looked out the window.
I put my shirts back in my suitcase and pulled out a journal. After uncapping a pen, I scribbled down a question for Al.
What the heck do I do now? I wrote down, and then handed him the journal.
Al read my question, took the pen, and jotted down a reply.
Talk to her.
I looked at the journal. Talk to her about what?
What about? I asked.
Anything. Alchemy. Rush Valley. Cats. Here, I’ll start. He answered. I closed the journal.
“So, Alex, what brought you to Rush Valley?” Alphonse asked. Younger brother to the rescue.
Alex looked at him. “Oh, I just like automail. It’s cool, you know?” She replied.
“Yep. You know, I have a friend who’s an automail mechanic.” I told her.
“Oh, yeah. Winry. I think you two would get along really well.” Al said.
“Sweet! She sounds super nice!” Alex smiled, eyes shining.
Apart from all the wrench throwing, she is. “I’ll have to introduce you to her. She lives in Resembool, too.” I looked at Alphonse. Was I doing alright?
He nodded, as if to answer my question. Huh. Maybe the two girls could be friends.
“That’d be amazing!” Alex sounded excited. I didn’t blame her. She seemed like she had been alone for a while now. She could probably use the company of another girl. “Is that why you’re going to Resembool? To visit her?” She continued.
I looked at Al. “I guess. We haven’t seen her in a while. We used to see each other a lot, but we’ve been traveling a lot lately.” I said.
“Cool. I’m super excited to meet her.” Alex responded.
I couldn’t think of anything to say next. I looked around desperately. My eyes fell upon her backpack. Oooh. Idea.
“Your cat’s super cool. Where did you get it?” I asked. Hopefully Al wouldn’t use this attempt at conversation against me later. But, brother, you said you liked cats! Besides, Alex has one!
“Oh, Nya? I found her in Central City. Cold, wet, and hungry. The poor kitten hadn’t been taken care of. So I took her with me.” She said.
“That sounds like something Al would do. He hides cats in his armor all the time.” I looked at him. Alex laughed.
“Clever. I’d probably do that too.” She looked at Al.
“Yeah, but my brother won’t let me keep them because we can’t care for them.” He said.
Alex’s eyes started to shine. She made a fist. “If you ever find a cat in need, Alphonse, just give it to me! I’ll take care of it!” She said, laughing.
I rolled my eyes as Al and Alex started chattering away. Great. I had picked up a crazy cat lady.