Title: You can pick your family, but not their friends.
Author: Lady Eldaelen
Group: The platonic relationship of Gracia Hughes and Roy Mustang... with a hint of Maes on the side.
Disclaimer: Total anime series spoilers. FMA is not mine.
Notes: This turned out kind of long. No apologies, just a head's up.
You can pick your family, but not their friends.
20 philosophies for feeling like a third wheel
as observed by Gracia Hughes and Roy Mustang.
- They knew about each other long before they met in person. Actually, they probably knew too much about each other, which might have been cause for some of the… awkwardness… they tried to ignore when their paths did cross. But picking up tidbits of information --like the way her eyes sparkled jade in the moonlight, or just what lengths he's taken to get out of paperwork-- was to be expected when their common thread began and ended with Maes Hughes.
- The first time they met face-to-face was at a weekly Hughes Family Dinner a few months after the Ishbal Rebellion ended. Roy Mustang was the first war hero she had been introduced to personally, but despite his mysterious good looks --which might have intrigued her more if she wasn’t already going out with Maes-- Gracia couldn’t say she was overly impressed. He was so withdrawn, so eerily quiet during dinner, and his rather unforthcoming attitude when she tried to engage him in small talk over the coffee and pie was absolutely nothing at all like the Roy Mustang that Maes had described to her.
- By the time they’d finished dinner, Roy knew he was going to lose his best friend to the woman sitting across the table from him. She was exactly how Maes had described to him, right down to the smoldering glint in her eyes when she got annoyed. Roy had not intended to make her mad, but she was bound and determined not to leave him alone when all he really wanted was to be left alone.
- Maes cancelled a date with her once, opting instead to spend his evening making sure Roy didn’t kill himself or do something equally as stupid. Roy told him he was overreacting, but deep down he was secretly thankful his friend had shown up when he did with one of her warm apple pies and one of his mean right hooks. He vowed never to put Maes in a situation where he had to choose between Gracia and himself again.
- By the time Maes finished explaining the situation to her and had stopped apologizing for canceling their date, Gracia knew his friendship with Roy Mustang was on a totally different level than their own. That devotion to his friend only made Gracia’s love and attraction for Maes Hughes grow even deeper. She also secretly, desperately, jealously hoped their relationship would reach that point some day.
- When Maes told him he’d finally worked up enough nerve to ask her to marry him and she had actually said yes, Roy knew Maes and Gracia’s relationship was on a totally different level than their own. The devotion to his girlfriend --no, fiancée now-- only made Roy’s love and respect for Maes Hughes grow even deeper. He secretly, desperately, jealously wished for a relationship like that some day.
- She never understood why Maes insisted she bake an apple pie for him to take whenever he visited his best friend, especially when he returned home and told her that he ate most of it himself. Gracia didn’t even think Roy enjoyed apple pie all that much, though she never told Maes that.
- Roy didn’t enjoy apple pie all that much, but he never told Maes that, either. And he never declined eating at least one piece if he knew Gracia had made it.
- On the night Elysia was born, Roy was the first person Maes called after the doctor declared her and Gracia were "doing just fine." And even though he lived farther away than both her parents and her in-laws, Roy was the first to make it through the storm to their house. Gracia never completely forgave Maes for the fact that Roy Mustang held Elysia before her mother did.
- When Roy’s transfer East went through, Maes invited him and his subordinates over for a farewell dinner. Gracia warmed up to Roy’s two Lieutenants much faster than she had warmed up to him. Jean Havoc was as laid back as Maes and complimented her pot roast before he’d finished his first bite. The first time Roy had eaten a meal there, it had taken him three carefully chewed and thoughtfully swallowed bites to elicit a response.
- And after meeting Riza Hawkeye, Gracia had to agree with Roy about Maes’s excessive badgering for him to find a good wife. He’d already found one. At the same time, however, Gracia also had to agree with Maes about Roy’s complaining that he badgered him too much to find a good wife. If Roy Mustang was still single, he had no one to blame but himself.
- Gracia was pretty sure the Fundamentals of Alchemy book Roy sent for Elysia’s first birthday was the result of some longstanding joke between him and Maes. He had also included a few more age-appropriate gifts in the package that really were adorable, so she didn’t question it. But when copies of Famous Alchemists Throughout History, Advanced Alchemic Computations and Alchemy in Other Lands were added to Elysia’s bookshelf over the next three years, Gracia just decided they were both crazy and hoped her daughter would never actually read her birthday presents.
- Admittedly, Gracia was more than a little worried with her husband’s exuberant news that he had to travel to Eastern Headquarters with the rest of his department. She understood that it had been nearly four years since Roy’s transfer with hardly a business trip between the two friends… but somehow she didn’t think Maes should have been quite so happy to use the words "serial killer," "safety concerns," "temporary relocation," "Roy," "surprise," and "this is going to be great!" all in the same breath.
- On the night Maes was killed, Roy was the first person she called after the State’s official representative knocked on the door to deliver the news. And even though the three-day trip between the East and Central threatened to interfere with his attending the State-planned burial, he still managed to make it through the storm to their house. Roy never completely forgave Maes for the fact that he was the one left to hold Gracia while she cried after her mother returned home.
- Roy couldn’t bring himself to visit them again after he transferred back to Central, at least not on his own. But he knew Gracia deserved to be told in person that the investigation on Maes’ death was being closed. She took the news unflinchingly and then looked him straight in the eyes and stated with completely unfounded faith, "but that’s not all you’re going to do, is it?" Roy almost told her right then how much those words impacted him, how they gave him the strength to believe that the fledgling idea forming in the back of his mind wasn’t lunacy. But even though he hadn’t fully fleshed out his plan, Roy could see where it would inevitably lead. He realized just how absurd the whole thing sounded in his mind and left before he could answer.
- It was raining the first time Gracia caught Elysia in Maes’ study, paging through the thickest volume from her pink flowered bookshelf. And as she flipped through pages she couldn’t read, pausing on each one with symbols and arrays she didn’t understand, Elysia hummed. Gracia hadn’t heard that sweet, sweet sound since before Maes died. Later she would ask Elysia what she was doing, to which her daughter would reply that she was "studying hard like Daddy," but at that moment all Gracia could think of was calling Roy Mustang. To thank him for giving such impractical, illogical presents -- to thank him for giving Gracia her daughter back. Then she realized how absurd the whole thing sounded in her mind and she hung up the phone before he could answer.
- She brought over dinner to the hospital after Sciezka let slip the news about their transfers North. The entire office was visiting the two being left behind, except for the newly appointed Brigadier General. There were plenty of furtive glances between the officers as they ate; no one, not even Riza Hawkeye, would look her in the eye. Gracia threatened to hold back dessert if they didn’t tell her what was going on, managing to make them look even more miserable and guilty for eating as much as they already had. Just a few minutes more and she would have had Kain or perhaps Mr. Breda talking, but then she caught sight of Riza’s steady gaze silently imploring with her not to press the issue further. She left them with a request to "just be careful" and prayed that they would not meet the same fate as her husband. Gracia was halfway home, shedding tears all along downtown Central for foolish Roy Mustang and his hopelessly loyal crew, when she realized she forgot to take the two warm apple pies she had made for dessert.
- Today, on his way out from being discharged to finish "recovering" at home, a man with dirty blonde hair and striking charcoal eyes throws both pies away uneaten. It is the first time Roy Mustang knowingly refrains from indulging in a piece of Gracia Hughes’s specialty and Roy feels more disgusted with himself for it than with what he has prepared to do at the Fuhrer’s mansion later that evening.
- She will visit him as he recovers –not quite as often as Maes would have, no doubt—but it will be more frequently than she ever thought she would on her own. When he finds the strength and the voice to ask, she will even bring Elysia by, and they will find comfort simply drinking in her presence, the last living link to the man they both lost.
- Later, much later, when Elysia is old enough to question why she always refers to him as "Daddy’s best friend," it will not surprise her when she answers that, yes, of course he is her friend, too. What will surprise Gracia is the realization that perhaps they had been friends all along.