Edward barreled down the hall towards Roy's office, giddily excited. Cradling what looked like an ordinary mason jar in one hand, he threw the door open, his features alight with childlike glee.
"Roy! Roy lookit, I did it, just like you said, me and Al, we did it, here they are!"
Roy did not look up from his paperwork. "Later, Fullmetal, I'm busy."
"But Roy! I wanted to show you, look, if you pull the shades and turn the lights off for a second, you'll see…"
"I said later, Edward."
"But it's just for two seconds! You said you wanted to – "
Roy was irritated now and his voice rose in volume. "How many times do I have to tell you, Fullmetal? Do not bother me with childish nonsense while I am at work. Do we need a signed agreement? I'll entertain you later. Right now I'm busy."
"Childish… nonsense." His face fell. All the beautiful golden light drained out of him like the sun sinking below the clouds, his young cheeks reddening, and then…
SMASH! He threw the jar at the foot of Roy's desk. "Fine! I'll go ENTERTAIN myself somewhere else!!" With that he stalked out of the room and slammed the door as hard as he could.
Roy shook his head and sighed. He supposed he shouldn't have yelled at the boy, but Ed had to learn to take it if he wanted to survive in the army for any decent length of time. He turned his paper over, swatting a bug away. Another landed on his hand, and he swatted that one, too. A third flew by his head, and he was just starting to wonder where the hell all these bugs were coming from, when he noticed one of them glowing with a faint green light. Fireflies. Oh, shit.
Jumping out of his chair, he came around the front of his
desk to see hundreds of fireflies swarming around the broken glass on
the floor. His first thought was, How
the hell am I going to get all these blasted bugs out of my office?
His second thought, to his credit, was, It
must have taken Ed and Al all night to gather that many. And I ruined
it. I ruined everything. Stupid, stupid. He's a child, I
forget, only a child…
Stupid, stupid. He's a child, I forget, only a child…Last night, he and Edward had been out walking by the pond where there were fireflies glowing softly in the night. Ed had never seen fireflies before; apparently they were not native to Risembool. Roy had told him about how when he was young growing up in Xing, they had gathered fireflies in a jar till it lit up like a great lantern. Fireflies, with their natural light, cold to the touch, had always fascinated Roy. He and Ed had finally shared a moment of genuine closeness, a marked deepening of their relationship. And now, in my haste, I've destroyed it. Brilliant, Mustang.
Roy ran to the window and opened it wide, hoping that most of the insects would take the hint. Then he hurried out of his office. Everyone was staring when he came out. He swallowed. "Did you see which…" They pointed. He followed.
Edward was crouched under a tree on the far side of the building, his hands pulled up around his knees. His eyes were red and blotchy and his hair was coming undone from its braid, honey yellow strands hanging loosely in his face. He sniffed and hung his head as Roy approached. "Go away. I don't want to talk to you."
Roy knelt down on the grass in front of him. "Edward. Ed. I'm sorry." He reached out to touch his hand, but Ed jerked away. "I wasn't thinking. I didn't even see the fireflies. I was too absorbed in my paperwork. I'm sorry I yelled at you."
Ed looked up, his huge golden eyes brimming with unshed tears. "Are you? Are you really? Why don't you just stop bullshitting me? Apparently you only care about me when it's convenient for you to do so. The rest of the time, I'm just a child that you have to entertain." He kicked out in Roy's general direction, spraying him with dirt.
Roy tried again. "Ed… I don't… Look, at work, it's hard for me, okay? I'm just… really not used to this. I need to be able to keep up my work persona or I'll go mad in there. I can't be goggling at fireflies when the General comes in for a meeting. Can you understand that?"
Balling his hands into fists, Ed turned away. "Why don't you just admit it? You're ashamed of me."
"What? That's ridiculous."
"You're such a lying bastard. You'll say anything to anybody to get what you want. Why the hell should I believe you?"
"Ed, I – "
"Look me in the face and tell me the truth. Tell me you're not ashamed of our relationship."
Roy sighed. Coming closer, he put his hands on top of Edward's, and this time the boy allowed it. Midnight eyes looked straight into golden dawn and the light he saw there nearly overwhelmed him. "Edward, I'm not ashamed of you. I'm ashamed of myself. I feel like I shouldn't be doing this. I feel like I'm taking advantage of you. It's true that I feel ashamed of our relationship, because I… I don't have any context for it. I don't know where to put it. It's not nice and military and compartmentalized. It's raw and organic and alive and I… I'm at a loss, when it comes down to it. I honestly don't know what to do or how to handle it. All I know is that I… I need you."
"Hell of a way you have of showing it."
"Agreed. This is not the first time I've been called a bull in a China shop."
"So are you going to change at all, or just keep being the same old bastard you've always been?"
"I'll... try harder."
Ed sighed. "Look, here's the deal, old man. I'm not some stupid girl you can treat like shit and then come back with flowers the next day and expect me to fall into your arms like a swooning princess. You want me to stick around, you'd better figure out how to stop being a dick all the time. That includes at work and in public. You say you're gonna try harder, but are you really going to? If you can't solve this problem, or at least show me that you're making some progress, we're done. Got it?"
"Yes, sir," Roy answered, trying to coax a smile out of his exasperated partner.
One side of Ed's mouth lifted slightly. "I'm serious, you bastard."
"I get it. Try harder. Stop being a dick. Will put out a memo to remind myself."
"You'd better try a fucking neon sign. How about having the navy semaphore it for you?"
"Very funny. Can we have make-up sex now?"
"I'm going to kick you really hard," Ed responded, but he allowed himself to be pulled close nevertheless, resting his head on Roy's chest.
Roy wrapped his arms tightly around Edward, kissing the top of his blond head. I don't deserve him, he thought to himself. I don't deserve him at all.
The next morning, Edward returned to the office much more subdued. I'm done, he thought. I'm not letting him get to me like that again. It's not worth it. Roy just wasn't someone he was going to be able to share things with, and that was the end. If he wanted their relationship to be military, let it be military. Fine with me. Whatever.
As he passed by the line of desks on the way to Roy's office, he couldn't shake the uncomfortable feeling that everyone was looking at him, despite the fact that they were all making themselves look very busy. He narrowed his eyes, trying to catch someone off guard, but no one would look directly at him. Great. They were probably all watching outside the window yesterday. So glad to know my personal business is the daily newscast around here.
He sighed and was about to knock on Roy's door, when the Colonel stepped out, anticipating him. Suddenly everyone stopped what they were doing, looking to Roy as if waiting for some signal. Ed gave him a questioning look.
"Good morning, Fullmetal. I've arranged a little surprise for you. Would you like to see it?"
Ed stared. Was he going to kiss him or something, right here in front of everyone…? Shit, maybe I shouldn't have gone on so much yesterday with that business about being ashamed of our relationship… "What are you up to…?"
Roy was smirking like there was no tomorrow – no, scratch that, he was actually, genuinely smiling. What on Earth…?
At the Colonel's signal, a troop of enlisted men jumped up and pulled the curtains, and everyone doused their lights.
Ed stared. On top of each and every desk in the room was a mason jar filled with brilliantly glowing fireflies. Radiant lanterns lit up everyone's faces like little children as they gazed in wonder. The military office had been transformed into a luminous magical universe.
Ed was completely thunderstruck. "H-how…?"
Still smiling warmly, Roy bent down to whisper directly into Edward's ear. "I'm trying harder. Is it working?"
Ed had no words. He just took Roy's hand in his and squeezed.