Part 1 - Like Fireworks In Daylight, Just Smoke And Noise
The first time she found them in each other's arms, Riza swallowed her surprise, left the files she'd meant to deliver on the credenza nearest the door, shut that door behind her. When Colonel Mustang called her name, she ignored him.
She said nothing to anyone - not a word - until the next morning, when Lt. Colonel Hughes cornered her in a hallway. Somehow he got her half-pinned against the wall - not threatening, but not letting her go until he'd said his piece.
"What you saw yesterday..."
"You're a married man, sir." The ice in her voice stopped him, even though the words themselves weren't enough to.
"My wife is a long way from here. And not that it's any of your business, Lieutenant, but she both knows and approves of my relationship with Colonel Mustang."
"Does she approve, sir? Or does she say she does in order to indulge you?"
Hughes let out a snort, shaking his head. "Is your world really so black and white?"
"Am I supposed to believe yours isn't?"
"Believe whatever the hell you like, Lieutenant." Hughes pushed away from the wall - she was free to escape now, yet her feet didn't seem inclined to move. "No wonder Roy's so fond of you. He always has needed someone around to smack his hand when he gets out of line."
She stayed - not moving, only breathing - until he turned the corner. Once he was out of sight, Riza made a point of not wondering what he'd meant when he said that Colonel Mustang was fond of her.
"You never asked why I didn't mind." Soft-skinned fingertips brushed along the back of her hand; a mother's touch against a soldier's skin. Their fingers threaded, squeezed, slipped apart, and then Gracia's touch was trailing along Riza's bare arm. "You must have been curious."
Riza shifted slightly and Gracia's touch did, too - moved as she moved - pushed her unbound hair over her shoulder, away from her face. If there was a gesture more sensual than that simple slide of her hair being guided, gently, along the nape of her neck, Riza couldn't begin to imagine it. "I didn't think it was my place to ask."
"Your place?" Gracia chuckled softly. In moments like this, her laugh was always lower and smokier than Riza expected it to be, as if the sheets alone could alter the timbre of her voice. "Considering where you've had your tongue today, I can't imagine what intimacies you'd need to take in order to feel like you could ask a perfectly logical question."
Riza shook her head slightly, turned it just enough to nip at the fingertips trailing her cheek. "Don't be crude."
"I haven't..." Gracia made that noise she always made when Riza's tongue touched her fingers - the soft half-gasp, the breath that she couldn't hold back, the noise that told Riza she was winning their merry war, for the moment - and Riza smiled around Gracia's fingertip. "...even begun to get crude yet." And then Gracia's body was sliding against hers, moving to bring their lips together. It wasn't until Gracia coaxed Riza's mouth open with her own that she withdrew her finger.
When Gracia pushed her onto her back, Riza asked, "Why didn't you mind?"
Gracia smiled - half a smile, half-open eyes, and the tide of their battle had been successfully turned. "Oh, no," she murmured, her voice teasing-low. "Now you'll have to drag it out of me."
The second time she found them together, Lt. Colonel Hughes smiled at her in a way no man had ever smiled at her before - as if she were completely and utterly an object; something to be fawned over, lusted after. She knew that she ought to take offense at such a look. She wasn't an object, after all - she was a soldier, and a damn fine one, if her performance appraisals were to be believed. She was a thinking person, more than just the sum of her parts - breasts and legs, hair and lips; these weren't the things that made her important; that made her, her. And damn that man all to hell for implying otherwise! She threw the files at them - let them clean up the mess, for once! - turned on her heel and slammed the door as she left. People all but jumped out of her way as she stormed out of the offices and into the barracks, and it felt good - very good - to know that they were as scared of her as they damned well ought to be.
When she got back to her room in the barracks, she locked the door and left the light off. She got into bed without stripping so much as her boots off and pulled the covers over her head. With her eyes closed tight, she masturbated to climax three times. Then she took off her boots and her jacket, dropping them to the floor, and fell asleep in her clothes, her shirt hanging, unconcerned, in half-unbuttoned disarray around her shoulders. The next morning she awoke half an hour earlier than usual so she could iron her jacket and shine her boots.
When Colonel Mustang arrived at the office, he came up behind her and whispered into her ear that the next time she walked in on him and Lt. Colonel Hughes, she could just bloody well join them instead of making such a spectacle of herself. It was all Riza could do not to go back to her bunk and start the whole process over again.
She was wet, still, from the last time, and Riza's fingers slipped into her with ease. Gracia straddled her hips, moving, grinding - slow-to-fast, gentle-to-hard. Gracia set the pace even while Riza's fingers did the fucking. Her body tensed and flexed with her movements and Riza imagined she could see the orgasm building up underneath her skin, being pushed along in quivers and trembles and whispered vulgarities, from muscles to nerves until it got to the place where it could be released.
Riza dragged her eyes away from the shivers that ran along Gracia's belly, dissipating out from her cunt. She looked up at Gracia's face and saw her eyes, half-closed, looking back down at her with unconscious possessiveness - a greedy sensuality that never ceased to thrill Riza to her core.
"So beautiful," Gracia murmured.
Riza wanted to say that she was beautiful, too - so beautiful that she stole Riza's breath - especially now, like this, with bliss and abandon and pure sex upon her face. But saying it seemed too trite, as if the words were too true to be spoken without sounding false, so instead she pulled Gracia down with her free hand and pushed her tongue into Gracia's mouth, fed her the words instead of speaking them.
The third time she found them, she stood in the doorway for almost a moment too long, trying to decide what to do. The shock of it had worn off, mostly. Now it was just a clumsy ballet of touch and sound, like watching children dance - all movements taken just to feel good about moving, without a thought to grace or propriety. And yet, the grace was present, even if the propriety was still a bit sketchy.
She didn't move until Colonel Mustang said, "Lieutenant - are you in or are you out?"
It took her another moment. And then she stepped inside fully, closed and latched the office door, and let her jacket slip off of her shoulders. "In, sir...sirs."
As they reached for her, Hughes chuckled and Roy smiled, low sound of welcome matched with an expression of wonder. "In that case, you'll have to stop calling us 'sirs'."
The sex was too good to be guilt-free, so when they transferred back to Central, Riza paid a call to Gracia Hughes, to confess to her that she'd been fucking her husband.
"I never minded because he needed it so much." Gracia was still over her, lying half-beside and half atop her. One of Gracia's legs was over Riza's thigh, and Riza could feel Gracia's pussy, still wet, against her skin. With her thumb she traced the lips of Gracia's cunt, which made Gracia stumble every so often over her words. "I never minded because he needed it to stay human. Being a soldier can make a man into a monster, and the one thing Maes could never have become was a monster. Roy kept him human when I couldn't. So did you." She shifted her leg slightly, and the back of Riza's hand dusted her inner thigh. "Soldiers - especially men - need to know the home fires are still burning for them. You and Roy, you kept our home fires alive."
"What about now?" It was a quiet question, asked almost beyond hearing. Riza wasn't sure she wanted to know the answer. It could have been their goodbye fuck. It probably should have been their goodbye fuck. But with all she had, Riza hoped that it wasn't.
"Now," Gracia sighed, curling closer into Riza's embrace, "Now you keep my home fires burning. You remind me that I still have people to live for, even though he's gone. It would be easy to lose myself without him here. It would be easy to let myself be nothing more than Alicia's mommy and Maes' widow. You remind me that there's supposed to be more to me than that."
Riza pulled her hand away, rested it on Gracia's hip instead, marveled as she did at how the faintest brush of contact against Gracia's clit as she'd moved had made Gracia whimper. "Roy will come back to this house someday. He's just...right now, it's still too..."
Gracia pushed up onto one elbow and laid her finger over Riza's lips. "You can't promise me Roy. You can't even promise me you - not really. You could both be dead tomorrow. Don't worry about what might happen or what you want to have happen. Just be here with me now."
Riza kissed her finger, her lips tentative-soft. "I want to promise you something, though. You should have promises made to you. I want you to have something to look forward to. I want that something to be given to you by me."
"Just remember that my home fires are burning for you now," Gracia whispered. "You and Roy, you keep each other from becoming monsters, and remember that my home fires burn for you."
Part 2 - Napalm Corn Flakes
Roy came home broken. That was the easiest way for Gracia to explain it to herself - that Roy was broken, cloven into two men where there should have been one. Sometimes he was his rank, commanding and imposing, and in those times even Maes - stubborn Maes and his usual string of questions - obeyed him, without fail.
Other times, he was almost a child, frail and damaged and frightened. He drank most nights, and when he drank his hands shook from his elbows down to his fingertips. Maes would have to hold him still and peel his gloves off by force. By the time he got them off, Roy would be screaming and sobbing, cursing, ordering Maes to kill him. Of course, these were the times when Maes ignored his orders, and Gracia thought that perhaps that was the mark of a true partnership between superior and subordinate - knowing the difference between the orders to obey and the ones to ignore.
When it got bad enough to bring tears to Maes' eyes, he would pull Roy into his arms, force him to sit on their secondhand-store sofa, and rock him. Roy would often struggle for a time before he calmed, but sometimes he wouldn't calm down at all. It was on one of these nights that Gracia sat down with them, behind Roy, and slid her arms around his waist. Maes held him and Gracia held him, and when Gracia began to sing a quiet, gentle song, Roy went completely still.
She stopped singing, and Roy turned and kissed her; kissed her like breathing, like her husband wasn't sitting beside them; kissed her like there was no reason not to.
And that was how it began.
Part 3 - Brimstone In The Palm Of Your Hand
"Stop pacing already, willya? You're wearing me out just looking at you."
Roy scowled, even more deeply than he already was. "How can you be so blasé about this? What did she even have to go over there for, anyway?"
Maes waved an idle hand. "Eh, it makes her feel better. What can it hurt? Gracia already knows everything, anyway."
"Exactly my point! Why make an issue where there doesn't need to be one? We have a perfectly fine arrangement, here. Why does she have to mess around with it?"
"Because she's a better man than either of us." Maes shrugged as he rose from his chair and stepped into the path of Roy's pacing. He put a hand on Roy's shoulder, and when Roy snorted and sidestepped him, he grabbed for Roy's waist instead.
"What?" Roy snarled. Anyone else would have been intimidated by that snarl, but Maes only grinned in reply.
"It's fine," Maes said, his voice slow and even, like an animal trainer or a kindergarten teacher. Roy wasn't sure which simile offended him more. "She's not messing anything up. If anything, she's freeing herself, or have you not noticed how guilty she looks after we're done having sex?"
"Of course I have." Roy snatched himself away, put his pacing back on the track it had occupied before he'd been so rudely interrupted. "But I don't see how rubbing Gracia's nose in it will make anything better."
Maes shook his head. "Give my lovely wife a tiny bit of credit, willya? She already knows everything there is to know. If it makes Riza feel less guilty to tell her again herself, then what's the big deal?" He stopped Roy's footsteps again with a hand to the center of Roy's chest. "Relax, or your face is going to freeze that way."
Roy's lip quirked up, just barely. "That's an old wives' tale."
"Really? Because, see, I have a young wife who told you the same thing just the other day."
A short laugh, and Roy was mostly-playfully shoving Maes out of his way. "You're an idiot."
Maes ran a hand through his hair. "Yeah...it's part of my charm."
Part 4 - Goodnight, Little Match Girl
It hadn't gone at all as Riza had intended. She had planned for yelling, or tears, maybe. She had planned to be thrown out of the house, perhaps bodily. She had planned to be called any number of awful names - seductress, mistress, home-wrecker, whore - and she was pretty sure she deserved them all and then some.
Tea hadn't been part of the plan. Tea was unexpected, problematic. Fragrant leaves steeped in the cup she held - an inherited china cup with a gently-fading pattern, filled with real tea, not in a bag. And Gracia was smiling slightly, amused, almost, by the confusion Riza thought she had to be radiating. She reached over and took Riza's cup from her, clasped her hand, and said, "It's okay. I already know."
Gracia's skin was as warm and friendly as her smile - problematic, too, all of it - and all Riza could think was that the tea was throwing her off completely.
Usually, Roy didn't have the patience for waiting. This was the one exception he was willing to make in that regard.
When he closed his eyes, he could do more than picture them together - he could hear them, their gently sensuous sounds, the noises they made that were unique to them but similar enough to blend; he could smell them, their perfumes and their soaps, the scents that lingered in their hair - vanilla and gunpowder and whatever that shared elixir was - the one that they both used to make their hair shiny and soft.
He could have gone with Riza. In theory, he could have. In theory, he wanted to, desperately. But instead, he waited in the car, and told himself it was better this way.
It wasn't until Gracia's lips pressed against hers - tentative, but far from shy - that she really heard those words, it's okay and I already know. Riza pulled back, but not away, and there was Gracia with her problematic warmth, so pretty and welcoming, and Riza's head felt just a tiny bit lighter than it had when she'd come in.
"Maes needs you," Gracia said. "He needs Roy, deeply, and Roy needs you, and now you're important to Maes as well." Gracia's hand was on Riza's cheek, but Riza had hardly realized it until Gracia's thumb began to move, slow, even strokes along the bone. "Maes has told me so much about you, and just from the telling, I think I'd like to come to need you, too." Gracia slipped to her knees, on the floor, between Riza's legs, and Riza's head turned just to keep Gracia's hand where it was, on her cheek.
When Gracia whispered into her ear, "Can you let me need you, too, Riza?" Riza couldn't speak. Her hand covered Gracia's, lightly clasping around her wrist, and then they were kissing again, and Riza couldn't remember if she'd said 'yes' or not, and couldn't care if it mattered one way or the other. All she really knew was that this had not gone at all as she'd intended.
He watched as the door opened and Riza stepped out - half in the threshold, half on the stair - before turning to give Gracia an affectionate embrace; the sort that women can get away with giving each other, the sort that men can't. He could see Gracia's eyes watching him over Riza's shoulder. He wanted them to be reproachful or accusatory somehow, but they weren't - as always, Gracia's eyes shone with compassion and understanding.
For a moment, Roy hated her for that. She should be the one in need of comfort. She was the widow, here - not Riza, and certainly not he himself. And yet it seemed to him that Gracia was the one who gave comfort instead of taking it. Who the hell did she think she was?
Riza shifted in Gracia's arms, turning so she could look at him, too. Roy shivered slightly - he'd felt both of those soft faces pressed against his cheek, just like that, and he was suddenly ashamed that his own cheek must have been stubble-rough against them. Suddenly, his own roughness wasn't right at all.
Roy closed his eyes and turned his head away. His own roughness wasn't right at all.
They hardly made it to the bedroom that first time. Riza stopped to ask about Alicia, Gracia kiss-mumbled something about pre-school, and then getting to the privacy of the bedroom seemed less of a priority than naked skin under her hands.
Gracia's hands were warm and clever upon her breasts, squeezing and pinching, urgent but not rough like a man could be when he wanted, when he needed. Gracia had Riza pinned against a wall with her thigh pressed between Riza's legs and Riza's blood raced with the purity of her desire. There was no guilt, there was no regret, there was no fear. There was no place for those things, no room. There was no reason to be afraid of losing control here, because Riza knew that Gracia could be trusted with her control; that Gracia wouldn't turn Riza's control against her.
Riza's hands moved to Gracia's shoulders and she flipped them around - got Gracia's back against the wall, got Gracia pinned, right where she wanted her. She was wet just from the sound of Gracia's moans and the sight of her lifting her chin and baring her neck, eyes half-closed and lips parted.
Riza slid, teasing-slowly, to her knees, and fell in love with the laugh Gracia laughed when she pulled Gracia's panties off with her teeth.
The car door opened, closed, and the engine started. As they turned the corner, Riza said quietly, "She misses you."
Roy didn't look at her as he replied, "I know."
"I miss you."
Roy closed his eyes. "I know."
They drove for almost a kilometer before Riza asked, "When are you coming back to us?"
In his mind's eye, he could picture the look on Maes' face - the rolled eyes, the shaking head, the not-so-subtle 'tsk'-clucking sound he would have made. He could hear Maes' voice, muttering darkly, "Who's the idiot now, Mustang? At least I knew how to be charming with it."
Roy shook his head and told the Maes in his head to shut the fuck up.
When he finally looked up he could see Riza studying him in the rear-view mirror. He held her gaze for an extra moment before replying.