"I don't care what that mealy mouthed, slanty-eyed bastard said," Ed put his hands on his hips, "I'm doing this my way."
"As if there is any other way," the armor behind him muttered hollowly, but turned its helmet when the blonde boy jerked his head about to give it a glare.
"Are you saying that I don't know what's best for us," the boy asked, narrowing his eyes, "I've gotten us this far, haven't I?"
"Oh yes," the armor said, "we've certainly come a long way. Don't get me wrong, I'm on board with whatever you decide, really, I am."
"Good," the blonde snorted and flipped his braid off his shoulder, "we're brothers and that is the way it should be. Anything for family."
"Anything for family," the armor intoned solemnly.
"It's not like I need him second guessing us every step of the way," Ed muttered. "He specializes in riddles and double talk, and he just confuses the issue." Ed waved his hands. "It's much better like this, trust me."
"If you say so," the armor said, sinking to its knees and settling, fisting its leather gauntlets and giving a slight rattle that it had learned to adapt as a sigh.
Edward turned all the way around and regarded his younger brother's hulking, solid form and then he too sat on his butt and crossed his legs, scowling.
"You don't think I can do this," Ed said, crossing his arms over his chest.
"I never said that," Al informed him. "I just think you're plowing into something headlong as usual with no regard for the consequences. I know your reckless ways have always worked well in the past, but in something like this, your overbearing and hell bent approach might not be appreciated."
Edward gaped for a moment before managing to rein in his dangling jaw.
"You sound just like him," the older boy cried and waved his arms. "He's infected you with his pessimism, hasn't he? His all-knowing doom and gloom prophesizing ways."
"Al," Ed said seriously and leaned forward to look up into his brother's glowing eyes, "if he had mind control powers, you would tell me, right?"
"If he had mind control powers, I don't think he'd allow me to tell you," the younger boy said and hummed a bit. "But I don't think he does, because if he did, you'd behave a lot better."
Ed wind milled impressively in his seated position and frowned so hard his chin seemed to recede into his neck.
"That's the point!" the elder Elric howled. "He tries to control us! I won't let him; it's you and me, Al. We're in this together and we can do this the way it needs to be done! We don't need him to tell us how to live our lives. I'm not going to stand by and just be his lap dog, pocket watch or not!"
"When it suits you," Al said and then physically braced himself.
"What's that supposed to mean?" Ed shrieked. "I don't report to him because I like it, I do it because I have to. He's my superior officer and I don't have much choice in the matter. If it were up to me, the only thing I'd do would be pump him for every lead that came through his manipulative, greedy hands! I'd sure as hell make a lot better Colonel than he does, I can tell you that! For one thing, I wouldn't push all my excess bullshit onto my subordinates!"
"What it means is," Al said completely skipping over the entire tirade, "you don't seem to mind being his lap dog on certain occasions. I'm not talking about when you think he has a promising lead, I'm talking about other things."
Edward turned scarlet, leaned in very close and whispered.
"I don't know what you're talking about," Edward hissed.
"Yes you do," Al snorted. "You know I know, I don't know why you always like to pretend I don't."
"I prefer if you pretend you don't," Ed pleaded.
A large leather finger tapped Edward on the top of his blushing head and the armor made its soft rattling sigh again.
"So in denial," Al said. "But with you, that's to be expected. Go on Ed, do what you have to do, I'll be here to back you up."
Edward grinned a maniac and relieved look, jumped up and strode for the ladder. He climbed its 14 steps without a hitch and walked slowly to the end of the board. All eyes trained on him from around the pool. In retrospect, it had been nice of the bastard to arrange this day at the club for his subordinates. It was a nice club, the fruit punch was excellent and the pool was fun.
"Good luck," Al called from below the ladder.
"Remember to tuck, FullMetal," the Colonel said from his lounge chair and sunglasses and highball.
Ed snorted, retreated a few steps and then ran the length of the diving board, getting a pretty good bounce at the end before losing all control and spiraling downward, where at the last possible moment, he threw his body out flat, like he might be able to glide to safety.
Everyone winced at the resounding splat he made on top of the water before sinking as steel was wont to do. Havoc jumped up, ran over and dived in after him, managing to drag the featly curled boy to the shallower end and offer him up to the anxious suit of armor standing there.
As Al wrapped his shivering sibling in towels and put him on one of the loungers to pat his side and he offer what comfort he could, Ed tried to draw his knees up above his head.
"It's times like this, brother, when I'm glad we're together," Al said. "You make me feel I have no true need for my body and I'm really glad I don't have balls."
"Shuddup," Ed managed to whine.
Ed and Al had made a pretense of leaving with the Colonel, when in truth they'd only driven around to another gate and come into the club by a back entrance. The Colonel had rented one of the cabanas for the evening and Al was all too eager to join the other members of the club in the pool hall. While playing with an opponent in armor might seem a bit strange, they were always willing to take on new blood. Alphonse was rather good at billiards, which is all he needed to be to get accepted by the lot, so he was merrily occupied.
Roy gently unwrapped his towel-robed bundle and tsked softly at the red stomach, leaning down to kiss it.
"Stop," his charge mumbled, "tickles," he snorted.
"I tried to warn you," the Colonel said softly and tugged at the waistband of damp swim trunks.
"You don't know everything," Ed grumbled and lifted his hips a bit to allow the wet things to be taken off of him. "How hard can diving be? It's not like I've had a lot of practice, I could have figured it out without your help."
"I never said you couldn't, but you know Ed, taking advice from someone who has done it before wouldn't hurt," Roy said, sitting up and standing to slide out of his own pool wear.
Ed watched him, pushing the towels off the bed and scooting himself up into the pillows. Roy climbed up to join him, settling on his side and reaching up to push damp blonde bangs away from Ed's eyes.
"You make me feel like a kid," Ed said. "I'm not a kid," he warned, bristling. "I don't like being made to feel like one."
Roy sighed. This would be a lot easier if he were the teenager's father. Proving your independence with your father was a time honored man-to-man tradition, but proving it to your lover was becoming a sticky situation for Edward. He wanted Roy's attention and adoration, but at the same time, the very same hormones drove him to defiance and the male inclination to best the next male along the pike. That next male happened to be Roy.
"No you're not a kid, Edward," Roy said and smoothed a hand over Ed's bare chest, "don't say I'm humoring you either. Having a conversation with you lately is becoming a battle of tiresome semantics. Just take me at my word this time, alright?"
Edward had tensed himself up for said battle, but let go a loud sigh and eased off, casting his eyes downward to watch the lazy sweep of Roy's hand back and forth on his chest.
"Is something bothering you?" Roy prompted gently, trying to get Ed to talk to him about the stew of emotions and hormones he must be brewing in his stomach. Fifteen was such an awkward age and Roy remembered it well.
"Why would anything be bothering me," Ed said and reached up to give Roy's hand a slight push toward his stomach, "other than the usual stuff. Find the stone, restore Al... you've heard it a million times, I won't bore you with the details."
"The details aren't boring to me," Roy murmured, allowing Edward to guide his hand and starting up a soothing circular rub on the boy's stomach, "they're important to you, so they are important to me."
Edward's eyes flicked up to Roy's own and he looked a little ashamed of himself as he turned his head and pressed his forehead to Roy's throat.
"I'm the one who has to make things right for Al," Ed said. "If I lean on someone else too much, then it's not fair, I'm not paying my debt."
"I'm sure Alphonse doesn't see it as a debt," the Colonel said softly.
"Maybe not, but it's not for me to tell him how to see things," Ed said, flesh hand lifting and his knuckles rubbing along Roy's stomach. "I know you just want to help me, but you have to trust me too. I got us into this mess; I'll get us out. I don't want to drag anyone else down with us."
This earned Edward kisses along his temple and over his ear, and the hand strayed from his stomach to his bare hip where it kneaded gently. It felt really good.
"Your nobility is a humbling thing, Edward Elric," the Colonel said softly and Ed squirmed a bit in embarrassment. "I am prepared for the verbal battles and the many efforts you will make to push me away. I'm not saying you are a kid, I'm saying you are at the age. Everyone experiences it; you're not alone in these feelings. They are right and natural and they are how you should feel. I'm asking you to remember just this bit of advice, okay? Just this one little bit, because I don't want you to worry over things that might be done or said while your very fierce passions are running away with you."
Ed tilted his head back then to look up at the man's face. The Colonel smiled down at him as he pulled on his hip and rolled him onto his side against his own chest. It was such a nice chest, warm and firm and Ed fit perfectly against it. He really liked being pressed to the Colonel's chest.
"I'll remember," Ed said. "At least I'll try my best to remember while I'm being a hormone driven maniac," he tried to joke.
"That's all I ask," the Colonel said. "I don't want you to feel any guilt over what comes between us. You are doing what needs to be done and I respect that. Anyone with half a mind would. Do you know the other reason?" he asked, leaning close to the blushing face of his young lover.
Ed bit his lip for a moment and then wet them with his tongue.
"Because you love me," and he didn't phrase it as a question at all.
"I'm glad there is at least one thing you don't rebel against," the Colonel said with a smile and then kissed him warmly.
Al returned to the cabana late that night. He tried to tip toe in as not to disturb the other occupants who must surely be asleep, but the bedside light came on and his brother sat up blinking against it, pinning him with a look.
"Where were you, it's pretty late, Al. I was getting worried," Ed griped.
The other occupant of the bed was also blinking in the light but his face split into a grin.
There was a cigar stuck in the slats of Al's grilled neck guard, he was carrying a bottle of very fine brandy and a wad of cash.
"Looks like you've the makings of a fine shark," the Colonel chuckled.
"I couldn't help it," Al sighed. "Geometry is so easy."