sky dark

True Story

chapter 2. Part Two

Havoc held up the magazine. He was holding it by the top of the centerfold, and they were all eyeing it critically, then looking up at a huge statue that had appeared out of nowhere in the General and Ed's back yard.

"That," Breda slurred, "is a damn fine likeness."

There was lots of mumbled male agreement. Some shifting and adjusting of pants. Ed growled from somewhere at the back of the group and the general made a sound like he'd been hit.

"I don't see how she keeps her balance, though," the General pointed out, then belched loudly, excused himself and down another half pint of beer. There was more growling from Ed.

Fuery adjusted his glass, he was leaning back so far that the General had a hand on his back to keep him from tipping right over; then again, the view was probably more magnificent from the ground, so the general moved his hand and let him fall.

"I...I didn't know you had it in you, Al," Ed said faintly, absently lifting his own beer mug and with a quick back jerk of his head, killing what was left in his mug. He staggered back and the general caught him, holding him up with a hand on his back.

"My last nights as a free man!" Al said with drunken glee. "Havoc said I'm a goody two shoes what ain't done nothin' to get me through my old age...that's good advice, damn good advice.." Al had a moment or two to sniffle over the heart warming comrade re of his fellow drunks. "I can't let her marry a guy what ain't done nothin'! I gotta do something."

"I can't believe we have a huge, naked effigy of Miss July to dance naked around, we need some firewood," Havoc sobbed, then he flung himself on Al and the two weaved around, pounding each other's backs and slobbering about their perspective mates; and how they were superior women and maybe Al should transmute huge naked effigies of them as well.

Ed tackled Havoc then, taking Al down as well and they all lay in a huddle on the ground. Ed yelling about not wanting to die by gunfire, and Al gushing about Riza's breasts, (which no one wanted to hear.. but really did), and Havoc wanting to know how Al knew what Sarah looked like naked.

"Good times," Breda said, wiping at his eyes, "good times."

Fuery appeared to have fallen asleep lying there gazing up at a stone bosom big enough to crush a small car and the General had this little knowing smile on his face and murmured something that sounded like he was talking about Riza's breasts himself. Some of the other bachelor party goers had started to stumble out of what was left of Roy and Ed's house only to end up bowing in worship of the monstrous stone goddess that had appeared naked in the backyard.

It was much rumored at headquarters later that on certain nights, when the beer was freely flowing and the moon was high in the sky, that in a flash of blue lighting, Miss July would appear and bless anyone who beheld her with incredible virility for the coming year.

It had indeed been a bachelor party for the decades.

They bowed to him. He tried to walk past them but they rushed to get back in front of him and bow again.

"Please honor us with your presence!" they chanted in unison and then rushed to catch up to him when he darted by them and trotted down the hall.

"Look, I can't just leave school and go out! It's not done like that here, you'll get in trouble. I'm not telling you not to go if you want, but I'm telling you that if you get caught you'll get in trouble," Charles said, trying to speed walk away from the xingian twins at his heel.

"There will be no trouble," one of them assured him, hurrying up on his right side.

"We are royalty, so it can be smoothed over for us," the other one said, hurrying up on his left side.

"Well I'm not royalty and if I so much as sneeze the wrong way my Uncle knows it. So how do you think I can conceivably sneak out of the academy and go into town for lunch? Let's just eat here, in the cafeteria!"

They both made the same dismissive sound.

"Everything is taken care of," the one on the right said.

"We have hired a stand-in for you," the one on the left said.

"WHAT?" Charles came to an abrupt halt and the twins had to turn hurriedly and they bowed again in front of him. "What do you mean a stand-in? I can't have a stand-in! The teacher will know that it's not me! You're getting me in trouble and you promised you wouldn't!"

"No one will know," the one of the right placated, smiling.

"He is your height, and blond, and he will sit in the back of the class, unobtrusively. He knows how to make himself inconspicuous," the other informed him.

"He is blond because of the wig, but no one will notice. He is masterful at disguise," the smiling one said again.

"He has had many years of training in the special arts to be able to perfect his technique," the other supplied.

Charles windmilled, it was something he'd inherited honestly. Al was never sure how he managed to pass on his brother's windmilling gene to his son, but somehow Ed's genes were strong enough to pass through blood relatives to the next generation.

"What are you trying to do to me?! Oh god, where is he? I have to beat him to class! You find him and tell him not to come," Charles managed to make his feet move again.

"Oh it's too late," one twin informed him solemnly, trotting to keep up.

"He's far to efficient, I suppose he has already convinced Larry that he is you," the other said, finger on chin, also trotting to keep up.

"What? He'd never! Larry isn't stupid," Charles growled, wishing he had an engine he could attach directly to his back and skates on his shoes. Then he could get to class, head off this disaster in the making and escape Five and Six, all in one fell swoop.

Five and Six exchanged a glance between themselves as they rushed along, flanking their Elric.

"We beg to differ," they said in unison.

Charles went to round the corner that would spill him out into the hallway where his next classroom was located. One of the twins snagged his shoulder and spun him neatly around, the other one snagged his arm and pulled him over to the wall and pressed him against it. They both held a finger up to their lips and slowly, the three of them leaned around the corner.

"You're being really quiet today," Larry was saying to some blond boy that stood with his back to the three of them. "What happened? You sick or something?"

Whoever Larry was talking to merely shrugged his shoulders and that caused Larry to shrug his shoulders as well.

"Ok, whatever, better get a move on though, Chris is already in class. Why'd you tell him to sit all the way in the back...?," and Larry and the False Charles, went through the doorway.

The True Charles was sure the coolness he felt on the bottom of his chin was because his jaw was resting on the tiled hallway floor.

"Oh good, it looks like Charlie can join us for lunch," one of the twins said, lifting a hand with a long silk sleeve over it to his mouth.

"We have just the place in mind, Charlie will like it. It's traditional xingian cuisine," the other said copying his siblings move.

"Don't call me Charlie," Charles said weakly, turning back and leaning against the wall. "I can't believe... I... what was that?" He reached up and rubbed at his face.

"We have to call you Charlie," one of them said.

"Yes, otherwise how can we tell you from the Charles over there," the other one piped up.

"Because that's not me," Charles stressed, jutting his jaw forward. "It's just someone you got to pretend to be me! I'm Charles," and he poked himself in the chest.

"He is really so good at being you that it's hard to tell," the twin on the right said.

"We would become confused if we saw you together," the one on the left said earnestly.

"I have to go and tell the teacher, if my Uncle finds out I am all kinds of dead. And when I'm dead, and rotting? I'm so coming back to haunt the two of you and drive you insane, I swear," Charles said, voice and hands shaking a bit.

"No one will find out," thing one (formerly known as the twin on the right) said, taking his right arm.

"You can trust us," thing two (formerly known as the twin on the left) said, taking his left arm.

"Leave everything to us," they said together, and steered Charles away down the hall.

The general has his eye covered again. He had his palm over it and he was leaning it into his elbow propped on the desk. He was muttering to himself to, he did this occasionally. He was usually pretty jumpy for a bit, then eventually he'd uncover his eye and be ok. Breda would give Havoc looks and Havoc in return would shake his head just a little and do that thing that meant Breda should be quite and not talk about it; well at least not where the general could hear. Falman and Fuery would also give Havoc looks and get the same treatment. It was common enough now, so they did the 'look and shush' thing out of habit mostly. No one really talked about it. It'd been that way ever since what happened in the underground city happened all those years ago.

Breda hoped it would be through by lunch, because if he was doing during lunch and you tried to get up and leave the room he'd whip his head up and look at you. He'd uncover the eye and blink and just look at you and well, it was creepy. Then after a second or two he seem to act like he just recognized you and be all pissy when he asked where you were going. It was really best just to leave him the hell alone when he was like this; because man, did it put him in a bad mood.

Havoc was sort of pacing back and forth near the doorway. He had some papers in his hand and he seemed to be weighing his options before approaching. He gave Breda a look and Breda shrugged like; 'What do you want me to do about it?' and Havoc shook his head and sighed. He looked down at the papers again, then at his wrist watch, took a deep breath and approached the desk.

As predicted the generals head snapped up and he uncovered his eye and he looked at Havoc, hard and with this strange expression; but abruptly the expression smoothed out and he snorted and gestured curtly.

"What is it, Colonel?" he asked , lip curling back a bit.

"Signatures, sir," Havoc said with a salute. "As you know the military cannot function without spreading a few barrels of ink around each day," and he gave a little grin.

The general held his hand out, making and impatient gesture and Havoc slapped the forms into his hand, milled about in front of his desk; almost touched a silver flame etched pen in a holder before remembering that was a 'no-no'.

The general was staring at the papers he'd laid on his desk, pen poised but not moving. It was just some standard procedural forms, and Havoc was about to say, but he noticed the general wasn't actually looking at the forms. The general had become the master of looking at nothing so intensely you could swear something was there.

"Hello, Central Headquarters to General Mustang, do you read us, sir, over," Havoc tried to joke, but the general didn't look up. He glanced at Fuery who shrugged helplessly. This was getting more and more frequent and surely something was being done about it. But Ed hadn't mentioned anything to him, and he and Ed were pretty good confidants. He knew that the general was prone to nightmares, hell, who wasn't with everything they'd seen. But Ed let slip that Roy sometimes babbled on and on, and while it could be gibberish, Ed thought not. It was too structured, too repetitive.

"It's another language," Ed had said in a hushed tone, glancing down the bar to where Roy stood with Al and Falman.

"General," Havoc barked in a tone he reserved for much lower ranks, and the general jumped, blinked at Havoc rapidly and looked around the room as if he'd just woken up.

"I'm...sorry?" the general said, sounding bewildered, "did you need something Colonel Havoc?"

Havoc just leaned forward and tapped the papers lying on the general's desk and the general looked at them, once again as if seeing them for the first time, then nodded and started to sign them.

Havoc was cornering Ed this week on bowling night. They were going to have a discussion.

One of everything.

At least that's what it felt like. Dish after dish, bowl after bowl; an endless stream of smiling servers, eager to fall all over themselves, all in the name of making sure there was enough lunch on the table to feed not only the three of them, but ever passerby on the sidewalk outside.

The twins picked up two long, thin wooden sticks at the same time, poised in the same way, they looked at him expectantly. Every nerve in his body twitched and he was sure, he was just positive that any moment his uncle, (or worse, his mother), was going to leap out of that hiding place behind the fake potted bush and it would be the end of him.

The end of him as he knew it; they would finish him, probably together. One of them would catch him then call for the other one. There would be no coming back.

"Eat," came the chorus, they clicked their sticks together.

"I don't think I can," he said woozily, the very thought of eating something that his mother or uncle were just going to squeeze out of him as they crushed him slowly, didn't make for a very good appetite.

"But we came all the way here," one twin said mournfully.

"In your honor," the other one echoed the formers sorrow.

"I know, but really, we shouldn't be off academy grounds, we'll get in all kinds of trouble if we're caught," Charles blanched, what was this, he was sounding like some sort of good two shoes, OH NO, his mother and uncle had brainwashed him; and they both looked so crestfallen, he gave a sigh and picked up his sticks, trying to mimic the way the twins held them.

They both brightened immediately and one of them stabbed their sticks into a bowl coming up with something which was immediately offered to Charles.

"Try this," said the boy behind the huge grin and black eyes, "in my country it's a delicacy!"

"They say it is like divine manna from heaven," the boy's mirror image purred and they both looked at him, looking hopeful and expectant. The thing that was being pinched between the sticks was trying valiantly to get away.

Charles could feel his lips moving, but didn't hear himself saying anything. Five, because maybe this was Five, he wasn't sure but he couldn't just keep classifying them both as twin, dropped it in his plate. The thing lay there, quivering as if stunned.

"Don't just drop it like that," Six scoffed, "besides, this is much better!" Six proffered a bowl and Charles glanced into it hopefully while have keeping an eye on the recovering thing on his plate. He squinted hard at the contents of the bowl. It appeared to be filled with small, crispy brown things. Small, crispy oblong brown things. Fried, he presumed. He reached into take one and held it up to examine it before taking a sniff, that was when he noticed this delicacy also had legs. In fact, this delicacy looked an awful lot like the large bugs that boldly roamed the old dank storage room at the academy. The storage room everyone got locked in at least once, although no one locked Charles in there, that was totally an accident, or at least it better have been. If watching Larry totally take to an obvious impostor, mistaking it for him, then who was Larry to judge if the locking-in had been accidental or not. He and Larry would have a talk.

"Is...this a...bug?" he asked in what he hoped was not to horrified a tone.

"Only the crunchiest for you," Five assured with a smile.

The thing on Charles' plate was looking much more focused now, it seemed to be gathering itself for something, perhaps some sort of retaliatory attack. Maybe it was hungry. Charles dropped the crispy bug down near what he presumed was the things mouth and sat back, hoping his offering would stall the lunch specials wrath.

"Oh this is lovely," cooed Five, "see? It's squid legs delicately seasoned in persimmon vinegar, this is particularly favored dish at the royal table back home," he proffered the bowl with much enthusiasm.

"Or," put in Six, "it could be pork intestines. It's very interesting how they look so much alike. I think even the best of cooks might have a problem distinguishing them. Our grandfather, the Emperor, says that either way, they are a most satisfying meal."

"Are there any dumplings?" Charles said weakly, watching part of his lunch now make a break for freedom along the edge of the table carrying the hapless fried bug with it. "I like dumplings," he offered.

The twins searched around the table before locating a plate, they offered it together, each with a hand gripping it's edge.

"This is dumpling surprised," the chorused. "You never know what exactly you're going to get!"

"Hope for boiled cow's eyes," Five encouraged, "their gelatinous texture squishes between your teeth and coated your tongue in cow flavored goodness."

"No, wish for sheep bladder," Six countered, "in the traditional medicines of our country it's very fortifying to eat sheep's bladder, it aids digestion."

"Is there a bathroom?" Charles asked, reaching up to cover his mouth.

"Are you not feeling well?" Six asked, cocking an eyebrow.

"You seem a little pale," Five offered, then started poking about the table. "I'm sure there is a dish of brined fish gills here, that will take care of many aliments."

Not that Charles thought throwing up on the table would affect any contents of the dishes there, he just didn't want to appear rude. He hastily slid out of his chair and ran for the back of the restaurant, past several still smiling servers carrying steaming bowls of palatable doom and because the flailing for 'where is your bathroom I have to throw up!' is universal, he quickly got pointed in that direction.

His time in the tiny bathroom seem inordinately long, and he was glad, because if he wasted enough time here then they would be forced to leave in order to make it back to the academy before lunch break was over, and he wouldn't get to try a thing, oh no, what a shame. He washed his face for the fifth time, took a deep breath, and proceeded out of the bathroom. He made it a point not to look toward the kitchens as he walked back up the middle isle to where the twins sat, watching him. He was sure that if he didn't see anything in the kitchens, he could never be asked to testify, because surely, one day, this restaurant was going to do somebody in.

"Charles," came a call from his left and he paused to look in that direction, then froze.

His father blinked at him. He and Mr. Altmier, one of his father's employees, were sitting at a small table just to the left of the fake potted bush. All the blood in Charles brain congealed and he was right, the restaurant was going to do somebody in, himself, and he hadn't eaten a single thing.

"Hughes would have loved this," Roy said, plopping down in a butt formed seat barely padded with a ripped fake leather inset. "This is just the kind of thing Dads do, they go out, they drink beer and they lob big balls of whatever bowling balls are made of at wooden pins. The pins are wooden, right?"

"Who knows?" Havoc said, taking the seat next to him and leaning down to untie his shoes. "I don't put that much thought into it, why do you," Havoc toed off one show and started on the next. "How is it we always get the alley with no ashtrays," the man grumbled.

Roy refrained from comment, and it was a good thing two, because Breda appeared, squeezing between the seats and dropping down next to Roy making the seating creak.

"We the only ones here? You order the beer already?" Breda asked, almost setting his bowling bag on Roy's foot and propping his foot up on the scorekeeper's bench to get at his shoes. Roy got up and made like he had to stretch, but in reality he wanted to put as much distance between himself and Breda's socks. He casually wondered over toward Havoc who seemed to be leaning back as well.

"No, we haven't ordered any beer yet, we were hoping everyone else would be here in a few minutes," the General said, trying not to seem obvious as he edged away.

"Where's the Professor?" Havoc said, shoving his feet into ugly, ugly shoes designed to make you bust your ass while bowling all in the name of preserving the wood of the lanes.

"He'll be along, he had a last minute meeting, we took separate cars today," the General said.

Breda, Havoc and Fuery, who'd just arrived, all stopped and looked at Roy.

"He can drive," Roy said, "I know it seems like he can't, but really, he can. I earned some of this gray hair, by god, making sure he could drive and I don't need you guys ribbing him about it. He just gets defensive and then I have to listen to him yap about it in bed, so traps shut."

"Hey, glad to see you guys already here!" Al came in, tromping across what might have been indoor/outdoor carpeting at some time but now just resembled a antique steel wood pad. "You got a good lane," he said cheerfully, removing his jacket and hanging it over the back of a small table that stood next to the bowling ball racks behind the seats.

Everyone who wasn't Al looked at each other, then at Al, then at each other again. Al cocked an eyebrow and sat his bowling ball bag up on the table to unzip it.

"Is the Colonel dressing you now?" Breda finally asked and the others looked quickly away. Al worked his jaw a moment, then carried his dark green bowling ball, which matched his embroidered shirt just perfectly, over to the ball return and sat it down.

"You're just jealous you don't have wives as interested in your hobbies as mine," Al said smoothly. He brushed at the green and beige stripped bowling shirt with his name embroidered above the pocket in off white stitching. "I like to look the part, and there is nothing wrong with my bowling shirt."

"Did you embroider that yourself?" Havoc asked and Al said nothing, pretending to be busy getting his ball into the return 'just so'. The General gave Breda a warning look.

"Here you guys are," Ed said, suddenly pushing into the moment as he often did. "I didn't think I was ever going to get out of there. I brought your shoes, Roy," Ed sat his bag down on the seat next to Havoc and produced two sets of bowling shoes, they were identical. Ed peered into them.

"I can never tell which is which, mine are smaller...," he seemed to decide which pair were his and held the others out to Roy. "Where is your bag? Well you can borrow my ball, it's just like yours."

Now everyone was looking at the general.

"They...they were on sale," Roy said and cleared his throat and lifted his nose in the air. Ed looked at him and raised an eyebrow.

"This is why marriage ruins people," Breda suddenly burst out.

"Are you saying I'm ruined?" Havoc said, "I happen to be married, too."

"But it didn't turn your brains to mush," Breda argued, waving his hands.

"Not this again," Al moaned. "Let's just get some beer, Breda behaves better when he has beer to make him shut up."

"Where did you get that shirt, Al?" Ed asked, as Havoc got up to make the first of many beer runs for the night, "Roy and I might..."

"NO, no we don't. You tricked me into getting matching shoes, we aren't having matching bowling shirts," the general interjected.

Ed went through several facial contortions and Roy made big eyes at him. Roy's eyes said: 'please don't tell them that I got upset because you weren't going to get the same pair as me and I whined about it.'

"Fine," Ed said curtly, because Ed was old enough now to let Roy get away with things occasionally.

The usual teams squared off. Al had once tried to name the teams,but was meet with a lot of resistance and bad puns at his expense. Roy had wanted their team (their team consisted of the general, Ed and himself), called 'The Generals', nevermind only one of them was still enlisted and had rank. That quickly became 'General Chaos', (especially after Ed had a few beers) or 'General Mayhem' or 'General Debauchery', because Havoc was being particularly articulate that night. After courtmarshalling was threatened and the other team, (comprised of Havoc, Breda and Fuery, naturally, being as they were the other three people who'd shown up) rejected the name of 'Peanut Gallery', "Whipping Boys', (Ed had been so proud of that one), and 'Losers', it was decided there should be no team naming. Team naming was wussy and for girls. Al was forbidden to tell Riza they had said that.

It was only the third frame of the first game when it was decided they'd worked up enough of a sweat to start drinking. Havoc was dispatched the fetch beer, and he snagged the professor's elbow as he left, pulling Ed along with him.

"How many pitchers are we going to buy?" Ed asked, following Havoc toward the end of the building that housed the bar. "You know, look at this carpet, I think they put carpet like this in these places to induce people to drink. All the patterns and colors, it's sort of hypnotic."

"Hey listen," Havoc interrupted, stopping just short of the doorway to the bowling alley bar, "has the General been doing anything funny lately?"

"What do you mean?" Ed asked. "Funny haha or funny strange? Because if it's funny haha you're looking for I'll tell you all about the General being trapped in the bathroom for almost an hour by a spider that decided to hang out in front of the doorway. I think I about swallowed my tonsils when I went to see if he'd finally fallen into the toilet and drown. You know he acted all stoic and shit, like he's meant to get that ring on his ass by sitting on the toilet reading the same news digest for the last hour, but I wasn't fooled. The spider wasn't even that big, it was only about this size," Ed demonstrated with his fingers, "but it might as well been an attack dog..."

"Believe me, I want to hear the rest of this, but it's funny strange I'm looking for here," Havoc interjected. "Are you serious? A spider? No, anyways, let me tell you about how he's been spacing out at work..."

"Spacing out?" Ed said slowly.

Ed hadn't been lying, the looked exactly like their erstwhile father. And they bowed. They bowed a lot. Al kept bobbing up and down as the two boys in front of him bowed so deeply their foreheads almost touched the floor.

"Honored Father of Charlie," they both said with misery.

"It was not his fault," one twin said hurriedly.

"We were very irresponsible to lure him so, he was only trying to accommodate us," the other said and bowed again.

"Well, I don't think..." Al tried, but they both started the never ceasing bow again and Al was afraid to try and keep up.

"Don't call me Charlie," Charles hissed at them, then cringed with his father looked at him.

It wasn't as if Al didn't remember being Charles age himself. Of course, at the time, he was around seven feet tall and nearly invincible. He wasn't in school, he was following his brother on a journey to regain his body, he was fighting inhuman monsters, he was affiliated, (even thought not officially) with the military...

The problem with remembering he was once Charles' age was that he really never experienced being Charles' age. This made him feel rather at a disadvantage when dispensing grown up advice about a time period in Charles' life with which he really couldn't commiserate. He desperately wanted to connect with his son in every aspect of his son's life, but time again he did feel he had some shortcomings in actually being able to sympathize.

True, he'd had a chance to grow up all over again, but without the influences that had molded him the first time around. Later, when he regained all his memories, the two lifetimes merged more or less into one continuous lifetime, (sometimes making him feel older than he actually was, or was he? Should his two adolescences be parallel or one after the other? He really hadn't decided on that. Riza often told him to shut off his cranial reading lamp and just go to sleep already. Al liked to worry in bed and his wife was less than enthusiastic about his habit), and he could never quite separate them again.

All in all, he never really experienced the terror being caught doing something he shouldn't by a parent, and on the whole? It made him feel a little sad.

"I don't know your customs," Al began carefully and both twins looked at him with black eyes brimming with hope, "but in Amestris it really isn't proper for students to leave the campus before the school day is done."

Charles felt a jolt run through his body, his father was giving them an out?

"We are terribly sorry!" the twins cried in unison and this time they did thump their foreheads on the floor.

"You better get back to campus and avoid being caught," Al said, folding his arms. "Don't be late for your next class," and he gave Charles a significant glance.

The twins nodded quickly, each grabbing one of Charles' arms and without much further encouragement they bolted from the restaurant with their shared Elric in tow.

Al rubbed the back of his neck and sighed. He returned to his lunch companion and grinned at himself for feeling sorry for his son if his uncle caught him.

Ed stared it the bottom of his plastic cup. It only held a few suds associated with the beer that it had contained previously. It was so easy to tip the pitcher in and watch the subs swirl and climb back toward the rim of the cup. This time he'd make sure to drink them first. He could hear the voices around him, almost feel the thump of the bowling balls as they struck the wooden alley, but none of that really registered.

So, all those little things that Ed caught him doing, the things he tried to deny. The staring at reflective surfaces, the muttering, the 'spacing' out as it where; he was doing that at work, too.

Ed had tried to tell himself that this was just old age setting in. Roy was tired, Roy was pondering some problem from work, Roy was distracted. But it wasn't any of those things, was it? How did his beer cup get empty again? He tilted the pitcher to fill it.

"You better be careful with that," came a silky voice next to his ear, followed by a set of lips closing over the rim of his ear and tugging. Ed turned his head to pull his earlobe free. "Remember your head and the fact you have class in the morning," Roy said softly, going for his ear again. Ed avoided him again, and thwarted of his ear nibbling, Roy ducked his head and went for the side of Ed's neck.

Ed wanted to be angry at him for hiding things. Just when the fuck did it become ok for Roy to hide things from him?

"General, quit sucking on my brother and come on, it's your turn," Al said, rescuing Ed inadvertently.

"Al, quit giving us the play by play on what the General and your brother are doing, some of us would rather not know," Breda snorted from somewhere behind Ed.

"You have a problem with the word sucking?" Al said cheerfully. "Or maybe it's a problem with things being sucked. Were you breast fed as a child?"

"And how the hell would I remember that?" Breda snorted and leaned forward on his plastic seat, it groaned pitifully.

"Well maybe you were a bottle baby, that might be the issue here," Al said sagely, taking a long drink from his own cup.

"Okok," Havoc said, wading in, "we all appreciate that you're protective of your brother and the General's thing..." he started waving his hands.

"Relationship," Al said, and cocked an eyebrow in challenge.

"Do I get to weigh in on this?" Roy asked, picking up his shared bowling ball for another throw.

"No," Havoc, Al and Breda chorused.

"Right," Roy said and turned to line up his second throw. This drew Ed's attention from trying to lick the bottom of the newly emptied beer pitcher.

"You have such a nice ass wiggle when you are lining up your shot," he commented loudly in the general's direction. The general wiggled his ass extra hard on cue.

"Don't start," Breda groaned, but it was to late, the challenge had been set. Ed got up, steadied himself then marched over and helped himself to some of the beer Havoc still had in the pitcher on his table.

Fuery was always the quiet member of the debacle. He sat at the scorekeeper's table, dutifully keeping store and being plied with hot dogs and sodas, because for some reason the general still though of Fuery as being twelve. At least, that is what they all speculated. Trying to give Fuery beer was running the gauntlet of the general's bared teeth and maybe KP duty if you kept at it persistently. But Fuery's tail wagging, almost pathetic gratitude was hard to resist.

"Just tell him you want to drink the beer," Havoc would push.

"Aw, but it's ok, I mean I know why he doesn't want me to drink. It's bad for you and you know, he has to put up with Ed who always drinks to much...," Fuery would say.

"I don't get how you can be as old as you are and still such a brown noser," Breda said, shaking his head.

"Well I frankly don't see why Ed has let you live so long," Fuery returned with a huff and Havoc grinned.

Ed was leaning against the table Havoc and Breda were occupying. Roy did many things well, but at bowling he was average at best. Ed was convinced if Roy just worked out some that he would be better at bowling; Roy obviously lacked the upper body strength necessary to be manly at bowling. Ed decided the helpful thing to do was to demonstrate to Roy how to be manly at bowling. So he pushed off the table and made a not so steady beeline to his lover. Roy grinned at him, put a hand out to steady him as Ed leaned into him.

"Hi," Ed said cheerfully, "I came to show you how to bowl," he purred.

"Did you now?" Roy asked, trying not to seem overly amused, "you or that pitcher of beer?"

Ed took a moment to investigate Roy's collar with his teeth, it just seemed like the thing to do; but then he heard Havoc snort behind him and he remembered the business at hand. He took the bowling ball from Roy's hands and then he held it up in the palm of his automail hand.

"My General," Ed said, drawing himself upright, he bounced the bowling ball in his palm, it made a loud clicking noise and earned a few murmurs of impressed-ness behind him, "you have to exhibit some force, General, you have to show the pins that you're the boss, allow me," Ed managed to get up to the line and he looked over his shoulder at Roy and winked.

Roy smiled as Ed peered down the alley. As much as Ed would probably curse Roy in the morning for allowing Ed to drink until he was stupid, Ed's easy charm while inebriated was hard to resist. He was often affectionate and mischievous when the hops and barley were particularly good, and the combination of his lovers grin and grabby hands made it difficult for Roy to play the more responsible role. But really, Ed was old enough to drink until he was face down if he wanted to, and who was Roy to stop him? Especially when he was treated to moments like this.

"Are you ready?" Ed said and wiggled his butt, almost dropping the ball he still had balanced in his automail hand.

"I suppose I am," Roy said, appreciating Ed's backside, "so how do you line up your shot Maestro?"

Ed peered down the alley again, and before anyone truly comprehended what he was doing, before anyone could react in an Oh SHIT ED, NOT LIKE THAT manner, Ed swung his ball bearing arm back and heaved the bowling ball overhanded toward the hapless pins at the end of the alley.

The resounding crash brought almost all other noise in the bowling alley to a stand still and the ball bounced off the back of the pin stile and came hurdling back up the alley from which it had just traveled.

"Score!" Ed yelled merrily, throwing his arms into the air, just before the general tackled him for no other reason than to hopefully knock him out so he could be dragged to the car and be taken home. Oh please, don't let anyone sue him again.

"That was fucking awesome," Breda said, eyes still wide. He reached up to wipe some foam from the side of his mouth. The bowling ball came to a rest against the ball return.

Ed was rolling around on the polished floor with his general. He was only pretending like he was trying to get away, but the general wasn't.

"Roy, not here," Ed laughed, "everyone is watching!"

"Then let go," Roy grunted, "I have to go call our lawyer! I'm just glad you didn't level anything this time," he squirmed some more.

"Oh, that building was condemned anyways," Ed said airily, letting the general wiggle free.

"Why do we let you drink?" Al said faintly.

Roy was straightening his shirt and already looking for his business card. The three, burly gentlemen approaching him had owner and manager written all over them. He saw Ed getting to his feet out of the corner of his eyes and made several head jerks toward him while eyeing Havoc, clearly indicating in superior officer/ subordinate fashion that Havoc should shanghai Ed and ship him off to the nearest glacier where he was less likely to be a threat to humanity or himself or both and especially the general. Al was trying to get Ed to his feet, but Ed decided that Al needed to join in an Elric love fest on the polished wood.

Roy opened his conversation like this: "I'll pay for all damages."

Roy reflected there were many times in his life when he often greeted people in this manner. To him it was almost an informal way of saying: "Hello, my love/husband/uncontrollable maniac has wrecked something precious to you, but never fear, I have cash." Cash usually made these little difficulties Ed always managed to get himself, (and Roy) into seem to go away. And if that didn't work, experience, high priced lawyers would often do the trick. Roy had the venerable Dobbing, Hasting and Mullins on retainer at all time. The gentlemen of this law firm adored Edward, for he helped put their heirs through law school. They tried to pass it off as the 'honor of serving such an illustrious former state alchemist', but Roy had their number and knew that Mullin's youngest daughter, Nancy, needed braces. If cash didn't work this time, the man was going to absolutely warble in glee when Roy rang him up.

Sometimes sad tales did the trick. Poor Edward, missing limbs, despondent, he just had to transmute your sport car into a garbage bin for cutting us off, really, he's irrational. Edward spewing obscenities in the background made that one hard to pull off, but Roy could still charm a snake out of it's skin, and for that, at least, he was grateful.

Still, it's not as bad as it could be. Time had mellowed Edward to the best of it's ability and Roy would have it no other way. With a little persuasion, Havoc and Breda managing to look intimidating and a hastily written check, the bowling ball fiasco was firmly behind them as Roy pried Al from Ed's grip and dumped Ed into the backseat of their car to take him home.

Half way there Ed surprised Roy by sitting upright and leaning over the seat, arms dangling and chin resting on the back.

"You absolute son of a bitch, you're hiding things from me," Ed slurred aggressively. "I'm going to beat your ass when we get home."

"I have no idea what you are talking about," Roy returned lightly, he was pretty sure he could outrun Edward, because Edward wasn't sober enough to be coordinated yet.

"What are you seeing, you're seeing shit, don't say you aren't!" Ed said heatedly. He tried to get up to crawl over the seat but hit his head on the roof and decided to stay put. "Tell me what's going on for fuck's sake," Ed wiped at his face and snorted. "This isn't something to play around with."

"You're drunk," Roy said tightly, "and you're imagining things. You're not going to remember this in the morning anyways, so just sit back and let me get us home."

Ed grabbed at Roy's arm, fingers digging into his sleeve, he pressed his forehead to the back of the seat and tried to calm himself.

"Tell me you bastard, tell me tell me," Ed snarled, muffled because his head was down, "don't hide shit from me, you promised!"

Roy's hand found it's way over the fingers Ed had gripping his sleeve. He rubbed the back of them gently.

"Alright, I will tell you, but only when you're sober enough to understand," Roy said softly. "Let's just get you home and in bed, you're going to have a hell of a morning tomorrow."

Ed released him then and sagged back into the seat. He glanced up to see Roy looking at him in the rear view mirror, but then Roy's eyes seemed to shift away from him and then Roy dropped his gaze hastily.

Fuck, oh fuck

Ed couldn't see the woman with her eyes obscured by shadows peering back at him from the rear view mirror.

But Roy could.