If there was anything Maes Hughes wished he could be, it would be smooth. Roy was smooth, suave. Debonair some might say. Some women. Lots of women.
But Hughes was sweet, earnest, and sometimes he came on too strong.
“Really, Hughes,” Roy said once, half paying attention to his friend and half focused on a pretty woman and her equally pretty friends at the bar. “Women don’t want to get married on the third date. They want to be wooed.”
Hughes thought about that as he watched his friend woo five women at once. And he realized he wasn’t the wooing kind of guy.
Later he wishes he were a wooing kind of guy because that would make this so much easier. Because there, right in front of him is the woman for him; he knows this as much as he’s known anything in his entire life, if not more. He can feel it in his bones. He also knows that saying that to her could very well ruin it all.
So he stands there, awkward, unsure. Desperately, desperately wanting to be better at this kind of thing. “So... I...” He looks away, one hand scratching the back of his head. “You see... you... and me... and there’s this... Thing.”
She looks at him for a moment, sure that he is attempting to ask her on a date but is for some reason incapable of doing so. She decides to save him from himself. “I would love to.”
Two dates go by and he’s managed to not propose and declare his undying love for her. At least not publicly or to her directly, though Roy has gotten an earful about her. He thinks perhaps rehearsal of both these actions will make it smoother.
It does not.
They are at her door, a plain respectable white door with an elegantly wrought knocker plated in gold, and he wants to kiss her. But he stands there, contemplating the knocker, noting that while it gleams prettily it cannot compare to her smile, and sneaking glances back at her.
“Maes?” His head moves so fast to face her when she says his name she is sure it would have snapped off if not for his spine.
“Yes?” She looks so perfect, and... like she’s concentrating on something. The stubble on his chin, he realizes. He lets a small chuckle go and brings his hand up to gauge the stubble. “Sorry... I...”
But her lips on his halt all apologies. Her hands reach up to his face, lightly grazing the whiskers. For half a second he does not move, then another part of his brain kicks in and he kisses back, his own hands cupping her face gently.
As she goes inside, her hand tracing along his face in a lingering good-bye, he speaks, mouth moving and heart pressing forward before his brain can catch up.
“I love you.”
She stops, shock on her face. And he dreads what is to come, what is surely to come. His stomach sinks as he knows he has ruined it all, never to see her smile like that again and—
Her smile is slight, but she does not smile with her mouth he finally realizes, but her eyes. And her eyes are radiant. “Good night, Maes. Call me tomorrow.”
He does, and that night they go to a movie. When they get back to her door again, this time he kisses her first.
For three months he held out. Three months of Roy sometimes actually physically restraining him from buying the ring. The local diamond merchant has become used to the two men and the same routine.
“Hughes, she’s the best thing to ever happen to you, and I’m not about to let you screw this up. And I don’t want to see you moping around when she says no.”
“But I love her and not even you will stop me, O mighty Flame Alchemist!”
Roy disabuses him of that notion rather quickly.
Then there comes a day when Roy is busy with paperwork and Hughes sneaks out to buy the ring.
He takes her to a restaurant that night, the best he can afford on military salary and with the ring burning a hole in his pocket. Things, naturally, do not go smooth. They are seated close to the kitchen, their waiter is snooty, and the food needed to be sent back twice. Another man would have taken those as divine signs that his plan was not meant for tonight, but Hughes was not any man. He was much more determined.
Check paid and terrible establishment left behind they wander in the park. Green grass below them and black, star-speckled sky above them. He does not need light to know she is beautiful.
“Gracia?” he says, a tentative question in his voice.
“Will you...” His hand grasps the box in his pocket, relieved to know it is there, but still nervous about having to ask the question that accompanies it.
“Will I what, Maes?” Her voice is light, teasing.
“Here quick!” And he grasps her hand and maneuvers her over to and then onto a bench. She gives a squawk of surprise. “What?”
“The paint... I think it’s wet. They must have redone them not long ago...”
And he feels ten times the fool. “Gracia, you’re dress, I’m...”
She laughs. “It’s just a dress. Please, you have something to say.”
He takes a deep breath, and still standing says, “Marry me. If... if you want.” And here he bends to one knee, looking up at her like the goddess he thinks she is. “If you don’t want, that’s okay, I understand. Roy always says I come on too strong, but I love you Gracia. I can’t imagine not being with you. I knew I—”
And again she saves him from himself. “Yes.” She leans forward and puts her arms around him and her forehead against his. “I will marry you.”
Not until the next day does he remember to give her the ring.
He was not smooth, but as she said to Roy one day many years later, she never wanted smooth.