Ruby Throat

By : Hmmingbird

Disclaimer for all Chapters : I don't own FMA.

Author's Notes : Due to all the positive responses I received for "Harmless" I decided that perhaps I could tackle a bigger plotline. We'll just have to see if I overestimate myself. The only thing I can promise is that this story will definitely be another Royai because I'm fixated on that couple for some strange reason. The tone is sort of funnyhaha in the beginning, but I didn't want to start with anything too heavy.

More Author's Rambling : Just skip this part if you're not interested in specifics. This is tentatively set in either the manga or anime timeline sort of around/at/before the beginning of the series. Whichever you prefer. The whole story is kinda AU, but I tried to fit it into a spot where it could have plausibly happened. Plausible being up for interpretation. I made some interesting characterization decisions that will become more apparent in the next chapters. I did it partially to confront personal experience and partially to put a different spin on Roy and Riza's relationship. I don't think I made anyone terribly OOC. Don't be frightened. As for the people of Amestris celebrating Christmas . . . uh . . . just go with it.

Prologue - The Advent of Undoing

Jean Havoc had made many unwise decisions in his lifetime.

From the time he was twelve-years-old and his older brother's friend had casually offered him a smoke in the grubby old woodshed behind his house, he had been a champion of first-rate, grade A, altogether stupid decisions. Telling his mother he wanted to join the military instead of going to college was a stupid decision. Introducing his last girlfriend to Roy Mustang was a stupid decision. But this . . . This time he had outdone himself.

Today was the last workday before holiday leave began for Colonel Mustang and his subordinates, a very auspicious day for rule-bending and shenanigans that would be punished severely on any other day. As such, Falman, Breda and he had decided that it was incumbent upon them to cap off the year with a little harmless holiday mischief. Falman had only to remind them of the Colonel's stunt with the fake holiday bonuses last year, and it was collectively decided that he should be on the receiving end of this year's hilarity.

The plan they'd concocted had all the necessary elements for excitement. It was daring, it was dangerous, and above all, as Breda had already explained, it was technically Mustang's fault he wasn't more punctual. Furthermore, it was technically the best present they could give him, all things considered, and if the plan was going to succeed, someone was going to have to put their neck on the chopping block.

And that was how Lieutenant Havoc came to be standing on his commanding officer's desk with a roll of scotch tape accompanying the cigarette in his mouth and a sprig of something green clutched in his hands, preforming an act of stupidity that was the stuff of legends.

Cain Fury, the only one who had refused to take part in any sort of prank that involved a chopping block, literally or figuratively, gave him a look of purest horror when he realized what he was doing, "You guys! We're all going to be disemboweled!"

Falman gave him a pitying smile, "Stop being so dramatic. You aren't even an accomplice."

"Yes, but she doesn't know that!"

Veto Falman was the actual mastermind behind the mechanics of the mistletoe scheme, but he lacked the necessary audacity and flare to carry out the execution. Havoc had no such qualms. He liked to push the buttons of authority, and in some cases, like now, he couldn't resist banging his fists on the buttons of authority. When he was younger that meant testing his mother's patience. Now, he tested Colonel Mustang's.

Lieutenant Hawkeye was an unfortunate, yet necessary casualty in today's escapade. Bringing her into the plot also added a delicious element of mortal peril, because she would not hesitate to shoot any or all of them for this dazzling breach of protocol.

"She's coming!" Breda hissed from his lookout post at the doorway.

Raw pandemonium ensued.

Havoc finished laying another strip of tape on his mistletoe masterpiece and leapt gracefully to the floor. Then there was a frantic flurry of motion at the Colonel's desk. The three culprits were pushing his swiveling grey chair back into place and arranging the papers and placards on his desk in a perfect imitation of their previous chaotic order. There was no time to argue about which side of the mess the black pencil sharpener had been on, so Breda finally swiped it and everyone made beelines for their respective seats.

By the time First Lieutenant Hawkeye stepped into the office with a sizable stack of paperwork under one arm and a steaming cup of coffee in hand, Falman, Breda, and Fury were innocently seated with their heads bowed over their work.

"Can I help you with those?" Havoc suddenly materialized in front of her and plucked the papers from her grasp.

She blinked at him and narrowed her eyes to slits, "What have you done?"

He had forgotten just how reminiscent of a butcher knife her eyes could become when she was suspicious. Suddenly the entire plan was seeming a teensy bit hazardous and not entirely thought out. He heard his own gulp ringing inside his head.

"N-nothing," He stammered like a panicked rabbit facing a Doberman and decided escape was the safest tactic. He scurried across the room to plop the paperwork on the Colonel's desk, "Honestly, can't I do something nice without you calling my motives into question?"

She decided not to answer him because arguing was childish, and there was work to be finished. She was more than positive something was afoot, and she also knew she could persuade any of them to spill the beans with a well-placed gun to the forehead, but she remained perfectly composed. They all knew better than to cross her, and that could only mean this was between them and the Colonel. At least it had better be.

Havoc's shoulders visibly relaxed when she didn't challenge him, a Christmas miracle if there ever was such a thing.

Instead, she stalked to her desk, aware of four pairs of nervous eyes trailing after her, but she paid them no more notice. She sipped her coffee and rummaged in the desk's lower drawers. The silence in the room was absolute when she produced two ivory handled dueling pistols and laid them out on her desktop. She didn't touch them after that. She just left them there, like two loaded, chrome desk ornaments, and began to sort through the neat pile of papers at the edge of her desk.

Within fifteen minutes she had finished all of her allotted paperwork, and none of her fellow officers had broken the thick silence. Apparently, her subtle threat had been successful, for the moment anyway. They had not yet realized that it was an empty one.

Mustang himself sauntered in at his usual hour, in an unusually festive mood. All of his subordinates had learned long ago that their Colonel could always be found in rare humor before a vacation, and conversely he would be as pissed as a wet cat upon his subsequent return to work. Today his mood bordered frighteningly on perky. He was actually humming under his breath as he hung his snow-dampened overcoat. And smiling. Not smirking. Smiling.

He wished all of his junior officers a very happy holiday season, with a grin that some could call half-crazed delirium. Then he sat down to attack his final stack of paperwork with rare gusto.

Falman exchanged a grin with Breda. Unlike his wily First Lieutenant, Mustang suspected nothing. Now, they waited for the opportune moment to spring the trap, like hunters at a foxhole. Lieutenant Hawkeye was flitting placidly about the office, filing and arranging every haphazard odd or end, still annoyingly busy. (Didn't that woman ever want to slack off, even a tiny bit?) Soon . . . very soon . . .

Fury cast a panicked glance at Havoc, but he smiled around the cigarette tucked into the corner of his mouth. His comrade had already spent the better part of the morning making it perfectly clear that he didn't want to be implicated when the jig was up. Usually, he wasn't quite so vehement when it came to innocuous pranks, but this time he believed that the other three were going to pay with their lives.

Havoc shook his head and placed his feet on the desk. Mustang wasn't as bad as he tried to make himself seem, and as for Hawkeye, she was a rather unpredictable creature. The more anyone tried to pin labels or patterns on her, the more she slipped through the fingers.

Currently, she was glaring at him menacingly from over an open cabinet, but she didn't say a word. He knew exactly why, but he didn't take his boots off the desk. She pursed her lips even as her sharp gaze moved back to the contents of the cabinet. She had clearly decided to cut him some holiday lenience today. He expelled a cloud of heavy smoke through his teeth.

As if they'd ever suspect Fury. He and the others could all point their fingers at him, but Fury had his tail tucked so far between his legs that their accusations would have no more weight than the smoke drifting lazily around the flourescent ceiling lights. It was such a pity that Fury was so meek. He could get away with so much if he ever chose a life of roguery.

Havoc put out his depleted cigarette and swallowed a small cough with a tight grimace. Nobody complained when he smoked in the office, but sometimes he almost wished someone would penalize him for his addiction. It colored his teeth a vellum off-white and boxed his abused windpipe, so even running a short distance could have him doubled over. There was nothing more demeaning than being helplessly married to his own killer, so most of the time he refused to dwell on that fact.

He traced meandering patterns in the ash residue left on the tray and surreptitiously watched Mustang watch his First Lieutenant.

If there was one thing Jean Havoc knew, it was that Mustang was completely oblivious to how often he watched his only female subordinate while he sat there idling his time away. His thoughts could be a million miles away on all sorts of other things, even the kinky things he'd like to do to his next date, but invariably his eyes seemed fastened to Riza Hawkeye with invisible staples. Mustang was also helplessly married to something that had the potential to be his downfall, but he did not yet realize the snare he'd stepped into.

He watched her, and she watched him.

Nobody was supposed to talk about that. That was poking a rabid wolf with a stick.

Finally, she prized a file worthy of the Colonel's attention and delivered it to his desk. They exchanged the cursory pleasantries, hands brushing together like timid kittens, and she moved to her customary place behind his desk, monitoring his work over his shoulder.

Havoc looked at Falman. Falman tipped up a corner of his mouth and raised an eyebrow. Breda waved the pilfered pencil sharper expectantly. Fury buried his face in his hands. Havoc cleared his throat theatrically.

"Hey, Chief?"

Roy looked up from the enforced tedium spread before him. There was something devious beneath Havoc's casual tone of voice, and he didn't like it.

"Yes, Lieutenant Havoc?" He asked cautiously.

"I think I left something of mine on your ceiling earlier."

Roy looked up, recognized what he was seeing, fit the pieces together in his mind, and froze. He opened his mouth spasmodically, like a fish gasping for air, but he never successfully produced a sound. Words were suddenly elusive things that kept dying in his throat.


Taped to his ceiling.

Above his desk.

Specifically, above Lieutenant Hawkeye and himself.

More worrisome than any of his initial consternation was the way his skin prickled irrationally when he noticed Hawkeye watching him with wide, spooked doe eyes. Against all of his better judgement, his eyes dropped to her mouth, and he instantly wished he hadn't looked. A treacherous spark of wanting flared up, but he extinguished it with vicious desperation. No. This desire belonged chained in the darkest corners of his mind, along with all of his other increasingly numerous yet decidedly inappropriate thoughts about her.

Havoc looked positively gleeful, and the others had all ignored their present occupations to listen furtively to their Colonel's reaction. He had an all-consuming urge to torch something . . . like the offending piece of mistletoe, or a certain subordinate named Jean Havoc . . . but that would probably lead to an inquiry so . . .

He straightened his paperwork decisively and returned to signing forms as if no interruption had occurred, "Cute, Lieutenant Havoc, very cute. I'll ask that you remove that before you leave this office today. I will not be so charitable if I return and find it still here."

Havoc was poised on the brink of a comeback, but he was promptly interrupted.

"Merry Christmas! I've brought presents for everyone!" The all-too-familiar bespectacled countenance of Lieutenant Colonel Maes Hughes poked around the doorframe, but on observing the spectacularly crumpled glower on Roy's face his grin faltered, "What have we got here?"

Apparently, Roy had been mistaken when he thought the situation couldn't possibly get any more embarrassing. His friend entered the office without further preamble, dragging what appeared to be a grocery bag filled with assorted misshapen bricks. He muttered a colorful curse under his breath, and cast a sidelong glance at Hawkeye. She appeared to be completely absorbed in scanning a packet of expense accounts.

"Colonel Mustang is refusing to participate in sacred Holiday tradition!" Breda pointed his new pencil sharpener accusingly.

Hughes assessed the situation, and his expression morphed into an irritating (yet not altogether unexpected) show of smug amusement, "The legendary ladykiller of Amestris can't even manage one peck on the cheek?"

"No way in Hell, Hughes" Roy growled like a baited animal. He did not show up for work this morning just so everyone could have fun at his expense. And he was more than a little terrified of giving in to temptation, "That would be extremely unprofessional. You're supposed to be my friend. You tell them!"

"Well, it is a tradition."

Hawkeye was the one who jumped to his rescue. She rolled her eyes, put on a great show of annoyance, and thrust his personal mountain of paperwork right under his nose, much to his relief. The irony of that did not escape him.

"Enough." Her voice snapped like a whip, "Could everyone please stop distracting the Colonel with this nonsense?"

She was not feigning annoyance. She was exasperated, but not for the reasons stated.

She would never admit it, even to herself, but her pride was wounded by the Colonel's obvious disgust. She didn't expect him to want to kiss her, nor did she particularly want him to want to kiss her, at least not in front of an audience, but the words "No way in Hell" were brutal. Her fists twitched when she realized she was in the perfect position to smack him upside the head for that remark, and she had to put them in her pockets to restrain herself.

Hughes was looking at her quizzically. She didn't like that look. He was reading the embarrassment and injured vanity that she was desperate to conceal. And desperate was an understatement. Riza Hawkeye would rather point a gun to her temple and pull the trigger than admit she cared about her looks or anything people said about her.

How the Hell did Hughes do that?

"Fine." He suddenly made up his mind about something and addressed Roy challengingly, "If you won't kiss her, I will."

Colonel Mustang almost had a mini heart attack at those words. Breda collapsed with a sickening thud, and Havoc was choking on the cigarette he'd swallowed, but nobody was paying them any attention. Surely Hughes hadn't actually said . . .

. . . He had indeed.

He seized her hand and raised his eyebrows playfully before planting a respectful kiss on her knuckles. She hadn't even begun to pull her had back when he whipped a package out of his grocery bag stash and slipped it into her palm with a wink, "Here's your Christmas present, Sugar. Gracia thought you might like it."

Hawkeye turned an interesting shade of--was that pink?--and accepted his offered gift. Roy glared from beneath beetled brows. Maes Hughes was probably the only man alive who could casually fling endearments like 'sugar' at his First Lieutenant and live to see another day. He suspected it was because the man thoroughly disconcerted her, and he knew Hughes was just infectiously friendly like that, but that didn't take the sting out of the sudden and inexplicable pang of jealousy that shot through him.

He also suspected he was bothered far more than she was by the innocent gesture, and he didn't like that. Where had his rational brain disappeared to? Why hadn't it even left a note saying when it would be back?

"Shesh Mustang, you look like someone died in here. Lighten up," Hughes was looming over him now and shoving a large box dressed in wrapping paper into his hands, "It's almost Christmas."

Mustang cultivated many satisfying thoughts that all involved some variation on ordering Maes Hughes to remove his sorry ass from his office at once. But he was already across the room distributing gifts and a copious amount of pictures of his daughter to the other officers.

He glanced at the woman standing serenely beside his desk to make sure everything was still alright between them. She met his eyes unflinchingly, just like she always did and graced him with a secretive smile that was so tiny he almost missed it. Yet, it was a smile meant for his eyes alone, and the intimacy was comforting.

"Mistletoe is poisonous, Sir," She informed him, "That's not conducive to the office environment. It should probably be disposed of immediately."

Effortlessly, she'd not only read his mind, but assuaged all doubts. This time, he actually considered kissing her for her brilliance.

"Thank you, Lieutenant."

A/N : You'd be surprised how little people bother to look at the ceiling when they enter a room. I've had a similar prank played on me. Yay for the word spasmodically! It's definitely not used enough.