Title: Things That Go Bump in the Night (Birthday fic for jade_pen)
Rating: R-15 for implied sex
Type: Fluff? Humor? Beats me...
Note: As much as this fic seems like it’s in Japan due to the names used, it is not, and neither is it in Amestris. This fic pretty much takes place after the Gakuen AU timeline. The setting is based on a certain place that I currently know very well by heart and like a lot, and the basic plot was inspired by my friend kishuu_arashi. Written in the perspective of an original character, but this is not a self-insert or a Mary Sue.
Ishikawa-san had been living in the same apartment for perhaps the past thirty years, ever since this city, as well as her apartment complex on block three was built, and she’s seen her share of people. She lived on the ground floor of the apartment, since she was really too old to go up and down the stairs, and thirty years ago there was no consideration to put in an elevator. This way, she was able to see almost everyone who lived in the apartment, since they always needed to pass her doors before they went upstairs to their own little matchboxes of apartments. She liked the apartment complex she lived in, however, since it wasn’t as small as some of the ones in the two-story complex only blocks away that contained nothing but a living room and a loft for an unreasonably high rent.
The only thing that really bothered her, though, was the fact that the apartment, like many houses in the area, had little to no insulation and therefore very poor soundproofing. The last family who lived in the apartment above him was clear proof why she hated the walls of his apartment complex. The Uemura family upstairs had two young children, who took care to stomp around every day as though the floors were on fire. This caused for very meager amounts of quiet time, and high amounts of annoyance. But came March of this year, the Uemura family moved out, reasons being either the children needing more space or the father’s job compelled them to move. Either way, Old Lady Ishikawa was glad to see them go.
End of March was a nice time to move, as traditions went, and soon that empty apartment upstairs was marked with a “cleaned-up” sign on the door, ready to take in another tenant.
The day they moved in, Old Lady Ishikawa was there to meet them, her old curiosity leading her to peek out the door when the moving van with a blue cartoon mascot stopped in front of their section of the apartment complex.
The new tenants were two men—one so young he seemed more like a boy than a man, but his suit denoting that he was a member of society. The other, to say the truth, frightened Ishikawa upon first glance. The boy’s roommate was a towering man with bronze skin, a strange sight to behold in the area (not that the boy didn’t stick out like a sore thumb, either) who wore a suit with dark earth tones as well as mirror sunglasses even during the still-slightly foggy weather of March. The one thing that really raised eyebrows was that the man had a humongous cross scar that ran from his forehead and extended well past the bottom rim of his dark glasses. Bottom line: he looked more like mafia than anything else.
At first Ishikawa was frightened out of her wits and nearly ducked back into her apartment, but the boy caught sight of her out of the corner of his moss-green eyes and greeted her. The boy’s voice was so soft and polite that the old woman couldn’t help but bow when the boy did.
The boy’s name was Alphonse Elric, a name fitting for his foreign look of blond hair and gray-green eyes. The man was introduced only as “Scar-san,” no real first or last name, and when asked about his real name, Scar gave a strange grunt, which Al hastily, with slight embarrassment, translated as that his name was so foreign to the regional tongue that it would take forever to pronounce it right.
Alphonse had given Ishikawa a small gift as a greeting, and invited her to some tea, once their apartment was all cleaned up and everything put away. Scar said nothing, but kept close to Alphonse as Alphonse spoke, almost as though he was his protector; this did not help with Ishikawa’s impression that Scar was mafia, and only added that Alphonse was probably some mafia boss’s child. But Alphonse was so polite and Ishikawa, inclined to be polite by her own upbringing, couldn’t decline the offer (another part was perhaps fear of Scar).
Within the next week and a half or so, the odd couple moved their things into the apartment upstairs, slowly filling the once-empty apartment. They had very little furniture, and whatever they brought in was earth-toned, much like Scar’s suit on the first day they were introduced, but of a lighter hue. In fact, they seemed to have split the things they brought right down the middle of exactly who had control over what. The furniture was obviously chosen by Scar, what with its slightly exotic look and its tones that matched him. Even the number of furniture they brought with them indicated this, it was few and simple, just like the way Scar was—a man of few words. Following the few piece of furniture came the many, many boxes of books that poured into the house. That seemed to be Alphonse’s realm, those books. Alphonse had introduced himself as a biochemist that researched at a university several stations away on the local train line. Though after sneaking a few peeks in some of the opened boxes, some of the books revealed themselves to be history books, which seemed to be Scar’s books, since Alphonse had let slip that Scar taught at a junior high/high school that was only a good twenty minutes’ walk away from their apartment complex.
What bothered Ishikawa, however, was the fact that of all the plain furniture and thick books they brought in, there was only one bed that was moved into the house. She didn’t think much of it, though, since they also brought in futons fit for each season. Those, as she saw when she went into the apartment for tea after everything was cleaned up and set in place, was put into the smallest room at the end of the apartment.
After the couple settled in, Ishikawa’s impression of the two of them got better. She had a good first impression of Alphonse, but because he was a foreigner, she was somewhat adverse to him. But he was always so impeccably polite and courteous to people in the apartment block that it was hard to be cold to him. Every night, after he came home at around six o’clock, she would be able to smell the aroma of a well-prepared dinner wafting out from the kitchen window upstairs. Soon after, at around eight o’clock, Scar would come home and they would talk in hushed tones over dinner. The insulation in the apartment complex was poor enough that she could hear their discreet words above her head when she watched television, but they seem to know this and kept quiet. Alphonse’s words were always soft, and Scar, whenever he managed to get a few words out, spoke with a low tone.
The only times when Ishikawa would hear Scar talk in long strands of words was when he was praying, him being a strangely religious man who always prayed on time. He always prayed once in the morning, once before dinner (she didn’t put it past him that he probably prayed during lunchtime at the school), and once before the lights were loudly clicked out by the pull-string. The other time was when he would come home with a disturbed look on his face, only grunting in greeting when he walked past her at her apartment door (he usually gave a deep “Hello” and a bow), indicating a bad day with students or staff members. Only then did Alphonse venture out to the convenience store diagonally across from their block, returning with two bags of beer that seemed to heavy for his skinny arms (and yet he managed). When he closed the door behind him, just above her own front door upstairs, she could hear him talk in soothing tones, and after the tell-tale sound of carbon escaping an opened beer can reached her ears, that lower, gruffer voice would begin to talk, never interrupted save for a few seconds of understanding, one syllable responses and more cans of beer being opened. It was at times like these when Ishikawa wondered if the two of them were something like a strange father and adopted-son.
Following two weeks of their moving in, a boy with golden hair and eyes came to visit. He had at first, by mistake, knocked on Ishikawa’s door, and then babbled in mild embarrassment when he realized that he had the wrong apartment. She knew immediately who he was, and directed him to the apartment right above her head. He gave her a small, strangely prankish and knowing smirk before he said thanks and went upstairs.
He was Alphonse’s brother, and after that day, he visited frequently, and whenever Alphonse and Scar came downstairs to see him off after the visits, Ishikawa would watch them from her window as they stood in the driveway of the apartment building. Alphonse would speak to Edward in tones he’d never use on Scar, and Edward would occasionally give Scar an incredibly disapproving look. Whenever that happened, Scar would look away in an expression that is undecipherable, but to her experience with age, it looked mostly of guilt.
She often wondered why Edward didn’t live with Alphonse, if they were brothers, and why Scar would always look extremely guilty whenever he saw Edward. Her mind also lingered on that strange smile Edward had given her when he saw her.
It wasn’t until about three weeks after her odd neighbours moved upstairs that all of this just sort of…clicked.
That night started out as it usually did with the custom of Alphonse coming home and cooking dinner at six o’clock, on the dot. Scar came home later than usual, however, and didn’t even greet her when she opened her door to do so. His expression looked murderous as well. Almost by some sort of calculated routine, Alphonse left the apartment upstairs a few minutes later to go to the convenience store, and returned with the expected bags of beer. But what was different was that the voices upstairs that night was slightly hasty, more anguished on one side, and frustrated on the other. If their previous conversations had always been one straight line, then tonight’s was some sort of ripple. At one point a whole string of foreign words exploded upstairs, chorused by the soft voice that she could make out as Alphonse’s voice, trying to keep them hushed. Eventually the voices died down, but the lights seeping from the living room window out to the balcony did not go out until late in the night. Ishikawa went to bed slightly distracted by the obvious spat upstairs.
During an odd hour of the night, she heard something that sounded strangely like a dull thump above her head, just through her ceiling that connected to their floor upstairs. At first she thought it was just one of the two upstairs that decided to get up in the middle of the night to go to the toilet, but there were no foot-falls following the thump. She stretched her ears mentally to listen, and soon there was another thump, and then something that sounded like a muted scream. Her hand reached for the phone to call the police, fearing that someone was getting murdered upstairs.
But she stopped mid-way when the thumps grew louder, more incessant, and eventually a rhythmic creaking squeak followed. Above her head, she could hear what was definitely something else that went bump in the night. A voice she pinpointed as Alphonse’s cried out, yelled, and screamed each time the thumping was incredibly solid, and as the thumping grew louder, the squeaking got faster, the boy became more vocal. Ishikawa could feel her face heat up, despite her age.
Squeak. Thump. A muffled scream. This was the rhythm that continued for a good hour until Alphonse’s small voice whispered something so quiet; it was hard to tell if he was talking or just being incoherent. The slightly higher note he ended his sentence with indicated a question, but no voice responded, only an even heavier thump so hard that Ishikawa feared that they would fall clear through her ceiling. Alphonse’s scream was so muffled that she figured that a pillow must have been used.
Eventually, the thumping came to an end, to her relief, but the squeaking still went on, so fast and short between intervals that the spring bed they brought into the apartment would surely be worn out by the end of the month. After a good five minutes of this, Alphonse’s voice was audible once again, though this time he sounded more like he was sobbing, and then the squeaking stopped, replaced by one small groan of the bed above her head, and then finally she heard Scar’s voice. It sounded painfully apologetic, and whatever he said was accepted by a small laugh and nearly mute words. The bed groaned again, and all went quiet.
Ishikawa didn’t get any sleep that night, of course.
“Good morning, Ishikawa-san,” Alphonse said the next morning, when he saw her sweeping the front of her door. She noticed that his shirt collar was buttoned tighter than usual, sputtered, and then said her greeting as she watched Scar come downstairs after Alphonse, bowing so deeply at her it seemed more like he was ducking from her gaze. He surely knew that they were heard, and when Alphonse saw his action, he blushed for a split second, then bowed before going on his way as well.
Ishikawa made a note to go and buy a new broom today. One with a handle that was long enough to reach the ceiling.
Cross-posted to a ton of places.