Needless to Blame
Author – Cornerofmadness
Disclaimer - not mine, all characters belong to Hiromu Arakawa et al, Square Enix and funimition. I don't make a profit
Pairing – none, Roy/Riza mentions, Roy/Gracia friendship
Rating – PG-13
Time Line – manga based, no real spoilers provided you know what happened to Hughes
Summary – This was one of the hardest duties Roy has ever had to perform
Author's Note – This was written for the fmaot4 community Alphabet Challenge for the letter B. Thanks to evillittledog for the beta. I've been wanting to write this story for a very long time and Tim McGraw's song I'm Already Home crystallized the story.
Things that are done, it is needless to speak about; things that are past it is needless to blame - Confucius
He had put this off for so long that the shame of it kept him frozen across the street, staring up at her house for what left like an eternity in hell. Roy didn't want to do this. He shouldn't have waited. He should have done this immediately instead of putting it off. Now all he was going to do was rip the scab off a very deep wound. Roy knew he could be such an idiot. There was nothing to be done for it now. For all his alchemy, he couldn't spool back time. If he could, Roy knew none of this would be necessary.
Roy nearly lost his nerve waiting for Gracia to answer his knock but it wasn't like he could run off. She knew he was coming. He had specifically asked her to send Elicia to a friend's. Roy wasn't sure he was going to confess to her that the only reason he was here now was that his men had been ripped from him, that his queen was now held in check. Roy knew this could well be the end. Bradley had hobbled both him and Edward. Oh, they were both trying to outmaneuver Bradley. Maybe they would win. Maybe they would die. Roy wasn't going to bet either way but this deed, it had to be done before the rest of this play unfolded. He owed it to Maes.
The paleness of Gracia's face when she answered the door told Roy she knew he wasn't here for some simple social call. Her worry was almost palpable. He swore he could taste it. Still, she managed a smile. "Hello, Roy. Come in."
Roy wanted to run. Instead, he let her lead him to the living room and he sat stiffly on the couch. Even when Maes was alive, Roy sometimes felt uncomfortable in the house. He loved Gracia but everything was so neat and precise that he felt like an intruder. Today, when he said what he had to, he'd feel like a rapist. "I'm sorry it took me so long to come here, Gracia." He directed that right to the lace doily on the arm of the couch.
"You've been here several times since…it happened." Her voice hitched. "But something's changed, hasn't it? Did you find his killer?" Hope seeped into Gracia's voice.
Roy traced the fine webbing of the lace. Had Gracia made it herself? He was such a fool for waiting, for giving her false hopes now. "No, not yet." Oh he knew what had killed his best friend but he couldn't tell her that. Gracia wasn't ready for homunculi. Roy still had his suspicions in spite of what Bradley had claimed. "I just…I should have done this earlier but I couldn't face you." He lifted his gaze to meet hers.
Gracia's brow creased over her green eyes. "I don't understand. Why, Roy?"
"Because it's my fault that Maes is dead," he whispered, dropping his gaze once more.
Gracia got up off the chair and sat next to him. Her soft hand cupped his chin, making him look at her. "Roy, you are not to blame. You were not even in Central when Maes died. There was absolutely nothing you could have done," she said and he wanted to tell her that he heard Maes die, a rattle, the hiss of the dangling phone but Roy held his tongue. "Edward and Alphonse blame themselves, too, and I can't even begin to guess why." A sigh eased out of her.
Roy took her hand, squeezing gently. He suspected why the brothers felt that way but again he didn't want her drawn into that world. "I guess it's in our natures to assume blame," he said. "If I hadn't asked him to look into something…" Roy was surprised by just how strong the emotions were, catching him by the throat and choking out all his air.
Gracia's arms went around him and Roy let his face sag against her shoulder. He wanted to cry but he couldn't do that, not huddled against his best friend's wife. He was supposed to be strong for her, not the other way around. "I know you loved him, Roy."
"He was my best friend." Finding a nugget of inner fortitude, Roy straightened up some and dug into his pocket. He came out with a battered envelope that might have been creamy colored once upon a lifetime ago and a newer one in a crisp pale blue envelope. "These are for you. The older one Maes wrote in Ishabal. The newer one is to you and Elicia. He gave them to me to give to you should the worst happen. Somewhere in this house are the ones I gave to him so he could pass them to Riza."
Gracia's hands quaked as she took them. Her green eyes glistened as she took both the letters out of their envelopes but the tears didn't fall. Roy knew it was only a matter of time. He knew what was in the letters, more or less. The same thing that was in his. If you're reading this…don't be sad. I've put down my gun and hung up my boots for good. Know that I loved you. I'm in a better place, well his own letter didn't have that since Roy had no faith in God or an afterlife but he had to confess an eternity with Riza would be a wonderful award. Maes would have told Gracia how much he would miss her and miss seeing Elicia grow up. That he would want her to be happy and move on. That was the hardest part, moving on.
Roy didn't know what he could do to help her except catch her as she started to collapse, keening, crushing the letter to her chest. He folded her in his arms, rocking her, hating the helpless feeling smothering him. Roy hated that he was crying, too, that he didn't have the strength to give her. Finally, after an eternity of salt water, Gracia cried herself out and he helped her smooth out the damp crumpled letters. "I'm so sorry, Gracia, for waiting so long."
She kissed his damp cheek. "It's all right, Roy. I know you felt it was your duty to give me these. I needed to see them. Maes wanted me to. It doesn't matter that you couldn't do it right away. I have them now. They didn't say anything I didn't already know but now I have something left of him that I can tuck away and keep with me as long as I need to."
Roy swallowed hard at that, trying not to start crying again. "If there's anything I can do…"
Gracia put a finger on his lips. "I know, Roy. And I'll ask if I need it. It's scary sometimes." She shuddered. "The death benefits allow us to keep the house but…"
Roy squeezed her hand. "You never have to worry about it, Gracia. I can help you. My stipend for being an alchemist is more than I'll ever need and don't tell me it's charity. You say I'm not to blame for Maes dying. I'm not so sure. Let me help. It would do wonders for my state of mind."
"I find that hard to argue. If it helps you," Gracia nodded and Roy saw the relief in her eyes, a weight lifting off her shoulders. She knew she couldn't afford her pride. "But you are coming to dinner regularly, well as regularly as you can. We love having you here and Elicia adores her uncle."
Roy smiled. "I'd be glad to. It beats going home to an empty apartment." He didn't have to tell Gracia that. She knew the trials he and Riza went through to be together and living apart was one of them.
Gracia gave him another hug then stood up. She shook her short hair back into place as if composing herself. "Thank you, Roy, for bringing his letters. I don't want to be rude but I think I need to be alone for a while."
Roy nodded. "I knew you would." He kissed her cheek and let her lead him out with the promise to return for dinner once a week. He looked over his shoulder at the house as he walked away. Roy took all of his pain and pushed it down into his gut then promptly went to the nearest bar. He intended to do what he usually did: drown it. Haunting letters could be forgotten for just a little while. Maybe, he'd even see his friend in his mind's eye and smile just for a moment.