Notes: Written for a contest on LJ. Extremely last minute. XD
:A Series of Unfortunate Dates:
Roy turned the white envelope over in his hands. It was still sealed, but he didn't have to open it; he knew what it was.
An invitation to Jean's wedding.
It was all Roy could do not to snap his fingers and reduce the innocuous little envelope to ash. It wasn't that he wasn't happy for the man. He was. As much as he had turned date-theft into something of a sport over the years, he was genuinely happy that Havoc had found someone to settle down with. Cecilia was a nice girl, pretty too, and she had the patience of a saint. They were a good match.
Roy sighed, tapping the corner of the envelope on the desk. The problem wasn't that Jean was getting married, it was that he was doing it first.That he had found someone he wanted to spend the rest of his life with, and Roy had nothing but a black book full of women that weren't anything more than a pretty face and pleasant company for an evening. Roy had never really considered himself the settling type, and maybe he was just getting sentimental in his old age, but it would be nice to have a relationship with some substance behind it. The challenge wasn't so much finding a girl willing to marry him, but finding one he wanted to marry.
The door to his office clicked open, and Roy made a desperate grab for his pen, hoping vainly that Hawkeye wouldn't notice he'd been woolgathering instead of working. The attempt was aborted mid-grab when he realized the blond standing in his doorway wasn't the one he was expecting. "Edward," he said, leaning back slightly. "This is an unexpected surprise. I thought you were still out of town."
Ed shrugged and flopped into a chair. "We got back yesterday. Al is upstairs going over our contract for the new wing with General what's-his-face so I thought I'd come down and say hello to everyone. Speaking of which, whereis everyone?" He twisted in his chair, looking around as though he expected them to suddenly appear.
"Working," Roy said dryly, "Not all of us are lucky enough to be able to make our own hours."
"Well," Ed grinned, "That sucks for you, doesn't it?"
"Mm." Usually, Roy enjoyed Edward's visits, but today he just wasn't in the mood. "I hate to cut this short, but I'm very busy-"
"Bullshit," Ed interrupted with a snort. "Don't think I didn't see the "Oh shit! Hawkeye caught me slacking!" spaz before you realized I wasn't her." Damn it. Roy watched his only excuse to get out of a visit go flying out the window."What's that?" he asked, pointing to the envelope Roy had forgotten he was still holding.
"Oh, the invitation to Jean's wedding," he said, dropping the offensive thing into a drawer. "You and Al should have gotten one."
Eyebrows crawling up into his hairline, Ed said, "No shit? To uh...Cecilia was it?" Roy nodded and he continued, "Well damn. Good for him! We haven't gone through the mail since we got back, I'll have to tell Al to keep an eye out for the invite."
Roy grunted in reply and wished Hawkeye would come back and chase the younger alchemist out. He liked Ed, and they got along loads better now that they were no longer working together, but all he really wanted to do was sit quietly and indulge in a little self-pity.
"What's got you all...oh." Ed grinned, and Roy had to resist the urge to beat his head against the desk. "You're jealousaren't you? Couldn't steal this one, eh Mustang? Maybe you're losing your touch."
"Shut up, I'm not jealous. I'm just..." Roy sighed, realizing he wasn't going to be able to wiggle out of the conversation. "Okay, maybe a little." Ed snorted a laugh and Roy scowled. "Don't you have something better to do?"
Ed blinked, grin fading. He sat up a little straighter and said, "Look, I was just teasing. If it helps, I kind of know how you feel." He glanced around, as though to make sure no one else was listening. "I was a bit jealous when Al and Winry got married. I was kinda used to having Al to myself, y'know? Not only that, but they were always so happy together, and I guess I was a little envious too."
"That's exactly it," Roy said, deflating slightly. Maybe if he got this nonsense out of his system, it would stop bothering him. "I never really saw myself as the marrying type, but I have to admit, it would be nice to have that kind of relationship."
"Shouldn't be too hard for you to find someone," Ed mused. "I mean, you have areputation."
"So do you."
"Yeah, for property damage," Ed snorted. "I meant with women."
"Well, the problem isn't finding a date, Ed," Roy pointed out, "It's finding something more...substantial."
"Can't find someone if you don't date," Ed pointed out reasonably.
"I'm zero to a thousand on that one."
"Only a thousand? The rumors about you are way exaggerated. Besides, you can't tell me that out of all the women you've dated, not one of them was marriage material."
Roy sighed. "Out of everyone I've dated, there was exactly one I would have married if I could have. That person married someone else." Roy fought another sigh. He hoped Ed didn't pry, this line of conversation was awkward enough without Roy explaining that he'd once been in love with his best friend.
Thankfully, all Edward said was "Ouch," accompanied by a sympathetic wince.
"Besides," Roy said, "It's not as though I'm looking for a wife, Ed. I was just feeling a little down about it. That's all. It'll pass."
"I bet I could find you someone," Ed mused.
Roy stared at Ed with a sinking feeling. "I don't need you or anyone else to play matchmaker."
"You know," Ed continued, ignoring him. "A lot of our clients are single women. Some of them would probably be right up your alley."
"Ed--" Roy began warningly.
"I'll make a bet with you. If I can set you up with someone you like enough to keep dating in one month, you owe me dinner for a week."
"Quit being juvenile."
"But if I can't,"Ed continued, "Then you get Al and I forfree on any job you want, any size." He paused, "And I'll leave you alone about your love life."
Roy was about to protest, but stopped, thinking about what Ed was offering. Ed and Al were the best alchemical contractors available, but they were costly. Even if they gave him a discount, hiring them was a little over his budget. His house was in dire need of some remodeling, and having it done for free was tempting. He could handle a few blind dates for that, couldn't he? It was a lost cause anyway, so it was practically a guaranteed win.
What the hell, why not? "It's a bet."
Ed grumbled inwardly, flipping through a folder that turned out to be Al's notes on the old Thompson project. Cursing Al's compulsive need to straighten up after him, Ed set them aside and dug around in the desk, looking for the old client list. He loved Al ,he really did, but his brother did not understand the concept of organized chaos. The problem with Al picking up after him was that he moved things around, and suddenly Ed didn't know where anything was.
"AL!" He bellowed.
Al poked his head out of the kitchen, raising an eyebrow at the papers scattered all over. "Looking for something?"
"Our old client list," Ed threw his hands up in exasperation. "I can't find it anywhere."
Wiping his hands on his apron, Alphonse came over and plucked a manila folder off the shelf, handing it to Ed. It was neatly labeled 'Client List', followed by the dates. "What do you need it for?" Al asked.
Plunking down in the chair, Ed thumbed through the list. "Remember Marie? The lady from the Public Outreach program last year?"
"Oh, sure. What do you need with her?"
Ed grinned, finding the number he was looking for and scribbling it down on a scrap of paper. "I'm going to set her up with Mustang."
Al blinked. "You're going to do what now?"
"I'm going to set her up with Mustang," Ed repeated, enjoying Al's surprise. "I made a bet with him that I could find him a girl by the end of the month."
"Ah." Alphonse nodded slowly. "Uh, why?"
Edward considered the question. He wasn't really sure what had prompted him to make the bet. It wasn't as though Mustang needed helpfinding dates. A good portion of the women in the city would probably leap at the chance to go out with him. Maybe it was simply the fact that he seemed to always miss the mark when it came to right one. He shrugged. "I dunno. It should be fun though."
Al just shook his head and started back towards the kitchen, but he paused and glanced back at Ed. "What did you bet?"
"If I won, he'd buy me dinner for a week."
"And if he wins?"
Ed grinned. "I told him we'd do a job for him free of charge."
Alphonse looked scandalized. "Brother! We'd do that anyway!"
"Sure," Ed agreed, "but he doesn't know that."
With a disgusted snort, Al returned to the kitchen, calling, "Don't forget to clean up! Winry'll be home soon!"
"Yeah, yeah." Ed muttered. He really needed to look into finding his own place. He could deal with Al's excessive neatness, but Winry was a whole 'nother beast altogether. If they lived under the same roof much longer, he could wind up with permanent brain damage. He sighed, tapping his pen against his lips. Not to mention he was feeling a little bit like he was in the way. It would be better for everyone if he moved. Ed could be as big a slob as he wanted, and Al and Winry could get busy making him nieces and nephews to spoil. Everyone would win. He'd have to worry about it later, though, right now he had a date to organize.
Armed with a phone number, Ed snatched the receiver and dialed. The phone rang three times before a woman picked up. "Hello?"
"Hey! Marie? This is Edward Elric, we met last year."
"Oh!" He could hear the smile in her voice. "It's good to hear from you Mr. Elric, what can I do for you?"
"Well, Marie, I was hoping you could do me a favor..."
Roy wondered for the thousandth time how he had let Edward talk him into this. Blind dates were notoriously disastrous affairs, and Roy, being of usually sound mind, avoided them if at all possible. Of course, sound mind and Edward Elric were probably two mutually exclusive things. Tugging on the cuff of his shirt absently, Roy glanced around the restaurant. It was small but surprisingly nice, considering Ed had made all the arrangements before Roy had even known he had a date. If he didn't know better, he'd even say the kid had taste.
The door swung open and a woman entered. She was hesitant, scanning the diners and looking a little lost. Roy recognized the signs and got to his feet, smiling when she looked his way and waving her over. "Marie?" he asked as she approached, and she smiled in relief.
"Yes. You must be Roy." She offered her hand and he shook it, noting that the grip was firm and confident.
"Nice to meet you," Roy said, releasing her hand and pulling out the chair, earning an impressed glance from Marie before she sat.
As much as he hated to admit it, he mused, taking his own chair, Ed hadn't done half bad. She was a pretty girl, with long, curly red hair, bright green eyes and a splash of freckles across her nose. Maybe this wouldn't be so bad after all. "So," he said, leaning forward slightly. "Tell me a bit about yourself."
"Well," she said, "I'll admit that this is my first date in ages, so you'll have to excuse me if I've forgotten some of the finer points. I work for the Central Public Outreach Center, have you heard of it?"
He had. Roy remembered Ed and Al doing some work for them a few years back. "Sure. They do a lot of charity work, don't they?"
Marie nodded, smiling brightly. "Right! Mostly, we deal with finding housing and work for the homeless. It doesn't bring in a big paycheck, but the work pays in others ways. There's nothing more important than doing what you love."
"I couldn't agree more," Roy said, smiling and passing her a menu. She certainly seemed like a nice girl, and it took a special kind of person to work for the benefit of others. He might just have to apologize to Ed for doubting him.
"What do you do?" she asked. "I don't think Edward ever told me."
"I'm a State Alchemist," Roy said, opening his menu.
"Really?" Her eyes lit in recognition. "I knew I recognized your name, I just couldn't place it."
The continued to chat about their respective careers until the waiter came to take their order. Marie was very animated; once she warmed up to the conversation she began talking with her hands, telling him a story about how Edward had nearly collapsed a house on top of himself during the volunteer housing project the previous summer.
The waiter returned before long. "Sorry to disturb you," he said, "but are you Marie Blair?"
She glanced at Roy and then nodded. "Yes I am. Why?"
"You have a phone call from Margaret Haines, if you'd like to come with me."
"Oh, of course." She stood, looking at Roy. "Marge is babysitting my son. I gave her the number in case she needed me for anything. I'll be back in a minute."
"I'll be here," Roy assured her, and she smiled at him before following the waiter.
When she was out of sight, he sighed. Ed had failed to mention that Marie was a single mother, and while she was a nice enough girl, single moms were not what he was looking for. Roy wasn't sure he ever wanted any kids of his own, let alone someone else's.
A few moments later Marie returned, her brow creased in concern. "I'm so sorry, Roy, but I have to go. Nathan fell and hit his head, and while Marge is pretty sure he's okay, she's going to take him to the hospital just in case and I really should be there. I'm so sorry."
"Don't be," Roy said, standing. "At least let me give you a lift."
"I have a car, I'll be fine." Marie stood on her toes, giving Roy a quick peck on the cheek. "You've been wonderful, I really do apologize."
He smiled at her and gave her a gentle push towards the door. "Stop apologizing and go see your son."
Roy watched her go before settling back into his chair with a sigh. Well, the first date was a bust, but not for the reasons he had expected it to be. It was probably too late to cancel their orders, but he could always have them wrapped up to take home; at least he'd have dinner for the next night.
"Well, that sucked," a voiced announced, followed by a body plunking into the chair across the table.
Roy did a double-take. "What the hell are you doing here?"
Ed shrugged. "It was my first time setting someone up, I just wanted to make sure everything went okay. You two seemed to be hitting it off, too bad her kid picked tonight to crack his head open."
"Generally speaking, it's considered bad manners to spy on a date." Roy said, then added, "Not to mention the fact that you didn't bother to tell me she had a son."
"I wasn't spying,"Ed insisted. "It was more like...quality control. And why does it matter if she has a kid?"
"Hey, I'm just trying to help you here," Though now that he thought about it, he wasn't sure why. Maybe on some level he was hoping Ed might manage to find someone, however unlikely.
"All right, all right," Ed sighed, tucking a stray bit of hair behind his ear. "How do you like the restaurant? It's a bit too fancypants for me, but Al and Winry like coming here."
Ah. That explained things a little. "It's nice, I was surprised actually."
Ed made a face. "Didn't think I'd pick something suitably overpriced?"
"More like I was worried we'd end up in a steak house."
Ed sat up a little straighter. "What's wrong with that? If someone were to take meon a date, I'd be happy with a steak house."
Roy snorted a laugh, "I think that explains why you're still single."
"No one asked for your opinion, bastard," Ed muttered, dipping his fingers in a water glass and flicking them at Roy.
"You're funny, Ed. Hilarious, really." Roy said, straining to fight the smile that threatened. He wiped his face with his napkin and looked back at his companion, who was watching him with a wide grin.
"I know I am. Stop fighting it, you look constipated."
Roy couldn't help it; he laughed. Maybe it was the absurdity of the situation, but Roy found himself laughing like an idiot. He was earning curious stares from the other diners and he leaned forward, stifling his laughter with his hands and trying to regain some composure. Once he was sure he could speak without erupting into giggles --which he would never admit; men did not giggle-- he said, "You're something else, Ed."
"You should do that more often," Edward said, looking smug.
Roy shot him a peculiar look. What what he going on about? "I laugh all the time."
"No," Ed leaned forward slightly. "There's the snort thing you do when you're making fun of someone or generally being a bastard, and there's that stupid chuckle you use when laughing at things you don't think are funny. The last one is usually reserved for kissing ass. I think I can count on one hand the number of times I've actually heard youlaugh. I'm just saying you should do it more often; laughing is good for you."
Roy was about to protest when he realized that Ed was right. He'd hit the nail on the head really, and Roy was completely floored that Ed knew him so well. They weren't all that close; they moved in different circles these days, and usually didn't have time to do more than touch base every now and again. "That's very astute of you."
Ed shrugged. "What can I say? I have well-honed observational skills."
They were interrupted by the arrival of food, the waiter hesitating when he realized Roy's companion had changed. "She had to leave," he told the man, "so my friend here will be joining me for dinner."
"Of course," the man said, setting Marie's order down in front of Ed.
Once the waiter was gone, Ed picked up a fork and said, "Hey, thanks. I didn't expect to get fed."
Roy nodded amiably. If nothing else, the food certainly looked good. "If you win, this counts as one of your dinners."
"Hey! That's not fair!"
"This one will be better, I swear," Ed assured Roy. "Sera has no kids, and no ah...background of mental illness." Roy shot him a pointed stare, and Ed ducked his head sheepishly. "I didn't know! Marli was perfectly sane when I met her!" Did Roy honestly think Ed would set him up with a complete whackjob on purpose? He reminded himself to ask Roy how the bites were healing up.
"If I didn't know better, I'd say you were sabotaging me on purpose," Roy said mildly, fiddling unsuccessfully with the button on his cuff.
Oh sure. That made sense. Swatting his hand away, Ed buttoned the cuffs for him. "Why would I do that? I want my free food."
"Which you got by sabotaging my first date," Roy pointed out, pulling on a charcoal colored jacket.
"That wasn't my fault! One, you didn't say kids were a no-no," Ed said, ticking the points off on his fingers, "And two, what do you think I did? Bash the kid over the head myself so I could score a free meal? I mean, I like food and all, but come on! I've hardly sunk to the level where I'll beat small children for it."
"Maybe you didn't sabotage it on purpose," Roy suggested, searching for his keys. Ed snatched them off the counter and tossed them to Roy. "You might have done it subconsciously."
"So, what? I have a subconscious desire to make you suffer through bad dates? Don't be an ass." Ed snorted. The man was seriously over-analyzing. "Besides, I didn't get anything out of the second one. In fact, I had to rush over and drive you to the damned hospital to make sure she didn't give you rabies or something. Then I had to sit around for nearly two hours so I could drive you home. Speaking of which, how's it healing up?"
"Pretty well, the doctor said the stitches come out next week." Roy grabbed his coat from where it lay draped over the arm of the sofa. "I'm never letting you drive my car ever again, by the way. You're a maniac; I was afraid for my life."
"I don't know what you're talking about. Obviously, the pain was making you delirious." Ed snapped. "We should get going though, we're going to be late."
Roy stared at him. "We?"
Ed shrugged, "After the last one, I thought it might be better if I stayed nearby. There's a tavern down the street from Sera's place, you can drop me off there."
Roy sighed and opened the door, waving Ed through. "Fine, fine. Anticipating problems?"
Ed grumbled. The man hadno faith in him. Sure, the first date had flopped, and the second was a certified disaster, but that didn't mean they'd all be bad. "No. I just figured it might be prudent Just in case."
"Should I bring my gloves?"
"Shut up and get in the car, asshole."
Roy did as he was told, and Ed clambered into the passenger seat beside him. They drove in silence for a few minutes before Ed piped up, "She's an amazing cook. She had Al and I over for dinner after we did some work for her, and I think I almost proposed on the spot."
Roy quirked an eyebrow, but didn't take his eyes from the road. "Call me old fashioned, but I feel a bit bad having her cook for me on the first date. I should really take her out."
"Nah," Ed said, waving a hand dismissively. Restaurants and theater were all well and good if you liked that sort of thing, but there was nothing wrong with staying in. "It was her idea anyway. Trust me, once you taste her cooking, you'll be glad you didn't go out."
They turned a corner, and Ed leaned over Roy slightly, pointing to a small, hole-in-the-wall little tavern. "There it is." Roy pulled up outside and suddenly choked on a laugh. Ed grinned; he'd been waiting for that.
"The Happy Cock?" Roy asked incredulously.
"Sure," Ed said, "Look, there's a giant rooster right there on the sign. Get your mind out of the gutter, you perv." Roy shook his head with a disbelieving smile, and Ed pushed open the door. "I'll be here if she tries to kill you!" he joked, before shutting the door and hopping up onto the curb, offering a wave as Roy drove off. This one would go well. He was sure of it.
Twenty minutes later, a very wet, very disgruntled Roy Mustang marched through the door of The Happy Cock. Ed saw him immediately, eyes widening when Roy make a beeline straight for him. "You!" he growled, jabbing a finger in Ed's face. "You knew!"
Ed shook his head in amazement, clapping his hands together and putting them on Roy's chest to dry his clothes. Roy blinked and relaxed a little, apparently slightly mollified by this. Ed pointed to the bar stool beside him. "Sit." Roy did as he was told, and Ed waved the bartender over, ordering a nice, stiff drink for the older man. Ed was pretty sure he needed it. When the bartender left, he said, "Okay, now tell me what happened."
"She tried to kill me," Roy deadpanned.
Ed rolled his eyes. "I'm serious."
"So am I. This is the first date I've ever had that ended with knives being thrown at my head!"
"What!" Ed gaped at him. There was no way. Absolutely no way. "What did you do?"
"Nothing!" Roy said, exasperated. "We were having a perfectly nice conversation until she asked what I did for a living. As it turns out she has very...strong opinions about the military. She punctuated those opinions with various flying objects including a pitcher of water and several kitchen knives."
Ed wracked his brain, trying to think of a time the military had come up in conversation with her. He couldn't think of any. He winced slightly, feeling more than a little responsible. "I'm sorry. I had no idea."
"You're out to get me, Ed. It's the only explanation," Roy said, thanking the bartender when the portly man returned with his drink. "Either this is some sort of revenge for every wrong you've ever felt I've done you, or you're just plain evil. I can't decide."
"Oh, come on. Don't you think you're being over dramatic?"
"She threw knives, Ed. At my head." Roy downed the drink in one very impressive gulp. "I think I'm entitled to a little melodrama."
He really had to give the man that one. "Okay, you have a point."
"I'm done," Roy said, spinning the empty glass between his palms. "If I have to concede the bet, fine. If we keep this up, the next one is going to lock me in a basement until I starve to death."
Ed snorted. A few bad dates and Roy was being a huge baby about it. "You know what I think? I think your reputation of being a ladies' man is overblown. You can't just quit." There had to be a rule about that somewhere. 'All bets must be seen through to completion, except in the cases of sudden or accidental death.' Something like that.
Roy gave him a sideways look. "Why do you care? I concede, you win with no further effort." He paused. "Unless of course I was right to begin with, and you areout to get me."
Ed sighed. Why did he care? It wasn't as thought he'd ever given a damn about Roy's love life before. "I don't know." Ed rested his chin on his hands. "I suppose you just seemed kind of...sad. A little lonely maybe, and I thought I might be able to help. The prize for winning was just bonus, it wasn't the ultimate goal."
Turning around so that he was looking at him straight on, Roy put a friendly hand on Ed's shoulder. "I appreciate the thought. The execution was just...bad."
Smiling a little, Ed shook his head. "They were pretty bad, weren't they? But you have to admit, Marie was nice at the very least."
"Marie was nice," Roy agreed. "Just not what I was looking for."
"What areyou looking for?" Ed asked, curious. He couldn't decide if Roy was unbelievably picky, or if the man just had phenomenally bad luck.
Roy frowned slightly, considering the question. "I don't know, really," he said at length. "I'm just hoping I'll recognize it when I see it."
Ed nodded slowly. He could understand that. It wasn't as thought he was any better; Ed didn't have the slightest idea what he wanted in another person either. It was a large part of the reason he avoided relationships.
"At least one good thing has come out of this mess," Roy said, and Ed cocked his head curiously.
"You and I got to spend some time together. We barely see each other these days."
He was right. Ed had made Roy his pet project, shadowing the man near constantly for the last few weeks. They'd gotten to know each other better, and if nothing else, Roy might have moved from the 'bastard acquaintance' category to the 'friend' one. "You know, you aren't as big a bastard as you used to be."
Roy smiled, "I suppose you aren't the hard-headed, quick-tempered, pain in the ass teenager you used to be, either."
Ed scowled. "Don't push it, or I'll tell Sera where you live."
"You win," Roy said, throwing his hands up in mock surrender.
Pulling out his wallet, Ed left enough to cover the tab plus a generous tip on the bar. Sitting up straight, he downed the rest of his drink and stood, thankful he'd only been there long enough to get slightly tipsy instead of dead drunk. "Come on, I want to show you something."
Roy followed, stopping when Ed started down the sidewalk. "The car is back this way."
"Leave it," Ed said. "It isn't that far and I could use a walk."
Shrugging, Roy caught up to Ed, falling into step beside him. "So where are we going?"
"You'll see," Ed said, tossing a grin at the other man.
They walked for the better part of an hour, and Roy was beginning to suspect that their opinions on how far was 'not far' varied greatly. Still, the night was warm and peaceful, and the company wasn't half bad. It was surprising, but he and Ed got on remarkably well when they weren't fighting like cats and dogs. Even the fighting had taken on a friendlier tone.
Roy was pretty sure Ed was taking him to the Paxton Memorial Park. It was the largest park in the city --large enough that the police often received reports of missing hikers-- and really the only thing in this part of town worth seeing. Ed bumped his shoulder to get his attention, and nodded across the street, confirming Roy's guess. "I've been here a hundred times, Ed."
Edward shook his head. "I bet you twenty bucks you've never seen what I'm going to show you."
"Oh no, no more bets. I've learned my lesson."
Ed snorted and started across the street, moving into the trees without hesitation in spite of the dark. It was obvious he'd been in the park at night before; he seemed to know exactly where he was going. "Won't see many on the outskirts here. There's more of them the deeper in you go, I think they don't like the lights of the city."
At first, Roy thought he was seeing things. He had been following Ed through the woods for several minutes, weaving through the brush and following no path that he could see. He caught a spot of light out of the corner of his eye, but when he turned to look, it was gone. A moment later it appeared again over Edward's shoulder, and then again ahead of them. The longer the walked, the more specks of light appeared, ghosting through the trees and it took Roy a moment to realize what he was seeing. "Fireflies."
"Yeah. You haven't seen the real show yet, though."
Roy had heard of them, but being city born and raised, he had never actually seen any. He hadn't even known they existed in this part of the country. It was almost surreal, watching them dance through the trees, flaring to life and then dying away, only to light up moments later somewhere else. "Almost there," Ed said, and then they broke through the trees and stepped into a clearing.
Roy held his breath at the sight that greeted them.
If the fireflies among the trees were surreal, than the scene before him now was beyond words. A thousand tiny points of light danced, winking in and out, tiny stars reflected in the still water of a pond. Roy watched them for a long, long moment, utterly enchanted. "This is amazing," he said, words barely more than a whisper.
"I knew you'd like it," Ed said, taking a few steps ahead and carefully sitting down at the water's edge. "It reminds me of home. There were always fireflies in the summer, but never quite like this."
Roy sat down beside him, resting his arms on his knees and staring out over the pond. "I had no idea there was anything like this here."
"Most people don't," Ed replied. "As far as I know, only Agatha and I know what happens here at night. And now you."
"An old lady I've met here a couple of times. She and her husband used to come in the summers. He died a few years ago, but she keeps coming." Ed glanced over and smiled suddenly, reaching out and pulling something from Roy's hair. Cradled carefully in his hand was a firefly. "You had a hitchhiker," he explained, watching the bug crawl over his palm. It flared once, twice, and then flew away.
Roy looked up at the shadows of tall trees standing sentinel in the dark, watched the fireflies and their mesmerizing dance. "I don't think I would have brought a date here," Roy said after a moment.
"Really?" Ed turned to look at him, "Why?"
He took a moment to organize his thoughts. "This place feels almost...sacred. It just doesn't seem right to bring a girl here to impress her."
Ed nodded slowly. "Now that you mention it, I don't think I'd bring just anyone here, either."
Roy wondered if Ed realized what he'd implied. "Does that make me special?"
"Maybe," Ed didn't look at him, but he leaned over slightly until his shoulder rested against Roy's.
Roy left it at that, content to sit in silence. He wasn't sure how long they sat there, shoulder to shoulder, watching the dazzling display. It could have been hours or minutes, the normal passage of time didn't seem to apply. Roy looked over at Edward, studying the younger man's profile and marveling at how peaceful he felt. After the day he'd had, he should be frazzled at the very least, but he just felt calm. Happy.
Edward seemed to sense his scrutiny and glanced over. His eyes caught Roy's for a moment and he looked away quickly, getting to his feet and brushing the dirt off his pants. "We should probably get going, it's getting late."
"Mm," Roy followed suit, taking one last look around, trying to commit the sight to memory. Then he looked down at the shorter man beside him. It was funny, but in a way he'd spent more time dating Edward than the women he'd been set up with. "Ed?"
"Yeah?" Ed looked up at him, expression unguarded, and with a silent apology to his soon-to-be broken nose, Roy took Ed's face in his hands and kissed him.
The kiss was soft and relatively chaste. Ed stiffened noticeably, which Roy expected, then went pliant beneath his lips, which he hadn't. When Roy finally broke contact, Ed made no attempt to move beyond blinking dazedly at him. Roy couldn't help but smile. "I expected you to hit me."
"I was kind of distracted," Edward replied after a moment. "I can do it now if you'd like."
Roy chuckled, a little startled at the surge of affection he felt. "That's quite all right. Would you hit me if I kissed you again?"
Edward leaned into him the slightest bit. "Maybe?"
"I'll take that as a no," Roy murmured, capturing Ed's lips a second time.
When they broke apart, Ed seemed to be having difficulty breathing, and Roy allowed himself to preen, just a little. Roy leaned his forehead against Edward's, recognizing something he hadn't felt in a very long time. He wasn't there yet, but he knew that given half the chance he could easily fall in love. The realization was sudden and startling, and if he was honest, more than a little bizarre, but not at all unwelcome.
As if Edward had read his mind, the blond grinned suddenly.
"Does this mean I win the bet?"