Author's Note – the full uncut chapter can be found on my livejournal (cornerofmadness)

Chapter Four

Gracia was surprised by the knock on her door. She wasn't expecting guests. As she opened the door, a shiver raced through her seeing a young blonde standing there. Gracia recognized her from the pictures Maes had sent. She couldn't fathom why Riza Hawkeye would visit her, mostly because Gracia didn't want to think about it. There was only one reason this particular soldier would be on her doorstep. Gracia stepped back. "You're Hawkeye, right?"

The blonde nodded, coming insider. "I'm sorry to drop in on you like this. I had wanted to meet you when I returned from Ishbal but I was in the hospital. Hughes talked about you so much."

"Oh, I…" Gracia didn't know what to say. Pain, deeper, more expansive than she was prepared for filled her, hearing that Maes thought so highly of her to tell his comrades in arms. The tea whistle rescued her from having to talk. "I need to get that. Would you like some?" She didn't know what made her ask. If Hawkeye said yes, then she'd be obliged to talk about things she didn't want to.

"That would be nice."

"Have a seat in the living room. I'll bring it in." Gracia kicked herself but she prepped the tea and carried the pot and some cups and sugar out on a tray. Gracia tried to pour like this was any teatime. "I'm guessing you're here because of Maes."

"I don't know why I'm here." Riza sighed and Gracia realized this was no easier on her. "He didn't ask me to come. Please don't think that."

Gracia blew across her cup, the steam dancing. "That wouldn't be his style. I've been expecting something…flashier."

Riza let out a nervous laugh. "Sorry but yes, I can see why. I don't have to tell you Hughes adores you."

"And I don't have to tell you what he's done," Gracia replied grimly.

Riza set the cup down, unable to fake an interest in tea. "I know, and I know it hurts."

Gracia gazed at the other woman, wondering again what she wanted. Of course, if anyone could understand her, Hawkeye was the one. "How did you deal with it?"

Riza picked at invisible lint on her trousers. "Not well but I had the added distraction of the war. I couldn't just walk away from it but I did close Roy off." Riza's gaze came up to meet Gracia's and it was enough to make her squirm. "It was the wrong thing to do. Maes woke me up in the middle of the night just a few nights ago, very worried about Roy. He's not like Maes. Roy goes to very dark places and we weren't sure he'd live to get out of this one." Riza paused as Gracia gasped. Gracia set her own cup down, not trusting her hand to hold it. "We're working it out."

"But he betrayed you." Gracia kept her 'with another man' to herself as much as she wanted to scream it.

"He did but I've come to realize how much they care for each other." Riza picked up her teacup again. "Roy has been suffering so much, taking all this blame onto his shoulders. It's killing me watching him dying inside over this and now, to have to see Hughes do the same." She sipped, her face pained. "I never thought I would ever see Hughes so low."

Gracia couldn't hold Riza's gaze and she didn't want to know I any /I of this. How could Riza handle it? "Why are you telling me this?" She knew it sounded cold. She should care if Maes was suffering, and she did, but that only made Gracia angry.

"Because you need to know it, whether or not you want to." Riza brushed a strand of her hair back. "I should go. I didn't want our first meeting to be this awkward but…" She shrugged and got to her feet. "I'm not asking you to forgive him or even talk to him. I'm just saying you might want to at least do the latter."

"Have you?" Gracia got up to escort her to the door. She didn't want to know the answer but she couldn't help herself.

"Yes, and I'll be sitting down with them both." Something odd fluttered by over Hawkeye's face. Gracia couldn't identify the emotion, only noting that it was strong.  "But I've had more time to deal with this. Maybe it was the war but I've learned that life is far too fragile and real love too rare. I'm learning to accept it in its myriad of forms."

Gracia caught herself swallowing down a little cry. How could Hawkeye come to this? Could she? Did she want to? Gracia couldn't stop the tremor running through her. "I'm not there yet," she said more to herself than to Hawkeye.

The blonde nodded. "I didn't get here instantly but I love Roy too much to lose him. I used to look down on women who would do anything to just hold onto a man but I can understand a little of it now. If I thought this was some casual affair, I would never forgive him. It goes far beyond that."

"For Maes to tell me." Gracia paused, cupped her hands over her mouth as if to adjust the volume of her voice. "I knew it had to be something. I told him I would never see him again." Gracia winced at the memory of it, the horrible look on Maes' face. "Maybe now…maybe I will."

"Then I'm glad I did come." Riza sighed. "It's not easy, none of this, not for us, not for them."

"I guess it shouldn't be easy," Gracia said, wishing she could be more like this woman, brave enough to adapt. "Don't tell him I'm reconsidering. I don't know what I'll do yet."

"I won't," Riza promised and Gracia let her go. She went back to the living room, staring down at the tea set. Her life would never be simple again.

X                                 X                                             X

"She's going to be here?" Maes eyed Roy as if he still didn't believe this was going to happen.

Roy opened a bottle of wine to let it breathe. "She said so. I don't know how she got to this point but I'm not going to argue it. We are lucky people." He winced, realizing that was the wrong thing to say to Maes.

Hughes sighed, flopping down on the couch. "Gracia would never do this."

Roy sat across from him on a chair. "You don't know that. In Ishbal, I was sure Riza would never forgive me." He stretched his feet out in front of him, contemplating his words carefully. "Riza spoke to Gracia."

Maes' eyebrows shot up to his hairline. "She what? Why?"

Roy held up a hand. "I didn't ask her to, if that's what you're thinking. I supposed she felt if anyone could understand what Gracia is going through, it's her."

Maes nodded. "I suppose so. I just don't know how to salvage things. Do I approach Gracia? Do I wait?"

"Wait. Let her think about what Riza had to say and then, if she doesn't come around, give it one last try," Roy suggested.

Maes ran a hand over his hair. "How did you get so smart?"

Roy grinned broadly. "Always have been. How could you never notice before?"

Snorting, Maes tossed a couch pillow at Roy. "To go with that arrogance."

"Natural complement." Roy's grin broadened. "Are you nervous about this?"

"I go between turned on like crazy to scared to death." Maes wiggled into the couch, glancing down at his crotch. "What if it doesn't work or falls flat?"

"Oh, you just i had /i to bring up impotence." Roy huffed, tossing the pillow back. "Bastard. Now I'm going to be thinking about that all night."

"Why does Riza want to do this?"

Roy shrugged. "I think she loves me. She doesn't want me to choose between two illicit lovers and….I think this idea excites her, too."

"And scares her."


As if on cue, a knock sounded on the door. Roy made a nervous noise then went to answer it, wondering wildly if he could be so unlucky that this was anyone but Riza. She seemed somehow fragile, like a Xing doll, standing there in her white coat. He ushered her in quickly. Riza shed her coat, leaving him breathless. He had never seen her in a dress as flashy as the red, lowly dipping one she wore now. The round moons of her breasts peeked out from the slashing neckline. Her shoes were flat. Roy figured heels would hurt her still-healing back but the flats took nothing away from the look.

"Roy." Riza smiled. "I think you're starting without everyone else."

"You dress like that, hell yes I am." He laughed, hooking his arm in hers as he escorted her into the living room. On his feet, Maes watched them expectantly. All three of them stood still for a moment as if trying to figure out what to say next. "I have wine open. Let me go get it. Sit."

When Roy came back with the wine and glasses, he found Riza had claimed the chair across from Maes and they were talking quietly about nothing of any consequence. Roy approved of that. Idle chit chat would help relax him. He could kick Maes for bringing up impotency.

"Has Roy always been one to get lost in his alchemy books?" Maes winked at Riza over his wine glass.

She laughed. "Oh, always. He and Father would have starved without me."

"Untrue," Roy huffed, already seeing where this was going.

"It is true." Riza sipped at her wine. "And if he was out of the lab, you knew it was going to be trouble. Want to tell Maes what you got stuck where, Roy?"

"No! You promised never to speak of that again!" Roy's face flashed red.

She smirked. "No, you told me I was never speaking of it again."

"You have to tell me." Maes laughed.

Roy stabbed a finger at her, feeling the heat of his intensifying. "Riza, don't you dare."

"It's funny now but I'm sure it hurt," Riza continued, ignoring him.

"Now I have to hear it." Maes leaned closer.

"Do the words window…"

"Riza!" Roy roared. "And you quit making her tell." He elbowed Maes in the ribs.

"Make me."

Roy set his wine glass down and captured Maes' chin, planting a deep kiss on his mobile mouth. Maes squirmed under him, trying to put the wine glass aside. The man's strong arms went around Roy as the kiss deepened. Roy wondered if this was too soon but watching Riza out of the corner of his eye suggested otherwise. She was watching them with curious eyes.

Maes sucked Roy's tongue into his mouth, hiking Roy half onto his lap. Roy could feel Maes' interest pressing against his belly and the heat of Riza's gaze on his skin, a heady combination. Riza leaned over on her knees and he could look askance and see down her bodice. Having one lover's hands on him and the other in sight sent blood waterfalling and pooling in very pleasant locales.  Roy couldn't swallow down the low long groan as Maes massaged him through his trousers.

Roy let his head loll over, looking at Riza with clouded eyes. "We should move to the bed room if you're ready."

As smile flickered across her face. "After you."

X                                 X                                 X

"You don't have to walk me home. I am armed you know," Riza said as Roy opened the door.

"It's night and yes, we do," Roy said, peering outside. No one seemed to be around and maybe it would look less suspicious with three of them on the street. Not too many would suspect what they had been up to, after all.

"It can be ugly out here," Maes added, stepping outside when Roy gave the all clear. "But the gun, that's just sort of hot."  Roy nodded frantically in agreement.

Rolling her eyes at them, Riza consented to the walk and Roy wished he could have gotten her a cab but the hour was too late. He knew her back hurt her but she didn't complain as she walked. They got her home then Maes headed back to his own apartment, leaving Roy alone under the full moon. The night had been better than he could ever have hoped for. Parts of their lives were whole again, hell they were even better than that. He felt happier than he had in ages.

Looking at all the darkened lights in all the homes he passed as he walked, Roy felt his joy ebb. He wasn't in his home with his lovers, lights off, happily asleep. He never would be. If things remained as they were, they would never spend a night with him. Suddenly going home to an apartment smelling of sex, haunted with sweet memories, felt wrong. Roy turned a corner and headed back to the one place he felt at home in any more. He just hoped the bartender wouldn't have to call Maes in a few hours to help him stumble home.