A Betting Crowd

A Full Metal Alchemist fanfiction, By Serenanna

Part 1 – A Skirt by Any Other Name

Warnings and Disclaimers: I don't own Full Metal Alchemist or any of the characters. I'm just borrowing them to play with. I'll return them later after, promise. There is adult content and sexual situations in this story. So, if you're under 18, leave now before your virgin eyes are scarred forever; if you're over 18, enjoy! There is also aggressive teasing, rough foreplay, and creative use of office and library type settings in this fic, including elevators. Yes, I said elevators. If those hentai thoughts alone aren't enough to ward you off, hang on for the ride.

Story Notes: Time frame for this fic doesn't matter as my knowledge of FMA is a bit scattered but obviously before the ending and Maes's death, and set during the anime series. Also, this is a Roy and Riza fic along with implied Ed and Winry. This fic should be viewed as taking place between Overhaul, and Overhaul 2: The Tune Up as there are some minor connections. Being as this is fanfiction, liberties were taken with the actions of the characters and certain parts of the fic are not canon, I just don't know which ones. Certain clichés usual to Roy and Riza fics are also being tossed out after having a lengthy discussion with a military vet and making sure the clichés weren't canon. If it goes against the grain of what you like in Roy/Riza fics, tough. I also don't know the exact layout of their offices, so I'm winging it. This fic hinges on substantially romantic plot, each chapter is really, really long, and is considerably hentai. Beta reading has been done by Darkilluser. (Thank you!) Read the above disclaimers again if you're still squeamish, but I assure you, it'll be worth it. No tubular pieces of fabric called skirts were harmed in the production of this dirty piece of smut . . . well . . .

Why oh why was she doing this again?

Riza Hawkeye asked herself that very question as she tapped her heel on the floor of the lift while it rode up the shaft to her office in Central Headquarters.

Oh right, she was doing this for the good of her female friends in the military, even if none of them knew it yet. She deserved a medal from all the other female officers just for trying, even more so if she could pull it off. Hell, shutting down Roy's scheming alone made it worth the aggravation for just one day - one day. Those two words ran like a mantra through her head, one day, one day, just one day, one bloody day. She just had to survive one day in a skirt out of her own volition and all the men in Headquarters would be begging her to put her pants back on. Or they'd be begging her for dates, especially Havoc.

A shudder ran through the Lieutenant at that thought. This was all Colonel Mustang's fault anyway. If he hadn't opened his mouth about how women in the military should wear skirts, yet again, it wouldn't have started the whole argument . . . or the bet. Riza knew he was joking, like he always did. She usually kept her annoyance with it to herself, but yesterday she had finally had enough. It must have been the stress of the piles of accumulated work not being done, the goofing off, or the way he kept looking at her. Combined, it grated on her usually calm nerves until she was just itching for something to make her snap. All it took was one statement, and snap she did.

Riza was cleaning her guns when it started, pulling back the hammer and releasing it with a clink each time the jokes or his stares boring into the back of her head got to her. The rate at which she manipulated the gun only increased as the laughter went on. She could handle it, even if she should have been yelling at them to get back to work. She always found a way to deal with it afterwards, usually taking it out on the target range. And she was used to his arrogance and mild sexism. So he thought he was God's gift to women-kind. He was allowed it a little, since the only people who took the act seriously were the poor girls he seduced and himself. Roy wouldn't know a real woman if one came up and slapped him across the face. At least he respected her and her work. To that end, she was used to Roy Mustang and his ways, or so she thought. That day wasn't any different. She just needed to blow off steam in the range when they were all done. Yet, all it took was just one sentence to finally get to her, "I'm sure Lieutenant Hawkeye could wear a skirt, and none of us would know the difference."

The safety on the gun in her hand clicked off and she accidentally, or intentionally, fired a shot that went straight up, embedding itself into the ceiling. They all went silent and stared at her, waiting for an outburst that would have come if rational thought hadn't kicked into Riza Hawkeye. Suddenly this wasn't an office joke anymore. With one flippant sentence, Roy had turned it into a personal challenge to her sense of self as a woman. Was she that invisible to him? Did he hate her that much, even if she kept on top of him for his own good? Was he that arrogant to underestimate her? Did he even have the same respect her that she afforded him? She knew him well enough, or so she thought; yet this was a different game between them now, and the blonde Lieutenant could feel it.

He was challenging her, the tone of it was in his voice when he said it, and he liked challenging people and pulling their strings. She always did know that he liked fire, and loved playing with it even more, but she suddenly had to wonder how many times he had gotten burnt. Regardless, he had crossed the line, and the thought of pulling him back in his place made her all too giddy as an idea entered her mind. It was a thought of pure insanity, but . . . if it worked, Roy Mustang would never want to see her in a skirt in their office again. But could she do it? She heard a snort of laughter behind her, and suddenly she knew she could, if only for the Colonel's own good. He would notice her, they all would, or she was no woman. "Twenty says I can wear a skirt, and not only turn the heads of every male in Headquarters, but also get you to rethink your ideas," Riza said as she fished a bill out of her wallet, holding it in the air between two fingers as if she was tipping a waiter.

The challenge was accepted. Havoc practically ripped the money from her hand as she heard Roy's laughter turn into a snicker, "You're that confident you can change my mind? How are you going to do that? Drive us all to distraction?"

"What's the matter? Afraid I might do just that?" she asked softly, turning in her chair slightly to look at him, her brown eyes curious and innocent even if the curl of her lips was anything but. There was something igniting in his dark eyes, and she couldn't tell if it was a touch of jealousy or just his arrogance again. Before she knew it, Roy had slapped down another twenty into Jean Havoc's hands, the pile of money growing. "You're on, Lieutenant. You have leave to wear whatever you want tomorrow as long as it looks remotely like the rest of the uniforms; I'm sure you won't disappoint us."

The betting continued unabated, and Roy disappeared back into his office. She had the dignity not to blush at the obviously flirtatious come-on the Colonel added in. He didn't mean it anyway. He never did. He had always casually flirted with her since that first day when she'd been assigned under him, but he always went home with a different woman each night. He had also pushed for miniskirts in uniforms back then too. Those few months when she had started working in the office, she hated him, but that was until their first assignment ended in a firefight. Somewhere in the middle of that battle, whatever façade Roy had been hiding behind slipped, replaced with a haunted look as they were forced to kill their target, a group of Ishbalian rebels who still believed the war was going on.

In the aftermath, he let her in as to why he wanted to become Fuhrer; to stop history from repeating itself. After that, she respected him, and devoted her work to his cause, if only so she didn't have to see that look on his face again. To think that all happened about seven years ago, before chimeras, and before the Elric brothers. He still flirted with her, mildly, and still dated women with intelligence scores equal to the caliber of her guns. For all his teasing, he never actually followed through, or changed too much either. Him and his scheming over skirts, of all things. Riza's brown eyes hardened, and she went back to polishing one of her firearms. Silently, she swore retribution for this. One way or another, Roy and his scheming were going down by her hand.

That had been the end of it in her mind until she went home to make good on winning her bet. She had just the thing too, remembering the outfit from when she passed training. It was her first dress uniform, before the policies changed and longer skirts were enforced for formal occasions instead of the shorter skirts. She had a soft spot in her heart for the uniform though, except for that skirt. The coat she had always loved over her jacket and the black overcoats, which was why she saved it. Her sense of aesthetics demanded some revisions of it to the skirt at least. After updating the uniform with the insignias of her current rank, and securing a pet sitter for Black Hayate, she went to bed that night, feeling more confident than she had in a long time.

Apparently that confidence was showing as she stepped off the lift and into the fourth floor atrium. The short jacket she usually wore was replaced with a blue and silver trimmed trench coat with gold braids over her usual black turtleneck and shoulder holster. The skirt underneath ran straight down her legs to mid thigh, slit up the back seam with an overlap that opened with each stride she took. It was short, and tight, like he kept asking for. A fear ran through her that the black garter belt she wore underneath would flash or pop loose the moment she sat down. It was bad enough that the shaded tops of the sheer nude stockings she choose flashed between steps as she walked. Maybe she shouldn't have worn them. Stockings were a little excessive given the expense of silk and hand-sewn production. On second thought, it would be worth it when she turned around, the line of seams down the back accenting her legs. Riza even upped the ante with dangerously pointed, and dangerously high-heeled black shoes. And to think she even put on some light make-up too. But, given the reaction her outfit had even before she entered the building, Roy and the men would never know what hit them.

Coming up the steps to the building, one of the teenage aides running around dropped a stack of about 500 pages and folders he was carrying in her wake. One of the guys repairing the carpentry in the main hall stumbled over a board when she smiled at him. It had been gratifying, enhancing her step with confidence as her heels clicked on the floor. The crowd of blue uniforms was thick today on their floor as she made her way through, sticking out like a sore thumb in the sea of pants. The Lieutenant could feel eyes on her as she walked, the hallway parting like a school of fish before her stride. It would be just her luck that word of their bet had made it all over Headquarters, and as more heads turned towards her, she was sure it had. Every man she passed did a double-take, bumped into something or someone, got smacked in the head by other female officers, or worse. Most of them just outright stopped and stared. Even a few of the women stopped and looked. If looks could kill, she probably would have died a thousand deaths from the jealous stares. Riza hadn't felt so much like an object before, but . . . there was a thrill of power to it as well; knowing men and women alike were looking and thinking similar, if opposing thoughts.

She walked up to the office doorway, her grin widening along with her stride. Just as the First Lieutenant was about to walk in, Private Scieszka came running up to her, the librarian yanking her away from the door before could even say hello. "What in the world-?"

"Have you gone daft?!" she asked hysterically, glancing around at the looming audience of men watching the two women. Riza blinked, not knowing for the life of her what she was talking about. "It's all over Central, the Library, Headquarters, I can't believe you even showed up today!" she screeched, trying to keep her voice and her panic down. "Do you have any idea how much this'll set back the women in the military if you fail?"

A smirk spread across Riza's lip, her hunches proving right. "I should have known this little war would be public. I'm not going to fail that easily, Private, or have you looked around at the male species yet today? You'd think all of them never saw a woman in a skirt and heels before."

The last statement she said a little too loud for a private conversation. Glancing over her shoulder, most of the crowd suddenly looking very interested in anything but the pair or were moving along. She looked back at Scieszka, smiling as a blush crept onto the young woman's face. "How did you find out anyway?" Riza asked finally.

"Lieutenant Colonel Hughes, he found out about the betting pool after hours and started spreading it around," the brown-haired young woman admitted as she adjusted her glasses. "Most of Central is in on it now."

Riza blinked, "They're all betting? On me?"

"Most of the women are, along with Hughes, Armstrong, and the Elrics."

"What?! Who let those two into the pool? They're not old enough to bet!"

"Well, Fullmetal is fifteen, and I heard what he's going through. I've also seen him blushing as soon as Miss Winry Rockbell's name is mentioned, and then denying anything when I ask, so it's probably only a matter of time. And Alphonse isn't that dumb either for a little boy trapped in hulking chunk of metal, so I'd say they're entitled being treated like adults now . . . besides, I heard him mutter something about serving the bastard Colonel right."

Sighing, Riza let it go as the Private did have a point. It was useless to worry over their innocence and the lack thereof, even if she knew it was the military lifestyle corrupting those two boys. And the last thing she wanted to learn about was Edward Elric's social life. They were growing up far too quickly. "I don't want to know anymore, just tell me the odds, please?" she asked, changing the topic.

"The men ran up the odds to 1 to 20 that you'll win, and the Colonel's odds are 2 to 1 that he'll still swear us all to skirts anyway, regardless of if you win or lose."

Suddenly, Hawkeye felt like shooting something as her heel tapped dangerous on the stone floor. So everyone was confident that she'd fail or be ignored, huh? And her odds were 1 to 20? So she was the dark horse huh? Suddenly, she felt like putting more money on the bet if her odds were that low, but . . . she had to win it. "Don't worry, Private, you'll keep your pants, they don't know who they're messing with," Riza said dangerously, her brown eyes burrowing holes in the door.

Scieszka smiled despite the wrongness of that statement, liking the look on her superior's face. "Yes, Lieutenant, our hope is riding on you, along with my thirty. Good luck."

As she bounded away, Riza finally opened the door and walked in, her anger freezing into an icy stare. Apparently the men had all arrived early for the spectacle; a shocking change from their usual tardiness. They were all at their desks and had their noses buried in paperwork when she walked in; another change from normal that made her start to wonder. But then again, the work was forgotten as soon as she walked over to her own desk, her stare turning into a calculating look when they finally noticed her. Havoc reached for the tissues like they were life preservers, a raging nosebleed starting as soon as she cracked a smile in his direction. Both Fuery and Breda looked like their eyes were about to pop out of their heads, glued in their seats as she dropped her bag on her desk, standing just to the side of it for full effect. Once his nose was under control, Jean looked up and stared as well, something about him reminding her of a deer frozen by car headlights. "Don't you three have work to do?" She asked as she glanced at the papers on her desk, all of them meant for the Colonel. "Is he in?"

Fuery seemed to find his voice first of the three of them, blinking rapidly with a slight twitch to his head as he looked back down at his papers, "Yes, First Lieutenant, but um . . ."

"Um, what, Sergeant Major?"

"He might be napping . . .?"

Napping, this early in the morning? Usually he saved them for the lazy afternoons. Riza growled, and patted her underarm and hip to make sure her guns were in place before taking off the coat and throwing it over her chair. She grabbed the papers on the desk and stormed towards the door, three pairs of eyes following her movement. Once she was gone, Kain was the first one to speak, exhaling slowly until it can out like a sigh, "Now I know why Black Hayate listens to her, guns and all."

"We never should have gotten that pool going, we're all gonna lose," Havoc said, his voice nasal from the twists of tissues up his nose, "The Colonel's gonna be ruined."

"Ruined? This may be the best damned thing to happen in this office for months. When it's all over, maybe the Colonel will finally listen to Hawkeye's advice, and maybe she'll finally remove the stick from her ass," Breda muttered before grinning at the thought.

"It's a nice ass too . . ." Havoc added, grabbing more tissues. Just then, the door to Colonel Mustang's office slammed shut with a bang the reverberated through the office, including the windows. The three men looked at the door with a mixture of curiosity and horror, wondering what exactly happened, even if they knew it was all Riza's doing. Havoc broke the silence first, asking almost rhetorically, "We never stood a chance in hell of winning, did we?"

"Well . . ." Breda started to say before Fuery cut him off, "No, we didn't. Men never stood a chance of winning anything the moment women stepped onto the land."

"Really? Not all of them seem that . . . diabolically conniving . . ." Havoc said as he glanced at the Colonel's door, wondering why it was silent after the bang except for the three of them, "And I didn't know that you were that philosophical when it came to the opposite sex, Fuery."

"I was interested in human biology and behavior for a while, trying to draw correlations between us and animals in regards to the sexes. I couldn't find too much, but I've found that any man can be brought low by a woman if she knows that they're our greatest weakness, any man can be undone by a single glance from a woman if she knows her power. First Lieutenant Hawkeye, it appears, realizes this now as well. She's no mere opponent and co-worker like we assumed under her calm demeanor. I think we all have forgotten how female she can be; the Colonel must have pushed her into a corner enough that she's realized how to push back," Fuery explained as the two men stared at him, their jaws dropping open, the new philosophical level apparently going over their heads, before he added, "Or she just looks good in a miniskirt and heels, and she knows it."

He grinned as his two co-workers laughed nervously, all three of them returning to their paper work. Of course they wouldn't understand women or their latent powers over men, especially Havoc and the Colonel. As soon as they did, and respected the opposite sex for it, then maybe all the talk of enforcing skirts on women would stop, or at very least, they'd get dates for more than one night. Fuery held back a sigh, glancing down at the endless stacks of papers and folders. At least he was comforted in knowing he'd won the side bets he had going over who would have the first nosebleed of the day. Havoc was always nice and predictable like that.

Roy sat in his chair, tilted back as the morning sun shone down into his office, lightly snoring. God, he was tired. The night before had been terrible for his sleep, waking up almost every hour until his clock struck about three in the morning. He hadn't tossed and turned that badly in months, but at least he was comforted in knowing why he couldn't sleep rather than losing sleep from the usual nightmares. It was Riza and that damned bet. Why did he have to open his mouth and say that? It had been so callous of him given all she did for him, but . . . he did have to admit some of the truth to it. He did rarely notice any of the women in their service; the uniforms so shapeless and blending that if it wasn't for obvious features, and names, sometimes he wouldn't even know the difference. But still, he shouldn't have called her out by name. It was an entirely too personal line he had crossed between them, but once she issued the bet, there was no turning back. And in truth, he admired his First Lieutenant even more for stepping up to the challenge rather than just berating him for the insult. What was the worst she could do anyway? It was just a short skirt.

But of course, it was just the thought of her in a skirt that kept him up last night, his mind unable to shut down long enough to sleep. How exactly would she look in a skirt anyway? She had promised to turn every head in Central, which had to be impossible unless she somehow had the shortest, tightest skirt in creation and the legs to back it up. That didn't seem like the Riza he knew at all, or did it? It was exactly those possibilities that kept him up the night before, thinking about the one woman who was almost an enigma to him. After all this time, he didn't know what his First Lieutenant was truly capable of except for shooting really well, filling out paperwork, and covering his ass. She was his friend and co-worker, not his enemy, but suddenly she was all three. In all his political machinations, Riza as his enemy was a concept he had trouble grasping. Roy had unwittingly set himself up for a surprise assault and he knew it. He wouldn't cave though, he thought as crawled into the office early that morning to rest and prepare himself for the impending battle. His will was stronger than hers, he knew that. He'd dealt with tougher matters than his promised policy over skirts for female officers if and when he became Fuhrer. This was nothing but office politics among friends, right? A little, harmless war he was sure to win, right? Besides, what power could one flimsy garment possess?

Colonel Mustang was blissfully unaware of another presence as he napped on while Riza Hawkeye stepped into his office, a deep frown marring her pink-tinted lips. So Fuery was right, and the dark-haired man before her was out like a light. Her frown turned into a smirk as she gripped the papers. She cleared her voice, loudly, hoping it would wake him, but Roy only snored on. Riza's anger was quickly rising, her heel tapping on the hard floor. If this were any other day, she would have nudged him awake by now; but as she quickly reminded herself, this wasn't a normal day of office antics. This was war, one she intended to win at all costs. Her foot kicked the door hard and it slammed shut with a force that shook the walls. Roy instantly jumped at the sound, his dark eyes wide-awake and glaring around for the source of the disturbance in his slumber. Unfortunately his tilted chair jumped too, sliding out from under him as he fell on the floor before he even knew she was in the room. Riza sighed, not surprised in the least by the groaning coming from behind the desk. "Good Morning, sir," she said lightly while walking around the right hand side.

Roy paled, recognizing her voice as he closed his eyes, "Lieutenant Hawkeye? For a moment I thought it was Major Armstrong knocking down my door."

"You wish," she said as she put the papers down, her hip cocked to the side. "I'm sure dealing with the Major would be more delightful to you than these new papers."

The Colonel was sprawled on the floor, his head against the wall as his legs were curled up awkwardly under the desk. His eyes were also tightly shut. He also knew from the closeness of her voice that he really, really, didn't want to look up at her right now. After a silent moment, a pointed shoe kicked him in the side, making him yelp and finally open his eyes. "You can't stay down there all day, sir."

As his dark eyes focused on Riza Hawkeye, he suddenly wished he could. His jaw dropped open of its own accord and his mind went completely blank, unprepared as his opponent loomed over him, tapping her black heels on the floor. From his vantage point, he could very clearly see the tops of her stockings, the metal ends of black lace garters, and a slight bit of flesh, the rest hidden by the blue wool of her short, but not immodestly short, skirt. He'd seen less fabric on more women, but something about what she didn't reveal shot straight from his mind into his loins. Before he could think to say something, her foot kicked his side again, propelling reality into his head as he started to get up. Turning away from her, he found his chair, righting it as he tried to clear his head. This was wholly unexpected from his subordinate, as he took his seat, wide-awake now. Before Roy knew it, a pen was shoved into his hand as she motioned to the brand new stack of papers on his desk. "These need to be authorized by the end of the day, sir, and the Elrics should be here this morning to check in before their trip to Rizembool," Riza said as she shuffled the other items around on his usually messy desk, slightly bent over as she reached for a set of loose paper clips.

Staring was hard to avoid for the Colonel as her skirt noticeably rose up, noting the lines down the back of her stockings that accentuated the shape of her legs. She was taller than he thought, and paler, which seemed to suit her more. Her words almost went right over his head, and it took most of his control not to touch the delicate material covering her limbs and skin underneath. It was only when she moved away that he finally pulled his wandering wanton thoughts back together enough to remember what she had said, "Um, sure, I'll get right on top of it . . ."

Wincing at the unintentional innuendo, Roy quickly fixated his attention on the page in front of him. He heard Riza stop and turn around in front of his desk as if she expected something from him. What did she want? An acknowledgement of their wager? An opening move? Knowing he had to look up at her eventually, his eyes slowly drifted up. For some reason, her gun belt and shoulder harness stuck out more so than usual, along with her figure, making it very hard to find where to look without revealing too many of his thoughts. Roy settled for looking at the Lieutenant's mouth, which was partially curled back into a smile that could quickly turn into a smirk. She was far too pleased with herself, and he was far too disappointed with himself. Every moment he spent looking at her felt like caving in just that much more. The Colonel's brow furrowed and he looked back down at the paper before him, "Was there anything else, Lieutenant?"

"No, sir, just that you look tired," Riza said as he bit back a groan, "I hope today isn't too hard on you . . . sir."

Roy was suddenly thankful he wasn't the only one with a mildly dirty mind, "Thank you, Lieutenant, I'm sure it'll go a lot easier with you around."

Somehow, a slight sarcastic bitterness entered his voice, bringing a frown to the blonde's lips. Was he baiting her for an argument? Did he really mean it? Or was he teasing her? Riza didn't know, but it didn't lessen her anger at his attitude, her brown eyes boring into him, "What's that supposed to mean?"

"Uhhh," The Colonel fumbled for an answer, the fury in her brown eyes making him second-guess his gut feeling. His mind drew blanks, something about the look on her face and the mounting tension in her crossed arms making him feel awkward around her. It was very odd of a reaction for him since he was usually very good around women. The skirt wasn't helping either as his eyes kept drifting downwards on their own. Thinking fast, Roy went with his best policy when dealing with angry females, denial. "Absolutely nothing, Lieutenant, have a nice day."

Her anger only grew at his answer, fingers itching to grab a gun and pull the trigger. Deny, deny, deny. All he did when she caught him was deny until she could prove him wrong. He meant something with what he said or else he wouldn't have said it, and it was getting to her. Roy usually didn't get to her this badly, but ever since the day before . . . Riza Hawkeye's cool temper was running painfully short. "Fine . . . sir," she ground out between her teeth, forcing herself to remain neutral. "I'm sure we'll talk more later, right?"

"Right . . . Lieutenant," he said, not mistaking her meaning for anything else. The tension in the air was thick, the weight of it making his eyes take another look over her figure. Her legs kept making his mind go blank as much as the anger in her eyes. Damn, why couldn't he think today around her? But he could think, and only of one thing that kept going through his head as she turned around and went for the door. All he could think about was simply how nice she looked. She seemed so much more mature, and professional, even if it was impractical as all hell on a battlefield. He couldn't figure out how he hadn't noticed her before. For a slight moment, Roy forgot that this was war. If there weren't an argument between them, he probably would have made an inappropriate advance by now; the image of what he'd seen under that short skirt flashing before his eyes. For that daring alone, she deserved a compliment, one already half out of his mouth before he could stop it. "Riza?" Roy said as she turned and looked at him, something widening in her brown eyes as his mouth moved on its own, "You look . . ."


Reality sunk in as he heard the other men laughing from the other side of the door, Havoc's voice in particular. Suddenly, he felt like a chicken, like he was giving up just by complimenting her. Riza had started the bet. She accepted his unintentional insult and turned it into this. And as much as he might like her to win . . . Roy's resolve hardened. It was for the good of the military, and for the good of himself. That was comfort enough, right? "You look nice today. You should wear miniskirts more often," he said as he hunched over the papers, pretending to work on them, "I'm sure the other female officers will look just as good in something more feminine."

"So . . . you're not distracted?" she asked through gritted teeth.

"No, just enjoying the view, Lieutenant," he said lecherously, "But not that much, I still think mini-skirts would be in the best interests for all female officers, especially since the look suits you so well."

He didn't need to see the reaction smeared across her face to know that he'd hit deep. Surely she'd finally kill him now right? Instead he heard her heels on the floor, and he looked up, excepting to see the face of death coming towards him. Instead, Roy watched Riza Hawkeye's rear swing back and forth with intent as she strode out of the office, stopping only to grab a box of ammunition he knew she kept in her desk. She was gone before anyone could stop her, catching his eyes on hers when she turned in the doorway out into the hall. Her glare was as hard and as cold as stone in winter, sending a chill down his spine along with regret. He shouldn't have done that. The door slammed shut with a thunderous bang, and all the men jumped. With a long groan, Colonel Mustang let go of his composure and thumped his head on his desk, "I'm so dead."

After an hour, Riza came back, much more relieved it seemed, and without her box of bullets. She had felt good at the shooting range as she put all of that ammo to use. The technicians were probably still wincing though. Most of the shots ended up in the crotch of the human-shaped targets when she normally went for head and chest shots. She stared at the Colonel now and then through the open door to his office, her eyes promising much retribution . . . she just hadn't come up with a plan yet. Like he'd change his mind at all just because she wanted him to. He was still a man after all, and she was still angrier than a pissed-off cat. She sighed, putting down her pen a moment to stretch her hand before it cramped from writing. They were all being well behaved today, including Roy, who at least seemed interested in his work every time she glanced in his direction. Maybe he was just avoiding her look too. She had the rest of the day to figure out how to change his mind; maybe it would come to her eventually.

Just as she was about to get back to work, Lieutenant Colonel Hughes stepped in from the hallway with the Elric brothers not far behind him. Silently, Riza was grateful, at least until she noticed the officer's eyes falling on her exposed and crossed legs, like everyone else's had since she came in that morning. She might have been offended if he wasn't already happily married. Maes gaped, apparently fumbling for words as she frowned before finally saying, "Good morning to you too, he's in his office."

"Ah, right, morning, um, Riza-um, Lieutenant," he muttered before almost running into the Colonel's office and closing the door. At least there was one bright side to Maes's quick retreat; he didn't whip out any photos. She turned towards the Elrics, smiling again as she saw the grin on Edward's face, "Good morning, I hope you're both ready for your trip back to Rizembool."

"Yes, ma'am," Al's hollow voice rang through the armor as his brother nodded, the grin still stuck. Riza tilted her head curiously, wondering what the young man was thinking. Obviously it wasn't the same as the other men as his eyes only glanced once at the skirt and her legs. If anything, he seemed distracted. But . . . it still annoyed her. "Something you're particularly happy about this morning, FullMetal?" she asked, her eyebrows arching upwards.

"Nothing," he answered far too quickly, "Just going to be a good day."

"He's happy because he got to use the phone without Lieutenant Colonel Hughes knowing it. I distracted him," Al added in a low voice as Ed gawked at him in shock then started shaking the living armor as he cried out under the torment, "But, brother! You never said not to tell her!"

Riza laughed softly, hiding her amusement behind her hand until Al got a handle on his flailing older brother before he dented his metal body. "But you almost told her it was Winry I was calling, you're so dense sometimes!" Edward whispered in a voice that was too desperate to be quiet and too soft to be overheard by anyone but her.

"Sorry, brother . . . but it's just Winry, and you kind of just mentioned it yourself . . ." Alphonse said as the alchemist sagged with a groan of realization. Not laughing anymore, but still amused, she smiled while remembering what Private Scieszka had told her earlier. They were growing up too fast, Edward the most it seemed. "It's alright, I won't mention it to anyone," Riza said while pointing to the phone on her desk, "Next time, you can use mine, I'm far less nosy than the Lieutenant Colonel."

Edward looked grateful, grinning again as he shoved his hands in his pockets. She blinked, still wondering about the expression on the young alchemist's face. At least he wasn't as lecherous as the rest of the men on staff who were twice his age and two-times as childish. Yet, there was still something in the older Elric's eyes that made her suspicious. "Thinking of something or someone, Ed?" she asked curiously as he hopped up to sit on her desk while Al took a seat next to the office door.

"Just that I'll be richer by the end of the day," Ed said as his grin got even funnier, "I almost feel sorry for that bast-err, Mustang, and the poor taste of the guys betting for him to win."

Riza smiled a moment, touched, until she remembered who she talking to. "You boys shouldn't be gambling. You're lucky I haven't taken it upon myself to punish whoever let you two in on it," she said with a disapproving frown, shifting around the stack of papers on her desk before she added with a slight smile, "At least you chose the right side."

"You do look nice today, Miss Hawkeye, for a girl," Al added as she turned in her chair to look at him. That was about the first compliment all day that she had gotten that wasn't accompanied by roving eyes. Coming from Alphonse only made it seem more honest and genuine. The small smile on Riza's face lit up, making her feel more confident, "Thank you, Al, that was sweet of you to say."

If the suit of armor could have smiled back, or blushed, it probably would, but Al just nodded his head instead. There was a snicker of laughter from across the office that sounded like Havoc, only to be choked back as soon as Riza's head snapped in his direction. A slight blush spread over Jean's face, telling the Lieutenant all she needed to know as her brown eyes rolled upwards. It was no wonder the Second Lieutenant couldn't keep a girl if he kept snickering like that when he heard a truthful compliment to a lady. To the side of her, Edward smirked too, "You know he bet the most against you aside from running the pool, right?"

"That doesn't surprise me," Riza said as she went back to filling out a form, "His belief in Roy is bigger than Roy's own ego."

"Think he'll try something to mess you up?"

"No, this is between me and the Colonel. He stuck his foot in his mouth, I'm just making sure it's thoroughly lodged there so he won't forget it when I help him remove it," she muttered and started checking boxes on the page. Ed laughed and pulled out his pocket watch, looking at the time. He quickly flipped it closed and shoved it into his pants pocket. "They are taking a while, he always does this, I bet you never have to wait for him," he muttered glancing at the door, "If we're late for that train . . ."

"I'll make sure you guys leave on time, stop worrying. Have I ever let anyone in this department down?" she smiled, glancing at the door herself.

"Not yet," Ed said, "But there's a first time for everything."

On that point, the young alchemist was right.

"I'm so dead," Roy said again as his friend pulled up a chair across from him. "If I try to touch her, she'll kill me, if I even look at her, she'll kill me, if I say one more thing that's either perverted or close to being offensive, she'll kill me. I can't think straight, can't react, and I sure as hell can't resist for very much longer. Look at me, I'm doing work just so I don't have to face her again today, but I can't keep it up, what the hell am I supposed to do? I can't let the men down by letting her win, but . . . damned if she isn't proving her point, what can I do?"

To Lieutenant Colonel Hughes, watching Colonel Mustang crack because of a woman was very entertaining in and of itself, even more so than watching his co-workers crack as he showed off his little Elysia's pictures. And to think it was all because of Riza Hawkeye in a short skirt. He knew it would happen one day when Roy finally opened his goddamned eyes, he just didn't think it would be today or be happening so quickly. He also didn't think she would have pulled out that many stops in regards to her choice of apparel and grooming. Even married, Maes had been tempted to look and found it hard to resist looking away. But it amused him more that Roy was taking it so hard, and even more amusing was that he was being asked for advice after he'd bet against the Colonel, who was obviously desperate. This was a most advantageous position to be in during a war, right in the middle with the scales resting firmly in his hands; but he could just as easily be caught in the crossfire too.

If he won, he could get his little girl a new doll and his wife a set of earrings he knew she would love. He had so many other reasons to tell Roy to cave too, if only for his own good. He'd known for a while why Riza did what she did for her Colonel's career, quietly and thanklessly, and it wasn't until recently that his friend actually noticed it. But Roy always was an arrogant bastard no matter how much someone cared for him. If he knew of Riza's silent guardianship, the Colonel never let it show or let on about returning her feelings, even if they gave off more tension around each other then an armory of loaded guns. The two of them were like two porcupines in love, too afraid of themselves and each other to even touch. They just needed a nudge in the right direction . . . but maybe this bet was more like a hammer to the head. Maes wanted so badly to tell Roy what he needed to hear about the Lieutenant, but couldn't, the glare of quiet desperation on the Colonel's face enough indication that now might not be the time. "She's still Riza, Roy, just in a skirt and heels," Maes pointed it, the amused grin slipping onto his face, "Just . . . pull it together and act normal."

"Pull it together? Your sage advice to me as a man that deals with a beautiful wife everyday is to pull it together?" Roy muttered, not liking what he was hearing. "She may be just a woman in a skirt, but she's also packing two guns and an agenda that she will ask me about before the end of the day, and I have to say yes, I want to ogle you and every other female officer on a daily basis by making you wear skirts when I become Fuhrer just because I promised a bunch of lonely officers I'd do just that," he paused, eyebrows arched and pressed together as he looked at Maes, "Or I give in."

"Is giving in so bad?" the Lieutenant Colonel offered as he adjusted his glasses, "I don't know about you, but Gracia would kill me if every woman that walked into my office every day dressed like that and called me sir."

"Maybe it just takes getting use to. It wouldn't so shocking if we were all used to seeing legs and skin around here rather than blue upon blue," Roy said with a grin. "This is about the most androgynously dressed military in creation. We are wearing half-skirts over our pants to begin with."

"You avoided my question."

"No, I side-stepped it," the dark-haired man said as he tilted back in his chair. "I can't give in to her, it's not an option. It'll make me look weak to the men, even if the women will hate me; but most of them do anyway."

"So you'd rather make your First Lieutenant hate you along with the rest of the sisterhood than lose face? Is not giving in really that important?" Maes asked pointedly, knowing that while Riza may never hate Roy completely, she'd definitely not care for him any more. It was a bad move to make, one that slowly dawned on Roy as he suddenly looked more serious. The Colonel shrugged then sighed, back to square one in the argument in his head, "It's not that much of a life or death choice is it?"

"In the scheme of things, it's a bigger question of if you become Fuhrer or not. Bradley could outlive us all and make this whole thing moot."

"Then why is it such a big deal? I know it's a personal matter to Riza but . . ." Roy said then sighed, rubbing the side of his head. "I don't know what to think, it's too personal for public debate, but now too public for us to settle it privately. I wish we could just call it off."

"I should have kept my mouth shut, huh?" Maes asked with a grin, "Maybe you should just try to talk to her, over lunch or something, with a table between you both so you're not distracted."

"No, if you didn't put it into the rumor mill, Havoc would have. I just didn't think the betting pool would get this big," the Colonel said before letting the suggestion sink in. He could talk to her, maybe, in private, without sticking his foot in his mouth again, maybe. It did seem awfully like fraternizing with the enemy though, nay, almost like a date with the enemy. He didn't like that idea as he glared at Hughes, "I don't think she'd listen if I asked her to call it off, lunch or no."

Maes shrugged, running out of advice without spilling the beans. Maybe, just maybe, he thought, Roy needed a stronger nudge than Riza. "She's your subordinate, but she's also your friend as much as I am. She would listen if you ordered her to, besides, she's also a woman, I thought you handled them well."

"This is Riza we're talking about, how many time do I have to point it out? She's not just some woman. If there's one female alive that is immune to my charm, it's her, and even then . . ." Roy started before glancing down at his desk, "I don't want to charm her even if I could, it feels wrong to put the moves on her just to win an argument."

"Then there's always succumbing, but it takes a strong man to admit defeat."

"I'm not defeated by her, not yet."

"Then if I may suggest again, just talk to her. Even wars have parleys; besides, you may even learn more about your enemy."

"Thanks Maes, even if I know you're betting against me," Roy said with a smirk as Lieutenant Colonel Hughes stood up. No, he wasn't about to let that tiny mutiny go unnoticed or eventually unpunished. The door opened just as they were finishing, Riza stepping into the room, a fresh stack of forms in her hands. Amused, Maes noticed as the Colonel's dark eyes immediately glued onto the First Lieutenant's figure and her legs. "Um, sir?" she asked, "I hate to interrupt, but you wanted to see FullMetal before he left for Rizembool?"

Roy's face went blank a moment before he blinked, "Oh, um, right, send him in."

"I'm afraid I can't, sir."

"Why not?"

"He already left for the station with Alphonse. Havoc is escorting them there now," Riza said, schooling a vacant look on her face to hide her own amusement. So it was a vicious idea she had while waiting with Edward for the Colonel to finish talking with Hughes, to play dumb like his usual dates if only to get his goat. As a look of annoyance spread over Roy's face, she was sure it was working. Only got harder to keep his expression from turning into a raging inferno of anger as Maes snickered, trying to hide it behind a gloved hand. "Lieutenant, if the kids are gone than why are we having this discussion now instead of before they left?" Mustang asked as one eyebrow twitched at her, obviously getting angry, "You knew I wanted to talk to FullMetal before his leave, why didn't you interrupt me earlier?"

With a slow walk, Riza approached the desk, gently depositing the papers on the surface as she bent over slightly. Roy's eyes naturally followed the curves of her body underneath all that dark cloth, making him sink lower in the chair as she reached across the desk to grab his finished work. She looked at the Colonel, her face still vapid and her voice guilelessly devoid of intelligence, even if her brown eyes sparkled with mirth, "Because, sir, you didn't tell me to tell you."

She turned and walked out the door, and Roy's mouth dropped open once she wasn't looking, his eyes back on her legs. Once she was gone, Maes chuckled harder from his spot across the room, pushing his glasses back up his nose. He had to hand it to her. That was cleverer than he thought, and more effective on Roy, who looked like he just got slapped. She had the type of woman the Colonel dated down to a science, and made a half-decent actress. "Did that sound like insubordination to you?" Mustang asked as the shock wore off, "Or more like contempt?"

"Actually, it sounded more like victory. Maybe you should cave, she's got you beat," Maes said as he chuckled more, getting a glare from Roy, "She is proving to be one heck of a distraction, you have to admit."

"No kidding, you haven't reached for your photos once."

"I didn't know you were that interested in them! I just got a new roll developed of summer by the lake! Elysia looks so cute playing by the lake, and with the fish, and-."

"Maes . . ." there was a slight touch of angry annoyance in the Colonel's voice.

"Right, you're obviously whipped enough as it is."

"Maes . . ." the level of anger slowly rose in Roy's voice until it outdid his annoyance, along with a look that promised certain fiery death in his glare. Lieutenant Colonel Hughes took that as a good sign to retreat, waving as he quickly exited the office. But before he left completely, there was just one thing he had to mention as he stuck his head back through the office door, "You know, sometimes it is more interesting to let the fairer sex win. You might actually like it once you try it."

A flurry of white paper greeted Maes's last bit of advice as Roy flung the pages at him. Hughes slammed the door, avoiding the salvo completely. Alone again, the Colonel groaned at the mess his office had become, along with the rest of his day. He wasn't whipped, was he? For a moment, resentment entered his mind at Riza's mothering of his career, a nagging fear that he wasn't in control of his own destiny anymore. Ok, maybe it wasn't that bad. He was grateful for when she did save his bacon. Maybe he wasn't as thankful to her face as he should have been, but he was still in control of his own life, right? Roy didn't like being this introspective. It always seemed to bring up bad memories. He didn't dare mention his past involvement in the Ishbal War to anyone in Central, not even to Riza. They needed to believe in someone without blood on their hands, someone who wasn't the real him. Even Roy couldn't bear the real him sometimes, the shame too great along with the memories. The men of his unit all stuck by him, but would they still be there if they knew the truth? He was a murderous dog of the state just like the other alchemy-wielding mutts this place churned out. But would his men still love him despite it?

In his darkest moments, Roy could feel his mask of perfected arrogance and egotism slip. This was one of them. A look of fear that he'd worked so hard to cover slid over his eyes for the briefest of seconds. No, none of them would ever know this side of him, not until he was sure they wouldn't abandon him at the first test of loyalty. His eyes closed, then slowly opened, the annoyed look coming back as the mask went in place again. Perhaps this was Riza's test, to see if she'd still follow him even if she didn't agree with him. Perhaps this was his test as well, to see if he could actually resist a woman in a short skirt. He did have a penchant for torturing himself some times; maybe this was just another case. With a groan, Roy banged his head on his desk, trying to focus the many tangents into one coherent line of action. He needed to do something to nip this game before it went too far. Maybe the Lieutenant Colonel was right. He did need to talk to her, eventually. It could be his way out if he could control himself. Inhaling deeply, Roy felt a little more confident about what he would do: apologize, cancel the bet like a man, and be her friend again, all without flirting, staring at her legs, sticking his foot in his mouth, or losing his head. "I can do this . . ." he muttered to himself until Riza opened the door again, nearly stepping on the papers at her feet.

"Sir . . ." she said tensely, glaring at him for the mess, "Major Armstrong to see you. I'll give you a minute."

His eyes were stuck between staring at her legs and the pissed off look in her eyes until she finally turned away and walked out again. As soon as she was gone, Roy knew it was one thing talk a good plan, and another to put it into action.

After spending the rest of the morning listening to Major Armstrong give his report on the situation in the remains of Ishbal, Roy was never so glad to dismiss him as the noon bell rung. It was lunchtime. The Colonel finished signing a few forms once the too tall and too muscular officer was gone, hurrying out of his office in the hopes to catch Riza before she left for lunch as well. What he found instead were empty desks except for Breda, who looked confused to see him in such a hurry. "Where's the First Lieutenant? And why hasn't anyone returned these yet?" he asked as he grabbed a pile of books left on one of the filing cabinets to cover his question on the whereabouts of his second in command.

"Lunch, after brushing off Major Armstrong," he said as Roy tried not to choke on the news. Something seemed to snap in the pit of his stomach, a feeling he couldn't place a finger on, but knew he didn't like it. Before revealing too much to Heymans, the Colonel looked at him blankly, "Right, why would she need to brush off the Major, anyway?"

"You know the Major and women. His luck is almost as good as yours. He was complimenting Riza and stuff before she left, even asked her to lunch and kissed her hand. She was quite besotted, but turned him down, saying it would be inappropriate," Breda said, watching closely at the dark-haired officer's reaction. For a moment, there was a flash of fire in Roy's dark eyes and Heymans had to hold down his grin. Maybe the little lie was too much. Telling him that Hawkeye had liked Armstrong's flirting was a bit much; when in reality she went white as a sheet when asked out to lunch. Roy didn't know that though. And for his efforts, it looked very much like his superior was cracking, despite the look of disgust. "Thank you, Breda, I'm sure I needed to know that much about Armstrong's love life," the Colonel said sarcastically, his face somewhere between green and red, maybe puce, "I think I'll hit the lavatories before lunch and the library. Where is she now?"

"Probably out on the steps eating since it's a good day. She brought a lunch today."

"Thank you, and make sure to get some files I requested from Investigations. Hughes knows which ones I needed," Roy said as the bitterness in his voice that made Breda almost smile. But that might be giving away his hand. The Colonel stopped paying attention as he went for the door, ignoring the officer as he called after, "Yes, sir, have a good lunch."

As Mustang left, Breda's grin widened, twirling in his chair in triumph. It looked like he was winning his bet about Roy and Riza being in love after all. Now if he had proof before the end of the day, Havoc would owe him a whole pile of money.

To Be Continued