Those Who Wait

Summary: She had once been told she was a brave woman to be married to a military man. She never understood the meaning of that statement until now. Written for Live Journal's LadyFest 2010. I never written a truly angsty fic before and this is my first swing at Maes and Gracia's relationship. I don't think we saw enough of Gracia so hopefully I can write her as in character as possible. Anyway, beware of spoilers to FMA episode 25, Brotherhood episode 10, and Manga chapter 16.

Disclaimer: I don't own FMA otherwise certain instances would have or haven't of happened :p

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A giggle would escape her lips whenever she would watch the exuberant man before her swing their daughter into the air with an excitement the rivaled the three years old's own before he pulled the sandy haired child into a bone crushing hug, gushing about how adorable she was. The child would only laugh back, hugging onto her father the best she could and responding about how her papa was silly. Maes had always been a very passionate and expressive man, Gracia had reminded herself, and she still had trouble figuring out how such a kind hearted and doting man could latch himself onto the military.

When they had first met, she was shocked that the stuttering and flustered man asking her on a date was even in the military. The military men she had been confronted with were cocky and seemed to feel as though they could approach a woman any way they wanted. Maes had proven to be different. When they began dating, he went out of his way to make her comfortable and happy. And she truly was. Even while he was away for the war, she wrote him without fail and received (usually in bulks) letter from the man as well. It was during those moments of letter exchange where she may have sparked his picture obsession, having sent him a few pictures of herself as keep sakes during his time away.

His return had proven to be one of the happiest moments of her life and Maes had done any and everything to keep her happy, even after they had gotten married and she went through the wondrous joys of pregnant mood swings. He stayed by her side, forever the doting husband, willing to bend of backwards and sacrifice it all. When Elysia was born, his love seemed to increase tenfold. He showed no shame in parading around the military grounds (from what she had been told) waving around photos of various sizes to any one he came into contact with. She shook her head when Roy had shown up for Elysia's second birthday to drop off a gift and requested she hide her husband's camera.

Indeed, Maes Hughes was irreplaceable in more ways than one and Gracia had taken this into consideration from the day they met. He had always promised her happiness. If she had ever shed a tear, he was on a rampage through Central trying to find out who had hurt her way before she could state she had stubbed her toe or was reading a sappy love novel. He swore to her that he would never make her cry and would die to protect her. Although the statement was far more than she had expected from the man, she would smile kindly and shake her head, stating all she needed was him to come home safe every night, and he did.

Maes always made it home and when he couldn't make it home he always called.

She could never really sleep if he wasn't beside her, sprawled out and taking up most of the bed space, but she found comfort in at least hearing his cheery voice on the other line, sometimes with the receptionist scolding him in the background on private calling.

That's right… Maes always called home, so why was it she felt hesitant at the late night call of a sudden? Slipping on her slippers and shuffling into the living room, Gracia stared silently down at the ringing phone. Pulling her robe tighter to her body, the woman reached for the phone, ignoring the chill that had made its way up her spine.

It was just Maes. He always made sure to call home.

"Maes?" She cradled the phone to her face, awaiting her chipper husband's tired chuckle.

"Mrs. Hughes? It's Major Armstrong." Stiffening slightly, Gracia tugged subconsciously at the phone cord. Why would he be calling so late?

"I'm sorry Mr. Armstrong, but Maes isn't in right now. I'm afraid he's working late." There was a pause on the other end. She had expected to hear the usual booming apology from the muscular solider on the other line, but she could sense hesitance on his end. "Mr. Armstrong?"

"Mrs. Hughes… it's about Lieutenant Colonel Hughes…" Grip tightening, Gracia felt her breath catch in her throat.

"Is something wrong? Is Maes alright?" she managed, panic surfacing.

"Mrs. Hughes, I regret to inform you that we just found your husband's body-"

"What're you trying to say?" Her voice rose, cracking as every possibility ran rampant through her mind. Maes always called home. The receptionist or Roy could always be heard in the background scolding him. He always called home. Armstrong was holding up the line with this insanity. "He hasn't called home just yet, but I'm sure he will." Was she just saying this for self confirmation? No, she was certain he would call.

"Mrs. Hughes, I'm sorry, but your husband… he's…" The phone had fallen from her hands before the words could completely register. Despite Armstrong's panicked shout on the other line, Gracia stood shaking uncontrollably trying to process the final word of his sentence.

Dead.

Maes was dead.

Her husband was dead.

Gone… he was gone.

This wasn't happening.

A few months ago, he had called home declaring her quiche had been a hit with Mustang's men but he that probably should have kept it to himself seeing as all the men would probably want to go after his wonderful, amazing, gorgeous wife now.

Just weeks ago he had declared that he had discovered a new hobby- scrapbooking. An incomplete book was currently scattered on a desk in the study.

Just a few days ago he had snuggled close to her in bed whispering that he loved the scent of apple pies because they reminded him of her.

Just the day before he had been threatening the lives of small boys at their daughter's third birthday party. No one was going to take his lovely ladies from him. He'd never know they felt the same about him.

Just hours before he had promised to come home. Elysia was excited about the prospects of making a special lunch with her papa. Only papa could make peanut butter and banana sandwiches the proper way, Elysia had boldly declared one day.

What was happening?

The tears had been flooding down her cheeks in waves she wouldn't have imagined. Reaching up to wiping them away, her hand had barely reached her cheeks when a pained sob escaped and she fell to her knees, shoulders sagged and shaking, palm over her mouth, and other hand clutching at her robe. Her heart felt like it was caving in completely.

This wasn't happening.

The sobs continued, but had come out more pained and tormented than the ones before. Hunching over, she sobbed into her hands, unaware of her daughter peaking around the corner, looking at her broken down mother in fear and concern.

What was happening… why was this happening?

He couldn't be dead.

He wasn't dead.

He was going to call home.

He always did.

After all, that's all that she ever asked for.