Title: Loophole
Author: Jordanna Morgan (librarie@jordanna.net)
Archive Rights: Please request the author’s consent.
Rating/Warnings: G.
Characters: Roy and Ed.
Setting: General.
Summary: Ed decides Al deserves his due. Mustang is not amused.
Disclaimer: They belong to the genius of Hiromu Arakawa. I’m simply playing with them.
Notes: Just an odd idea that dropped in on me and wouldn’t go away. I’m aware of some major flaws in the loophole Ed cites, so let’s simply call this one an amusing bit of Roy-Ed antagonism, rather than an effort at any strategic brilliance on my part. *snerk*

 

Loophole

 

It was official: Fullmetal was a pain in the neck, and assorted other places.

This was hardly news to Colonel Roy Mustang. Nevertheless, he did have to marvel at the increasingly creative ways Edward Elric devised to plague him.

“We’ve been through this before, Ed,” Roy sighed, massaging his temples. He hadn’t bothered to look up from the overflowing paperwork on his desk for the last three minutes. “Al can’t become a State Alchemist, because his taking the exam would expose his situation and the things you’ve done. There’s no getting around it.”

“That isn’t what I’m talking about. Haven’t you been listening?”

Roy finally raised his eyes to the teenager across the desk from him. Ed’s lithe frame was braced as if for a full-on assault, his arms folded firmly over his chest. The searing glare he focused on Roy would have set other people squirming.

“The last thing I want is for Al to be a State Alchemist on your leash,” he elaborated, in a clenched-teeth snarl. “What I said is that I want you to pay him, even though he doesn’t have any official standing with the military.”

Alright, so maybe Roy really hadn’t been listening all that attentively before. He managed to limit his surprise to a mere blink, staring dubiously at his nominal subordinate.

“In other words, you want the military to pay someone who isn’t even in its service,” he simplified. “I wouldn’t exactly call that fair.”

“What isn’t fair is you sitting back and taking advantage of two alchemists for the price of one!” Ed leaned over the desk, planting his hands on the scant clear space atop its bureaucratically snowed-under surface—yet surprisingly, his voice grew softer. “Colonel, you know the way we operate. I may never have asked it of him… but Al and I are a team. He works and fights just as hard as I do, and he suffers more. He deserves his own compensation for that.”

There was something in those words, in Fullmetal’s not-quite-quivering voice, that made Roy feel an unexpected twinge. The reaction was not at all welcome, and to obscure it, he brusquely returned his attention to his reports.

“The military doesn’t contract with alchemists from outside its ranks. That’s the way we operate. Paying the State Alchemists who are properly certified is expensive enough—and on that note, you already get paid far more than enough to support two people. Besides, it’s not really as if Al has any living expenses to worry about.”

“He does too have expenses,” Ed shot back, with a trace of youthful petulance. “Train fares. Chalk for transmutation circles. Cleaning oil for his armor. Those may be little things, but he still doesn’t like letting me pay for them. Not to mention buying food for two when we’re traveling, just so people won’t ask questions.”

“From what I hear, you don’t have any trouble putting away that food all by yourself.” Roy leered at Ed’s slight figure. “Though I can’t imagine where you’re putting it.”

He expected to enjoy one of Fullmetal’s usual entertaining detonations, but it never came. Ed’s gloved fingers curled into fists on the desk, as if an outburst was building… and then he sharply pulled away.

“I’m not finished with this, Colonel,” he said over his shoulder in a low voice, and the door shut much too quietly behind him as he left.

Roy would never have admitted it, but he was just a little nervous for the rest of the day.

 

The other shoe dropped at nine-thirty the next morning, when Ed barged into the Colonel’s office without knocking.

Considering this renewed siege was not unexpected, Roy barely afforded him a glance—until a thousand-page book rudely thudded down onto the personnel review in front of him. His eyes focused automatically on the title: Military Pay Regulations, Section D.

He looked up, and Fullmetal smirked at him… in a way that reminded him uneasily of himself.

Near the back of the book, a sheet of paper was tucked between the pages. Roy flipped back to it, glanced over the text it was marking, and then examined the paper itself with increasing incredulity. It was an authorization form for the Accounting Department, neatly made out and awaiting his signature.

Rarely did Roy Mustang find himself at a loss for words, even against Edward Elric; but this was one of those times.

Disabled Soldiers’ Dependents Allowance?” he quoted dumbly.

“It’s called a loophole, Colonel Stickler.” Ed’s amber eyes hardened. “You know how those work, don’t you?”

Roy took a deep, steadying breath. He read through the clause once, and then read it again.

“But this extra stipend is meant for crippled veterans who have a dependent minor to care for.” He frowned abruptly. “…Wait a minute, did you seriously read the entire military pay regulations in one night?”

“I would be crippled without my automail,” Ed growled with startlingly ruthless honesty, clasping his hand over his right shoulder. “And after all, since you won’t pay Al in his own right… that makes him my dependent minor.”

The Colonel’s mouth closed with an almost audible snap, and he stared at his young prodigy.

It was more than the bizarre ingenuity of the challenge that gave Roy pause. Beneath the twisted logic, Ed’s words betrayed just how much this matter meant to him. His first admission had required a painful humility… and the last was spoken with the fierce pride of an elder brother’s devotion.

There was really nothing funny about it; but Roy began laughing, so hard that he shook, and he could barely scrawl his name upon the paper.


© 2010 Jordanna Morgan