Series: Brotherhood/the manga
Word Count: 998
Characters: Maes/Gracia, Roy.
Summary: He’s always been a horrible liar.
Warnings: Sadness, language, somewhat violent imagery, (canon) character death.
Notes: I kept wondering if I should shorten the beginning of this fic, but I like it the way it is—it gives a sort of… raw glimpse into Hughes’ mind and what he dealt with on the battlefield. Or… I hope it does, at least! Won first place for Prompt 77: Lies, over at fma_fic_contest.
Maes Hughes can never really say that things are ‘easy’ in the military. He knows nothing about ‘cushiony’ jobs. Perhaps those exist, but they are somewhere far beyond where they are now. They’re in the middle of a civil war. His days consist of screams and cries and pleas for mercy: of blood and spilled tears and dead bodies everywhere. His nights consist of restless, fitful sleep, nightmares, and then there is the very real possibility that he may not wake up to face another day.
So, no. Things are never easy—they are only ‘difficult’ or ‘slightly less difficult’. Sometimes, the day’s events are classified more appropriately as ‘horrific’.
On the really bad days, he takes refuge in Gracia’s sweet letters and in the booze that Roy inevitably brings him. It’s a profoundly deep and yet quiet sort of understanding. Nothing ever has to be said, though more often than not, Maes will wind up gushing about his wonderful, amazing girlfriend, and Roy will listen to him because that’s what Roy always does.
Today has been beyond ‘really bad’, though Maes can once again thank the stars above that he and those closest to him are still alive. Admittedly, however, he’s getting tired of all of the violence, tired of all the blood. He knows he signed up for it, but all of the briefings in the world and all of the simulations in the world can’t prepare you for the reality of war.
He hasn’t said more than two words this evening, and neither has Roy. The letter from Gracia had been a welcome distraction and had warmed his heart, but now that it sits at the edge of his sleeping bag in a stack with all of his other letters from her, he feels somewhat cold and distant again. He sips on his whiskey, not minding the burn, for it is a distraction too.
“Are you all right?” Roy eventually asks after a long silence, and Maes does not know how to answer this question. He turns to look at his friend, studying him for a moment. There are dark circles under his eyes, he is overall unkempt, and it looks like he’s having to struggle to hold himself together. Roy can’t keep the both of them from falling apart, even though he’s quietly offering to try to do just that, in his own way.
Maes won’t let his friend do that—won’t let him bend and break. Roy’s gotta make it to the top, after all, and he won’t if he loses it now. So, Maes plasters on a smile and he lies; he lies a little for his own sake, and a lot for Roy’s sake: “I’m fine. Tomorrow’s another day.”
Both of them know that tomorrow will be filled with the same horrors of today, but neither of them acknowledges that fact.
Roy’s eyes narrow for a moment, and Maes knows that the other man has called his bluff; he knows that Roy can see right through him. You aren’t worth a shit at lying, Roy’s eyes say, but he has the grace to not say it aloud. Denial can be an effective weapon: right now, denial is what’s keeping the both of them somewhat sane.
“Yeah,” Roy says instead. “Tomorrow will be better.”
And who knows? Maybe it will.
The war ends and those who haven’t met their demise on the battlefield return home to their loved ones and to a more routine life. Maes is no exception. He continues to work for the military, though in Investigations—there’s less involvement in actual battles and such in that particular department, and he’s just fine with that.
Both he and Roy earn promotions. Maes marries Gracia, and they start building a life together.
All around him, things begin to change, but there is a constant amongst it all, throughout the years: He still can’t lie worth a shit.
He tells Gracia that he’s not nervous about becoming a father when he learns that she is pregnant, even though he is scared as hell in reality. Luckily for him, this all works out, because it turns out that he is wonderful with children.
When the Elrics step into the picture, he becomes terribly attached to them, though he vehemently denies it when Roy winds up asking him about his said attachment. Roy only smiles, silently acknowledging Maes’ pitiful attempt at a lie.
And then, everything starts getting complicated and Maes’ lies become quite unintentional:
“I’ll be home early tonight,” he promises his daughter and his wife as he bends down to press a kiss to Elicia’s cheek. “Daddy has a lot of work to do, but I’ll get done with it quickly.”
He tells them this because he just knows everything will turn out all right—he’s only investigating, after all. It’s his job.
“I won’t,” he tells Roy when his friend practically orders him not to get himself into trouble. He knows that Roy is worried that he’s gotten in over his head, what with digging around for information about the Philosopher’s Stone and whatnot.
He thinks his best friend is worrying over nothing—not like anyone’s going to kill him over research.
In the end, he supposes that he reserves the biggest lie of all for himself.
You’ll be all right; you’ll make it out of here, he tries to tell himself, even as he bleeds to death in a public phonebooth. He has to get back to Gracia and Elicia. He has to get in touch with Roy—he has to tell him how fucked up the military is, has to warn him.
He wonders if they’ll all be okay; he thinks of how upset they’ll all be; he wonders if the Elric brothers will have a safe journey; he wonders if Roy will be able to hold it together.
It’s okay, he tells himself again. You’ll get through this.
But he doesn’t.
(He can’t fool anyone now).