Soda and Weed

(Disclaimed.)

I think it's time for a perspective shift.


Chapter four:

"I don't understand what's so funny." Eddie said as the two walked back through London, "Really, old chum, if there is a laugh to be had right now, I want to be in on it."

Pad stopped laughing for a moment to explain, "Ya can't stand the sight o' gore." he started to count on his fingers, "You didn't even know where the airship dock was, ya don't know how to fly an airship, ya fight with an antique, and... And the sad thing was, ya didn't even know what yer old man's airship looked like."

"He... He didn't even tell us he was headed to Cairo."

His normally pin-straight shoulders slouched and his eyes fogged over. At once, Pad felt sorry for laughing at him. He slowed his pace so the two could walk down the street abreast. He lowered his voice, "Look, are ya sure the blighter is worth it?"

Eddie did not answer. Pad was never the type to assume silence was no, and he never assumed silence was yes, either. Silence was uncertainty. Silence was silence. Pad frowned and stopped completely. They had retraced their steps all the way back to the square, and were standing in front of the fountain. Eddie stopped too, his hands were stuffed in his pockets and his eyes were focused on the ground. He blinked furiously and said with a little more fire. "He didn't tell us he was heading to Cairo!"

"Sit down."

Eddie did as he was told and Pad sat down beside him. He was quite for a moment, waiting for Eddie to say something—anything. Pad hated to admit it, but the blond had grown on him. Of course, it was not exactly difficult to get in the softer parts of his heart. He was entirely accustomed to being the older brother of the East End. If the money was good—the money wasn't for him, it was for the others—and if Eddie had the drive, then Pad would follow him.

Pad would have to follow him.

The world would chew him up and spit him back out on his own. And Eddie had grown on him. Though he would in public shrug his shoulders and say, 'oh like a bloody awful fungus.' It was really more of a lost puppy type of curious fondness. Perhaps it could develop in to some sort of long lost little brother type of things. He had a hand full of little brothers, after all. One more could not hurt.

"What would yer Mum say?"

Eddie frowned, "She wouldn't want me to go."

"And yer Dad?"

Eddie bit his lip and Pad knew that there was a special nerve associated with Eddie's Dad—it was so bloody obvious—and he had just hit it.

"I—" he started awkwardly, then he smiled, straightened up, and clenched his hand in a determined fist, "I daresay he's be proud."

Pad thought to himself, 'Well, there is one way to motivate 'im.' But he did not say it.

Eddie looked down at his knees and thought about it for a moment, and then he stood up, "Yes. He'd be proud. Maybe he'd start taking me with him. Do you think so Pad?"

Pad resisted a laugh. That was cute and sad and pathetic and endearing, "Maybe."

Eddie's sudden smile relaxed, "So, why aren't we shoving off right now?"

"Well, best go prepared. I'm goin' to the item shop, you can watcha want."

"I see. Carry on then." Eddie turned on his heel, "I'll go and buy some more suitable clothing—"

"Ya positive ya won't get lost?"

Eddie laughed, "No, I'll be fine. Will you be sure to come back? You won't just abandon me, will you?"

"And be plagued with guilt for the rest a my short life?" Pad fought off the need to cough, "I—" the need of cough won, "An hour and a half... Ah, well, maybe—" he coughed again, "Maybe three, I'll need to say my good-byes. I'll be there."

"Right then. Airship dock in three hours?"

"It's a date." Pad waved him off, "I'll be there."

The two parted ways and Pad made his way back to the East End across the river. He knew it was a bad idea to leave, because at least six kids in the slums depended completely on him (and four more just needed him to watch their backs), but there were others that would help them out if he were to up and vanish, and he was not going to leave without giving the others warning. He went back to the pub first, and walked up to the bartender.

"Who was that kid you were with?" Alphonse asked, cleaning a glass.

"'Is name's Edward Brown, and I'm goin' to be traveling with him fer a while, be sure to pass on the message."

"So, you're a paid escort now?" he joked.

"Ah, can it!" Pad waved him away, "Look, if anyone comes asking fer me, you just tell them I'm in Cairo, or something."

"You will send a telegram over, won't you?" he asked, "Perhaps we'll hang a map above the stage and track you around with tacks and red yarn."

"Sure."

From the pub he went to Clara's drugstore. It was a small place, down by the docks, selling everything from common cold medicine to the more substantial stuff for adventurers. He nodded to Lloyd, who was sweeping the floor, and then to Clara herself, who was wiping down the countertop.

"Thanks for givin 'im the job."

"Oh, it's no trouble."

"You won't fire 'im, will you?"

"Why suddenly ask?" She raised an eyebrow and gave him a hard stare.

He averted his eyes and shoved his hands in his pockets, "Well, I'm goin' away for a bit. A long bit, actually. I don't know when I'll be back."

"So, you're getting drawn into the adventuring craze, too?"

"Well, no, it's more like babysitting. He's fifteen and he still fights with a sword. I imagine I'll get dragged into rescuing a princess or something, in addition to his old man."

Clara laughed, "Oh. You must be talking about Edward Brown."

"How'd you hear?"

"Oh, you've met Magi in passing, the one in the wheelchair? She comes by and buys my stock for a friend of hers. She told me. Here, I'd hate to have her tell me you're dead. Have a discount."

He bought the basics, because that was all he could afford at the moment, even with the discount. and picked his way back through the streets of the west end, telling anyone who cared to inquired about him where he was heading, the news would spread pretty fast that way. He ran into Joe, sanding shoes by the river dock, which no one ever used because of the airship, aside from a few tourists and recreational boaters.

"Hey Pad."

"'ey."

"It's just a joke, right, you ain't really leavin, are you?"

Ah, Lloyd must have slipped out and told him.

Pad squatted down beside him, even though he hated the smell of shoe polish. The little boy's fingers were stained with it, "No, I'm leavin."

Joe frowned at him.

"What?" Pad asked, "I'll come back, and I'll bring money each time. I promise."

Joe still frowned.

"Ah, look, someone'll look out for ya, I'll make sure of it."

"But 'ow can you? You won't be 'ere."

He stood up and crossed his arm, "I knew sendin' ya to school was a bad idea. Yer too smart now!"

That made him laugh. Pad ruffled his hair, gave half of the money his still had for safekeeping, and left him shining shoes by the dock. On his way back to the main part of town, he ran into the lower class women selling flowers on the streets and he decided it would be best to stop by and see one of them.

Her name was Elisa, and she was about twenty. She dreamed of better things, and Pad knew that if anyone was going anywhere big in their community, it was her. She had looked out for him when he was younger, just like he did for others now. She was binding violets with string as he stood, unnoticed in front of her, his hands in his pockets.

"Oye."

She looked up, her large brown eyes focused on him, "Well, Pad, I 'aven't seen ya in a month. What're you doing' round these parts? Don't ya normally work down on the docks these days."

"I've got a new job." Pad replied, "Escorting a paper-white rich boy around the world."

"What?"

"'E's lookin for his missing father. I'm the savvy untrusting one, s'far as I can tell."

She laughed, "Well, that suits ya."

"Meh." Pad shrugged, "Anyway, I was wonderin' if ya could look after the others fer me, they earn their keep, just make sure they ain't sleepin' on the streets. Ya won't be the only one, mind you, I'll 'ave others, too. Just keep an eye on 'em, call the doctor if they need it."

"But I already do, you know."

Pad coughed.

"You should watch that cough."

"Right, well, thanks."

He talked to a few others about it, all along main street, and when he was done he tracked them down, one by one, and told them that he was leaving, but he did not know how long. He promised that each time he came back he would have money, and if they needed help, they should not be afraid to ask. The youngest was about seven, and the oldest was Eddie's age, and knew enough about being in charge to handle it, of course, she was just one of the ones that was done being under his wing and was making her own way as a street cleaner. She had no idea why he was telling her he was leaving.

"Look out for the others."

"Oh." She blushed and laughed, "Right."

With a little nod, he walked away, and she waved softly, embarrassed with herself. Pad was headed back to the airship docks when someone shouted above him.

"'Eard you're a gigilo now!"

It was Tim. The two of them had a strange, not quite adversary, not quite friend, relationship. There was a jovial clash of personality and will whenever the two were in the same room, that because a truly frightening display if they were in the same room for too long. He was about twenty feet in the air, washing a window and waving down with his rag.

How witty.

"That I am!" Pad hollered back up, "Much better work that yer sorry ass ever did!"

Tim laughed and Pad side stepped to avoid being playfully splashed with cold, soapy water as he rocked on his rig.

"Look out fer mine!" he shouted back up, "I'd look out fer yours."

"'Course."

The with a sharp wave which was really more of a salute, Pad walked away from him. On his way back to the airship dock, he caught sight of the weapons store, and could have kicked himself, but instead he just slapped his forehead. Of course. Ammunition. He would definitely need to buy ammunition for his gun. So he went in, and when he came in the shop keeper smiled broadly, "Ah, you're adventuring partner came by."

"Oh, peachy. What did he do?"

"Already bought your usual purchase. I don't know how you reeled that one in, but good job."

"Well, I'll just take a second order." Pad slapped the money down on the counter,
"It won't go bad."

"The powder might."

"Well, it will take a while for that."

"Fair enough. Take it."

They made the exchange, and Pad put the ammunition and gunpowder into the bag with the medicines. He went back to the airship dock, then. It was not as crowded now, but it soon would be, because a ship from Paris was pulling into port, still covered with streamers and confetti from its maiden voyage. Probably going for a record or something.

He saw Eddie milling around the dock and starting to talk to sailors, then he seemed to lose the nerve just as fast. Pad watched, and eyebrow raised, as this went on, and he drifted from one to another. Pad eventually grabbed him by the collar, "What's wrong."

"I need someone to help me break into father's airship."

"What?"

"There is no spare key!" Eddie threw his hand up, "I can't get in!"

"Are you sure?"

"Well, if I was Gilbert I would leave a key under the mat but it's an airship it does not have a bloody welcome mat, so—"

"Ah." Pad took his flintlock from its holster and held it by the barrel. He took Eddie's forearm and dragged him through the port to the Maverick. He climbed the ladder and hit the window with the corner of the grip. It shattered easily. After that, he put it away, reached inside, and popped the door open. The blond looked on, truly amazed, as Pad invited himself in, then his partner.

"Didn't even leave a spare key?" Pad grumbled more to himself than Eddie. He did not speak his next thought: The blighter was not worth it.

Eddie had heard the remark anyway, and he shrugged, "Oh, he probably did not think much of it. H-he's just so fantastic. He must think he's indestructible."

There was a hint of sarcastic malice in Eddie's voice. His hands were shaking as he walked over to the wheel. It was the round, ornate kind that was found in ground ships. He ran his finger along the curve, frowning to himself. A key was hanging over one of the spokes around the edge. Eddie reached for it, but then noticed that there was a speck of dust on his glove, and he cringed. He rubbed his fingers together to get rid of it, and frowned a bit more. He eventually let it go, and turned back to Pad, or, more specifically, the bag in Pad's arm.

"Just that?"

"'Swat I said I'd get." Pad replied. He set the bag down on the map table and Eddie peered inside it.

His eye widened a bit, but not in shock, most likely in revulsion. He took out what looked like a pack of cigarettes and glared at Pad. Pad stepped back a bit and he knew what Eddie must think of him."That's not tobacco." he defended himself quickly, "It's Mu Leaf. Ya know, or, I suppose ya don't. I know it sounds crazy, but it speeds up the 'ealing process, relieves pain, not too bad for stress, either. Pretty addicting, though."

Eddie raised an eyebrow.

"Dragons 'er real."

"Well, when you put it that way." Eddie went back to frowning slightly, he turned the paper package over in his hands, examined the brand name and muttered to himself, "Heal Leaf, what a horribly generic name for this." He opened it and slipped one halfway out with some difficulty, then asked, "So... What do we do, old chum?" He took it out completely and rolled between his fingers, "In the middle of a battle, light one up and pass it around?"

"Yes." Pad answered, "We do exactly that."

Eddie frowned at it, then at him, then back at the joint. He shoved it back in amongst the other ten with his fingertip, as if he did not want to touch it, then he looked at his fingertip and cringed, as he saw that it had left a dark brown stain on his white glove, "Ah, why bother?" he asked himself. He let the package fall back into the bag, reached in again, and asked, "And I suppose this isn't alcoholic?"

"Ah, well you're close, of course, you were close last time."

"So, what is it?"

"We don't actually know. Most kids I know just figure it's some kind of glorified soda."

"You don't know what in it and yet you drink it anyway? What is it even for?"

"It just sort of 'elps you ignore the pain of physical injuries, give you a sudden burst of energy." Pad crossed his arms, "What you'd get?"

"Oh, armor." He answered, "Gloves, leather gauntlets, a better coat."

"Smart."

"They're still out on deck, of course. I picked up a few things for you. I knew you would need more bullets, but, well, I don't actually know if it's the right kind. The shopkeeper said he knew you, but he might have just been trying to sell me something—"

"Ah, good, yer already not trustin' people. I'm rubbin of on ya."

Eddie laughed awkwardly.

"But 'e did know me, so, thank you."

"You're welcome, old chum." He went outside, picked up the paper bag with his purchase in it and brought it inside.

"So, we shovin' off now?"

Eddie looked down at his feet, set the bag down, and considered it, "I suppose it couldn't hurt, but it is fairly late, perhaps tomorrow?"

"Fair enough."

"You can stay with me tonight, we've got plenty of room for you." He looked that the broken window, "I don't actually care that its broken, but when we start flying at higher, a broken window could be an issue, and then there is this business of the key."

He picked up what was probably the spare key, placed in plain view on the inside, like it was to taunt potential thieves, "I should have more made, one for each of us, at least."

"Okay."

"You don't mind waiting a little longer, do you."

"Me? No, I'm fine. Yer in charge 'ere." He leaned against the wall, "Course, when I say something, you really should listen to me, but fixing the window and getting keys made is smart."

So, he had a brain after all. That was good.

That was actually fantastic because Pad hated to admit it, but he never would have thought about what low pressure would do to them if the interior was not air tight, or having a spare key made. It was less like watching a train slowly wreak now, and a bit more like a kid growing up. He's ditch him when he didn't need him.

"Will you come to dinner?"

"With your family? Oh hell no. I'll just sleep on the ship."


I honestly never thought I would feel compelled to go this far.

-also, the shops are not selling heal leaf yet, but really, that joke is in the summary, so there is no point in holding it off.