Title: Office Help
Series: Fullmetal Alchemist
Warnings: Swearing, Manipulation. Zany office antics.
Alphonse Elric was the office bitch.
Actually, that was vulgar, and needed rephrasing.
Alphonse Elric was the community helper.
It started right at the beginning, when Edward had just claimed the title of Fullmetal and began leaving for long periods of time on missions with his younger brother. Ed was twelve and clearly had no idea how to act within an office setting; more often that not, he was too loud, too wild, and didn't pick up on subtle clues that more experienced people might have. Because of this -- and because Ed also didn't know how to write a mission report very well --, Ed's meetings with Mustang often took a great deal of time. Every so often, the rest of the office could hear Ed's vicious ranting burst out from inside the private room, which caused a series of repressed laughter throughout the crew.
Al always stood by the door during these meetings, perfectly still and silent. At first, Fury had whispered to the others about feeling bad for Ed's little brother, stuck waiting for so long with nothing to do, but no one had the time to cut back on their paperwork to engage the boy in conversation. And Al stood so perfectly still, showing no evidence of boredom within his giant metal frame, that gradually, the workers began to gloss over his presence.
Until Breda stumbled upon a brilliant idea.
It was the kind of idea that happened upon oneself without prelude, snapping to attention and presenting itself diligently. Breda, who thought himself quite clever, was shocked that he hadn't thought of it before, but wasted no time with past regrets. It wouldn't do to dwell, especially when there was a four-foot stack of papers just itching to be filed.
"Alphonse," Breda hissed, trying to catch the boy's attention without notifying Hawkeye. The suit of armor by the door turned toward him and tilted his entire body slightly, a strange mockery of a curious stare. "Com'ere," he whispered.
Al clanked over to him a bit hesitantly; he had picked up on Breda's secretive manner and was trying to sneak, but it was physically impossible to be quiet in a suit of armor. Leaning down to match Breda's height, Al asked, "Yes, Lieutenant Breda, sir?"
If there was one major difference between the Elric brothers, Breda mused, it was that somewhere along the line, Alphonse learned how to be polite. Edward obviously ignored that lesson completely.
"Well, Alphonse," Breda said, clapping a hand on Al's metal shoulder. "Are you bored?"
"Eeeh?" Al asked, and instantly denied, "Oh, no, no! I'm fine, Lieutenant Breda! Really!"
Damn, it was weird watching a suit of armor panic. Incredibly weird.
"Hey, shhh," Breda insisted, noticing Havok giving him a perplexed look from his seat. Fury was watching him too, though it was through a series of glances between various bits of paperwork. Falman, of course, was steadfastly ignoring them all, and Hawkeye (thank goodness) didn't seem to have noticed yet.
"I was just wondering," Breda continue once Al quieted down, "if you'd want to file some papers for me. It'd be a lot of help."
"File?" Al asked, sounding less panicked and more confused. "For the military?"
"...don't I need to be in the military to do stuff like that?"
Breda shook his head kindly, patting Al on the shoulder. "Alphonse, it wouldn't be anything major like what you and your brother do. We're just so swamped now, what with examinations just over and all." Fury had stopped pretending to work and was now staring at him, looking at Breda as though he wasn't sure whether or not to scold him. Hastily, Breda said, "Isn't that right, Fury? We're really busy and Alphonse would be a great help."
Fury blinked, clearly not ready to be invited into the conversation. Al looked over at the smaller man for confirmation.
Breda took the brief moment of silence to add, "After all, it'd give him something to do, instead of just waiting around while his brother presents his reports."
Hint, hint, Breda tried to communicate with his eyes. It wouldn't do for Fury to be against this; Alphonse never liked to make waves.
"Ah," Fury said, looking trapped. "Um, well," he said, "I guess we are kind of busy, Alphonse. It'd be really nice of you to help us out." Immediately afterward, Breda could tell that Fury was embarrassed, clearly not quite as willing to take advantage of Edward's little brother.
"Of course I can help," Al said, and Breda was proud to hear a note of excitement in the boy's tinny voice. It was for Al's own good that Breda was letting him file; it had to have been incredibly boring just standing there, no matter how easy he made it look. Al turned back to him, asking, "What would you like me to file, Lieutenant Breda?"
Havoc had noticed by this point, and was staring at Breda with a mix of jealously and approval. Hawkeye had taken a moment to step outside, and so wasn't around while Breda showed Al how to file the stack of documents properly. Falman made a huff of disapproval, but Al sounded so eager to help out that even the rule-oriented man couldn't deny the boy something to do.
By the time Hawkeye returned, Alphonse was happily filing away in the corner, seemingly ignored by everyone around the office. She glared around the office for a guilty face, but everyone was very carefully engaged in other activities. Sighing, she simply went back to her desk, leaving Al to his task.
Breda, unsurprisingly and with great pride, clocked out early that day.
And despite the telling off that Breda got after the Elric brothers left for their next mission, Al's place as an office helper was set in stone. The next time the boys came back, Havok immediately took it upon himself to gift Al with a bunch of files that needed to be double-checked and corrected with the proper information. Breda continued to "let" Al finish up his filing for him, when the boy was free, and even Fury kindly asked for Al's help filling out some paperwork one day after an alchemical accident had damaged some buildings in their department. Falman resisted for awhile, but when Al asked him if he needed anything, he let Al follow him around on rounds, marking down anything that Falman told him to.
Hawkeye mainly disapproved of it all, especially at first, but even she couldn't deny that Al was a lot of help around the office during the few times that he was there. Especially after one day when Al displayed his ability to make copies through alchemy with a certain array, almost effortlessly duplicating a packet which would have taken ten minutes to rewrite. They had all stared in wonder at the display, and then at Al, who laughed sheepishly and murmured something about his brother and research, clearly not used to such direct attention. It was the first time any of them had ever witnessed a suit of armor blushing.
After that, Hawkeye discreetly approved of Al's assistance, but only if he helped her first.
The real trouble came when Edward, three months and four days later, finally noticed that his brother was being put to work. (In his defense, usually Al noticed when Ed was finishing up and stopped working, so it was really Al's fault that Ed never realized.)
"What's this?!" Ed snapped, coming abruptly out of the office to see Alphonse sorting out some papers based on subject and importance.
Immediately, Al jumped up, waving his hands about dismissively. "It's nothing, Brother! Are you finished? We should go, I bet you're really hungry and y'know, I don't think you've had a shower yet--"
Ed ignored his younger brother, glaring around at the other office workers. "What do you guys think you're doing, taking advantage of my baby brother like this?!" When no one replied, too stunned by Ed's sudden appearance (and all feeling a bit guilty), he continued, "Aren't you guys able to do your own work? I can't believe you'd take advantage of someone just because he's nice enough to offer to help or something!"
"Brother," Al protested, "It's not like that at all..."
Well, actually, Breda thought Ed had hit it pretty well on the mark, but he was not suicidal and kept his thoughts to himself.
"What do you mean? IT'S EXACTLY LIKE THAT--!"
"Ah, Alphonse, you're helping out?" Roy said, stepping out of the office behind Ed. "How very kind of you. It's a shame that such a trait skipped over certain members of your family.
Ed cut off mid-rant, whirling on Roy. "What's THAT suppose to mean?!"
Roy smirked as the rest of the office gave a collective sigh of relief that Roy had redirected Ed's rage. He said, "Merely that I've heard that your mother was exceptionally kind, and it seems that Alphonse takes after her."
Ed sucked in a breath to reply angrily, but found himself unable to scream at a man who had just complimented both his little brother and his late mother in a single breath. Caught in such a predicament, Ed could only stand there, shoulders tense, looking rather at odds with himself.
"C'mon, Brother," Al said, taking the chance to grab Ed before he could regain his stance. "Let's go get some noodles and I'll explain it there, you don't need to yell at everyone for no reason..." Al dragged his brother out the door, leaving the office eerily silent in their absence.
All of the office workers stared at each other.
"Well," Havoc said after a moment, "Damn. Whose up for hiding from Edward?"
"You don't have it bad," Roy muttered, rolling his eyes. "He's coming back tomorrow to get his new orders -- unless Al calms him down, he's going to rant and scream for an hour about all this." Then he gave Hawkeye a look, asking, "Why didn't you tell me Alphonse was helping out around the office?"
"Didn't seem important, sir," Hawkeye replied, flushing. "Forgive me."
"Hm, no matter," Roy murmured, turning around and heading back into the private room. "Well, if he comes back, tell him I've gone home and don't want to see him until tomorrow."
"Yes, sir," Hawkeye replied, echoed by the rest of the workers. Slowly, they began to get back to work. Breda knelt to pick up the papers that Alphonse had left on the floor and sort them himself. For a long time, there was nothing but the scratching of pens and the occasional cough.
"Mustang said they were coming back tomorrow, right?" Breda asked quietly.
"Yeah," Havoc replied.
"...I call Al."
"What?" Havoc hissed. "No fair!"
"It was my turn, Breda!" Fury replied as well, looking affronted. "You had him today!"
"Heheh, too slow, suckers."
"How 'bout we arm wrestle for it?" suggested Havoc, looking irritable.
"How 'bout not?" Breda replied, grinning cheekily.
"That's not fair, Breda," Fury said.
"I agree," put in Falman, "You can't monopolize him."
Breda made a face. "I'm the one who found him!"
"Bullshit," Havoc said, "you didn't find anyone, he was just standing there!"
"And you had him today," Fury added again, "so it's my turn now."
"No, I want him," Havoc said, "I have that huge project."
"I have paperwork too!"
"We all have work, we should just share him."
"I called Al, he gets to help me!"
The argument was cut off by Hawkeye slamming a box of paperwork down on the desk, shocking them all out of conversation. Coolly, the blond woman said, "I believe you all have a lot of paperwork to do now, gentlemen." Her expression left no room for argument.
Resisting the urge to grumble, all of the men returned to their work, not wanting to risk Hawkeye's temper for the sake of their discussion.
"Besides," Hawkeye said, the ghost of a smirk on her lips. "I trump you all. Alphonse will be helping me."
With that, Hawkeye left to pick up some more files, leaving four gaping faces in her wake.