"Ambition," Roy said, curtly — to anyone else, he might have used a different word, but not to Maes.
"No reason why you can't be ambitious and get a girlfriend," Maes said. "Look at me." His expression told Roy he more or less understood, though.
For a certain type of career, it helped to get attached, to demonstrate you could be a family man as well as a soldier. Maes would have a career like that, Roy knew. It would be comfortable, predictable and conventional — perfect for when you were planning on getting married and buying a bigger house every once in a while.
Roy had no intention of reaching the high point of his career only a few years before retirement.
He might still date, obviously. There just wouldn't be anyone he'd trust, or get close to. No one who could be turned or used against him.
Maes eyed him seriously, then grinned and slapped Roy on the shoulder. "I guess you'll just have to share mine, then. Good thing you're my best friend — I'm definitely the jealous type, you know."
By the time Roy got his promised dance with Gracia, the party was in full swing.
By the time he got to dance with Maes, the only ones still standing were Maes, himself and Armstrong, which prompted a moment's concern for Riza, who was still young and relatively innocent and definitely, assuredly among friends here.
"Are you drunk?"
Roy drank, and liked it, and he'd found his limits the hard way, and kept himself within them. Gracia had suggested he might simply leave his gloves off for the occasion. Maes had chuckled and commented Roy would sooner walk around naked than without his gloves.
They knew him entirely too well, really. It bothered him that it didn't bother him. "No. Are you?"
"I am drunk on love," Maes said — predictably, Roy supposed. The music ended. Armstrong sank down on a chair that barely held his weight and started snoring. "I'm married, Roy. To the most beautiful woman in the world."
"Yes, I know," Roy said, considering where he might spend the night in relative comfort. "I was there this afternoon. I kept the rings for you." Which had probably a good thing, given the number of things Maes had misplaced over the course of the past week.
"All right," Maes said. "Time to head for bed then. You coming?"
"Don't talk," Maes said. "This is important. I can't rush this, Roy."
Roy checked his watch. There were things to do, paperwork to sign … people to remind of his existence, not that they didn't seem perfectly capable of getting on without him for a while, should he decide to take the rest of the day off. Rank had its privileges, and all that.
Of course, rank generally did not have Lieutenant Hawkeye to give one looks that were entirely too understanding. Between her and Maes, Roy figured he'd never have to worry about getting too complacent or arrogant, which was obviously a good thing. Or so he kept telling himself.
The shop assistant had stopped hovering after about ten minutes. Roy hadn't yet decided if that made the man a weakling or merely lucky.
Maes sighed. "It's just so hard to choose one," he complained.
A mother with child walked by. Briefly glanced in their direction. Noticed the uniforms and walked on, more quickly. Roy wondered what she thought the pair of them was doing here, what they could be doing here, to warrant that sort of reaction.
"I could — " Roy offered, because he could. He'd pick one at random, pay for it and be out of the shop, all in under two minutes, likely as not. There wasn't much of a queue, and anyway, when you were a state alchemist, waiting in line to pay was something that happened to other people.
Maes pointed an admonishing finger at Roy's chest. "Uncle." Pointing at himself: "Daddy. And only Daddy gets to bring his little angel the biggest, softest teddy bear of the whole world."
"Just hurry up, all right? We're already going to be late for lunch."
Between the two of them, Gracia and Riza drew just about every male gaze in the restaurant as they walked in — Gracia on Maes' arm and Roy on Riza's. Most people would mistake them for two married couples, Roy knew. They were supposed to.
Central was probably the most modern city of the country, but some things could still cost a man his career, his prospects of advancement or a woman her reputation.
Riza steered him towards a table, whispering about it having 'the best view', by which Roy knew she didn't mean it was nearest the window or some such thing.
When they left, Gracia was on Roy's arm and Maes was on Riza's.
Nobody seemed to notice.
Riza'd always had a slightly wicked streak of humor.
"Phone call for you, sir."
Ishbal had buried it, covered it up under blood and ashes, and Roy couldn't imagine the aftermath had really helped either — which was to say that he hadn't helped, really.
Naturally, it might also simply be that she knew him too well to smile at his jokes anymore. Roy liked to keep an open mind about things like that.
"Who is it?" If it was Maes again, Roy promised himself he'd get to exact a suitable vengeance. Yes, Elicia was very cute, and yes, there was much of her mother in her, and yes, Roy was at work right now. Not that he particularly wanted to listen to Maes go on and on outside of work but there, at least, there was a chance of getting to see the real thing to help him remember she actually lived and breathed.
Roy scowled. Mission fulfilled, Riza had already left. "Stop calling me or I'll burn your house down to a smoking ruin next time I'm in Central."
Silence from the other side of the line, which was unusual. Possibly, the connection had been lost; mere death threats had never managed to deter Maes before.
They hadn't, as it turned out, deterred him this time, either.
"Colonel Mustang? My apologies for calling you at work."
"Gracia?" Roy sat up a little straighter. "Er. I would never really burn down your lovely home."
"Of course not," she said, sounding slightly surprised he'd felt the need to tell her.
(He supposed that should have made two of them, but really, when you were the Flame Alchemist and made a joke involving fire, many people seemed to assume you were being entirely serious.)