Also, because we are crazy spammers (mostly kotoludi, I just sat there and shortposed at her), it's been cut into two posts.
Hughes's Apartment - Psyche Hotel
This is not exactly a typical bachelor pad. Sure, it has only one bedroom, and the little kitchen is a sparse thing, and it's not the tidiest place in the world--but that's where its resemblances to other one-man residences end.
Every free spot of wall is covered with framed family photographs--mostly of an excruciatingly cute little girl, but also some that include a man and a woman. Here and there other people crop up in the pictures. There are an awful lot of them, even away from the walls. They decorate cabinets, the end-tables surrounding the overstuffed lavender sofa, even the counter in the bathroom--*everywhere*.
(OOC) Archer says, "YAY!"
(OOC) Hughes stab! >:(
(OOC) Archer_Gracia dies. :(
(OOC) Hughes SPAZZES FREAKOUT AUGH DEDOFANGST
(OOC) Archer_Gracia HA HAs! and bakes a pie. :(
Nothing is sane in Promethea these days. It was always a city of danger and whirlwind activity despite the reduced population, but since the mutant outbreak, utter chaos has shaken the city like a poorly-made snowglobe. And guess who's been doing most of the paperwork chaos generates? That's right. Maes Hughes.
By the time he trudges back to his apartment, the only light around comes from the guttering streetlamps--and even those are muffled by the dull grey drizzle that spatters onto the streets, carrying ash in every droplet. He moves a little more quickly than he might have once--there are too many mutants around to risk staying out at night for long.
When he finally reaches his apartment, he slumps bonelessly on the sofa. For a long moment, he doesn't do anything at all. Then, finally, he wearily pulls a sheaf of papers out of his jacket and starts going through them. At this point, he'd better bee doing paperwork in his *sleep*, or it won't get done.
While chaos and fear may otherwise rule supreme here in the city that was once grand, the world beyond its walls has been moving on regardless. It's those walls that separate this city from the rest, and as they say: 'that which happens in Promethea stays in Promethea.' Such is the case with the recent outbreak of mutants. The other cities could careless while those herein care immensely.
So okay. Perhaps that's a bit too heartless. There are people who care for the city and its condition beyond the city itself...but they are perhaps too far and few between. One such person is Maes Hughes. While he has otherwise taken up residency here, his loyalties are, perhaps, invested elsewhere. Even still, he cares. And that's what matters when all is said and done, yes?
The night finds itself awash in rain, a constant downpour staining the broken streets through which the spy moves quickly, seeking shelter from the stinging rain. Shelter is sought and soon found by the way of a building familiar, the man entering into the complex without hesitation to no doubt get dry and warm his bones. It's been a busy few weeks for the soldier, with what his visits to Golden Hall among other various duties. But one concern lingers, no doubt: his family is out there, somewhere.
Finally the spy is given rest, his tired bones finding release as he touches down on the sofa. The apartment and complex itself is peacefully quiet; tonight there is no loud music or cheer to disturb the peace and quiet. Ultimately the man finds himself compelled to work, drawing papers from his person and peering over them as he would. But sleep will come soon, but not yet: there is work to be done.
Not to mention a weary knock at the front door at this late hour.
He's nearly asleep already when the rap sounds on his door. His glasses have slid slightly down on his face, and he barely seems to notice. He's been staring at the same sheet of paper for almost five minutes.
So it takes Hughes a moment to register the new sound, and then another to haul himself to his feet. Exhaustion dogging his steps, he unlocks the door and pulls it open.
The peaceful silence is disturbed by the faintest of knocks, and even this may be barely noticed as the sands of sleep begin to drag him into its warm embrace. But alas, it is not to be, and from his daze he is stirred, to eye the sheet of paper that sits before him.
Regardless, the unexpected guess has the patience of a saint, no doubt. It takes the spy a while to rise from his comfortable seat and make his way to the door. But each step is as quick as a snail, his weariness holding him back from his notorious vigor and spry demeanor. A pity. What would his friends think!
It's with an exhausted effort he'll reach the door and its knob, to unlock the various bolts and give the knob a twist. The threshold bare, it presents to the spy a most curious sight.
His guest in this witching hour is none other than his most precious wife.
She stands there looking exhausted, saturated by the downpour that slams the sleeping city. Her dress is stained and torn in places, faint traces of blood evident where she's fallen and cut herself in various places--the knees and palms to name the most obvious. Even so, those green eyes, those damned familiar eyes of hers that hold within a light so warm and loving meet his in this moment. She stares, mouth slightly ajar.
And then the tears begin to fall freely down flushed, dirt-stained cheeks.
Exhaustion flees his body with a jolt like a hard slap. Hughes stares out into the rain, suddenly fighting the immense physical urge to simply collapse. A tiny whimper escapes him. This is all too much.
Then he reaches out, inhumanly fast, wraps one arm around her, and pulls her into the apartment. He kicks the door closed and fumbles the lock into place, then wraps both arms around her. He's shaking now, a constant full-body tremor. "I'm sorry, I'm so sorry," he repeats over and over again, momentarily unable to say anything else.
As it should. The woman that stands there in the stinging rain meets his gaze as his sharp eyes snap open, sleep otherwise cast aside in favor of tending to this little woman lost-but-found. Wide eyed she looks on with a mix of aghast and disbelief, unable for a moment to comprehend that after such a long, tiresome journey...she has found her home, here at his side.
"M-maes," the woman stammers feebly, weary fingertips rising from her chest to press softly against her cheek and lips. He looked worn himself, but by no means as fatigued as she. Still she brings nothing but compassion and warmth, her vivid eyes alight with kindness and care. "I d-didn't think you'd..." That you'd actually be here, she'd say, if she could find the words in all this disbelief.
Their reunion is brief: with remarkable speed and precision the spy lunges forward and takes the unsuspecting woman into his arms, pulling her out of the unforgiving rain into the warm shelter of his apartment. A tiny cry escapes her, lips parted in shock as she's taken but soon she finds comfort. The door is shut, the world beyond forgotten. Only they remain here in this little world of his.
"M-maes," she stutters again, her voice tiny and barely audible as she holds to her man. "There's no reason to be sorry. There's nothing you have done." It's her, right? Despite all the confusion and the chicanery of the cruel Winterheart Colonel, this is his wife, the woman he pledged his life to and ultimately died because of. Because he was too weak and too human to kill the likeness of his loving wife.
"D-don't apologize. Please," Gracia says with love, holding him close as she smoothes his hair. "Everything is alright now."
It takes him another few minutes, but eventually, he manages to stop choking out apologies--mostly because he simply hasn't been getting enough air into his lungs to continue. "I left you," Maes whispers, tears burning in his eyes, smearing his glasses as he stares down at her. "Twice. I--" He stops talking, too choked up to speak, and bows his head, burying his mouth in her hair.
Finally, still dizzy with the swaying combination of shock, adrenaline, and exhaustion, he lifts his head again and says, "Elysia. Where is she? Is she all right?"
He can take all the time in the world--the woman is that patient. She'd wait an eternity for him if he so desired. And, in a sense, she did. Here in the Dream she's been through so very, very much. She's been under watch and care by Winterheart, even as he defected from his sworn duties as a Razvedka therein the heart of the beast. And even though he abandoned them with a turn of his back, the warmth she brings to him--despite the chill her flesh carries in the moisture of the evening rain--and the comforting caresses assure him tactually she forgives him.
"You did what you had to, Maes. You did it because it was for the good, because it was right." Smiling warmly, she pulls back to meet his gaze, wide, emerald eyes laced with tears as she puts one hand on his shoulder and one gently against his cheek. "It would have killed you otherwise, to be forced to work in such a horrible, horrible place. You belong with Brigadier General Mustang and his men, not with those...cruel, heartless soldiers." She speaks from experience, no doubt.
She'll shush him, even if he cuts himself off. "It's alright. I swear to you, Maes; everything is alright now...because we can be together as we're supposed to be." Her face is filled with gentle love and compassion, even as tears begin to stain her dirtied cheeks once more.
For good reason.
"I...I don't know. I had her with me when we escaped together. We fled Winterheart with the help of a kind man, but o-one morning, when I awoke, she wasn't by my side. I-I don't think she was kidnapped, b-but..." Failing in her love, she lifts her hands to her face and simply sobs choking sobs into her hands. "I don't know where my baby is. I-I don't if someone took my b-baby, or if...if she just...vanished. I-I'm so, so sorry, M-maes..."
He's still too buffeted by emotions to smile--this man so quick to grin like mad most of the time, now he's broken by the onslaught of feeling. Hughes just stares at her, his arms tight around her to assure him that she's real. His eyes widen slightly at that brief mention of 'cruel, heartless soldiers.' Tic. He'll have to go kill them all later.
Later. Right now, there are more pressing matters. He makes a tiny noise of pain as she explains, and then he has his hands on her shoulders and he's saying earnestly, "We'll find her, Gracia, I swear. She'll be safe."
A beat, and then he glances down at his hands and arms, his sleeves soaked through from holding her. He lifts a finger to her lips, murmurs, "Stay here," and runs into the bedroom. A moment later he emerges, carrying a fluffy robe patterned with frolicking puppies and kittens. "Don't you dare get sick from the cold and the wet," he says, pushing the robe at her.
He may be broken, but this woman so familiar to him is here to mend him. She's seen the man behind the mask on many occasions, through good and bad. He is her lover, her husband, her best friend and the father of her child--their child. He has been anything she wanted and needed--the same can be said for her to him. Right now? She's the warmth he had been missing for so many sleepless nights.
Still she smiles, despite his look of immediate concern and no doubt hate. In the end a soldier only does what he is told. Whether or not those orders extended beyond serving their country and dabbled into serving their own amusements with this man's wife, well...that remains to be seen. If so, she hides it behind her love for this man.
His assurance of their daughter brings a whine to the fore, her throat choked by the sorrow the consumes her. Yet, even in this moment, he is her light on the bleak horizon, breaking the clouds that dare pour rain on her lands. "D-do you think so?" she weakly begs of her husband, pulling close to his chest in a frightened embrace. "I c-can't bear the thought of losing her in any way." But they will find her, right? She has all the time in the world...
She's halted by a simple finger, her pale, dirtied face lifting as green eyes meet his own, confusing washing over her expressions. He rises, leaving her for but a moment there on the floor of his entryway to stew in her own befuddlement. Moments thereafter he reemerges, bearing gifts by way of fluffy robe adorned with puppies and kittens--too precious for the sane of mind. It brings a faint blush to her stained cheeks.
The robe is presented and accepted, the blonde giving him a tiny smile as she holds it close. "Thank you, as always Maes," she will say to him, rising sluggishly from the ground to drape it loosely over her tiny shoulders for warmth. "I...I'm so glad I found you. I honestly did not think you and I would meet again after you left, after you vanished from your cell. I ...they told me you were executed, but I refused to believe that." Looking up, she smiles. "And then a man told me you were not, and you had escaped to fight with your friends again." Pause. "...and that made me happy, because that's the man I know and love."
He's tired, he's lost, he's hollowed out by the tragedies that have stalked him on this strange Gameboard--but with his wife at his side, Hughes won't be broken for long. He leans down to kiss her, drawing the robe tight around her as he does so. "It's all right. We'll get her back, and everything will be all right. We can move to Middleton or the Hall if you want." They could, yes, but there's a slight catch in his voice--he believes he's most needed here in Promethea, so that's where he intends to stay.
He walks her over to the couch, then sits down, drawing her down to sit next to him. "Death isn't permanent here, most of the time," he says quietly. "And some friends rescued me before Winterheart could get rid of me for good."
Maybe buried somewhere in his brain, tiny warning bells are rattling and clinking. Maybe there's a part of him that doesn't believe what he's seeing. But he's been through so much, both lately and in the preceding months--the thought of having to second-guess this woman who looks like his wife is just too much for him.
After so much walking, as evident by the tears in her dress familiar to him and the scrapes and bruises on her arms and legs, she's finally found her little peace of Heaven on Earth. Or the Gameboard; whichever it is, she's finally able to find herself peaceful and content. Thus she takes his assurances and believes them, accepting them as truths. They WILL get their child back and they WILL be a family again. Already she shows signs of improvement: the light in her eyes is returning now, and more than ever as he meets her with his lips for a kiss.
Peace at last.
"I-I've never been to Middleton," she says quietly, letting her fingertips rise and tug softly at the edge of the robe, even after his careful ministrations to said garment beforehand. "But from what one of the women who took care of Elysia and I said it's a wonderful place to have a family. Is...that true Maes?" Looking up she meets his eyes with a coy smile, brows rising just so. The catch IS noted, and that's why it fades slightly. "In the end, Maes," the woman says, "I want it to be because what makes you happiest. I'm happy being by your side. That's all I will ever need."
She follows where he leads her, taking a seat by his side as he guides her to do so. Slender hands reach out from beneath the robe, resting the tops of them flat atop scraped knees as she stares. "It's...not?" she questions, looking truly puzzled by this slice of truth. How can it not be? Then again he's here, sitting by her side. She looks up, her green eyes regarding him along with a tender smile. "Your friends? I'm eternally thankful for their help. May I meet them sometime? Oh!" Her hands rise, fingertips pressing slightly against fingertips as she says with curbed enthusiasm, "May I bake them an apple pie?" It's all she can do. She's no superwoman.
This may not BE real, but it sure feels it. Let the alarms sound, Maes--they'll be drowned out by the warmth and love she brings to the table. This feels right, doesn't it? It feels like his world, once so far removed, is now coming together again. His friends were here, and now his wife. Someday their daughter will come, and they will be a family. "Maes," she says softly, her lips poised in a coy smile once more. "It's been so long since I had the chance to touch you and know that you're really here in this...strange place. All I could think about when finding my way through the dark was resting by your side again, to face that darkness with confidence knowing you're there in it with me to protect me."
Silence lingers for a moment. Then Maes lets his head flop onto Gracia's shoulder. He takes off his glasses and sets them down on an endtable. He doesn't intend to move far enough away from her to make them necessary to see her. Not tonight. "But if being here means you wind up losing me again..." His eyes are bright, his expression terribly vulnerable without the glasses to protect it. "I'll do paperwork. That's all. I promise. I--" A beat, and then a defeated smile. "I can't promise that. But I'll do my best. And if I ever feel like I've done enough here, we'll move to Middleton or the Hall. And you can bake my friends as many apple pies as they'll eat. Roy is here, and Riza, and Jean, and Edward and Alphonse--and even their father--and soon we'll find Elysia..."
He trails off, just looking up at her, helpless with love. "I know," he says. "I know. I missed you so much," he whispers.
A good spy knows that if you're pretending to be someone else, you want to avoid talking too much unless you have to. Don't give too much information unless you're absolutely positive you know what you're doing. And that last speech "Gracia" made was a little too long. Deep in his spy brain, Hughes is uneasy.
But his spy brain is on standby at the moment. It's barely on at all. If it's trying to get a message through to him, it'll just have to wait.
It's really quite a precious little reunion. Here they are, together again after so many months of separation. And in the world that lays beyond all this they are separated even more, in life and death. Thus this Dream is a blessing more than a curse: it lets them be reunited, together under the same sky once more. Now death could not take him from her. In a sense she is happy. Obviously; she smiles sweetly, if only for him.
He leans in, resting his head gently on her shoulder and she smiles. Though as he removes his glasses she reaches a hand out, taking them from him and eyeing them. Moments later she lowers them to the hem of her dress and rubs them clean, to make sure they're in tiptop shape before setting them to the side for him. After that he has her undivided attention.
"You will do what you have to do. That's your job as a soldier, right honey?" she says, eyes drawn shut as she smiles that charmingly friendly and tender smile of hers. "You don't have to make promises to me. I know you mean everything you do right--" A hand reaches out, pressing softly against his beating heart. "--here. I don't need you to tell me. As your wife, I know.
"They're here?" she says with genuine surprise, lips puckered softly before she lifts her hands and clasps them together, pressing them gently to her chest. "Oh, how wonderful. You'll have to take me to see them, dear. It's...been such a very long time. They're doing well, right?" As for Elysia? She smiles weakly, her expression loving but sad. "We will find her. I know because you say we will."
It's his words that cause her expression to shift, her eyes widening a touch at his heartfelt compassion before she presses a hand to her chest and sighs laboriously, her throat constricted as tears dare to rise. He's a good spy- -he always was and always will be. His apprehensions are with just cause, but even so. ..a spy is only human, prone to the same weaknesses as anyone else.
Especially when they look, act, feel and smell like the woman you love.
"Oh Maes," she says so helplessly, her brows rising as she meets his vulnerability with love. "It makes me so...so very happy to be here again. It's been so long since I last heard your heartbeat against my ear." A hand reaches out, resting softly against the top of his for reassurance as she leans in to press a gentle kiss to his cheek. "But I don't have to worry anymore. I know my bed will not be empty when I go to rest and when I rise. No...not anymore."
She's crying again.
He lets her take his glasses, does nothing to stop her. How could he suspect her of anything untoward? He loves her, and she loves him, and even if there's something ticking fretfully at the back of his brain, Hughes could never allow it control here and now, with his wife at his side. Or something that looks like his wife at his side, anyway.
He straightens so that he's looking down at her once more, love bright in his hazy eyes. Cupping her chin in his hands, he leans down to kiss away her tears. "No. You don't."
He gives up on trying to kiss each tear gone and instead brushes them away with his fingertips as he brings his mouth to hers urgently. When he pulls back just slightly, the naked pleading in his eyes is very clear. He's had to stifle his humanity here for too long. He's afraid he's losing it. Assure him that he's not. Please. And whatever warnings his own mind is trying to get through to him--well, that's just the part of him that eats his humanity talking. He refuses to listen to it now.
Take them she does into hands most gentle and loving, giving them a gentle rub here and there, if only to dry tears and see to it that his belongings are in tiptop shape. There's nothing unseemly in her actions, nothing suspicious or potentially unpleasant as she sits there drying them with the hem of her skirt. And as she twists slightly to set them aside for him she smiles, turning once more to meet his gaze with gentle emerald eyes. It's the kind of smile that could disarm the most hostile of men and beasts, and the smile she's so well-known for. It cuts down defenses and suspicions, any apprehension or fear.
This isn't a ruse. This is truly his wife, isn't it?
It's as he shifts and reaches forward to cup her chin with his hand she blushes softly, looking as coy as ever before she smiles warmly and welcomes his gentle comfort by way of touch and kiss. He knows just how to calm the weary heart that beats in her chest, and it shows. The love therein her eyes triples as she looks to him. "Thank you," she tells him softly, letting a hand reach forward to take within it his own, to gently entwine her fingers with his.
It's in that moment of human frailty and compassion he ultimately gives in, folding his cards and letting go of all apprehension. He seeks her lips in that moment and meets them with necessity, having gone like a man without water for so long. Gracia realizes this and seeks to soothe those woes and concerns, her touch to his face careful and loving as she smiles for him alone. Tonight they are alone in this world, in this single little apartment. There is no world or Dream beyond it all.
"Please, Maes," she says to him as softly as ever. She sees that pleading in his eyes and the fear that lay within. "Do not worry anymore. Don't let yourself be afraid. I'm here and we're together now." She seals this promise with a tender kiss, her lips gently brushing against his before she leans in and seeks to hold him closely, so he may know that this is no sleep-induced delusion. This is real.
...and that's no doubt why his alarms continue to sound.
Alarms? What alarms? He has no alarms. They're mute, stilled and silenced beneath the onslaught of emotion, more need than mere desire. Maes needs her to confirm that he's still human, that death and the Dream haven't emptied out the man to find more space for the soldier. The warning bells tremble beneath that weight, but they might as well be stuffed with cotton.
He just kisses her now, in this space beyond words and thought. One hand nestles on the small of her back, the other goes to where he knotted the fluffy robe about her, then slips past it, to rest on the damp fabric of her shirt.
And then he hesitates. For a moment, those bells almost get through. Worry dances behind his eyes.
So they are. The alarms have long since been pushed aside, ignored by the spy as he finds only warmth in the presence of this woman to whom he pledged holy matrimony. She brings with her love and compassion, intense emotions that have no doubt been missing from his life for so very long. But tonight they have come back. Tonight he is not alone, and tonight he knows again the feelings he had been without.
It's the little things that seek to assure him. A smile here, a gentle touch there, the soft light of compassion that fills those vivid green eyes he knows so well. It's that which seeks to soothe his soul on this rainy night, to put to rest all the fears he may harbor within. She pulls herself close in that moment of sweet tenderness, to hold him near her so he may feel that she is very much real. Her heart beats steadily beneath the wet fabrics of her dress and beneath the warmth of her skin.
"I'm here for you," she tells him gently, speaking softly into his ear as she hugs him. Her arms tighten, holding him in those small arms of hers as tightly as she can. She won't let go. Not now." There's no need for words any longer. This has ascended being an exchange of verbal comforts. Tonight he seeks more than that; thus his lips seek out her own, to meet in an exchange of tender compassion.
Yet even as he holds her so closely and kisses her there's uneasiness that lingers, that dares to resurface amongst the wonderful feelings of being needed and feeling loved. He hesitates and the woman--his woman--knows it. So she seeks to soothe these apprehensions by smiling as sweetly as ever--though concerned--her eyes resting confidently upon those eyes of his. "What's the matter?" she asks, a hand touching his face soothingly. "Why are you...?" Afraid? Yes, Maes. What's there to be afraid OF? It's your wife, the woman who knows you more than anyone else in the world, she who accepts you for your shortcomings and everything about you. There is no reason to be afraid.
For a moment, he stays like that, worry gnawing away at the green of his eyes from within. Then he slowly lifts a hand to cover hers on his cheek and smiles tentatively. "It's nothing, sweetheart," he whispers. "It's just...so much has happened..." Since he could last hold her like this. Since he tucked Elysia in for the night and told them both that he had work to do. "It seems too good to be true, that you're here."
Yeah. That's what it is. Simply the trauma of the past year and more resurfacing at the worst possible moment. Maes pushes away the part of his brain that insists it's more than that, smothers those alarms like a jealous Moor. "I missed you," he murmurs. "That's all."
And he pulls her to him, kissing her hard, tugging at her wet clothes in frustration. "Sorry," he mutters sheepishly. Then he grabs the fabric, pulls it away from her body, and there's the soft swishing rustle of steel on cloth, then a neat tearing noise as he cuts the shirt open. That's one perk of having an alchemist as a best friend: you can always get him to fix mysteriously damaged clothes.
If he had any resistance left in him, he might as well have sliced the blade through it right now instead of mere fabric. He tosses the knife onto the endtable next to his glasses. It's followed by his jacket, and with it the rest of his weapons. Why should he need to defend himself now? He's safe, isn't he? Safer than he's been for a very long time.
His touch assures her that his concerns are fleeting at best, that he is worrying over things so very trivial. Here, in this apartment, he is together with her, his wife. He seeks comfort? She will give it to him without hesitation. Tonight fate has allowed for them to be reunited in this moment, after both have been through so much. Either seeks the warmth that their spouse provides, in the arms of one another. This is Heaven, isn't it? The spy would better than anyone else.
"I know," she assures him with the most gentle of touches to his face. His fingertips seek hers, to touch them and press that hand closer to his cheek. "You've been through so much, and I know it must have hurt you." Truly it must have. He abandoned his job in Winterheart, putting his family at risk if only to serve his allies. He has been lied to. He has been beaten and broken by his friends' enemies. Yet still, even so, he always smiled, if only to encourage them.
She'll lift cool fingertips, letting them rise to press softly against his lips, to halt his worries with but a touch of his lips. "Don't say that," she asks of him, shaking her head softly. "Don't make it sound like my being here is something only temporary. It's not. I swear I'll be by your side from here on out." She looks concerned, but ultimately she smiles. She'll be the encouragement for him, as he is to his friends. It allows him one less burden to carry.
His words strike a chord in her heart, and once more tears threaten to rise in those beautiful green eyes of hers. Yet she holds herself back, her smile weak but loving nonetheless. "I know you did, dear," she says, her words barely a whisper. "Because I missed you too."
But the time has come for them to give in to their emotions. The joy of being together again draws out passion from either party, the emotions high as either draws closer. Lovingly she seeks to guide his buttons free, to pluck them gingerly as she had done in the past. Unfortunately for him her garments aren't as easy, so he resorts to slicing open the dampened fabrics. Doing so draws a blush to her cheeks, the woman's hand reaching up to coyly press to her cheek. "I-It's alright," she stammers before she leans in and presses a kiss gently to his cheek. Really, it is.
Resistance has otherwise been cast aside in favor of this, to be with a woman he has known for countless years, to feel her heart beating and know the warmth that was so very familiar to him beyond this strange, new world. They can be together again tonight, after so many long years of being separated. Her touch is gentle and kind, compassionate yet passionate nonetheless as she seeks to be with him once again and prove to him the love she has for him and always has had for him. She is the same as he would remember her, even without clothing--despite the scrapes and bruises of a long, difficult journey, she's as beautiful as she's ever been, the mother of his daughter.