Chapter 4: Party

Lewis was just watching TV aimlessly one night. He heard the front door slam and immediately got up.

"Leslie! Where the hell you been? You never called and never answered when I called you..." He stopped when he saw his beloved blonde standing slumped in the hallway, looking defeated and a bit...afraid of him. "Leslie?" he asked in a softer tone. "What's wrong? What happened?"

"Sorry...sorry I was so late home. I went out for one drink after work and time passed by so quickly..."

... "Is that all?"

Leslie looked desperate to tell him something. He gripped his lover's shoulders. " know how much I love you. I really love you."

Lewis nodded in confusion. "I know, I love you too."

The taller smiled delightedly and kissed his beautiful husband passionately on the lips. The other responded of course. This exchange ended after a short time.

"I'll be goin' to bed early even, I'm really tired." Leslie seemed rather apologetic.

"Aren't you hungry?"

"No...I ate already. G'night."


"Acted weird how?" asked Tyson the next day. They were sitting in his backgarden and on the back entrance porch. Once again it was a sunny day.

Lewis shook his head. "He...looked sad but couldn't tell me. He prefers bein' optimistic, he always tells me what's wrong with 'im."

"Guess that depends on what was the most tragic thing to happen to 'im."

"Oh, gee...sorry, I'm kinda thirsty, you mind..."

"No, course not, come inside." Tyson paused before he went in. "Sorry 'bout the mess."

Like Lewis' house, Tyson's back entrance led straight into the kitchen but unlike Lewis' kitchen, Tyson's looked like a victim of an earthquake. It was mostly clean apart from a dirty clutter around the sink. Cutlery was strewn everywhere, a used chopping board lay on the cooker and there was a brushed aside pile of broken mugs on the floor.

"Mine ain't so perfect neither," encouraged Lewis, thinking about the fact he hadn't cleaned away after eating breakfast that morning.


The party that Saturday was held on the grounds of the 'Semes Clubhouse', which was actually a mansion built with magnificent detail. As was the case with most outdoor events, nobody could go inside the meeting house except for where ribbons outlined a path to the toilets. The large lawn at the back saw tables of buffet snacks, cakes and drinks, as well as a few gazebos, plastic tables and chairs and people were scattered all about. Children chased each other across the grassy mile.

Cloud's toddlers, as quiet as ever, stayed shyly near their father. It was at this point that he was approached by the Lemington couple.

"Cloud..." Lewis began. He was taken aback by Cloud's serene expression. It seems that the man rarely changed his facial expression except to smile a little more or laugh. His eyes and face were glowing all the time apparently. "We saw you faint at the supermarket last week so..."

A sparkling smile snaked along Cloud. "Thank you for your concern, but it was nothin' major. I really don't know why they fussed over me so much." The plaited Seth appeared to hand his blonde husband a cup of juice.

"You know Seth," began Leslie, bearing a cheeky smile, "you never did tell us how you gotcha hair."

The white-haired man looked somewhat uncomfortable. Cloud softly rolled his eyes and easily walked away with the toddlers. Seth looked rather casual today, wearing a form-fitting cyclist's T-shirt with some casual sports trousers. (People wearing good quality sports designers always seem to scream of money.) His top was very revealing of his well formed torso while Cloud was, once again, wearing something loose and hid his figure.

"It happened in college," Seth began. "We had an unplanned party in my apartment. My friends came over so we could take turns fightin' each other at Tekken 3. First there was uh...4 people, then 9, then...15 I guess? I lost count after that 'cos after there was 9 people, newcomers kept bringin' alcohol. So at the point there was a massive line to play Tekken 3 and for the restroom, we got bored of the Playstation and partied to old-school-rock. Before I passed out, I had dark brown hair. When I passed out, my friend's girlfriend's buddy thought it would be funny to bleach my hair. But when you're drunk, you don't follow instructions right. I woke up leanin' over the tub-you know how your head can be upside down when your body ain't? So I had a headache, a red face and I was starin' up into this weird coloured water with a white curtain above it. Course I lifted my head and figured out it was upside down and the curtain got longer. So first I was dryin' all my hair with a towel and lookin' for the dye kit. I found just one for platinum blonde and it said permanent." The pair were in fits.

"What was worse was that I'd been set up on a blind date with Cloud that day and I only had 3 hours to go. 3 hours to eat, clean the apartment with my roommate and clean myself up. Man that place was trashed. So I was all nervous when I found Cloud, handed 'im a recent photo of me, to show what I really looked like and he said he liked me now...or then."

Lewis calmed himself down. "So you and Cloud went to the same college?"

"Nah, his family couldn't afford it. He was a local boy who worked as soon as he graduated in a motorbike store and a friend's friend worked at the same store to support his studies."

Leslie responded but Lewis found it too strange. He stared at Cloud in a mystified way. (He's so gentle, not the type to work in a motorbike store.)

The men, women and children were all dressed in bright colours. If some of the...well...dominant partners of the relationship thought that 'casual dress' meant wearing less layers in a suit, then they wore either light grey or blue clothes where they would normally wear black. Denim was naturally abundant, as well as the colour white. Lewis felt like an eyesore wearing a navy T-shirt with a bright emblem of a dragon at the front with grey cargo pants. He wasn't the only one who stood out though. Kai wore black leather trousers and a red tank top.

"Bright colours," the pale man murmured.

"No shit, didn't I tell you it'd be like this?" commented Tyson proudly to him.

Kai raised an eyebrow at his lover's choice of clothing: a black Thundercats T-shirt with a short-sleeved, unbuttoned purple shirt over the top and a strangely designed pair of shorts made out of both denim and cotton. "I don't see you putting in any effort."

"Meh," shrugged the shorter.

"The biggest eyesores here, I swear," spoke an 'Italiano' jokingly.

"Joey! How's it goin'?"

"I'm getting a drink," Kai announced and promptly left.

"Doesn't like happy people too much does he?" frowned Joey.

"It'd be worryin' if he did," assured Tyson. "Hey, have you met Lewis yet?"

"Uh, no. Is that him with the camera?"

The pair spotted Lewis a short distance away taking pictures, so they walked over to him. (What else were they going to do?) The kinds of pictures he was taking were nothing out of the ordinary: children playing, a woman admiring the flowers, happy men gathered and holding wine glasses, that kind of thing.

"Hey Lewis, what kinda pictures you takin'?" greeted Tyson happily.

The photographer smiled at the sound of his voice. "Whatever strikes ma fancy. Oh hi."

"Joey Wheeler, don't think we've met." He held out his hand, Lewis shook it. Joey struck him as looking like a trendy teenager rather than boyish or cherubic (like other Ukes). Form-fitting jeans, blue and white T-shirt that hung loosely and the cleanest pair of white trainers. He might've seemed more masculine than others but he was definitely perfect.

"Tyson told me a bit about're from New York, right?"

"Yeah, I'm kinda famous around here just 'cos of my Brooklyn accent."

Lewis started to look a bit embarrassed. " mind?" He gestured with his small digi-camera.

"No! Course not! I like to think of myself as photogenic. Wanna have me do a pose?"

"No...just be your charming self."

"That I can do." Joey placed his hands on his hands and gave his smile even more shine. "Cheese."

Lewis couldn't help but smile as he took the picture. "Thanks, came out great."

Joey's smile dimmed a bit when something caught his eye in the distance, but it then widened again. "Sorry to go, but a kid needs me. What's wrong, Serenity!" he called out as he walked towards a sobbing 6-year-old girl. She had the Carpenter's blue eyes and her long hair was bright brown.

"Oh you were bound to take a picture of 'im, everyone loves ta get 'is charmin' face." Tyson and Lewis found the cheerful voice coming from Dean, behind them. "Lovely to see you again, Lewis, you too Tyson. I believe you've met ma friend V, but V, have you met Lewis?"

"No I haven't, it's a pleasure to meet you." His grey eyes and smile looked a cross between dreamy and plastered, so solid was the dreamy look. He spoke elaborately slow and sounded like he should be purring. His silver hair waved in a stylised fashion and was placed around his shoulders. He looked rather much so that he was wearing a shirt with a flowery design with pink trousers.

Lewis smiled weakly. "Likewise." He couldn't bare looking at V.

"You know V, you never told me what that stands for," said Tyson. He looked pissed at being instantly ignored.

"V here taught me all the good tricks to cookin'," Dean chippered. "I noticed you've never popped by for any cookin' lessons, maybe your job keeps you busy, but just to tell ya, you can come visit either me or V. That goes for you too, Tyson."

"I cook alot already, thanks," he sulked.

"You'd better call me ahead before you come round mine though," recommended V. "You can find Spike Pearson listed in the town phonebook."

"I was just tellin' V here about the trouble I had when I was makin' lasagne the other day, it's got so many ingredients that I just caused a whole mess and I barely cleaned in time before Lucien came home. So V reminded me about the right method to do it so I could make and clean at the same time."

"It's always important to keep your kitchen clean."

Dean continued his happy chatter. "I also get so worried about kitchen cleanliness whenever the kids wander in. It's why Lucien bought a safety gate so I could keep the kids out whenever I needed to. The one at the top of the stairs works fine but the one downstairs keeps breakin' for some reason. Lucien called the company several times to make sure someone comes to take a look at the thing and fix it but they never come when they say they will."

"But Leslie's a lawyer isn't he?" asked V purringly, looking at Lewis. He then faced the churping Dean. "Maybe you should get legal advice?" Lewis and Tyson had grown so bored of the pair's one-sided conversation that they allowed their eyes to wander around.

"Oh I don't know about such things, I leave them stuff to Lucien. Hey, you two lookin' for somebody? I think everyone's here."

"I haven't seen Roy Mustang."

"I'm sure he's comin' though, he said so himself when I saw him and asked a couple o' days ago. He even said 'e's bringin' 'is 'usband along, though I can't for the life of me think of 'is name."

"Edward Elric."

"Elric? What a weird name! I was happy to drop my family name when I married Lucien Winchester but mine was normal. Why'd he be so proud to carry a name like Elric? Oh well, I hardly see 'im anyway. Most times I do, he's covered head-to-toe in leather and crash helmet on that motorbike o' his!"

"He's got a motorbike?" asked Tyson in surprise.

"Shocking isn't it?" assumed an outraged Dean. "Whenever I hear it rumblin' along I'm fearin' a bike gang from the badlands comin' to cause trouble."

"You don't have to worry," comforted V. "There aren't no bike gangs nearby. And no badlands."

"It's been nice chattin' to ya, but I'm gettin' kinda hungry now. You feelin' hungry Lewis?"

"Yeah," nodded Lewis in a daze.

"Well we'd best be goin' then, will talk later." Tyson had the fakest smile as he dragged Lewis away, but Dean and V didn't seem to notice. Once they were near the buffet table they breathed a sigh of relief. "Weird and boring, talk about a new one," grumbled Tyson.

"That..." Lewis seemed rather distracted. "That's Jack over there."

"Why d'you think...oh, Ivan's with 'im."

Sitting down on the grass, with his knees drawn up, arms wrapped around the knees and staring straight ahead, Jack seemed to look rather sad. Immediately Lewis got his camera out for a couple of shots. Jack was wearing the brightest green trousers and a very boyish T-shirt which was loose, also white except for a red neckline and red sleeves. His hair was white blonde, very thin and straight. Ivan knelt next to him, looking comforting. He was the one speaking, while the other man responded with either one-word-answers or movements with his head.

"To have such a sad image in the middle o' all this...happiness...that's life," murmured Lewis wisely. He made sure he took a picture of the point Ivan wrapped his arm around Jack's shoulders.

"Wonder why it is he's so sad?" asked Tyson. Ivan stood up and walked away.

"I can only wonder," was the photographer's answer.

"We can always ask him," the shorter suggested brightly. He jogged towards where Jack sat.

"Tyson..." Lewis was forced to chase him.

The pair stopped rather close to the melancholic Jack.

"Hey Jack," began Tyson. He found himself being glared at by sharp blue eyes. The delicate, melancholic boy from Lewis' photos had vanished in a fact, now they were up close, it was clear that Jack was over 30. He hadn't changed his sitting position but he was now positively frightening. ...

"Spit it out!" snapped the sitting blonde in his southern drawl.

... "What makes you an introvert?" Tyson stammered. Jack's glare intensified.

"So sorry, we shouldn'ta come over," cut in Lewis quickly. "We'll just leave now-"

"You're right, you shouldn'ta." The blonde's glare held them, but it softened. "What d'you think makes an introvert?" he asked softly.

"Not sure, it's why I'm askin' you," braved Tyson.

"I handle people as well as Alan handles alcohol."

"Alcohol?" The brunette buddies spotted Alan coming away from the drinks table sipping a full glass of wine.

"He just got some wine," commented Lewis.

Jack cackled with laughter. "He's beginnin' 'is third glass an' 'is eyes 've glazed over. At his rate he's gonna be 'avin' a small adventure later in the afternoon. Don't tell Daniel, it'll spoil the fun." His conspiratorial smile slowly disappeared. He stood up easily. The pair now found themselves being stared down at. "If you'll excuse me." He wandered slowly away, no hurry in the world.

"He'd 'ave more fun not makin' it obvious he's an Uke," hissed Tyson. "In fact, I can't believe he's one."

It was something like an hour later when Roy finally made an appearance...or he might have already been there for a short while, Tyson and Lewis weren't exactly sure. They spotted Roy talking to Matthew. The school Principal didn't look that different from when he was wearing a suit, but today he wore jeans and a T-shirt emblazened with 'How are you gentlemen? All your base are belong to us'. Standing next to Roy was a young man who could've only been Edward. He had hazel eyes, strawberry-blonde hair that was plaited and reached beneath his shoulders. He was wearing leather trousers with a matching jacket that was unzipped, revealing his white T-shirt underneath. He stood with his left hand on his hip and his right clasped Roy's shoulder, almost possessively. Edward was brimming with confidence, in fact his smile almost looked cocky.

Tyson and Lewis politely joined the circle of three while Roy and Matthew debated curriculum priority. Tyson was holding a plate piled with cakes at this point.

"Oh hey! Don't think I've ever seen you before." Like his husband, Edward didn't speak with a southern drawl.

"You haven't met?" asked Matthew in surprise. "Well, this is Tyson, he and Kai have been here for over a month; this is Lewis, he moved in with Leslie over a week ago."

Edward was staring at Tyson, eyes threatening to pop out. He then threw Roy an annoyed look. The dark-haired man looked smug. "I told you I wasn't lying."

"Later, Bastard." Edward marched off, signalling the other two to follow him. They had to quickly practice common courtesy before following.

"You always do that ta him?" asked Tyson.

Edward stopped and turned around. "Pretty much, we're quite competitive." He eyed the cakes Tyson was holding. "Can I have one?"

"Course, Lewis an' I were sharin' 'em anyways."

Once he picked a small cake, Edward addressed Lewis for the first time. "Is Lewis your name?" He nodded. "Hm, doesn't roll nicely. I'll just call you Lou."

The photographer shrugged. "That's fine, s'what Leslie calls me."

"Can I call you Lou too?" asked Tyson.


"Hey! Why didn't you let me before?"

"You never asked."

"This is good," commented Edward with his mouth full. "By the way," he added after he swallowed, "you can call me Ed, everyone does. Who baked these?"

"Those are Cloud's," butted in Alan. "He does those same cakes every single year. But I look prettier than he does. I should get that recipe." His ever-present smile disappeared for a short moment but then it returned and he wandered off, not quite able to balance his head. Tyson and Lewis exchanged a knowing look but Ed was just confused.

"He's drunk," informed the tallest of the three. (Ed stood as if he was taller than Tyson but was actually the same height.)

Following a small laugh, the three proceeded to exchange stories of how they met their partners and why they moved to Stepmanford. Lewis and Leslie had found each other at the University of Texas and lived in Dallas for several years. They had never felt completely safe there though.

"We were in a gay rights protest one time. They set riot police on the hundreds o'people there, it was really brutal. Leslie got bruises but I was shot. He really freaked an' 'ad to be pulled from the stretcher I was on." Lewis laughed slightly. "Sorry, bit of a sad story."

"No, it's fine," assured the blonde solemnly. "The world's full of injustice. I'm from Florida you see and the reason Roy went there was just to get work. He's brave, most educational authorities don't like to hire anyone homosexual."

"So Roy went from Washington all the way to Florida?" asked Tyson.

Ed laughed. "No, he left Washington for his first job at Minnesota, then came down to Florida. He always kept a job as long as possible...not good to be fired and he didn't have an open job market. He was over the moon when he got recommended for Principal position and then got the job. We moved here the beginning of February. They needed a principal here quick because the last one died of a heart attack suddenly."

"So you've survived this town for 3-and-a-half months?" asked Lewis.

Ed laughed again. "Actually I...leave the town a lot. It's why my motorbike comes in handy, that and it's greener than driving a car everywhere."

"Where d'you go?"

"I usually just go visit people. Family, friends and former co-workers. On these visits I might see shows or go to parties."

"So you don't have a job now?" Ed shook his head. Lewis took a cake.

"So what did you used to do?" asked Tyson.

"Until last year I was a competitive swimmer, supported by working at an Aquarium. In one 200m competition I accidentally veered to the side of my lane and got my right shoulder viciously kicked by a competitor. It was painful. The thing is, once you get an injury in that kind of environment, you can't ever compete properly again. First you take time out to nurse your injury and then you have to be fully rehabilitated and then you're back to square one in your athletic skill." He shook his head. "Competition days were over. Hell I couldn't move my shoulder for a month."

"You were still at the Aquarium right?" asked Tyson.

"Sure, I was back there soon after my discharge from hospital. But during August the management found they needed to cut down on spending and the easiest way to do that is to not hire workers but volunteers. Instead of releasing several people though, they asked for anyone to voluntarily give up their wage. So I did. That's when my habit of visiting lots of people started."

"That's just so sad," moaned the soccer-I mean, football coach. (Damn American terminology!) "You never swam again."

"Hey! Who said anything about giving up swimming? I still swim, I just can't compete anymore. Come round to my house, I've got a pool round back."

"Awesome!" Tyson giggled. "I bet you and Roy jump in together all the time." Ed's facial expression denied the idea.

"Can't Roy swim?" asked Lewis.

"In general, he's just...useless around water. Anyway, why don't we exchange cell numbers so I can text you what my plans are in the week? Then you'll know when to come round."

On the other side of the grounds, Alan was ranting quite drunkenly to Ivan and a group of women. "It really is funny how many things can ruin a meal if you do it on purpose. The most destructive has gotta be throwin' a lit match into the fryin' pan. The weirdest has gotta be dumpin' Mentos into Diet Coke and placin' it in the oven. And if you just wanna annoy somebody, dump tons o' chili sauce into the gravy or soup. My favourite is Peri Peri." He then maniacally cackled.

Daniel had run over and grabbed his short husband fiercely. "Alan! How many o' these you drunk?"

"Daniel, oh take me." The redhead promptly collapsed on Daniel's shoulder.

"Dammit! You know you're not supposed to drink that stuff!" Daniel dragged the drunken Alan through the grounds, wearing a beaming mask of shame as he did so. Who could blame him? Everyone was watching.

"Why did you take that picture?" demanded Ed as Lewis put away the small camera.

"I take photos of whatever's picture-worthy," he answered without remorse.

"You could always upload it onto Facebook or Myspace," suggested Tyson mischievously. "Oh! Even better! Put it on the town wiki if there's one." He was confused by the two pairs of eyes giving him disbelieving looks. "What?" Lewis and Edward shook their heads as if he was nothing more than a moronic child. "Not you too...dammit! Why do people always treat me like this wherever I go?"

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©Ruth Amy Louise Hüneke 2008