a big apple


"Al, we need some more popcorn over here!"

"And another glass of water, if you don't mind, Alphonse."

"I'd like some juice, too!  So, as I was saying, I'm all in favor of doctors and hospitals and modern medicine, you know I am, but I really don't see any reason why I shouldn't be able to do this in the comfort of my own home.  I mean, midwives are highly trained these days, and it's not as if we're still out in the middle of nowhere in Resembool, we're in Central, for crying out loud, and Ed has always hated hospitals, so I don't know why he's so in favor of one now..."

"You just need to make it clear to him that he may have an opinion on the matter, but in the end, you're the one who's going to be doing all the work.  Roy and I had that discussion months ago, and he's been very cooperative ever since."

"And you didn't even have to pull a gun on him?  I'm impressed."

"Well, I may have glanced once at my pistol drawer..."

Alphonse closed his eyes for a moment, trying to block out whatever words might come next in this conversation.  Then he took a deep, steadying breath and hefted the tray of drinks and popcorn, carrying it out to the living room of the house he, Winry and his brother shared.  There they were, his sister-in-law and their guest, propped up like queens on either end of the couch with their swollen feet mingling together in the middle.  Riza smiled at him as he set the tray down on the table next to them, the sort of smile that, on the surface, said thank you—but underneath, was really just a polite way to assert her right to boss him, the only male present in the house, around.  She had his brother's favorite blanket tucked around her huge stomach, and a little bowl of unpopped kernels balanced on it as though it were a table; her eyes lit at the fresh batch on the tray, and she handed him the little bowl to be refilled without a word.

Winry reached for the juice under her own steam, but only because she held a soft spot for Alphonse even through her recent imperious attitude; her equally impressive belly was papered with leaflets and magazines on any number of pregnancy-related topics that Alphonse hoped she would never ask his opinion on.  Both women continued their conversation without pause as he retreated, and he slipped away into the study, hoping against hope that, for now, the two were satisfied. 

"Hey, Al?  Could you—"

"Oh, and—"

Al scrubbed a hand over his face.  Brother and the General are gonna owe me BIG TIME for this....



"You realize what Al will do to us when he figures out we lied to him about the emergency at headquarters so we could go out drinking, right?"

"It's not Alphonse's reaction I'm worried about, really."

"Ah...good point."  Tense silence fell over the two men, who stared into their drinks with matching expressions of fear.  Ed took a deep breath and a deeper draught of his beer, slamming the empty glass back down on the bar as though to chase the anxiety away.  "Well, we'd better enjoy these drinks while we can, then.  They might be our last."

Roy slid his eyes sideways at him, and chuckled darkly before draining his bourbon.  "Spoken like a true whipped husband."

"Oh, like you're not?"

"My wife threatens me with guns.  That's a little bit more dangerous than a wrench."

"A well-placed wrench to the temple could kill a guy, though.  Or could, you know, disable my automail in excruciatingly painful ways."


Ed raised a hand to the bartender; moments later both alchemists had fresh drinks in their hands, though their expressions hadn't improved much.

"I'm afraid I'll pass out."

"Right now?" Roy asked, startled.

Ed scowled at him.  "No, bastard, when the baby's born.  I'd never live it down."

Roy chuckled.  "Well, it's not like you're faint of heart, Fullmetal.  I'm sure you've seen worse than childbirth."

"You're forgetting that I've seen childbirth already.  Or, heard it, at least.  Thought I might pass out that time and I wasn't even in the room."  Ed glanced over.  "Have you ever seen a birth?"

"Can't say that I have."

"Heh, maybe you'll pass out, and then I can make fun of you for the rest of your life."

"...You care to make a wager on that?"

Ed slumped down into an easy chair, still rocking the bassinette lightly with his foot.  Roy was still pacing the floor, infant bundled against his chest.  "Remind me why we're doing this by ourselves, again?" he murmured, low so as not to wake either baby now that they'd both finally gone quiet.
Ed rubbed his eyes and yawned, the pacing and rocking putting him to sleep more surely than it did the children.  "Uh...they wanted a girls' night out."

"And why did Al go with them instead of staying here to help us?"

"I still haven't figured that one out.  I bet it's revenge for when we snuck out to that bar."

"Ah...right."  Roy sighed, his pace slowing until he deemed it safe to sink onto the couch and be still for a while.  There were dark rings under his eyes and harried lines in his forehead and at the corners of his mouth; Ed wondered if he himself looked equally exhausted.

I guess what we did to Al was pretty low.  Then a thought struck him, and he glanced over at the General with a wicked little grin.  "You still owe me five hundred cenz."

"Shut up, Ed."