FIFTY TRIPS AROUND THE SUN, Ch 1: Three Spoons of Strawberry

Author: The Binary Alchemist

Rated T (language, adult situations)


Taisa Roy Mustang had a lock on the door of his study. Never used it. Absolutely pointless. Prevailing Edwardian logic ran like this: "What's mine is mine. What's Al's is Al's. What's yours is yours AND mine." In the spare seconds it took for him to fill his coffee mug, turn around and reach for the hazelnut creamer ("you mean that Liquid Paper profanity you ruin good Kona with"), the cup would be snatched away and his croissant ripped in half. "Thanks. I was starving," was the only apology he ever got.

During his first year in America, nobody in the little house in Berkeley dreamed of cracking open a half gallon of strawberry ice cream without digging three spoons out of the leaky dishwasher. They shared everything, the three of them. Pot stickers with every order of Chinese takeout was the house rule: two for you and two for me…and two for that asshole Hughes. Pot stickers neatly divvied three ways—no squabbling.

Cramming all night for chemistry finals, there'd be a soft rap on the door at some point. A dish of something hot and cheap and filling would appear at his elbow, paired with a refill of coffee. Often Hughes would drape a friendly arm around his shoulder as he refilled Mustang's coffee mug. "Hey, Roy Rogers! Ya want anything, man?" Or Tricia's small, deft fingers would dig into the sore spots on his back; he'd lean into them gratefully, never lifting his eyes from his notes. He'd catch those hands, squeezing them gently in silent thanks. If he passed out at his desk or on the couch, he'd wake in his own bed, reading glasses neatly folded close at hand, his alarm clock already set for the morning class schedule.

Or he'd wake in their arms, curled up in the middle of that king-sized bed too big for the previous tenant to haul away. He would lie very, very still, listening to the quiet sounds of their breathing. Snoring, actually on the right—Hughes always hogged the right side. That's where the nightstand was and where he parked his glasses every night. Teddy preferred the left, facing the cracked window where she could watch the pigeons nesting on the roof across the alleyway. She'd always dump handfuls of bird seed on the ledge to coax them over. Mayland had no problem with that. "Hell, Cowboy, if we get hungry enough we can wait for the fuckers to land. Smack 'em with a skillet and presto! Squab a la Hughes!" At which point Teddy hoisted said skillet in their roommate's direction and suggested if Mayland thumped her birdies and roasted them, she'd flambé his testicles. "Any idea what wine goes best with jackass, Taisa?"

Alphonse nearly had a stroke the first time he reached his daughter's answering machine at Berkley:

"Greetings! You're reached the offices of Dyke, Doper and Deviant—OWWW! Shit! I mean, Elric, Hughes and Mustang. For rabid feminist rantings, press 1. Updates on marijuana decriminalization, press 2. If you're queer and looking to get laid, press 3—Goddamit, Roy! I was kidding, fer chrissakes! Can't you people take a joke? Anyway, leave a message. We might get back to you if we make bail. BEEEEEP!"

Winry had stomped into the bedroom, snatched her carry-on bag and was already jamming her faithful crescent wrench in her purse before Teddy had a chance to ring them back. Alphonse intercepted the call before his wife could rip the phone off the wall in her fervent desire to get her hands around the throat of her daughter's roommate.

"Mischief? You're…alright, aren't you? Oh…well, you know how your mother gets--no, it's all right. I'll smooth things over. Couldn't you ask Mays to ch—no, I know it was a joke. You mean Ed's already heard it?" He covered the receiver with his hand. "He's flying down to see her over spring break. Something about being asked to teach a summer seminar as a guest lecturer for the Aerospace Technology department—and he thought the message was hilarious."

"He would," his wife snorted. "He's encouraged her since she popped out. Thick as thieves." Winry still couldn't believe it when her youngest asked for a legal name change for her high school graduation present. Trisha was alright as a first name, she argued, but 'Edwina' was 'tantamount to trauma'. She'd been 'Teddy' all her life anyway, so why not be Trisha Edward Elric and be done with it? Considering Ed's suggested names for Winry's change-of-life baby included "Ooops" and "Accidental Elric', Teddy wasn't so bad, although her knack for getting in and out of scrapes earned her a second nickname: Mischief.

And Winry was grinding her molars down in half suppressed fury every time she thought about her daughter shacking up at Berkley with that lunatic, Mayland Hughes. "She'll never make it in to the Harvard School of Journalism if that madman is selling weed out of their living room!" she growled.

"The other boy seems nice," Al offered. "The Japanese student. Very polite when I've chatted with him."

Winry snatched off her bandanna and rumpled her hair in frustration. "Alphonse—when the hell did you ever hear of anybody from Tokyo named Mustang?"

"Well…not from Japan, dear." But it's a name I've heard before, he worried inwardly. And if history is repeating itself the way it's been doing since we crossed to this side of the Gateway, Ed's not going to waste any time at all finding out about the Mustang boy. If he's who I'm betting it is…god…I hope Teddy's not interested in him. Otherwise, that poor kid's going to find himself caught in a romantic tug of war between two Elrics—and I wouldn't wish that on anybody…

One week later, Winry Elric unwrapped her Mother's Day present from her youngest child. She glanced at the photograph, shoved it to one side with a grumble, grabbed her tool belt and stalked out to the garage. "I'm taking apart the Harley. Don't wait up."

Al lifted his fingers to his lips, tossing a gentle kiss in her direction as she stomped down the stairs. Another kiss was offered in the direction of the framed portrait his bride found so offensive.

The lanky fellow with the scraggly whiskers looked rakishly handsome in his three-piece suit. The briefcase was a professional touch, although the NORML button on his lapel might have gotten Hughes kicked out of any respectable law firm, save those specializing in representing Keith Richards.

On the left—oh shit. I was right. It's the Colonel! Alphonse bit his lip anxiously as he studied the young man posing beside his youngest child. Taisa Mustang. Serious in his lab coat. Looked a bit awkward, as if he didn't quite know how to cut up like Hughes. The beaker in his hand was straight off the lab bench, although the contents in the color photo looked suspiciously like a Tequila Sunrise.

His daughter mugged shamelessly in the middle in an oversized trench coat. The Nikon he'd given her for her birthday was slung around her neck, a fedora with a PRESS badge tilted over one Rockbell-blue eye. She was holding a mock-up of a front page of the Berkley Barb, the paper she worked for, the headline trumpeting: "WE WERE ONLY KIDDING, MOM!".

Winry's head peeked around doorway. She was grinning now "They had the nerve to autograph it, the little shits!"

A copy of that photograph reminded Taisa to stop off in the kitchen before logging on at the appointed time. A bowl of strawberry ice cream. Three spoons. That's how it had been back in the Seventies. How it would always be, even with the three of them scattered across the globe.

Hughes was already online, grinning at him via webcam from Los Angeles. "Hey, Roy Rogers!" he crowed. "Happy-almost-your-birthday, man! Where the hell is Teddy?"

Took her a while to log in. "Crappy assed Wi-Fi," she bitched. The family muckraker and freelance writer was at an undisclosed location. "Michael got some great footage," she gushed. "Palm d'Or time in Cannes again. I can smell it in the wind." Michael was Michael Moore. Teddy had been a research assistant on Roger and Me and was delighted to sign on to the crew for Sicko, his upcoming expose of health care in the U.S. "No room service, but I snagged this from Catering." She held aloft a small paper cup with three plastic spoons—and a tiny candle, not yet lit. "Here's to fifty trips around the sun, darlin'!" She glared at Hughes. "Too cheap to get your own?"

Mayland Hughes hoisted a pint of Ben and Jerry's best—and three pairs of chopsticks. "To the Dyke, the Doper and the Deviant!"

"Kampai!" Roy lifted a spoon in salute. "Confusion to our enemies!"



"Dig in!"

When Tricia Elric, Mayland Alexander Hughes and Taisa Roy Mustang shared the little house in Berkeley known as The Den of Iniquity, there was a standing joke about Hughes and his big mouth. One night Roy had been flipping channels in the early evening. From the couch, Teddy was digging through TV Guide in hopes of finding something on at that hour more entertaining that watching Chief Wahoo McDaniel clothesline somebody on the local wrestling show.

There was a raucous twonk of bluegrass banjo, and the screen was filled with an animated donkey, peering out between the stalks of a cornfield. The critter looked left, then right, then threw back his head and brayed loudly: "HEEEHAAAWWWW! HEE HAW! HEE HAW! HEEEEEHAWWWWW!"

The chemistry major and the cub reporter spat out the same name in unison: "HUGHES!"

"How the hell did he get his own show?" Teddy wondered aloud.

"That's not a corn field," Roy observed. "It's a patch of sensimilla."

Truth was—nobody ever saw Hughes fire one up. For all his squawking about the medical benefits of marijuana and the patriot's right to freedom of expression, for all his crusading on behalf of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws and his "Thank You For Pot Smoking" t-shirt, there wasn't even the slightest whiff of reefer anywhere around him. "All right, Captain Roachclip," Roy confronted him one night, after the campus police had ransacked The Den for the third time in a semester, walking away with nothing more mind-altering than Teddy's bottle of Midol and a half-empty bottle of Blue Nun. "What's the deal? You're not an undercover narc, are you?"

Hughes just shrugged and grinned. "I'm a PATRIOT," he thumped his broad chest for emphasis. "I believe profoundly in the individual's right to freedom, so long as his actions harm nobody but himself."

Teddy lifted her head from the book she was studying. "Thelemite," she accused.


"You sound like the Beast." Roy and Mayland exchanged perplexed looks. "Crowley," she clarified. "To do my will shalt be the whole of the Law. Love is the Law, Love under Will." There was something tight and angry in her eyes. "Sounds a hell of a lot like Pride talking." She walked over to the battered cedar chest that doubled as their window seat. The lid had been forcibly pried open. The floor was littered with scrawled notebooks, diagrams and books that reeked of age and cockroaches. Flung across one corner was a curious garment: a wide red coat with a mysterious black symbol on the back. One of the cops tried to carry it off; Hughes had to physically restrain her to keep Teddy from ripping it from his hands while Roy quietly reasoned with the policeman.

"These belong to her uncle—she's keeping them for him. The chest was locked because those books are rare and out of print."

The cop was not impressed. "What is this—satanic?" he pointed at the sigil: a serpent broken on a cross, a crown and wings above it.

"It's….Masonic," Teddy lied. "Amestrian Rite. My father and uncle came out of Europe."

Soon as she had calmed down she had placed a collect call to London from the bedroom. The conversation was brief but emotional. She hung up, wiped her eyes and rejoined her housemates. "You know my uncle Edward is coming for spring break," she told them. "The books and notes need to be moved….and the coat. It's…been in my family for generations."

"Teddy," Roy ventured quietly, "what is this thing? Looks familiar, but I can't say where I've seen it before."

She wadded up the garment, wrapping it tightly in her arms. She nuzzled it almost unconsciously. "It was Edo's. Got it from his sensei—his teacher, I mean. Then it was Daddy's." She closed her eyes briefly, blotting a tear on the crimson folds. "Now it's mine."

Having the Berkley cops bust in and raid them three times in one semester was, as Roy phrased it, turning their lives into a very unfunny Cheech and Chong sketch. Hughes, loveable as he was, was getting more reckless about shooting off his mouth. "Right," Roy had grumbled over scrambled tofu one morning. "Sir Bongwater of Berkley is getting unbearable."

"I think he needs an ass kicking," Teddy nodded. "Be easier if we both didn't love him."


"And if he weren't a terrific lay."

"For both of us."

"Think it's gone to his head? Sorry. That's kind of obvious. Ah well. At least Edo's coming next month." She grinned into her orange juice. "He's only an inch taller than me, but oh-my-precious-Goddess he packs more sheer orneriness per square inch than any other man alive. Safer to hang your balls over the bear pit at the zoo than to piss off Uncle Edward. He could give a wolverine a heart attack."

A chunk of tofu went down sideways and Roy coughed and spluttered. "This—this is somebody I WANT to meet?" he demanded. "If he's going to rip Hughes' heart and feed it to the pigeons in the alley, what the hell is he going to think about you living with a—a…." Mustang cut his eyes away, becoming oddly obsessed in spreading the honey neatly to the crisp edge of his toast.

"Taisa." Rising, Teddy slid her arms around his shoulders, dropping a soft kiss on the top of his head. "You want to give a gift to this world? Be true to what you are. Love who you love. Anybody judges you—fuck 'em."

He managed a weak grin. "UN-fuck 'em, you mean?"

"Shut up and eat your tofu." She took a bite of his toast, a swig of his coffee, wiped her mouth on his napkin and bent back down for a swift kiss. "I'm off." She grabbed her camera bag, jammed the fedora on her head and headed out the door. She was halfway out before she swung back in.

"He's gay."


"My uncle." She had paused as if considering telling him more, then thought the better of it. "If anybody in my family is likely to understand the hell you're going through about facing up to the way your heart is leading you, it's Edward Elric. The great love of his life was a soldier in the army back home. That was a long-ass time ago, but Edo never forgot him. So…yeah. You ought to talk to him." She winked at him. "He's cute. And I know you're attracted to older guys."


"Why else do you keep watching those re-runs of Doctor Who Number Three? Jon Pertwee has a great ass, doesn't he? And he can't be a day under fifty five!"

….To Be Continued…