Title- The Wicked Age
Author- DM Evans
Disclaimer- all rights belong to sensei Arakawa, not me
Characters/Pairing- Pinako, Chris, Hohenheim (and guest spots by little Roy), implied past Pinako/Hohenheim
Timeline/Spoilers- set before the series, spoilers for Christmas's relationship to Roy
Word Count- 5,836
Warning- some naughty language and sex talk but all in all pretty mild
Summary-Pinako needs help to find something for a friend and a lady spy might just be what the doctor ordered.
Author's Note- this was written for FMA_Ladyfest (on livejournal) for the prompt of 'Pinako hanging out with Chris Mustang (I have no idea how this would/would have happened, but IT WOULD BE EPIC)' The title is a shout out to Mae West who I like to use for inspiration for Chris. Thanks to evil_little_dog for the beta and to bobfish for some of the suggestions for scenes.
X X X
Pinako took a deep drag on her pipe, the tobacco glowing bright in the dim light of the bar. Hohenheim should have come in with her, but he didn't want anyone to connect him to the item she'd come to find out about. Hopefully, the woman named Christmas could track it down for Hohenheim. Pinako had left the alchemist back at the hotel. Her husband had to stay back home, tending patients. Besides, he trusted her. The sexual aspects to her friendship with Hohenheim were over decades ago. If she were honest with herself, there was something that made her vaguely uneasy around her old drinking buddy. She was aging, well into her fifties now, but he looked the same, like he had a portrait hiding out in his attic somewhere.
Tapping one of her short nails against the wooden bar top, Pinako slowly drank a mixed drink that went down sweet and spicy and she suspected it would kick like a mule if she were to have more than one. On the other end of the bar, a boy, far too young to be in such a place, sat reading an enormously thick book. He peered over the brim with curious almond-shaped eyes whenever he thought she wasn't looking. He was a cute little bugger, wicked if she were any judge of boys. Pinako considered herself pretty expert at this point. She missed having a son that age. Urey was finishing up medical school and unless, she missed her guess, would be marrying that pretty, sweet young lady, Sara. Ah well, maybe soon she would have grandkids this boy's age, but she wouldn't let them hang out in the bars with her.
The boy looked instantly guilty as a thirty-something year old woman sauntered into the room. Pinako didn't miss the fact that the few men in the bar looked up, obviously intrigued. This was a woman who knew how to move. Twenty years ago, so had Pinako.
The woman's dark eyes fixed on the boy. "Roy, you're supposed to be in my office studying. And why are you staring at patrons? You know better."
"It smells like smoke in there," the little boy replied. "This place stinks, too." He leveled a glare at Pinako. Feisty little thing.
"Then go out on the porch." The woman turned toward the girl behind the bar. "Rosemary, don't let him sit there like a barfly."
"He was eating a sandwich. Roy swore he was about to expire any moment unless I fed him," the girl protested.
"I remember those theatrics," Pinako offered. "Looks like he's ready to enter the 'eat you out of house and home' phase."
The woman snorted. "Just what I need. Roy, move it along. Out to the porch."
The boy slithered off the stool, carting his enormous book with him. "Fine. Everyone smells in here anyhow."
"Roy, don't be rude." The boy didn't respond and his mother turned to Pinako. "Sorry about that. His father apparently raised a hothouse flower with a big mouth."
"Oh, he's not yours."
"I'm his aunt. Would you happen to be Dr. Rockbell?"
"Yes. Madam Christmas?" At the woman's nod, Pinako held out a nicked and scarred hand. "Glad to meet you. And your boy is probably the smart one. The smoke can't be doing us any good."
"I'm sure. Let's continue this in my office," Christmas said.
Pinako slid off the bar stool and followed her. What she wouldn't have done to have been tall like Christmas back in her salad days. Instead, she had to endure all the sex jokes about what women her size were perfect for. As she entered the room, Pinako decided Roy was right. The office did smell of smoke, but other than that, it was richly appointed. The leather chair was like being caressed as Pinako sank down into it.
"General Grumman called me to say you would be coming. He thought that I might be helpful to you, but he was light on the details," Christmas said, digging out a silver cigarette case. It was embossed with dogwoods in bloom and she fished out a cigarette with nimble fingers, the tips of which were varnished deep red. Chris seemed so elegant, but Pinako wouldn't trade her pipe for anything. She had always been a rough and tumble sort of woman.
"That's probably because I don't know much, to be honest. I'm looking for something. It was stolen from a friend's family about fifty years ago," Pinako said, figuring that was as good a cover for Hohenheim as she could get. She opened the uncharacteristically large purse she carried and took out an old-fashioned tin-type. "See this? It's a locket and inside are two portraitures of my friend's great grandfather several times removed and his wife. He would like to get it back but he's shy. He couldn't ask himself and I've worked several times with Grumman, fixing up his men with automail so he suggested I could ask you. He said you're good at tracking things down."
Christmas took the sepia-toned tin type, peering at the photograph closely. "Is it gold?"
"Gold filigree with rubies and diamonds. That's probably why it was stolen in the first place. My friend thought it had been destroyed a long time ago, but he's learned that it was seen at a military ball a few months back. The person thought maybe Mrs. Fokker had it, but he wasn't sure. That is not a circle we travel in. We just want confirmation that it's the piece. My friend is willing to buy it back."
"I'd keep that part to yourself," Christmas replied, reaching for a piece of paper. She sketched the locket on it. "Wish I had half my nephew's artistic skills. I know the Fokkers." She peered at Pinako through a curl of smoke. "You mean the Fokkers who own several weapons manufacturing plants, correct?"
"Chances are his granddaddy did the stealing. They might not be willing to sell it, but there are other ways of persuading people." Christmas's painted lips parted in a wide smile, her cigarette dangling on her lip.
Pinako regarded Christmas. She knew exactly what the younger woman meant. Pinako knew that occasionally a little blackmail, distasteful though it may be, could reap big benefits. It was also dangerous. What the hell was Hohenheim getting her into? "I'm sure there are."
"Where are you staying?"
"We have a couple of rooms at the Sleep Inn, over by the park. Do you think this will take some time? We could go back to Resembool."
"Give me a day or two if you can. I might be able to track this down quickly. If I think it'll take longer than that. I'll send for you back home." Chris took a deep drag on her cigarette. "Grumman did tell you my fees."
"My friend is fine with them." Pinako thought the fees were high, but then again, Hohenheim never seemed to lack for money somehow, even though he never seemed to have a job. "He's really attached to his grandparents' locket."
"Very well." Chris snubbed out of cigarette then held a hand out to Pinako. "Give me your room numbers. I have the phone number for the front desk. Are you staying under an assumed name?"
"No, I guess we didn't think that was necessary. It's not like we're doing something illegal," Pinako said. Well, maybe, depending on what Christmas did to find this thing. "His name is Von Hohenheim."
"That's a mouthful. Spell it for me."
"That's not easier than it sounds." Pinako barely got the name out before someone knocked on the door and it opened a crack.
"I got my reading done. You said I could go to Billy's if I finished," a young voice said.
"Roy, I said I'd think about it. I'm busy now."
"You said I could go. We're gonna go to the park. I transmuted a really cool sail boat and I'm gonna win the race," Roy complained, poking his head into the room.
"If he's anything like my boy was, he'll be out the window and down the street if you say no," Pinako said, rubbing her forehead. "Then wonder later why you tanned his hide."
"Roy is immune to being reasoned with that way. It's been tried."
"My Urey was no better."
"Roy, go on, go to the park." Chris stood up. "I think we're done here, Dr. Rockbell. I might want to meet your mysterious friend."
"I'm not sure he'll be happy about that but I'll tell him." Pinako took her leave, wondering if she had just stepped on a landmine.
X X X
Chris figured that this would be an easy enough assignment, provided the Fokkers still had the locket. She didn't have any ties to that family. She found the Fokkers treacherous and didn't want to put one of her girls in that much danger. In her experience, weapons makers could be an unpredictable and well-armed lot. In the past, Chris wouldn't hesitate to do something dangerous but now she had a little boy who depended on her; a little boy who was busy pouting because his transmuted ship had a design flaw and sank. What a perfectionist Roy was. He got that from his daddy. His looks were all his mom's. He would grow up to be a heartbreaker, if Chris had to guess, and she wanted to be around to see that.
Granted, her line of work was nothing but risky. She could easily follow her brother into an early grave. That was one of the reasons she wanted to do this job for Grumman. He was going to help her find Roy an alchemy master, someone to look after him should she be killed. At least finding a locket shouldn't be too hard. Chris knew exactly where to look first, a close friend of the Fokkers, General Mitchell. Mitchell liked her girls and was harmless enough. He would be her first stop.
However, before that, there was a sulky little boy she had to cheer up. Roy always came first.
X X X
"So you think she'll do it?" Hohenheim peered up at Pinako over the rim of his book as if unsure if he wanted to know or if he wanted to read more. Damn alchemists.
"She'll do it, but she wants to meet you," Pinako replied, tossing herself on the bed. It had been a long trip.
"She looks like the sort who wants to know all the players." Pinako shrugged.
Hohenheim scrubbed his fingers in his beard. "That could be a problem."
"Why?" She didn't expect Hohenheim to answer. She had tried to bring up his amazing youth before but he wouldn't speak to it.
He just shook his head. "I did want to keep out of this. It would be easier that way."
"Can't an alchemist like you just whip up a disguise? I'm not sure she'll do this without meeting you."
"I can't change my face but my hair color…" Hohenheim examined his pony tail. He didn't seem happy about the idea of having to meet Christmas.
"Hohenheim, you said the person in the portrait who looks like you has your same beard. Certainly the man in the tin type did. Maybe it's time for that hideous thing to go."
His gold eyes widened. "You don't like my beard."
"I've never liked beards. Remember that time way back when." Pinako sat up. "When I still had gold in my hair. How many times did I try to shave you when you were passed out drunk? You just never stayed out long enough. Shave the rat."
"Rat?" His eyebrows darted up. "Pinako!"
"It's a big blond rat on your face. Trust me, shave it and you will look completely different."
He sighed. "I could be a brunet. That would be different."
"Sounds like a plan. You might not have to do much, other than see Christmas in her bar. Her nephew is an alchemist," Pinako said, figuring that might lure him in.
Hohenheim finally closed his book. "Oh? Is he promising?"
"I think he's eight. He said he transmuted a sailboat to go play with his little buddies. I don't know how good he is, but he was reading one of those huge books of yours, the kind that make you go cross-eyed." Pinako stifled a yawn.
He snorted at her. "As if your automail books aren't just as thick and dry."
"I'll concede that point. I'm going to my room. I need some sleep. Don't shave the rat off without me. I want to help," Pinako said, wagging a finger at him.
Hohenheim just rolled his eyes at her.
X X X
Hohenheim looked completely shy and baffled and that amused Pinako far more than it should. He looked positively drab with long brown hair, worn loose on Christmas's advice. He had robbed Pinako of the joy of shaving him, saying he didn't trust her with a blade. She slapped him hard for that one. She didn't want to know what Hohenheim thought she was going to do to him.
Christmas had tracked the locket quickly and had come up with a plan to get it back. She got them all invited to one of Fokker's parties. Hohenheim was supposed to be a minor Aerugen prince and they were his lovers. Hohenheim had even transmuted a little gold back into Pinako's hair.
Pinako was amazed at how puffed up and excited Hohenheim seemed in his role. It was probably the idea of strutting around with two lovely ladies on his arm. Pinako didn't think she looked bad for her age, but her blue dress was far more conservative than Christmas's. There were some things a fifty year old woman just wouldn't look good in no matter what her shape. Christmas's dress was one of those, red with a neckline so plunged Pinako had to assume the woman used sheer willpower to keep her boobs from flopping free. Hohenheim seemed quite taken by the amount of breast he could see.
When Christmas caught him looking, he stammered something lame about admiring the sparkly pendant of garnet and rhinestones – or maybe it was really rubies and diamonds given the woman's prices – dangling between her lush breasts. Hohenheim turned as red as Christmas's gown. Pinako wished she had a camera.
It didn't take Pinako long to realize why Christmas had given them a flashy cover. She wasn't sure the other woman knew subtlety. Just as well. It wasn't Pinako's strong suit either. She just didn't quite have the curves Christmas did, but she still knew how to use what she had.
Pinako looked around the mansion. The Fokkers apparently liked to decorate with weapons and the heads of the things those weapons killed. She wouldn't be surprised to find a skull of some vanquished foe tucked away as a book end or candle holder. This place made her a little nervous. Despite all that, the Fokkers certainly knew good music and served up some of the best appetizers PInako had ever tasted.
She finished sucking down a river oyster coated in a rich sauce then snagged another glass of bubbling wine served in a crystal goblet that probably cost as much as a rewiring job. "I could get used to this."
"Tempting, isn't it?" Christmas replied softly. "Just keep in mind there are people here who'd kill you and step on your corpse to get one rung higher on the ladder."
"That's why I kept my practice small and rural. I could have made a lot more money in the city with multiple military contracts. I wouldn't have liked the people I would have had to work with," Pinako whispered.
"Probably a smart choice," Christmas replied.
"Oh." Hohenheim startled, bumping into Pinako. "That woman is wearing the locket." He pointed with his wine glass in the general direction.
"That is Mrs. Fokker. I was hoping she wouldn't be wearing it," Christmas sighed. "It's too early to try and talk to her now. I want her more tired and tipsy."
"So what do we do until then?" Hohenheim asked.
"Dance, chat, dine, try not to drink too much," Christmas replied. "It's a party, enjoy it. You'll be surprised what you can learn at one of these."
"We'll give it a try," Pinako said.
She watched as Christmas flitted off into the crowd, followed by a streamer of men. Pinako almost missed those days when she turned heads like that. Not that she didn't love her husband and son – she did very much – but sometimes married life was a little too comfortable and a little too lacking in spontaneous passion. She'd have to make up for that when she got home. Pinako turned to Hohenheim who looked like maybe he wanted to blend into the woodwork or go over and just grab the necklace off Fokker's neck and couldn't decide which would work better for him. She needed to distract him a little. "Let's dance, Hohenheim."
His odd gold eyes widened. "Dance? You remember the last time we danced?"
"You maimed three people, yes, I remember. Come on, look like you want to be at a party." Pinako took his wine glass away and set hers and his on a table. "Dance."
He sighed, his hair, so unfamiliar looking in brown, falling in front of his face. He took her hand and led her to the dance floor. Pinako couldn't help wondering once again why her hand, scarred from years of metal working, was getting rough and slightly wrinkled looking but Hohenheim's remained firm and unblemished?
X X X
Chris sat in on the back patio under the balmy night air. Her flock of followers settled around her. She had spotted General Mitchell's aide, Anderson, on the patio, talking to one of the Fokkers and if she wasn't mistaken, the redheaded woman was Colonel Borden. It was worth flirting with her passel of men away from the main party just for the chance to listen in without being noticed. Chris put a cigarette to her lips and a hand immediately thrust out with a silver lighter for her. Grinning at the young blond man, she leaned in to light up.
"You have to be an actress with those looks," one of her men, Basil, said.
"That's been a while," Chris said, "Stage." That much was true. She might have liked to have gone on the big screen but her family wanted her in the business and just when she was about to get a chance to get into movies, she ended up with a young nephew to feed. Both jobs were risky but spying was more in demand and paid better.
"Why did you give it up? You had to be a natural," Basil said.
"A lady has to have her secrets," Chris replied.
"Women are fickle. She probably got bored," Basil's friend, Henry, said earning himself a glare.
Chris tried to ignore them, sending another of their group back for gin and tonic while she strained to hear Anderson and Fokker talking. It wasn't easy but she watched their mouths, trying to hide her own face with a veil of smoke. Chris blinked, stunned. Were they really talking about a Drachman spy within Mitchell's men? The Fokkers could probably fund a well armed coup if they wanted to. Grumman and Armstrong would need to know this soon.
Realizing Fokker was looking her way, Chris leaned across the table and kissed Basil. Let the conspirators think she had merely been entranced with the young buck. From the starry look in Basil's eyes, he was besotted with her. "I think I've had enough of fresh air, boys. Let's go dance again."
She got up, whisking back into the ballroom before Fokker and Anderson got too suspicious. She had enough now to get a second good pay day out of this deal.
X X X
"You seem fascinated by my necklace."
Hohenheim startled. He hadn't realized he'd been staring. He wasn't sure if it was good news or not that the middle-aged woman assumed he was staring at her necklace and not her breasts. He could have had a fist to his face judging by some of her burly relatives. He would really rather not fight unless he had to. "I'm sorry. I didn't mean to stare. It's quite an exquisite piece."
"I love it. It's from Xerxes, you know." Deborah Fokker beamed at him.
"No, I didn't." That was true because the locket wasn't. The necklace was old but not that old. He had given it to an Ishbalan bride. Ah Ra'anaa, she had such wonderful sun-kissed cinnamon skin. She could make him do anything.
"There's a monograph on the necklace in my library."
"Oh? Could I steal you away from your party for a bit so I could see that?" Hohenheim wanted to see what this monograph had to say since it didn't sound very accurate and why would anyone care so much so much about a necklace with a fake background. Were they trying to add value and history to it?
"Yes. I'd love a chance to sit down. Heels can be so awful. You men are so lucky you don't have to wear them."
Hohenheim nodded, but he could remember the fashion trend of silk stockings, long frilly lace cuffs on the jackets and ascots and high heels. He had thought he looked dashing in them, but they had been wide chunky heels, not the precarious spikes. He had no idea how women tottered around on them, but my, they made women's legs look fine. Just thinking about Pinako and Chris's legs in their heels tonight made him happy. "Thank you for showing it to me."
Hohenheim followed her to the library, making small talk. Deborah kept babbling about the locket and her love of antiquities which seemed only slightly marred by inaccuracies. The monograph seemed to have been written by a family member and there were no pictures of the inside of the locket. Maybe they hadn't figured out the hidden catch he had designed for it.
"What do you make of the picture inside of the locket?" He couldn't help asking. This could very well be a trap and he had been recognized. If so, he had foolishly walked right into it.
"Picture? I thought maybe it was a locket, but it wouldn't open. I didn't want to force it," Deborah said.
"That's probably wise," Hohenheim said, the monograph balancing on his knee as someone came into the room.
The man was just slightly short of being a mountain and Hohenheim could see that outline of a gun in the man's jacket. He didn't seem happy to see Hohenheim. "Why are you bothering my wife? I've killed men for less than that."
X X X
"Where's Hohenheim?" Chris asked coming up to Pinako.
"I'm not sure. I went to the bathroom and he was gone when I came back." Her lips thinned. "That man can find trouble like no one I know. I was trying to find him."
"Oh, are you looking for that baby-faced prince of yours?" a young lady with gin roses asked, swaying on her heels. "I saw him going that way with Debbie a while back." She gestured down the hall.
"Debbie?" Pinako asked.
"Fokker," Chris hissed.
"Thank you, miss." Pinako sighed, heading down the hall. "Hohenheim, how can a man that old be this naïve?"
"He did seem more like the head in the book sort of fellow, not a lot of real world savvy," Chris said, taking the lead.
"He should. Idiot. If Fokker has killed him, thinking he's a thief, I'm dancing on the corpse," Pinako said, her hands curling into fists.
"Hopefully it won't be that dire," Chris said, poking into the first unlocked room she found. Pinako did the same on the other side. "But if he was going to do this himself, why involve me?" Chris opened another door.
"You have to ask him." Pinako opened a door then frantically waved Chris over. She placed a finger on her painted lips.
Chris peered in and saw Fokker in an obviously threatening stance. She caught Pinako's hand and whispered, "We can probably diffuse this by acting like a pair of love-struck women looking for their man. Think you can do that?"
"Hell yeah, but if I get shot, Hohenheim better hope I die."
Chris led the way, her heart racing. She knew that Fokker would be armed but he was unlikely to shoot three people in his own home. That didn't mean she wasn't nervous.
"There you are, sweetie!" Chris cooed, throwing her arms open as she sashayed into the room and over to Hohenheim.
"You never could resist a library," Pinako added.
Chris hugged the seated 'prince,' burying his face in her cleavage then looked over her shoulder, pretending to just notice Fokker's rage. "Are we interrupting?"
"I was just asking the prince why he was bothering my wife," Fokker replied.
"Oh, Joshua, you always overreact. The prince was merely admiring my necklace. I was showing him the monograph your uncle wrote on it," Deborah said.
Chris let Hohenheim go before he smothered. He was red all the way to his dyed hairline.
"Someone said he was staring at you," Fokker protested as Hohenheim got up. The fake prince circled around the desk, his hand closing over a metal desk lamp, ornate with red and white glass: Ishbalan influence. He carried it, studying it, as he moved toward the window.
"Staring at the necklace. The prince is a delightful man," Deborah said then turned to Chris and Pinako. "You ladies are very lucky. It's not often you find someone who's scholarly and a good conversationalist."
"We're definitely lucky," Pinako said, with more than a touch of sarcasm.
"What do you want with the necklace?" Fokker asked.
"Nothing. I was merely admiring it. Your wife was telling me it was an heirloom that could possibly date all the way back to the fabled kingdom of Xerxes. How fascinating," Hohenheim said, looking every inch the bumbling scholar.
"That's our prince," Pinako said, drawing Fokker's attention. "If he thinks he's spotted something ancient and dusty, he hares off after it, leaving his women behind."
Chris tried not to grin. Pinako was pretty good at this. A flash of blue – something growing familiar to her now that her nephew was in her care – caught Chris's eye. Fokker glanced over. Chris glanced out the window. "I think that was a flash from a reporter's camera. You know how the society page can be."
Fokker relaxed. "All too well."
Hohenheim leaned close to Chris and a sudden weight dropped into her clutch. "I assume you can pickpocket," he whispered.
Chris glanced into her purse and saw a replica of the locket. Had he just turned the now missing lamp into this? "I'm not sure I'm that good."
"I'm going back to the party," Fokker said. "If you're staying here talking antiques, don't be too long about it. Your guests will miss you, Deborah."
"I'll be along shortly, dear. I promise," Deborah replied.
Chris waited until the arms dealer left before getting close to his wife. Chris had already palmed the fake locket, holding it against her clutch. "May I have a closer look? It really is lovely."
"It is," Pinako agreed, also getting closer.
Chris lifted the locket and while they were all admiring it, she got a hand around to let the catch go, praying the old thing wouldn't stick. The necklace fell away into her hand.
"Oh darn, that old catch," Deborah said, grabbing at the locket's chain and missing. "It's always doing that."
Chris handed her the fake. Damn, the alchemist had done an amazing forgery. The iron even looked like gold now. How had he done that? "Here you go."
"We all start breaking down as we get older. Guess necklaces aren't any different," Pinako said.
"Sadly." Deborah put the necklace back on. "Well, if I don't get back to the party, Joshua will be irate."
"Oh, by all means. I've taken up enough of your time. You've been very gracious, Mrs. Fokker," Hohenheim said.
"My pleasure," Deborah said and led the way out of the study.
As much as Chris wanted to just run off now before anyone suspected a switch, she didn't want to draw suspicion. Instead, she talked Hohenheim into dancing to one of the fast paced songs with both her and Pinako: something highly visible.
Chris didn't want to linger too long so she herded her clients out after a few dances. As Hohenheim was driving her car back toward her home, she finally asked something that had been bugging her all night. "If you could make a fake, what did you need me for?"
"I couldn't have gotten invited to the party on my own," Hohenheim replied then held up one big hand. "And these hands are not made for delicate work. Besides, I'm really clumsy. I would have messed it up."
"He is clumsy, seriously so." Pinako bobbed her head. "I've seen him fall over imaginary dust."
"I'm not that bad." Hohenheim turned to look at her.
"Keep your eyes on the road." Pinako slapped his shoulder. "And he is."
Chris chuckled. "How did you make it look like real gold and rubies?"
"The rubies and diamonds were just the glass from the lamp but it is gold."
"Isn't that illegal for you guys?"
Hohenheim grinned into the rearview mirror. "I'm not telling, are you?"
She snorted. "Hardly. You're handy to have around. Want a little apprentice? There's nothing I can teach my nephew about alchemy."
"Pinako mentioned him. Abandoning children in my care would be disastrous," Hohenheim said. "I'm no good with kids."
Chris waved a hand. "Don't worry, I have someone lined up, but having someone who can make his own gold would be helpful."
His expression went grim in the mirror and she had to wonder what she didn't know about the alchemic world and probably should.
X X X
"He didn't," Chris said, downing her gin and tonic.
"I swear it, Hohenheim made an entire sexual jungle gym." Pinako giggled her face red from the alcohol.
"It wasn't for me," Hohenheim protested, his golden eyes a little glazed. He poured himself more wine.
"You used it," Pinako said.
"You talked me into it," he protested.
She laughed. "I did. That was amazing."
"Why are we telling the world?" Hohenheim's face blazed red.
"I'm not the world." Chris leaned over and kissed his cheek. "Never be embarrassed by good sex, Hohenheim, only the bad."
"Hell, we have those stories, too. Dominic, if the man didn't want to be kept all tied up, why did he bring the scarves?" Pinako grabbed the wine bottle from Hohenheim.
"Men," Chris snorted. "They want to get all kinky then half of them get scared."
"I've never had that problem," Hohenheim grinned.
"I'll keep that in mind for when we're not drunk." Chris patted his hand. "But the bad sex got me thinking about a certain general. This guy always wanted a hummer but he was no bigger than this." She held her fingers up very close together. "What was I supposed to do with that?"
"What's a hummer?" A little face peered through the railing on the stairs into the living room. "Is it a musical instrument? Can I have one?"
Chris sighed. "Roy, I thought Rosemary put you to bed hours ago."
"She did but I'm not tired no more." The boy came all the way down the steps. "Did you get the thing back from the bad guys?"
Pinako raised an eyebrow. "He knows?"
"As you can see, he's very good at sneaking up and overhearing things he shouldn't." Chris got up, steadied herself for a moment while her head swam then took Roy's hand. "We got the thing back from the bad guys."
"Can I see?" Roy tugged free, bouncing over to Hohenheim.
"He is an imp." Hohenheim patted Roy's head. "He would be a terror as an alchemist. You can see it in his eyes."
"I'm going to be a great alchemist," Roy assured him.
"I have no doubts. Madam, I think we should let you put your nephew back to bed and head to our own while we still can," Hohenheim said.
Chris recaptured Roy. "I think you just want to escape the conversation, but I suppose it is late. I'm glad this worked out for you two."
"Thank you for all your help. I'll be by with the rest of your payment tomorrow and no one says the conversation couldn't continue." Hohenheim replied.
"Are you planning on ditching me?" Pinako pinched his side.
"I wouldn't dare."
"Well, then. Shall we say tomorrow?" Chris asked and they all grinned over Roy's head.
X X X
Pinako finally felt well enough to light her pipe around two in the afternoon. Champagne, adrenaline and wine had left her hung over. Hohenheim hadn't roused himself to go to Christmas's yet. She found him in his hotel room, looking at the locket. "May I see it, Hohenheim?"
He waved her over. "I trust you to keep this to yourself."
Hohenheim put the gold locket in her hand. Staring up at her, painted inside, was a wonderful rendition of Hohenheim in clothing that hadn't been in fashion for many decades and on the other side, a pretty Ishbalan woman. "You still aren't going to fully explain yourself are you, Hohenheim? How can this be you?"
"You know enough. You know I'm different." His hand closed over hers. "It's all you really need to know, Pinako."
"When I'm dead and gone, will you still look like this picture?"
He closed the locket then put it around his neck, his expression very sad. "Thank you for helping me get this back, Pinako. It means a lot to me."
She knew that was the only answer she would get. He couldn't be pushed on the topic and that had to be good enough for her. She kissed his cheek. "You're my friend, Hohenheim, it's what we do."
"You did more."
"Maybe. We should go pay up and plan to leave in the morning. I have a husband waiting for me at home." Pinako said.
"Afternoon, we'll never make morning if we sit around talking with Christmas," he replied.
Pinako smirked around the stem of her pipe. "True." She left Hohenheim alone with his memories, glad that she could help give him back a part of his past. It felt good to help out, felt young and exciting. She had been missing that, but she was ready to return home where she was safe and loved. Still, this would be an adventure she wouldn't ever forget. It was like being in a movie and she had some of the best lines.