A/N: Major spoilers if you haven't watched at least up to episode 25 (Words of Farewell), and there is an implied spoiler for the end of the anime.

This takes place after "Becoming the Fuhrer" and yes, after that very last event in the said story.

And yes, this is my first time writing about Hughes and Gracia. And yes, yes, I am bad at titles. XD

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Gracia sat down in her sofa, sipping a cup of tea in her humble home and looking down at a slice of the apple pie she had just baked, sitting on the coffee table on a little platter, just about ready to be eaten. She was about to reach for the newspaper beside the pie when she heard her doorbell ring.

The young woman stood up and put down her cup with a sigh. And it was such a nice flavor of tea…

Before opening the door, she took a peek into the tiny window – and smiled, seeing the face of her boyfriend. But that smile instantly faded, when she saw that Maes Hughes, a major in the Amestris military, looked just a little bit distraught. It was obvious that he was merely trying to hide it behind his usual jovial grin, the one he often saved for her and his other close compatriots.

Gracia opened the door and watched him enter after kissing her tenderly on her lips. She felt her spirits lift, before they were brought back to earth after seeing his mouth turn down. Apparently he couldn't take his masquerade anymore.

"What's wrong?" she asked him, as they sat down together on the sofa. She even offered him a slice of her pie, but Maes shook his head, and continued looking downcast. "Is it…about the military?"

"No, the military's running the country just fine," he said, as he idly laid his hand on top of Gracia's. "It's…something else."

"Like what?"

How can I tell my girlfriend that my best and oldest friend was thinking of human transmutation, forbidden, taboo alchemy, as a way to atone for what he did in the Ishbal rebellion?! What if she panics? Or worse…no, she wouldn't spill secrets, but it's best she didn't know…

"I'm worried about Roy, Gracia. He still hasn't recovered from…well, what happened in Ishbal."

She sighed. She had thought Lieutenant Colonel Roy Mustang, the famous Flame Alchemist, was already doing much better than he did during the aftermath of the massacre – unfortunately, her assumptions were wrong. From the stories and experiences of Major Hughes himself, Gracia was only too aware of the wounds war inflicted upon people; people who would return just about unscathed, like Roy, would be wounded in such a way that made physical injuries look like harmless little paper cuts.

"It's been a while. I know it's hard for him, since he's a State Alchemist, and sometimes he thinks he can fix anything that goes wrong with a snap of his fingers, but seriously, I don't want him suddenly breaking down. And I don't want him always telling me that just because I had a desk job…"

"Oh, Maes..."

"Still," he went on, "he's got a plan to turn things around. Hopefully that'll keep Roy from resorting to…uh, more drastic measures to fix what he's done in Ishbal. That's another thing I'm worrying about. That man is one hell of an ambitious soldier."

Gracia shifted around in her seat. "What do you mean? I mean, if it's all right with you…"

"He wants to become the Fuhrer, Gracia," said Maes. "Of course, Roy has good intentions. He just wants to change how this country is run. Soon it'll be spreading around…he'll make enemies, but also gain some allies…"

"And you'll be one of his allies, right?"

Gripping her hand, the major nodded. "I'll support him from below, help push him to the top, and at the same time stay close to the higher-ups. It's a way to make up for Ishbal, but it's going to be really hard climbing through the ranks. If you get promoted too fast, people will become suspicious, and that's a very easy way to make lots of enemies in the military. Plus, Bradley himself has a lot of supporters…but I think Roy can make it. It's difficult, but it's not impossible. At least there will be no bloodshed, no lives lost…"

"I agree," she said, nodding. "So…you'll really help him with this?"

"Of course," Maes answered. "I can't just sit back and watch him go through this on his own. I'll be one of those allies."

Gracia reached out for her cup of tea and took a little sip. After putting the cup back onto its saucer, she said, "I don't think Roy Mustang has anything to worry about if he has you on his side. And you shouldn't worry so much. Someone should also be around not just to push him to the top, but also to keep him optimistic. Worry can be a very contagious thing, and I see no reason why it should be spread around."

"Hmm…you do have a point…"

"And if you worry, I worry too." Gracia opened her arms and embraced him, and felt his warmth as he returned the gesture. "I hope the apple pie helped."

"It did, don't worry," said Maes, sounding just a little bit more cheerful as he slowly let go of her. "And it helped me, too."

"Don't tell me you snuck a few bites behind Roy's back."

"Nah, he saw. And he didn't mind. Wait and see…someday, when Roy Mustang visits you he'll have those four stars on his shoulders that show everyone exactly where he is in the military. By the way, nobody makes apple pie like you do, Gracia. Yet another one of the many reasons why I love you so much."

"You flatter me, Maes. Sometimes a little too much. Make that most of the time."

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"Thank you for the apple pie, Gracia. Sorry if I dropped by on such short notice…thought I'd see how you were doing. Where's Elysia?"

"Oh, she's at a friend's house today. So…how has it been for you?"

Several years had passed since Maes Hughes first told Gracia of Roy's plans to control the military for good. Today, Hughes was long gone, killed in action, while pushing his best friend to the top.

But today, his best friend made it.

Now he sat across the coffee table from Gracia, adjusting the court sword he wore over his military uniform. Maes' widow could easily see and count the stars on the two thick gold bars bordered by two thinner bars each – four. The shoulder badges of the Fuhrer of Amestris.

Yesterday, it was Bradley who claimed those badges. Today, Bradley was also long gone, and he had a replacement, chosen by the Parliament after more than two years of rather scatterbrained lawmaking combined with strange assaults of flying machines and armored men. They needed a leader, and the military also needed a leader.

And he came in the person of Fuhrer Roy Mustang, also the youngest Fuhrer in history.

"It's been fine," said Roy. "Except for the increasing mountains of paperwork coming from both the Parliament and the military, everything's been all right. Thankfully."

"I'm sure they are, with you in control," said Gracia. She sighed wistfully, glancing over her shoulder at a small table full of framed photographs. "If only Maes were here to share it with you…"

"I promised him I would reach the top," agreed the Fuhrer. "And I always keep my promises, and if it weren't for Maes – Brigadier General Maes Hughes – I wouldn't be here today." He closed his right eye in reminiscence. Gracia wondered for a fleeting moment if he also closed his left, as it was obscured by a black eye patch. "It seemed like only yesterday I was telling him how I wanted to become Fuhrer…"

She smiled. "He would be so happy to see you today…probably so happy he would never stop bragging about you."

Roy grinned back, folding his hands on his lap. Something glimmered, and Gracia couldn't resist following the tiny sparkle of light.

"Is that a…ring? Oh yes…you and Major Hawkeye are already engaged!"

"Maes has always been pestering me to get a wife," He couldn't help laughing a bit at this. "He'd be even happier to see me with this ring." By the light of the sunshine streaming in through the closest window, Roy gazed fondly at his ring. "You know, I think I'll pay him a visit again today. I haven't ever since we met before I became Fuhrer. Thanks again for your hospitality, Gracia. And don't forget to tell Elysia I'm leaving my belated birthday gift here."

"Of course I won't…Fuhrer Mustang."

He stood up from his chair and saluted her. After she returned the gesture with a wide smile, Roy was out the front door.

"If only you were here to see your friend now, Maes…" Gracia sighed again, leaning back in her chair. "Not only does he have the position he wants, he's also got a wife."

It's difficult, but it's not impossible…Wait and see…someday, when Roy Mustang visits you he'll have those four stars on his shoulders that show everyone exactly where he is in the military.

For a moment, she could almost hear Maes' voice again, full of confidence, admiration and optimism whenever talking about Roy.