Resting his cane against his hip, Al wiped his sweaty palm on his pants. He had quickly come to understand why Ed hated Rush Valley. When they saw him limping, the mechanics flocked around in hopes that he had bad automail or a standard prosthesis in need of replacement. They always seemed so forlorn when they realized the limp was from a leg brace, and that the only thing mechanical about him was his watch. As the mercury threatened to blow the top off the thermometer today, he was in just the right mood to swat one or more of them with his cane. He couldn’t wait for his legs to be strong enough not to need it any more.
“Would you like some lemonade? On the house.” A waitress at the outdoor café he just strolled past smiled at him. That was the one good thing about the cane. It seemed to make girls think he was dashing.
Turning, he saw Paninya heading his way. She cast a hot glance at the waitress. “Hey, Paninya.” Al gave the waitress a smile. “Thanks, but no. I appreciate the offer, though.” He nodded at her and kept walking.
“It’s a little hot for you to be outside, isn’t it?” Paninya fell into step with him.
Al wrinkled his nose. “I’m fine. It’s just Ed who thinks I’m made of glass now.” Instead of metal, he thought, but decided that would be rude to say out loud. “Though, it is hot. I’m not sure I like it. I don’t remember hating heat when I was a kid. Of course, Resembool was greener, with a creek and a watering hole to keep cool in.”
“And you’re such an old man now.” She grinned, linking arms with him. “Come on, let’s go see Winry and get you some lemonade.”
“Just so long as it’s not her lemonade.” Al pointed over his shoulder to the waitress who had offered him some and Paninya pinched him.
“You’re mine. I’m not going to let every waitress in a low-cut blouse steal you away.”
Al chuckled. “I don’t think there’s really much worry there.” He was a little surprised at that himself. He hadn’t come to Rush Valley expecting anything resembling romance. He had merely followed his brother and Winry here. Ed was paranoid that Al couldn’t be on his own yet, since he did tire so easily. Truthfully, they had no home any more so it was this, stay with Granny or impose on Mrs. Hughes. He’d followed Ed for so long, it felt natural to keep doing so.
“Only because you’re a nice guy. You could have any girl here.”
Al thought he heard a self-pitying note in her voice. He gave her hand a squeeze. “I have what I want,” he said, smiling at her.
“See, this is why you’re so dangerous. You’re sweet, unlike half the metal jockeys around here.” Paninya waved a hand at one of the nearby shops. Someone had been peeking out, probably hearing the tap-tap-tap of Al’s cane.
“Thanks.” Al stepped inside Garfiel’s place, stopping in front of the fan on the receptionist’s desk. It mostly just pushed around the hot air, but even that felt good after being out in the sun. How had Ed been able to stand it when he’d had two metal limbs? How did Paninya? He glanced over at her legs. Well, they were covered with khaki work pants. That had to help keep them from over-heating, but Ed had worn black pants and that long red jacket.
“You look rough.”
Al glanced back at the patient rooms. Leaning against the door frame, even Garfiel looked a little wilted. His make-up had run from the sweat pouring down his face. His little curl was plastered to his forehead. “I’m not adjusted to the heat.”
“And he was out wandering around.” Paninya gave him the gimlet eye.
“I’m supposed to exercise.” Al pouted. “It’s good for me, though I’m thinking I’d like to go to Briggs right about now.”
Paninya shoved him. “You don’t like our home?”
“I like it, but right now I’d like to be completely naked and lying on a stone floor,” Al huffed. “But no one wants to see that.”
“Oh, I wouldn’t bet on that.” Garfiel winked at him.
Al blushed. “Is Ed or Winry here?” He figured a change of topic was in order before Paninya and Garfiel teamed up and he was without clothing.
“We were out in the courtyard, resting up. The mid-day sun isn’t to be trifled with, cutie.” Garfiel beckoned for them to follow. “Dominic is out there, too, talking to Pinako.”
Paninya’s eyes widened. “I thought Dominic was afraid of her.”
Garfiel snorted. “Everyone was afraid of the Panthress. I was just a kid when she was in her heyday, but even I remember that much.”
“What did she do? Corner him?” Paninya grinned.
“He didn’t know she was here, and I think he might be too petrified to move and escape,” Garfiel replied, his brightly painted lips peeled back in a huge smile.
“I have to see this.” Paninya took Al’s hand and pulled him along, almost faster than his weakened legs could keep up.
The first thing he noticed once they got to the courtyard was his brother and Winry sitting in the spotty shade of the palm and date trees. Garfiel had a thick pad over the wooden bench they shared. Ed squinted at Al’s hand in Paninya’s as if he’d never seen a guy hold a lady’s hand before. Dominic sat stock still against one of the lumpy-barked palms while Granny lounged in chair next to him, sipping iced tea.
“You look exhausted, Al,” Winry said, getting up.
“Just overheated. I’m fine. Nothing a little tea wouldn’t fix up.” Al went over to the pitcher between Granny and Dominic.
“Al, I don’t think you should drink that,” Ed protested, scooting to the edge of the bench.
“Leave him be, Edward,” Granny said as Al poured.
“I know it’s a diuretic, Ed, and I need to rehydrate, but tea would taste so good. I’ll get some water later,” Al replied, taking a seat in the shade on another padded bench. Paninya sat with him.
“Ed, I can take care of myself,” Al said, crossly and his brother shrugged, sitting back. He took a big drink of the tea. It was sweet and a little different. Maybe this was another Ishvalan version of tea, like the one Paninya had introduced him to with the mint in it. He’d really liked that.
Garfiel settled back down. “We were just telling stories.”
“Sounds like fun,” Al said.
“Depends on your definition.” Dominic shot a hot look at Granny and Al could only assume she had been telling one that embarrassed the old man. “I have a story.”
“Another one,” Ed whined and Winry elbowed him.
“I’d love to hear it,” Winry said.
“I’m not so sure. It’s about your grandmother,” Dominic rubbed his chin, obviously thinking better of it.
“Now I really want to hear it!” Winry grinned.
“Be careful what you wish for,” Granny said, but didn’t tell Dominic to hold his tongue.
“Garfiel wasn’t around for this, too young, so it’ll be news to him, too,” Dominic said. “It started when Pinako brought around this guy with a blond ponytail, a real stuffed shirt, bookish, not the sort you’d usually see her with. He had odd eyes, too, very strange color, sort of like you boys.” He waved a hand at Ed and Al.
“What?” Ed leaned forward on his chair, his own eyes widening in horror.
“Granny told us he was her old drinking buddy, remember,” Al said, holding a hand to his head. He must have been more heat exhausted than he realized. He was lightheaded, so he took a bigger drink of his tea.
“Told you to be careful what you ask for.” Pinako wagged a finger at Ed.
“I didn’t ask! That was Winry!” Ed said through gritted teeth, swinging a hand at her.
“What? Is he their grandfather or something?” Dominic’s gaze bounced between the boys and Pinako.
“Or something. This isn’t about sexis it?” Ed groaned.
“I wouldn’t tell that sort of story to her granddaughter,” Dominic huffed. “But drinking buddy about covers it. Hell, that man could drink, but you wouldn’t think it to look at him. He was a big guy but one of those scholarly types. Usually they can’t drink. I guess it all started after we’d all been drinking heavily and decided to go to Dreamland.”
“Dreamland?” Winry asked, cocking her head.
“It was an amusement park, but it was torn down and the metal reused for the Ishbalan war.” Pinako sighed. “What a shame. You’d have liked the Tunnel of Love, Ed. Really scary.” She cackled at him and Ed glowered at her.
“Yeah, so we headed to Dreamland with Bennet, another mechanic. He’s retired now, living out west, and his girl, Amy. I went with Lynrose.”
Pinako made a disgusted sound. “What a haughty bitch she was.”
Winry wagged her head at her grandmother’s coarse language.
“She’s was pretty,” Dominic argued.
“You picked her to protect you from me.” Pinako reached over to slap Dominic’s shoulder.
“You were scary." Dominic wagged a finger at her. "We all needed protecting except for that blond guy. Of course, he was so drunk by then he wouldn’t know you were scary. What was his name? It was as weird as he was.”
“Von Hohenheim,” Pinako said, taking away any doubt the story was about anyone other than the brothers’ father. Ed’s groan was cut short when Winry elbowed him again and told him to hush.
“So, drunk as lords, the six of us descended on Dreamland.”
“I am not going on the tea cups,” Dominic said. “They’re for sissies.”
“You’re only saying that because you’re so drunk, your world is already spinning.” Pinako slapped his ass, expertly ignoring Lynrose’s glare.
“You can’t prove that,” he said, nearly staggering into Bennet.
Pinako linked arms with Hohenheim. “I see what I want.” She hauled him toward a booth selling cotton candy.
“Are you sure?” He eyed the sticks of puffy confection warily.
“I’ll feed it to you.” Pinako pinched his side. She liked the way his body felt, so muscular and solid.
“It’ll get all in his beard.” Amy laughed.
“I can suck it out,” Pinako replied with a leer.
“You are definitely drunk,” Hohenheim said, but he bought her a stick of cotton candy.
“A little. So are you.” Pinako plucked a chunk of spun sugar free and stood on her tip-toes so she could pop it in Hohenheim’s mouth.
“How about the skywheel? I’d love to go on that. I’ve never been.” Her generous bosom bouncing, Lynrose gestured to where the skywheel dominated the park.
Eyes more on her chest than on the ride, Dominic agreed, “Sure.”
Pinako had to admit there as something very nice about being locked into a tight seat with Hohenheim. Leaning against him, letting spun sugar dissolve on her tongue as the skywheel lifted them toward the stars, she could entertain a few ideas. She could kiss him, but the drunk little demon in her mind said it would be even more fun to give something else a try. She rocked the seat.
Hohenheim clutched the side of it. “Pinako! Don’t do that! Don’t you see how high we are?”
“That’s what makes it fun.” She rocked it harder. “Are you afraid of heights?”
“No. It’s the fall I’m afraid of," Hohenheim replied wryly.
“Guess you better stop me then.” Pinako grinned wickedly.
Hohenheim put his arm around her, pulling her tight against his body. That was nicer than rocking the seat. She rewarded him with another bite of cotton candy.
When the skywheel ride was over, Pinako exclaimed, “My turn to pick a ride. I want to try the dodge ems.”
“You can’t drive a real car, even if you’re sober,” Dominic protested.
“He has a point, Pinako,” Hohenheim said. “And you’re not sober.”
“Look who’s talking. I’m not the one who drove Bennet’s car into a tree.” She eyed him hotly. “And everyone for themselves.” Pinako smiled sweetly at Lynrose, already imagining sending her into the wall.
“Why don’t I trust that?” Dominic eyed her, sneaking his flask out of his pocket to take a nip.
Pinako stole it from him, ignoring Lynrose’s glare. She took a sip. “Because you’re smarter than you look.”
“I have a bad feeling about this.” Hohenheim sighed.
Pinako linked arms with him. “Why? You’re the wily one. You’ll do fine.”
She herded him down to the line to get into the dodge ems ride. The cars sparked to life and Pinako swerved around some stranger making a beeline – as much as a dodge em car could – for Lynrose. She planted the bitch right into the wall then spun around involuntarily as Dominic hit her car in the tail.
Dominic evaded her as Pinako went for him, then she spotted Hohenheim missing the entire point of Dodge ems – though he often seemed to miss the point of modern things, like he was stuck a hundred years in the past some how. Hohenheim seemed to think he was on a slow drive through town, astutely missing all the cars. Pinako gunned it, sparks flying from the metal ceiling and her car’s pole. She plowed him into the wall, backing up several times to hit him again.
“That’s how it’s done, Hohenheim!” She crowed before going to hunt down other prey.
Pinako had cornered Dominic, just about to ram him when someone slammed into her from behind, knocking her and Dominic to the wall.
“Like that?” Hohenheim waved as his Dodge ems car puttered past.
Pinako laughed. “Exactly!”
The electricity went out of the ride and the cars stuttered to a stop. Pinako would have to convince her friends to try this one again. It was a hell of a lot of fun. She met up with them outside of the ride, stealing Dominic’s flask again, more to piss off Lynrose than because she wanted some crap hooch.
“I think Hohenheim should pick the next ride,” Dominic said, rescuing his flask. “Especially after his car got raped by Pinako. You’re such an evil woman.”
“Dominic, honestly!” Lynrose slapped his arm.
“No, I saw it too, and that’s pretty much what it looked like to me,” Bennet said, laughing.
Hohenheim looked around then spotted a tall, hilly, wooden structure. “How about that?”
“Leaps the Dips? That is really fun,” Amy said, linking arms with Bennet. “Scary fun. I agree, let’s do that.”
Pinako had no problems with rollercoasters, in theory. She’d never been on one before. The cars were tight and Pinako was reminded again that it was rather nice being tucked along Hohenheim. From the ride it was hard to smell all the grease, familiar yet slightly different, that kept the rides working. This sort of engineering wasn't her main interest, but Pinako could appreciate the work that went into making the rides work.
He turned to her and asked, “Do you know why it’s called Leaps the Dips?”
Hohenheim shook his head, his ponytail tickling her neck. “Not a clue.”
“We’re almost at the top. Amy said you have to put your hands up,” Pinako said.
“Because it’s more fun.”
Hohenheim scowled but put his hands in the air. Pinako did likewise. Her belly dropped as the coaster flew down the hill, people shrieking with mad glee. At the bottom, the car hopped. For an instance, Pinako thought they were going off the rails. Screaming, she flung her arms around Hohenheim and he clamped his to the lap bar.
Once they were chugging back up the next hill, he said in a dry tone, “Now we know why it’s called Leaps the Dips.” Hohenheim smiled. “That was fun, especially you screaming like a little girl.”
Pinako punched him, but she still screamed on the second hill with its second leap. She was definitely going to have to do this ride again, too.
Amy bounced over to them, dragging Bennet along. Lynrose and Dominic brought up the rear. He looked a little green, trying to bolster himself with his flask.
“My turn to pick!” Amy declared. “I want to go on the rotor! It’s brand new.”
“What does it do?” Lynrose whined, “I want something calmer.”
Pinako rolled her eyes.
Amy shrugged. “I don’t know but calm is boring. Come on.”
“I’m with Amy,” Pinako said.
“Of course you are.” Lynrose sniffed.
As Lynrose was the only one who wasn’t game for trying the rotor, they all ended up on the ride. It was a strange one, Pinako decided. They were all just standing around in a barrel. What did it do exactly? It started spinning, but they had seen that much from the outside, accompanied by brightly blinking lights.
“This is sort of boring,” Bennet said, and Pinako agreed.
“I don’t feel so good,” Dominic said, bending over.
“You might want to get your head back against the wall,” Hohenheim said.
“Why?” Dominic glared at him, still hunching.
“Because I think I know what this is doing,” Hohenheim said. “See? It’s getting faster.”
“Fast circles isn’t anymore exciting than slow ones,” Bennet said as Dominic straightened up.
A second later the floor fell away and people shrieked. Lynrose was deafening.
“The floor! We’re going to die!” Lynrose shrieked, looking like she was trying to peel herself off the wall, but if she were anything like Pinako, she couldn’t possibly move.
“Oh, I was right. It’s centripetal force. We can’t fall,” Hohenheim said, sounding positively gleeful over it.
“You liar!” Lynrose shrieked.
“I really don’t feel good,” Dominic groaned.
“Dom, if you puke and it whips on me, I’ll gut you,” Pinako warned.
“This is quite fun,” Hohenheim said, half-hidden behind the curtain of Pinako’s hair. It had been blown into his face just before the forces had pinned them solid. He looked happier than Pinako had ever seen him.
As the ride slowed, the floor came back up and they slid down into it. Pinako felt wobbly, not quite able to walk a straight line as she exited the ride.
“I am never doing that again. Why do I even listen to you people?” Lynrose raged as she staggered down the steps.
“Uh-oh, Dom looks terrible,” Bennet said, back peddling, nearly falling into the sawdust.
Hohenheim caught Dominic’s arm, propelling him toward a nearby trash can where Dominic emptied his belly.
“Ew,” Pinako wrinkled her nose. “You’re such a lightweight, Dom.”
“It wasn’t the booze.” He pouted then vomited some more. “Can’t go round.”
“Good to know for the future.” Pinako snorted, still thinking it was the booze. It wasn’t as if they missed the rotor’s barrel moving when they were in line. “Now what?”
“I want calm. Dom and I can sit somewhere. You can go your own way,” Lynrose glared at Pinako as if it was her fault Dominic was drunk over a trash can.
Pinako caught hold of Hohenheim’s hand. “Fine, couples it is. What do you want to do, Hohenheim?”
“I’d like to go on the rollercoaster again,” he replied.
“They have racer rollercoasters across the park,” Amy said. “You and Pinako could be in one coaster and Bennet and me in the other.”
“Sounds like fun,” Hohenheim agreed.
“And they left me there, barely able to stand up.” Dominic looked up at Pinako, who was busy giving Alphonse his third glass. Al offered a drink of it to Paninya.
She poured another for herself. “Your date was enough to drive anyone away. At least you didn’t marry her.”
Dominic snorted. “She didn’t want me once she realized I’d always have grease-stained hands.”
“That was a great story,” Al said, laughing.
“No it wasn’t! Granny was on a date with our….” Ed’s face reddened, his fists shaking. “That bastard!”
“They were just friends, Ed.” Winry patted his back, then gave her grandmother a look. “Right?”
“If you’re wondering if you two have anything to worry about, no you’re not related,” Pinako assured her and Ed made a face accompanied by some gagging noises.
“Friends,” Dominic made a derisive noise.
“I think that’s enough stories for one day,” Pinako said. “Al, you should probably get a little rest.”
“I’m fine,” he argued, but in truth he felt a bit light-headed. “I wish there were amusement parks like that now. Ed, we should tell Mr. Mustang that. He could tell Fuhrer Grumman.”
“I’m not talking to General Jackass.” Ed snorted. “Can you believe they made him a general?”
“Fine, I will.” Al waved him off. “I think it’s a good idea. This country needs to heal. It needs to have fun. What would be more fun than an amusement park?”
“I think that’s a great idea, Al,” Winry said.
“I do, too.” Paninya got to her feet and held out a hand. “Come on, I’ll take you back to your and Ed’s suite. It’s too hot to do anything right now, anyhow.”
“Okay.” Resting sounded better to Al when Paninya suggested it. The world spun as he got up. “Whoa, I’m a little dizzy. I must really have had too much heat.”
“More like too much tea,” Ed snorted.
“Huh? What would tea have to do with it? I mean, I know it’s a diuretic, but it’s not like I had to pee yet.”
“Sweetie, that’s an Creatan ice tea,” Garfiel said. “I mixed them up for Dominic and Pinako, but since she didn’t object to you having it, I didn’t say anything.”
“I tried to, but I was shushed.” Ed looked entirely too self-satisfied.
“Creatan Ice tea?” Al’s gaze bobbed between the two men, making him even dizzier.
“It’s not tea at all,” Pinako said. “It’s vodka, gin, rum, Ishvalan cactus liquor, orange liquor, a little lemon, and cola.”
“Wow, that’s five different alcohols and Ed tried to keep me from trying it. That’s not nice. I want to try new things.” Al glared at his brother.
“You’re too young to drink and now you’re drunk. And when you’re hung-over later, don’t blame me.” Ed shrugged.
“Come on, Al. I’ll make sure you get home,” Paninya slipped an arm around him.
“You staying with me?”
“Good.” Feeling bold – so this was what liquid courage was about – Al gave her a kiss.
“What the hell!” Ed barked.
“Are you just figuring it out now that he likes her, Ed?” Winry laughed.
“See you later.” Al waved with his cane, nearly stumbling. Going home with Paninya, a good story about his father – for once – in his head, Al thought this was going to turn out to be a very good day.