Title: The Office Pool
Author: Jordanna Morgan
Archive Rights: Please request the author's consent.
Characters: Ed, Al, and the denizens of Mustang's office.
Summary: Ed learns that his pain is often somebody else's gain.
Disclaimer: They belong to Hiromu Arakawa. I'm just playing with them.
Notes: Just some random silliness. Because, you know, Mustang's posse deserves a beatdown now and then.
"You're limping, Brother," Alphonse observed disapprovingly at Edward's side, as they climbed the steps of Eastern Command.
Immediately and predictably, Ed forced his stiff gait to relax. "Am not."
"Ed, you may have fooled the doctors, but I know you shouldn't even be out of the hospital yet."
"I'm perfectly fine, Al! Besides, how is anybody supposed to recover on that slop they call food? I'm telling you, getting out of there was an act of self-preservation!"
"Just because they tried to give you milk..."
"Forget it, will you?" Pausing on the top step, Ed heaved a sigh. Then he smiled up at Al's inscrutable metal face in an unspoken half-apology. "But seriously, I'm hungry for anything that doesn't taste like it came out of an I.V. bag. How about getting me some lunch while I check in with Mustang?"
Al approximated a put-upon sigh. "Oh, alright - but only so you'll spend less time walking around on that leg. Just don't get in a fight with the Colonel, okay?"
"What's there to fight about? We did his latest dirty work for him, and now he owes us that lead on the Philosopher's Stone he bribed us with. After what I've just been through, he'll know better than to play any stupid games." Ed beamed confidently. "He'll give up the information, and I'll be down here waiting before you even get back. Simple."
"Uh-huh," Al murmured, patently unconvinced, and clattered off down the steps before Ed could make any defensive retort.
Stymied, Ed rolled his eyes and passed through the door of the building - not bothering now to suppress the hitch in his step. His organic right leg did still ache to the bone, and the healing cuts along his left ribs were itching something fierce under their bandages. That dealer who had been selling alchemically-made replicas as "authentic" antiques was a lightweight, but the thugs working for him weren't...
Without seeing anyone except a few low-ranking office flunkies, Ed made his way upstairs to Colonel Mustang's office. Outside the door, he paused for a moment, to collect his aplomb and put together a pretense of perfect health... but just as he was reaching for the doorknob, voices from the other side froze him where he stood.
"So the kid's out of the hospital, huh?" It was the husky voice of Lieutenant Breda. "I'm betting again. Anybody else in?"
Jean Havoc answered. "Abso-friggin'-lutely. This last time paid for my date."
"You just got lucky..."
"Actually, I did," Havoc said blithely, and the mere sound of the smirk in his voice was somehow vulgar.
Breda snorted in disgust. "How 'bout you, Fuery? Taking a chance, or are you just gonna hold the money as usual?"
One could almost hear the squirm that preceded Master Sergeant Fuery's reply. "I dunno, betting on when somebody's gonna get hurt just... doesn't seem right, you know?"
"What's the problem?" Breda fired back. "The way Ed is, you know it's gonna happen anyway. It's just a matter of time. No harm guessing - or making some cash off your guess."
Ed's jaw dropped. They were betting on how long it would take for him to be injured?
A wave of incredulity swept over him, followed instantly by righteous wrath. He bared his teeth and placed his hand on the doorknob, with the intent of confronting Mustang's gang of lowlife lackeys about their apparent hobby; but the next words from beyond the door arrested his movements.
"Fuery is right." It was the cool voice of Lieutenant Hawkeye. "Betting on the injuries of another human being is unethical, and distasteful."
Relaxing just a little, Ed added another favorable mark to his mental record of Hawkeye. At least somebody in there has a brain...
His blood pressure climbed again when Warrant Officer Falman spoke up. "In fact, I believe I'll place a wager this time. After a thorough study of Ed's record, I've calculated the mathematical average for the period of time between his serious injuries."
"Ooh, give!" Breda exclaimed.
Falman sounded indignant. "Of course not. Why would I waste my advantage?"
"I've got a question," Fuery piped up. "How exactly do you define a serious injury, anyway? The length of his hospital stay, or just the amount of blood loss or something?"
Havc spoke. "Can't figure it just from time in the hospital. You know Ed. He'll make a hole in the wall and leave when he can still barely walk."
"You know, it might be useful to define some exact parameters for the degree of injury, at that," Falman mused. "It would make the betting more transparent, and eliminate any conflicts over the winner."
Ed pressed his gloved automail hand over his eyes. His head was spinning. These jokers were making money from his misfortunes - and they were dead serious about the whole thing. They were refining their system as they merrily anticipated his next brush with death.
But surely there were regulations against something so reprehensible. Surely they would be punished if their superiors got wind of it. Surely even Mustang must not have known; he was a louse, but he couldn't possibly save face as a commander if he let this kind of thing go on with his subordinates. Right?
Even as Ed seized desperately at that thought, he heard the inner office door creak open, and the loud discussion of how to categorize injuries fell off into a long and pregnant pause.
"You've been betting on how long it will be until Fullmetal is wounded again, haven't you?" Colonel Mustang asked his men gravely.
The young alchemist drew a breath and nodded to himself. Mustang would straighten them out now. He had to.
"They have, sir," Hawkeye answered for the men, sounding properly disgusted.
Another weighty silence passed before Mustang spoke, his voice accompanied by the soft rustling of something papery.
"I've got a thousand sens that says he won't last the week."
Edward didn't hear anything more after that.
In fact, nobody said anything more after that... what with the explosive sound of the door being kicked in by an automail leg, and the raging of the diminutive blond thunderstorm that burst upon the room, and the very ominous clap that preceded mass destruction.
Mustang later found that several cash notes belonging to him had disappeared from Fuery's desk in the chaos. He was reluctant to bring up the subject of the loss... mostly because of the way Hawkeye looked at him when he even thought about it. Thus, he never did learn what had happened to the money.
However, it is a fact that when Ed met his brother shortly afterward - his limp a bit more pronounced, but otherwise looking highly pleased with himself - he dismissed the sandwich Al had brought him, and made straight for the finest restaurant in East City.
Colonel Mustang and his staff never made wagers concerning injuries to fellow officers again.
They stuck to betting on the amount of collateral damage Ed would create during his missions, instead.
2010 Jordanna Morgan