Spoilers for up to chapter 44, takes place after events of chapter 44

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Seeing Major Armstrong filling the halls again made his sorrow expand a little. He had possibly been the only other military personnel in all of Central to believe Maria was innocent. He tucked away all his depressed thought for the time being, and called to the alchemist, "Major, are you back from vacation?"

The burly man frowned at him through his mustache, as if his question was quite puzzling.

Denny was about to repeat himself when Armstrong took him by the shoulders. "The East is full of beautiful women," he announced, and continued on his way.

Now, it was Denny's turn to frown, all the emotions he's been working so hard to keep pent up flooded through him at the man's words—he didn't care about any other beautiful women except the one he couldn't have—and his hands went in fists, reminding him of his reason for getting Armstrong's attention.

"This notice just arrived from military headquarters," he said, shoving the paper in Armstrong's direction.

The alchemist's face grew concerned as he read about Scar being in the area. "Contact Colonel Mustang at once! Edward Elric might still be at the hotel, let him know right away," he ordered, leaving in a rush as Denny snapped a salute in compliance.

Back in the office he'd stopped out of, he passed word on to have Mustang phoned, he refused to do anything for that killer himself, and set to calling the hotel the Elric brothers were staying at. When he heard they weren't in, he sent orders to the military police headquarters to watch for the brothers, and left, insides churning.

He walked the streets of Central, starting with their hotel, searching for the suit of armor that always stood out amongst even the strangest of crowds. He'd been about to call out to them, when a car pulled up beside them, and they got inside after a short conversation.

Relived that they were safe, after all, Maria's death would mean nothing if they died, he stopped as he passed a local flower shop.

Browsing the freshly cut selection of flowers he wondered what kind were her favorite, and his head hung with regret that he never got the chance to know. Just as he was about to grab a mixed bouquet, the owner spotted him. "Those are wonderful, but it looks like your going through a rough patch, let me add these beautiful Xingese desert lilies, she'll forget there was ever an argument," she shopkeeper offered, already whisking away the bouquet his hand was hovering over, and cutting away the wrapping to arrange the lilies in with the other flowers.

He didn't have the heart to tell her he was leaving them at a grave, but forced his biggest grin onto his face as he accepted the bouquet from her in exchange for a rather small sum of cenz.

A taxi was stopped at the corner, it couldn't have been better timing if he'd called for it beforehand.

"What's got the city in such a tizzy?" the driver asked as he eyed Denny's uniform.

"Shift ended before this started," Denny replied, unwilling to share that Scar was loose in the city again, public panic was something he'd rather not cause. After giving the man directions, he buttoned up his coat in hopes of keeping prying eyes from asking any more questions, or taking note of where he was going.

As he paid, the driver connected the dots. "A friend of yours in there?" he asked, adjusting his hat to get a better look at Denny.

"Old family friend," he answered, and walked away without taking his change.

"Thanks," the driver shouted as Denny walked through the cemetery gate.

He lifted a hand in acknowledgment, and worked his way through the rows of graves. He'd been surprised upon learning that, despite the condition of her corpse, her family would bury her, but in the end he reasoned out that a burial was better than having Mustang's job finished by cremating her remains.

Setting the bouquet on top of her tombstone, he apologized—he didn't know how many times he'd said it since that night, but he said it again. "I'm sorry I couldn't stop this from happening." He sank down to the dirt and rested his forehead against the stone. "I—I didn't think they would be able to convict you with my testimony, but they refused to listen to me, wouldn't even let me speak past saying I could collaborate your report."

Denny leaned back, pulling his head away from the grave marker, to look at it. His conversation with Armstrong outside the prison played over in his head. "Why didn't they frame me instead of you," he asked, blinking back the tears burning his eyes.

"Because you have people to take care of," her response to the question echoed in his head. He sighed at the memory of her cuffed across the table from him. Somehow, she'd discovered he'd joined the military to ensure his siblings were taken care of. Somehow, she'd filed away the information he'd rambled about on rare occasions—Christy and Scott starting school, Terry selling a dress to a general's wife, him having to be late to work because someone was sick, a note falling out from the lunch that'd been packed for him. "I should have invited you over for dinner one night. They would have loved you," he said, regretting the chances he'd never taken, never would be able to take.

With a glance back at her grave as he walked away, he promised to start taking more chances in life, because he didn't think he could live with any more if only's or I could have's added to the ones that already popped up whenever he thought of possibilities that were long dead along with the beautiful brunette.

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a.n.: This was written for the prompt Illusion over the the fma_fic_contest community on livejournal with a 500-1000 word limit. This wound up being 977 words. Anyway, I'm going to keep all my Denny & Maria fics in the same place, so far there are only two, but I'm sure it'll grow, especially with the upcoming chapters of FMA for inspiration. Thanks for reading!