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Better Living Through Alchemy

chapter 8.

"Falman," Havoc threw his arms out and grinned at the man sitting with a stack
of folders at the big table.

"Lieutenant Colonel," Falman replied evenly.

Havoc sauntered over and sat down opposite the man, grinning
charmingly.

"So tell me, you wouldn't happen to be free Saturday night
by any chance?" Havoc smiled. "I mean, a guy like you must be up to his armpits
in dates, so I know this is a long shot at best."

Butter him up first.

Breda, who was also sitting at the big table, looked up
slowly and fixed Havoc with his eyes. The corner of his mouth pulled up just
slightly.

Havoc tried to warn Breda off with his eyes. He hoped
the screw-this-up-for-me-and-die look got across.

"I believe I had planned to rearrange my articles on existential
organization for the modern office chronologically instead of theory based,"
Falman said. "I saw a creased corner in one of my file books last night and
that won't do."

For a few moments no one made a sound.

Havoc cleared his throat and nodded.

"You've always been the sensible one among us, that's
for sure," he said. "I'm sure the General would be lost without you here to
make sure all the filing gets done correctly."

"Colonel Hawkeye entrusted me with the General's filing
inadequacies," Falman sniffed.

"You were just the man for the job," Havoc said. "But
how about this, you and me and a couple of girls, dinner, a few drinks, maybe
some dancing on Saturday night?"

"You're asking me on a date?" Falman said, to his credit
he didn't change expression at all.

"No, I'm not asking you on a date, but my girl
has a friend who is dying to meet you," Havoc said cheerfully, vanquishing the
horrific images caused by Falman asking him if he wanted to date him.

"Hmmm," Falman said. "Who is this girl?"

"Her name is Abby," Havoc said, "she's Sarah's friend.
They work at Messy Annie's."

"What is their special tonight?" Falman asked.

"Chopped steak, I think," Havoc said, "you want to go
check her out before saying yes?" he grinned.

"No," Falman said. "I was just curious. I'm not sure Lieutenant,
being set-up doesn't seem regulation to me."

"But I'm sure she's a nice girl," Havoc said.

"You don't even know her," Falman said flatly.

"Not personally," Havoc said, "but Sarah can vouch for
her."

"You have been dating Sarah how long?" Falman said.

"This is our first date," Havoc said weakly.

"You wish for me to chaperone, I can do that without a
date Lieutenant, I would be happy to," Falman said.

Breda lost it. He got up and tried to make it out of the
room before he exploded, almost making it to the door as the General was walking
in. His eyes widened when Breda grabbed him for support.

"I don't need a chaperone," Havoc hissed quietly so the
General wouldn't hear, "I just thought you might like to meet the girl."

Falman sniffed then, end of discussion. The General turned
to watch Breda run out the door and down the hall, then looked over at Havoc
and arched his eyebrow.

"Spicy food for lunch," Havoc said and patted his own
tummy.

"Good thing he made it out the door then," the General
said, crossing to his desk and sitting behind it.

Havoc glanced back at Falman who had already returned
to his paperwork. Havoc tapped his fingers on the table for a moment, then grinned,
got up and sauntered over to the General's desk.

"Lieutenant Colonel, are you going through my drawers?"
the General drawled when Havoc opened the large bottom filing drawer on his
desk.

"Nah," Havoc replied, "Ed would kill me. Who knew he was
the jealous, possessive type?" Havoc grinned.

The General smirked and actually preened. Havoc thought
it was funny and fitting as he fingered through the organized folders, (the
legacy of Hawkeye, and the threat of retribution if he didn't keep them that
way)
. He pulled out a form, then helped himself to the General's pen, because
the General had that look of slack to him and wouldn't be using it soon.

"Spicy food for lunch," the General shook his head, "no
amount of air freshener can overcome it."

"That's the truth," Havoc said as he went back to the
table to sit and fill in the form.


The Professor asked Seth and Boyd to accompany him and
told the class they could talk quietly amongst themselves until they
returned. So, naturally the class was in a merry dull roar when the trio returned.

The Professor was carrying two tins of what looked like
paint, Seth was carrying a box that was loaded with a variety of brushes and
Boyd was carrying some large rolls of duck canvas over his shoulder. The Professor
directed them to set their burdens down along the big blank wall that faced
the hall and he sat the paint tins down as well.

He turned to look at the class as Boyd and Seth returned
to their seats and everyone quieted down, looking at him expectantly.

"I thought this room was a little dull, what do you say
we paint some things on the wall," he asked. He had to hiss them into silence
again after the cheer.

"Who here is the best artist," the Professor said, having
Daniel and Bernard straighten the duck canvas along the bottom of the wall.

"Boyd is a good artist," Seth said, looking up at the
tall boy. "He made the best horse."

"A man of many talents," the Professor said. "Alright
Boyd, I think we want to put the Flamel here on this side of the wall. I'm good
with circles, but not much else; I'll try to show you what it looks like. Ah
wait, Seth if you still have one of those books about, it is the symbol I wore
on the back of my coat."

Seth ran back to his desk and returned with a copy of
'The FullMetal Alchemist versus the Space Alchemist from Planet X'. Ed hadn't
seen that one yet, so he had to read the jacket cover before they could scrutinize
the cover art for the Flamel. It had a partial image and with a little imagination
and description, Boyd said he thought he could wing it.

"Okay, I also want some elemental symbols," the Professor
said, "Daniel, get your text book."

Daniel fetched it. They opened it up and everyone got
down on the canvas except Boyd, because Boyd was drawing a huge Flamel on the
wall in chalk so it could be painted.

"Are we going to put an array on the wall," Gavin asked
eagerly. "Maybe the chocolate sauce array!" The chocolate sauce array was the
lost treasure of the entire class and they had often sought ways to trick the
Professor into reproducing it again.

"Hell no," the Professor said. "The last thing I need
is an accessible, activatable array with you lot. What do you take me
for? I told you I'm not going to give you that chocolate array, quit trying
to trick me into it."

"Was a good try though," Daniel grinned.

"You behave," the Professor said and then pointed out
the elemental symbols.

Daniel was assigned fire, Gavin was assigned water, Tom
was assigned air and Seth was assigned light.

The Professor and the rest of the class stood back and
watched the artists work, tilting their heads and offering critiques as the
drawings took shape, then everyone was given a paintbrush and some lines in
Latin. The Professor pulled the tins over, peeled off his right glove and used
his automail fingers to pry off the lids to the appreciative oohs and ahhs of
the boys.

The colors were red and black and the Professor split
them into two teams, handing out paper cups and pointing at the wall.

"Have at it," he said and walked back to his desk to sat,
pulling out some class notes.

Everyone was soon covered in paint.


Al was discharged from the infirmary and went home to
repack for his trip back to Central since his suitcase had been left on the
train when he was taken off of it and no one had found it yet.

He promptly rearranged the den furniture and refolded
all the towels in the bathroom. He dug up his military duffle to use as a temporary
suitcase and lamented after his old one. It was the suitcase he and brother
had used on their travels and he sincerely hoped it turned up at the station.

He wanted to call Ed, but he knew logically Ed was in
class and shouldn't be disturbed. He pondered some magazines he clearly remembered
buying, but wasn't sure why he had bought them. Then he paced the living room
like a caged tiger for a few moments.

He then went to the phone, dialed the number that was
hardest bore into his brain and waited expectantly as it rang.

"General Mustang's office," Havoc said on the other end
and Al grinned ear to ear to hear the Second Lieutenant's, no wait Lieutenant
Colonel's, voice on the other end.

"Havoc, it's Al," he said cheerfully. "How are things
today? Are you busy? If you're busy I don't wish to bother you. Is the General
in? Is he busy? Will you let him speak on the phone? I promise not to keep him
too long."

"Hey Al, whoa there Al, yes he's here," Havoc said, glancing
at the General who looked expectant and held out his hand.

"I'm sorry," Al said. "I've got all these images rolling
around in my head and I'm really trying to sort out which is new and which is
old and I think it's making me spastic." Al put a hand on his hip.

"You don't say," Havoc quipped.

The General wiggled his fingers so Havoc turned his back
on him.

"No, I do say, that's the problem. It's not like I'm actually
second guessing myself per se, but it's disconcerting. I mean, I know the reason
for it, but at the same time, why was that a good reason? It's like meeting
your long lost twin and discovering you were very alike even though you are
very different. Do you see what I mean?" Al said.

"Yeah," Havoc said. "What? I mean, no. I mean sure Al,
that's fine." He was at a loss of what to say to the boy, but glad to hear him
sounding so happy.

"That is exactly how I feel," Al said. "You always cut
right to the heart of any matter. Thanks for picking me up off the road when
I was flattened."

"Uh sure," Havoc said, and scooted away from the desk
because the General kept tapping him on the back.

"So I'm catching the afternoon train back to Central,
I'll be there by the weekend," Al said. "I guess that's really all I wanted
to say."

"Okay," Havoc said. He narrowed his eyes at the General
who was now tugging on the phone cord. "Did you want to speak to the General?"
Havoc asked.

"Yes," the General said loudly behind Havoc.

The lanky blond officer grinned at his superior and said,
"Here he is" into the phone before handing it over.

The General snorted, straightened his collar and put the
phone to his ear.

"Alphonse," he said and smiled.

"Pirate!" Al said gleefully.

Havoc thought the General's grin would crack his jaw.


"Your mothers are going to kill me," the Professor grumbled,
"you managed to get more paint on you than the walls."

Many guilty sets of eyes stared at him. Smudges of red
and black paint adorned many cheeks and chins and uniform fronts. Edward yanked
his handkerchief out of his pocket and grabbed Seth's chin, going after the
spot on his cheek before he realized what he was doing. Seth squirmed and whined;
it was bad enough his mother would do this, but his adored Professor was now
embarrassing him in front of his classmates.

"This is pointless," Ed said, looking at the ruined handkerchief
before crumpling it up and dropping it on the paint splattered canvas.

"Ah... paint... paint..." the Professor tapped his chin
and looked at the ceiling. "Pigments, binders, and solvents. Pigments are designed
to color, cover, and protect a surface. Inorganic pigments are derived from
various metallic ores. House paints include cadmium, mercury, phenols, chlorine,
sulphur, formaldehyde and other volatile organic compounds." He realized everyone
was staring at him then and dropped his hand.

"Right," the Professor said, "line up!"

Everyone trooped into line on command and if they were
shorter than the boy in front of them, they broke formation to lean out and
look toward the front of the line.

Seth was still first, as he was standing in front of the
Professor when the order was given. He looked up as the Professor smiled and
clapped his hands.

"Good thing I know what school uniforms are made of too,"
he said, laying his hands on Seth's shoulders. The paint on his uniform front
bubbled up, peeled off and dropped to the floor. Seth's jaw slacked.

"Okay next," the Professor said and moved Seth aside.

"My mom would pay you to come over and do that all the
time," Seth murmured.

"Elric laundry service sounds appealing," the Professor
said, cleaning Gavin's uniform. "Believe me, right now I feel like your mother.
Anything might be better than putting up with you lot." But they all knew he
didn't mean it.

Two down, twenty-one to go.


Havoc waited for the General to hang up, then sauntered
over and slid the form he'd been filing out under his nose.

The General looked down at it, furrowed his brow, then
looked up at Havoc.

"You're requisitioning Falman?" the General asked askance.

"He needs to get out more, but he's being stubborn," Havoc
said.

"What does Falman say about this?" the General asked.

"My new girl wants her buddy to double date with us and
her buddy wants to date Falman," Havoc broke. "I don't know why, please do me
a favor?"

The General chuckled and looked around for his pen. Havoc
fished it out of his uniform jacket and handed it over.

"I guess it wouldn't hurt for Falman to go out on a date,"
the General said. "Besides, it's your love life in jeopardy, not mine." He grinned
wickedly and signed with a flourish.

"I do so appreciate it," Havoc said. "My love life still
has the potential to be normal and sane, unlike your love life that could turn
you into a frog if you piss him off too badly."

"There is that," the General said with a sigh.

Havoc turned back to the big table, marched over and placed
the requisition form on top of the paperwork Falman was still working on. The
tall man picked it up and read it carefully, frowned at it, nodded to it and
looked for the appropriate file to put it in.

"So, meet me at Messy Annie's at seven on Saturday?" Havoc
said.

"It seems I have no choice," Falman replied.


"You're not going to believe what Havoc did today," Roy
said as Ed slid into the car next to him. "He had me sign a requisition form
stating he had to take Falman on a double date."

Ed laughed, setting his briefcase on the floor between
his feet and buckling himself in.

"How did the art project go?" the General said as they
started away. "Is the classroom more stimulating now?" he teased.

Ed smirked at him and shook his head.

"I got a first hand taste of why I'm glad neither of us
can breed with the other," Ed said. "I spent more time getting the paint off
of them then they spent smearing it on the wall, but it's not bad. They did
a fine job, but I'm beat." He sank back into the seat and reached over to touch
Roy's sleeve.

"Let's stop and get something from the deli then," the
General said. "There isn't really anything at home besides your sandwich makings
and you need something to fortify you after a long day of wiping paint off of
chins," he grinned.

"I alchemized it off of uniforms," Ed grumbled. "Are all
boys that messy?"

"You have the most convenient memory sometimes," the General
said. "Wasn't it Alphonse who made you shower? Speaking of which, he
called me today; he'll be arriving on the late train Friday. We'll start that
whole week over again, like it never existed. We've been given a second chance."

Ed grinned and squirmed in his seat.

"I can't wait," he said. "It will be our true reunion,
don't you think? He remembers everything so he'll know the bad things, but he'll
know the good things too. I'm excited and scared," Ed admitted.

"He called me Pirate," Roy said pleased.

"Well I said he'd remember the good things too," Ed laughed.


Ed headed immediately to the end of the long display case
where the pots of meat sauce and bowls of fresh pasta were normally kept. Roy
stopped to linger near the middle of the case where most of the entrees where
placed.

"Should we get beef or sausage meat sauce," Ed asked him,
hands on hips, surveying the offering.

"They have salmon pinwheels with crab meat dressing,"
Roy said, pointing at a plate in front of him.

"Sausage sometimes gives me heartburn," and Ed hit his
chest with his flesh hand once, "but I really prefer it over beef."

"They have chicken tetrazzini today," Roy said, bending
forward slightly and inhaling deeply, "and scalloped potatoes. You love potatoes."

"Do we want a loaf of that crusty bread or rolls to go
with the sauce," Ed asked. "The rolls are usually better for absorption."

Roy sighed and looked down the counter toward his lover.

"Edward, I have to tell you something," he said quietly,
tucking his hands in his pockets.

Ed looked over at him, eyebrows raised, expression confused.

"What is it?" he asked, taking a step closer. "What's
wrong?"

"There comes a time in everything relationship when things
change. We are, after all, individuals first and a couple second. I'm really
not sure how to put this," Roy said and gave Ed a small sad smile.

"Just... just say it," Ed said, a little breathlessly,
fists clenched.

"I'm tired of noodles and meat sauce and I want something
else," Roy said.

Ed stood for a moment, gaping. Then he gritted his teeth
and snarled.

"You bastard! How can you say something like that with
that serious tone? Damn, I thought something was really wrong!" Ed hissed.

"Guilty conscience?" the General asked with a smirk. "Look,
they have braised beef with vegetables, too."

"No, I want noodles and meat sauce, you get whatever you
want," Ed said, throwing nose in air. "You'll be sorry when we get home and
I'm not going to share."

"Ed, you have three basic food groups and they are: noodles
with meat sauce, ham sandwiches and mixed nuts. You really need to broaden your
horizons here," the General said, hands on hips. "It will be the other way around;
when we get home, you'll hang over your pasta bowl like a vulture while trying
to pick things off my plate."

"Like I want anything off your plate," Ed waved for the
girl behind the counter and she hurried over smiling.

"Your usual, Professor?" she asked pleasantly, getting
a container.

"Mix the meat sauces today Marie, if you don't mind,"
Ed said. "I'll have some of these rolls too, give me a half dozen."

Ed looked down the counter at Roy and gave his best haughty
air.

Roy turned and waved to another counter girl who rushed
over smiling and pointed at the chicken tetrazzini.

"Wait and see," he said to his lover who was accepting
his order over the top of the counter, (having to stand on tiptoe to do it
since the traitor General wasn't at his side arguing meat sauces as usual)
,
"I should make you a bet, because I know I'm going to win."

"Hmph," Ed said and preceded him to the check out. He
stood there and waited for Roy to join him so he could pay.


Ed sat the phonograph on the bathroom vanity and went
to get the requested disc, scowling. The General was in a tub of bubbly, teaming
water with a cigar, a glass of scotch, his newspaper and his dog in his lap.
Who knew terriers liked bubble baths?

"That bet was totally unfair," Edward groused when he
walked back in, carefully pulling the disc from its sleeve and putting it on
the turntable. "I didn't know that chicken tepid stuff had noodles with it."

Roy removed the cigar from his mouth, blew a satisfying
stream of smoke and sighed.

"This is what you get, my love, for not broadening your
horizons," Roy settled back more comfortably. "You should always listen to me;
I only have your best interests at heart."

Edward cranked the phonograph, toggled the switch and
put the needle onto the spinning disc.

"Your eyes on my ass too," Ed said as the music began
to play. He adjusted the volume, then picked up the book of matches and began
lighting all the candles he'd been ordered to carry in. "I can't believe you
prefer that dog in the bathtub instead of me," Ed complained.

"The terms of the bet were clearly stated in the car and
you agreed to them," the General said. "It's bad sportsmanship to whine about
it now. Dim the lights and don't be more than an earshot away, I'll probably
need another scotch soon."

Edward gritted his teeth, clenched his fists and restrained
himself from leaping over to the tub and drowning the smug bastard and his dog.
He forced himself to the light switch and turned it off, then stalked out and
down to the den to get the bottle of scotch. He returned to the bedroom and
sat on the bed with his arms folded; the last part of the bet called for nakedness,
splayed limbs and all the words to 'March of the Night Brigade' to be sung,
on command no less.

It was going to be a long night. Oh he'd cum a few times
to be certain, but a long night, nonetheless.


In the panting afterwards, when they could barely move,
the General whispered hoarsely in his ear, "Lose more bets."

"Yeah okay," Ed agreed dreamily.


He lost sight of Ed on the platform as the train was pulling
into the station. He'd taken off work early at Ed's behest so they could meet
the afternoon train; it was just fortunate Ed's class was an early morning one.
He stood on tiptoe trying to see the blond head in the mass of fellow platform
well wishers, but it was a lost cause. The General snorted, stuck his hands
into his coat pockets and just waited. He stood near the back of the mob so
he could catch sight of them as they headed for the exit.


As for the steady stream of passengers disembarking, Ed
only had eyes for one passenger in particular. He jostled with the rest of the
crowd and used his disadvantage to his advantage, ducking under raised arms
and twisting around blocking bodies.

Al came down the steps behind a woman with two small children.
He had a steadying hand on the back of the little girl before him and the mother
smiled warmly at him when he helped her daughter down the last step. Ed wasted
no time in heading for his brother.

"Al!" he called and Al turned then, expression turning
to joy.

"Brother!" Al said and closed the gap between them, dropping
his duffle and throwing his arms around Ed. Ed did the same and pressed his
forehead into his brother's shoulder. They stood there, other passengers streaming
around them and occasionally bumping them, but there were only the two of them
in the world.


The back seat of the car was a loud place to be.

"I thought the bastard had me, but you have really good
aim," Ed was laughing hard. "You got him right in the 'nads, do you remember
that?"

"Yes," Al said, also breathless with laughter. "He just
sort of doubled over and you started laughing and pointing. Of course then you
set that array and built that wall around him. That was great. We used to do
the most insane things," Al leaned heavily against Ed's shoulder.

"Yeah," Ed said, "we did. But we don't have to anymore."

"Hallelujah," said the driver of the car who'd just been
enjoying listening to the brothers' laughter.

Ed leaned forward then and ran a hand over Roy's shoulder,
catching the look Roy gave him in the rearview mirror and smiling with a sigh.

Al also smiled. His brother was happy, after everything
they had lived and lost, to finally have this peace was almost overwhelming.

"You know, now that I have this body back, I appreciate
how much that 'nads thing must have hurt," Al said suddenly. "In fact, I feel
kind of sorry for that guy now."

Ed howled in laughter and fell back on his little brother,
wrapping him in a hug again.

"Sympathy for your fellow man's 'nads is a wonderful thing,"
the General said laughing himself from the front seat.

"Stop," Ed pleaded. "You're killing me!"

"I have to figure out how they work again," Al said over
Ed's head. "I'd hate to think I've gotten rusty," and then Al howled in laughter
because that was ridiculously funny to him.

Ed shook him and butted him against the car seat, snickering.

"Armor! Rusty!" Al howled. "Get it? Get it?"

"You really do have your memories back to make jokes like
that," Ed said. "Your jokes always sucked," he was wiping tears of mirth out
of his eyes.

"Yeah, missed you too. loser," Al said and grinned when
Ed scowled. "I see you're dressing better though, all the General's influence
I'm sure."

"I dress myself," Ed said and pushed off of him, collapsing
beside him again, shoulder smashed to shoulder.

"I just undress him," the General said casually from the
front.

Both brothers snickered at that and Al poked Ed in the
ribs while Ed blushed.

"When are you going to make a decent man of my brother,
Pirate," Al said and kicked the back of Roy's seat slightly. "You've already
forced offspring on him, the least you could do it make it binding," he teased.

"R.D. may have to wallow in illegitimacy I'm afraid,"
the General lamented. "Your brother plays notoriously hard to get."

"That's right, I'm prize material," Ed sniffed. "I don't
just give it away for free, it has to be earned."

"Which is why you still have it," Al said. "You'd probably
do better with that 'giving it away free' option."

Edward attacked Al's ribs and Al screeched for mercy.
When they finally batted each other away, they grinned like loons at each other
from opposite sides of the back seat.

"Professor Elric," Al said. "That's damn right respectable,
brother. It really is the end of the world as we know it."

"Indeed," the General intoned from the front seat as Edward
snorted and huffed.

"Yeah," Ed said finally. "Aren't we glad?"

No one could argue with him.


The joyous reunion between faithful canine companion and
master was always a wonder to behold, but R.D. ignored Roy and Edward and did
laps of manic happiness at Al's presence. The three of them watched him lap
the living room and Roy tried to get his leash on him to take him out since
he'd been in the house all day. Finally, Ed tried to catch him as well, pelting
down the hall after him, half bent over, arms outstretched and yelling dog inspired
obscenities.

"He has such a way with animals," Al said and winced when
Ed ran into the kitchen door jamb.

"For someone who really despises that dog, he goes to
a lot of effort on his behalf," Roy chuckled. "Get this: he wants to landscape
the back yard. When I asked him why, he bristled and said it was butt ugly.
I asked him if he wanted to have gala tea parties like all the other General's
wives."

Al laughed and snorted. "What did he say then?"

"Things I don't care to repeat, but he let slip it was
so R.D would have shade when we put him out in the summer. That and he'll transmute
the fencing himself to make it escape proof," the General grinned.

Ed came back then, grumbling, carrying a wiggling R.D.
and scowled at the two of them. Roy hooked the collar on the little dog in Ed's
hands and Ed set him on the floor.

"I was thinking Ed," Roy said as he turned for the front
door, "you could make a grill for the backyard, too. One of those large brick
ones all the other Generals have."

"You bastard, are you telling Al about your General's
wives zinger," Ed snarled, "I hate you."

"I think that's a fabulous idea Pirate," Al piped up.
"You know, grilling is the manly way to cook," he nodded.

"Indeed," the General said, opening the front door and
letting R.D. drag him out. Al followed him and Ed whined and followed the two
of them. Roy stood off to the side and let R.D. inspect the bushes.

"Oh brother, you could make a deck," Al simpered.

"He could make a gazebo with those darling trellis sides
that the morning glories grow on to," the General added.

"A fish pond," Al exclaimed.

Edward turned around, went back into the house and slammed
the front door. Locking it was useless. Alphonse could transmute.


Edward had to be dragged out of Al's bedroom later in
the evening so everyone could get some sleep.

"He'll still be here in the morning," Roy said, wrapping
around the wiggling blond in bed. "You've got the weekend and then he'll be
here all week. You could invite him to sit in on your class."

Ed stilled for a moment in thought and went back to shifting
around.

"I know he'll be here in the morning, I just wanted to
keep talking to him," Edward groused. "It's not like we have to get up early."

"He was tired, he was drooping," Roy soothed. "I know
you love him and you're thrilled he's back and whole, but let the boy sleep,"
he chuckled.

"I'm not tired," Ed grumbled, then his eyebrows rose as
a hand smoothed down his stomach, into the front of his pajama pants and under
the waistband of his boxers.

"I can fix that," a husky voice said in his ear as deft
fingers wrapped around his cock.

"Don't I fix everything," the General whispered, pulling
his fingers up to the head and then back down in a leisurely motion.

"Y...yes," Ed swallowed, closing his eyes.

R.D. forced the door open, ran to the trunk and jumped
up on the foot of the bed. Edward froze up like a block of ice and twisted onto
his side, causing Roy's hand to slip free of its conquest.

Roy let his head thump onto the pillow and he sighed as
the little terrier ran up between them and licked Roy in the face.

R.D. settled down, oblivious to his disruptive presence
and pawed Roy's nose until the General gave him a scratch and a loud, plaintive
sigh.

"Don't blame me," Ed mumbled from the other side of the
bed. "You're the one who wanted kids."


Getting ready for a date had become more of a routine
for the Lieutenant Colonel in the last few years. He double checked himself
in the mirror a few times before deciding this was as good as it was going to
get. He then walked out into the front room of his small apartment and checked
his watch again. He had a few minutes before he really had to leave, so he stood
looking around for something that would require only a few minutes to do. He
snapped his fingers and popped his closed fist with the open palm of the other
hand before deciding he'd just be a little early and left.

He arrived outside the restaurant and lingered about,
looking up and down the walk for his erstwhile double dating partner. If Falman
stood him up... well he wasn't sure what he would do. After all, that had been
a pretty low trick, requisitioning him, even if the General had played along
with it.

"Hey, soldier boy," a voice called. He turned around and
grinned as a pair of girls walked toward him.

Sarah was wearing a nicely tight sweater under a jacket
with a dark skirt that hung to her mid-thighs, stockings and knee-high boots.
Her hair was high in a ponytail and she was grinning. He saluted her as she
approached and then noticed her friend beside her. He'd seen Abby at the restaurant
before, but never paid her that much attention. She was nice enough and cute
enough, but it always Sarah's cheerful voice and laugh that had attracted him.

Sarah laughed a little low for a girl, but it was always
husky and made him twitch in just the right way. She wasn't shy either, and
she proved it right away by latching onto his arm before introducing her friend.

"This is Abby," she said.

Havoc and Abby both smiled and said "Hi" at the same time.
Havoc tightened his elbow in a little, bringing Sarah's knuckles up against
his side. She just grinned at him and looked around.

"Where's Abby's date?" she asked.

"He'll be along," Havoc tried to sound reassuring. "He
might be running a little late."

"I'm right here Lieutenant," Falman's voice sounded just
behind him making him jump, turn and lose Sarah's grip on his arm. Havoc took
in his dark suit with its dark turtleneck and his familiar blank expression,
shrugged and turned to introduce him to his date.

"This is Second Lieutenant Vato Falman." Havoc said the
girl at Sarah's side, "Falman this is Abby..." he realized then he hadn't gotten
her last name.

"Abigail Thorton, but you can call me Abby," she filled
in for Havoc smoothly.

"Great, great," Havoc said and looked between the two.
He could tell Abby was giving Falman the cruise of death, but he wasn't sure
Falman was detecting it. Falman never seemed to open his eyes wide enough to
see anything, but at any rate, Havoc took Sarah's arm again, nodded toward the
restaurant and they all went in.

"Don't you get sick of this place?" Havoc asked as they
were seated. "I mean, you work here," he said.

"Nah," Sarah said. "At least I know the cooks and we eat
cheap, don't we Abby?" she said.

Abby nodded pleasantly, sitting in the same ramrod position
as Falman, across the table from them.

"So see, that's a break on you working boys," Sarah said.
"Besides, it's nice having the other slackers in here wait on me for a change,"
she didn't bother to look at her menu as Havoc opened his.

"This establishment," Falman stated slowly, "always passes
code for sanitation. Its food, while lacking in certain nutritional values,
is adequate and fairly priced."

Havoc supposed this was Falman's way of giving the place
a compliment.

"Oh yes," Abby chirped. "We've very hygiene minded here.
Unfortunately it's easier and cheaper to get the lower cuts of meat, but I think
our cook does a marvelous job with what we give him. Annie herself knows her
clientele is all from the military base and she knows what pittances you get
paid, so she does her best." Abby then folder her hands back in her lap and
went back to her pleasant smile.

Havoc looked side long at Sarah who was smiling back at
her friend. She noticed his look and looked at him, giving him a wicked little
smirk and a raise of the eyebrow. She bumped her booted foot against the side
of his shoe.

"I find that many people don't concern themselves as they
should with caloric intake," Falman droned. "For example, a co-worker of ours
who I have been trying to minister to for the past several years: his eating
habits are not really fit for a domestic canine and yet he refuses to heed even
the most basic advice on food group choices."

"Breda will eat anything edible that's not tied down,"
Havoc chucked. "But that's not a problem, some guys like their grub."

"It's most distressing when someone you truly care to
offer advice to doesn't take it," Abby sympathized. "My own mother was in a
bit of a pinch with her joints and I happen to know that gelatin is excellent
for joints. So I advised her to eat plenty of salad molds and gelatin desserts
in an effort to relieve her symptoms, but I really don't think she's taking
my advice," Abby finished her sad little tale and pouted with her lower lip,
just barely.

Falman turned to look at her then and Havoc noticed his
mouth wasn't drawn quite so tight and his eyes were open just a wee bit.

"There are other external remedies for joints," Falman
said. Abby met his eyes and they stared at each other for a long moment, then
Falman launched into the newest technology, which was external heating pads,
and Abby clasped her hands together, tilted her face and listened to his wisdom.

"Match made in heaven," Havoc murmured, shocked and mesmerized
for a few moments.

"Bet they ditch us before we ditch them," Sarah giggled.

This just might be love, Havoc thought dazedly,
looking down into her laughing eyes.


Saturday morning had dawned differently in the Elric-Mustang
household. It found the two brothers in the back yard with determined faces
and a terrier going berserk at the end of a leash. The General stood in the
back door, sipping coffee.

There was much pointing and discussion and General ignoring.

To make up for teasing Ed about being a General's wife,
Al had volunteered to help him plan out the backyard architecture.

Al found a stick and began to sketch in the dirt, but
his elder brother rubbed his chin and shook his head and tried to take Al's
stick to scratch his own thoughts in the dirt. Al didn't want to relinquish his
stick, he'd found it after all, Ed could just find his own.

This of course turned into a minor brawl with Al cheerfully
holding the stick up over his head, which was fine until Ed lost it and jumped
on him. In the ensuing struggle, R.D. planned and executed his bid for freedom
and won it. The General watched the brothers get to their feet and chase after
the little dog through to the next backyard, then turned around and went back
for more coffee.


The dog bounty hunters returned haggard and out of breath
with a puppy tucked firmly under Al's arm. They arrived in the kitchen where
Ed immediately horned in on Roy's breakfast and Al got some juice from the icebox.
Al plopped down opposite the pair and watched his brother eat most of the General's
breakfast, who indulged him while reading the morning paper.

"Hey," Al said, "you know we could write the Tringhams,
ask them for advice. Maybe one of them could come grow a tree or two for us."

"It's a thought," Ed said. "I know Fletcher is stationed
in the mid-lands and works at one of the military-run botany labs there."

"Yes," Al said. "He wrote me when I was doing my own brand
of botanical research," Al tilted his head. "I didn't remember him at the time,
but now I do. He was really nice."

"The older boy is the one who found you in the underground
city," the General said. "You might not remember that."

"I owe him my thanks then," Al said.

"I do too," Ed said. "I didn't know it was Russell."

"Well, he and a woman named Rose," Roy recalled.

"Rose is fine, I write to her all the time," Al said.
"She's married now and living in Dublith. She has a second son too, she's been
married for about three years."

"I'm glad to hear it," Ed said. "I admit I never really
inquired after her when I came back, but I'm still glad to hear she's doing
okay."

"You know about teacher," Al said quietly, running his
thumb up and down the side of his juice glass.

"Yes," Ed said just as quietly. "I've written a few letters
to Sigh and he's responded. I'm just glad she was there for you, Al. It makes
having left you alone all that time a little easier."

Roy reached over and rubbed his hand over Ed's shoulder
and the back of his neck.

"I wish I could have seen her one more time before she..."
but he didn't want to say it and Al was looking at the tabletop now.

"We need to plan Al's eighteenth birthday bash," Roy said
to break the mood. "I've spoken to Gracia. She and Elysia will be coming to
stay with us and help us poor bachelor men throw a decent party."

Al looked up then and smiled. Ed did too, looking at his
younger brother across the table.

"Who should we invite?" Al said.

"I say anyone who wants to come," Ed replied. "All the
guys at the office, maybe some of your General friends," he smirked to Roy.

"See, I knew you wanted to have a party," Roy ran his
hand down Ed's back and patted his rump. "You're a fine wife out to further
my career."

"Fuck you," Ed snarled. "Which is something a wife couldn't
do. You forget we can play change up in the 'who tops who' game," and he snorted,
remembered Al was there, and turned bright red.

"Taking R.D. back out," Al said loudly as he got up from
the table.


"The kids are gone," the General said with a smirk. "Kiss
me."

"No way," Ed pushed away and got up from the table. "I
can't believe I let you provoke me into that in front of Al," Ed groaned. "He
was beet red."

"No redder than you were," Roy chuckled getting up and
crowding Ed into the wall by the table.

"Get off," Ed said without much conviction, getting lost
in a moan when Roy covered his mouth with his own. Roy pulled back a bit and
ran his thumb over a full bottom lip.

"You need to make up to me for last night," he said. "Spurning
me like that, you know how delicate my feelings are," he grinned.

"Delicate my ass," Ed huffed. "It's your fault for not
making sure your dog was locked up for the night. Hey... hey..." As Edward talked,
Roy's hand traveled. Edward gritted his teeth and arched away from the wall
into the hand rubbing him through his jeans.

Roy ground hard with the heel of his hand and Edward licked
his lips as the fingers of his flesh hand dug into the front of Roy's shirt.
Roy took his mouth again and leaned into him, his other hand going for the button
of Ed's jeans. Ed whimpered into his mouth and his automail hand slid down the
arm rubbing him, cupped over Roy's hand and pressed it into himself harder.

Roy appreciated Ed's jean's tightness. He really did when
Ed was walking around the house or bending over. They were nice and defining
and let Roy see what he had to look forward to in bed that night, but trying
to get his hand down the front of them with a squirming Edward pinned to the
wall wasn't making him a fan at the moment. He abandoned the rubbing for a moment,
(and Edward let him know his displeasure with a low grunt and yank on his
shirtfront)
, so he could use both hands to get the jeans sufficiently open.
He managed it barely and shoved his hand down into them, dragging his palm over
Ed's hard cock.

Ed closed his eyes as he began the bump and grind against
Roy's hand. Roy tightened his fingers obligingly, squeezing rhythmically, because
moving his hand up and down in the confined space seemed to be a bit of a problem.
Many long heated moments followed, Ed pulling at his shoulders, trying to drive
his tongue down his throat, Roy squeezing harder and harder and bumping and
grinding himself a bit against Ed's hard thigh. Roy pushed his free hand beneath
Ed's sweater and dragged it up, thumb brushing a hard nipple. Ed shuddered and
moaned lowly, thrust harder against Roy's trapped hand and Roy latched onto
the side of his neck.

Just when it looked like Edward needed to be lain on the
kitchen table and his jeans yanked to his ankles, the kitchen back door swung
open and in trotted R.D. with Al at the end of his leash. Everyone went still
and silent. Ed's eyes became saucers and he slammed his hips back to the wall,
but Roy's hand was well and truly stuck down the front of his tight jeans, with
Ed's erection giving it no real room to maneuver even though the General tugged.
Ed's stomach and chest were also bare as Roy had pushed his sweater up to bunch
under his chin on one side, but the General wasn't one to panic. He merely shifted
fully in front of Edward to block him from view as his lover flushed to the
very roots of his blond hair.

"R.D. and I are going back out," Al announced loudly.
"We'll probably go around the block a dozen times or so," and he backed hastily
out the way he'd come in, tugging R.D. out the door by the leash. The little
dog continued to stare at them until he was forced out, the kitchen door slamming
shut quickly and a little too hard.

Ed whimpered then and seemed to squirm to get away, but
Roy leaned into him hard.

"No," he said husky and low, "no Ed... god just let me..."
his lips moved over Ed's cheek and jaw and down the side of his neck.

He began moving his trapped hand and then thrust his own
hips against it as well, fingers threading into the blond hair at the nape
of Ed's neck and Ed arched from the wall again. Roy was alarmed at first that
it might be another attempt to throw him off, but despite the blush that had
worked its way down his throat and toward his chest, it wasn't. Ed's automail
hand grabbed Roy's butt and pulled.

All the almost flesh on flesh of their crotches was becoming
unbearable. Roy turned Ed and forced him back, laying him on the kitchen table
as he'd fantasized about earlier. Edward sucked in a hard breath as Roy gave
a firm tug and his hand pulled free. He then used both of them to grip the waist
band of the jeans, shimmying them back and forth over Edward's hips and down
to his ankles, his boxers going along with them. He then yanked them free of
one foot after pulling his boot off. Edward sat up as Roy worked on his own
pants for a moment, a smile tugging at his face.

"This seems familiar," he said. Roy raised a dark eye
and eyebrow to him.

"Same table even," Ed patted it and reached out, grabbing
Roy by his upper arms and pulling him between his parted knees.

"You must have a thing for kitchen tables, old man," he
husked. "The very first time you put the moves on me, you sat my ass on this
kitchen table," and he leaned up and covered Roy's mouth before the man could
speak, instead moaning into Ed's throat.

Roy had his pants open by then and he kissed back heatedly.
Ed was irresistibly sexy at the moment and coherent thought was beyond him,
or he would have had a witty come back to that 'old man' barb. Then Edward was
touching him with his flesh hand, sliding up the underside of Roy's own erection.
He had his hand palm up and caught the head of Roy's cock between his fingers,
pressing to either side of it with his knuckles.

Ed released Roy's mouth and gave the head a light squeeze.

"Full circle, eh old man?" he murmured with mirth in his
tone, licking the side of Roy's neck and mouthing it. Roy leaned over him then,
pressing him onto this back and then realizing the oil was in a cabinet way
over there... or in the bedroom in an ornate bottle on the bedside table.

Ed was being adorable now; he knew how to push all of
Roy's buttons. He grasped the General's thighs with his knees and made pleading
whimpers in his throat, tugging on the General's shirtfront with growing force.
Roy's mind glazed and he wondered if he could walk as hard as he was and carry
Ed at the same time. This had gone beyond a kitchen wall grope; this needed
a bed in a bedroom.

Nothing ventured, nothing gained. Ed let out a squawk
and a whoosh of air as he was suddenly thrown over Roy's shoulder. The General
set his jaw and he marched with Ed complaining the entire way down to the bedroom
where he walked in, shut the door behind them, approached the bed and tossed
Ed down onto it.

Ed blinked up at him and then grinned, stretching and
hold his arms out, but the General had a funny look on his face and he slowly
put a hand to the small of his back and leaned over Ed with his other hand braced
on the bed.

"Roy?" Ed asked, pushing up on his elbows.

"We have somehow displeased the sex gods," Roy whined.
"I think my back is out."

"Well that's okay," Ed said, sounding desperate. "Just
use your mouth!"

Roy lifted his head as fast as the pain radiating from
his lower back would allow and scowled at Edward. Edward sucked in his lower
lip and arched his hips hopefully.

"Don't get me wrong, that is very inviting and very lovely
of you to offer," the General forced through his gritted teeth, "but I'm thinking
more along the lines of the ligament ointment and borrowing your heating pad."

"Damnit Roy," Ed snarled and flipped onto his stomach,
wiggling over to the other side of the bed. He had to right his jeans, yank
them up and button them over his painfully obvious erection before stomping
off toward the bathroom.

"Your concern is overwhelming," the General said wryly.

"It's not my fault you wanted to play macho," Ed said
coming back and setting the ointment on the bedside table along with a towel
and then going to pull his heating pad out of the highboy.

He turned around and looked at Roy who was giving him
the pitiful 'You're-so-unromantic' look like he often did and sighed.

"Okay, I'm sorry," the blond said. "It was very thrilling
to be slung over your shoulder. I was truly wooed with your show of brutish
desire." Ed walked back, leaned over his back and put his arms around him, working
the buttons loose on his shirt.

"It's a real shame," Ed said. "Rubbing ointment all over
your naked back is going to do nothing for my boner. I'll just have to go in
the bathroom and take care of it before Al comes home."

Roy moaned a little at the mental image and then gasped
as Ed eased him down onto the bed, scooting him up on it and relieving him of
his shoes.

"All alone in the bathroom, just me and my hand," Ed lamented.
"Thoughts of you of course to help it along its way." Ed opened up the ointment,
poured a bit on Roy's lower back and began to work it in with slow, circular
motions of his flesh hand.

"You're doing this on purpose," the General said muffled
in the comforter.

"Of course I am," Ed said. "What fun would it be to do
it otherwise?"

He got the ointment worked in, laid the towel over Roy's
back, followed by the heating pad and plugged it in. He made a production of
shutting the bathroom door loudly as he left the General lying there.

Roy had to work out the appropriate sacrifices to the
sex gods and soon. Otherwise, he might die.


Little brother was always the best distraction. They sat
in the den on the couch under the window and relived many of their experiences.
Eventually, the General made an appearance, looking heroically pale and grim
and they fawned on him. They got him comfy in his big chair, they cranked his
phonograph for him, and they fetched the evening paper for him. Then they left
him all alone claiming they were going to go cook dinner for him.

When he was reasonably sure dinner couldn't be taking
this long, he managed to get out of the chair on his own and go in a
slow, shuffling search of the house. He found them in the kitchen all right,
with the makings of dinner strewn about, but they were both at the kitchen table,
heads tipped over an old cookbook they'd found in a barn in the days of their
youth.

"I just don't understand how a 'dash' can be a sound form
of measurement," Edward was murmuring when Roy made the kitchen door.

"It's an accent," Al said. "It's not an absolute. I know
that alchemy starts in the kitchen, but cooking isn't alchemy, brother. You
were always so good at playing fast and hard with the rules before."

"Are we ever going to eat," the General said grumpily.

"You shouldn't be up and moving around Pirate," Al said,
not at all put off by the General's surly tone. "Back injuries need rest and
immobility."

"We'll eat when we get it cooked," Ed snapped back, however.
"Unless you think you can do a better job."

"Brother," Al chided gently, bumping Ed's shoulder with
his own.

"Well he's awful bossy for not being in here helping,"
Ed sniffed indignantly.

"He threw his back out," Al defended his Pirate. "He's
not moving around too well, it must hurt."

"Well it was his own fault," Ed countered.

Roy glared for a moment then let his look turn pouting
and hurt. He put his nose in the air, turned with all the dignity he could muster,
(which wasn't much while shuffling), and left them there.

Ed fidgeted and sucked in the side of his cheek.

"You should be ashamed," his little brother said. "He
hurt his back... um... with you, didn't he?"

Ed colored up and shrugged.

"Sorry you... you had to see that in the kitchen," he
mumbled.

"You have nothing to be sorry about brother," Al grinned.
"I know the General loves you and you love him. It's nice, really. I hope I
can have that some day."

"You most definitely will," Ed grinned, throwing an arm
over Al's shoulders as they leaned over the table.

"Do you think you could help me with something then?"
Al asked suddenly.

"Anything," his big brother said easily. "Anything you
want, Al."

"How did you win the General," Al said. "I really want
to know. What made him decide he loved you? What did you do?"

Ed faltered a little under Al's questioning gaze.

"I don't know really," Ed said honestly. "It just happened.
I was yelling at him and then he was kissing me and... " Ed spread his arms.
"It just happened."

"Well that's not much help," Al said and snorted.

"But that's all I got," his older brother sighed. "I don't
know, I think I always just loved the bastard and I'm not sure why. Come on,
let's feed him."

Al nodded and went over to the counter; Ed went over to
help him.

"You always just loved him," Al murmured, a statement
more than a question.

"When I think back on it, I remember I didn't love him
when we were first here," Ed said. "But later on, I think it just happened.
I can't pinpoint it." He peeled an onion and got a knife from the butcher block.

"What about if there was someone I always just loved,"
Al said and looked sidelong at his brother. "How do I show that? I mean what
do I do?"

Ed looked at him then, rolling the onion in his hands.

"Is it Hawkeye?" his elder brother said. "I mean, I should
have guessed the way you used to follow her around when we were in East City
between missions, but you know me, blind until it slaps me in the face."

"You are very subtlety challenged, I agree," Al said,
putting a pan on the stove and getting the block of butter from the icebox.
"But I don't know if it was love then. I respected her because she was so smart
and then yeah, I started to notice she was really pretty."

"So what is it like now, working with her as a Colonel?"
Ed asked.

"It's great," Al said. "She's just as brilliant and beautiful
as ever and she's getting the respect she deserves. It's one of the reasons
I want to work contractually for the military once I'm a civilian, so I can
stay close to her."

Ed put the onion on the cutting board finally and frowned
a little as he cut it in half to chop.

"Don't be like that brother," Al said. "You know my home
is here with you and the Pirate, but that's just it. It should be you
and the Pirate. I know I don't get in the way," Al headed off Ed's protest,
"but you are off having your life now."

Ed blinked and then turned to look at Al.

"This is your happily ever after Ed," Al said. "I need
to go find mine."

"I'll help you any way I can," his big brother said after
a moment. "I'll do whatever I can to help you make it come true."

Al smiled then let his hand linger on the automail hand
handling an onion on the cutting board.

"I know you will," Al said. "I always have faith in you,
brother."

They bumped shoulders again.


The foursome exited the restaurant and stood on the walk
outside to decide what to do next. Abby fingered her lower lip and smiled at
her friend.

"Sarah, you don't mind if Vato and I leave you and Jean
to go for coffee do you?" she ventured. "I know you want to go to the dance
hall, but swing isn't my thing." She pleaded with her eyes.

"Oh well," Sarah put on a big show of being disappointed.
"I guess that's alright, I mean, soldier boy and I were just going to go and
listen to the band, but if you're not into it, you're not into it." She gave
her own smile and shrug.

"You're really the best," Abby gushed. "And thank you
so much Jean for introducing me to your friend," she tucked her arm into Falman's
and the man bent his elbow just enough for her to do so.

"Not a problem," Havoc grinned. "He just oozes charm,
I knew you'd hit it off the moment Sarah mentioned it."

Falman's eyebrow twitched slightly; really it was the
most reaction Havoc had seen out of the man ever. He was feeling rather glad
he more or less forced this on him.

"Okay, we'll be going then," Abby said.

"Good evening Miss Sarah, Lietuenant Colonel," Falman
said.

"Have fun," Havoc called after them, "don't do anything
I wouldn't do."

"Hopefully that isn't a lot," Sarah said and grabbed his
hand. "Come on soldier boy, there is a dance floor calling our name."

Havoc grinned and let her drag him away.


The place was packed and dense with smoke and loud laughter.
The band was at a fevered pitch and Sarah wasted no time dragging him right
into the middle of the throng on the dance floor. He had not picked up much
swing, but the way she moved and invited, showing him with her hands and body,
it didn't take long to catch on. It was not just a dance; this effortless breeze
of steps and turns, this disjointed and random journey around the dance floor,
it was a proving ground.

They were learning each other, through mood and music
and sight. He anticipated her, she allowed him to lead. It was a test and Havoc
threw himself into the study wholeheartedly. He had dated many girls in the
past few years; not as impressive as his General back in his day, but enough
to keep him pleasantly occupied in his free time and no longer bemoaning his
romantic misfortune.

Each time he spun her, pushing her away and drawing her
back against his body was another exhilaration. She laughed and her long hair
swirled about her body; she leaned into his lead, trusted him with each
step and he was marveled at her tenacity. She was just this side of dangerous
and just this side of wild and he felt ready for such an adventure, he felt
it was time to try and make something last.

The music ended all too soon and they stood panting and
clapping with the other dancers, all of whom, like they, were learning their
partner's moves. The bandleader gestured with his baton and a young soldier
stepped up to the microphone.

"We're going to give all you guys and dolls a break,"
the man said. "We're going to do all you guys a favor, this one is gonna be
nice and slow, so pull her close and look into her eyes and be glad you're here
tonight."

The bandleader counted out the rhythm and his baton waved
and the horns rang in clear and true, followed by the bass and drums.

Got my tweed pressed, got my best vest, all I need
now is the girl

Got my striped tie, got my hopes high

Sarah curved into him gracefully as they began to sway
and smiled up at him, still breathless from the frenzy of swing they'd danced
only moments before.

Got the time and the place and I got the rhythm,

Now all I need's the girl to go with 'em

"I think I've got a girl to go with 'em," Havoc quipped
and grinned.

"Yeah," she said, "I think you do."

The rest of the night moved in the same way, from frenetic
motion to slow appreciation.

Yeah, Havoc could live with this.