"SO." Edward Elric spat, glaring at the ream of papers with the sort of radiant disdain usually reserved for his commanding officer. "If I get THIS signed off tomorrow, and THIS form filled out by Thursday, there's still a chance the proposal will go through by next week."
"But the postmark has to be no later than Wednesday!" Alphonse reminded, ever vigilant. "And if you don't get section 5-C to the grounds keeping staff before the end of the day tomorrow, you won't be able to use the courtyard to begin with."
Edward painted the air with some extremely colorful words, and Alphonse rapped his knuckles as sharply as he dared.
"Language, brother!" He hissed. "We're in the library!"
"I KNOW we're in the fucking library—OW!" Edward sulked and sucked on his fingers and pencil alike. "You don't have to hit so hard."
A short silence followed, until Edward saw fit to prompt his brother with an elbow.
"What? Oh, sorry about your hand." Alphonse replied, distracted. It felt like he had been immersed in dashed lines and type-text for aeons, and he was quite certain that if he'd had eyelids they would have been full of them—ellipses burned into his retinas like miniaturized suns.
"Do you have that expense report yet?" He asked, waving his hand blindly in his brother's general direction. Edward made a discontented noise but offered up some pages.
"I think so." His sibling sounded dubious. "We didn't exactly keep the receipts, you know."
Alphonse nodded, peeled back the cover from the lamentably thin accounting book and began to read. His brother was brilliant at many things, but finances were not one of them. It wasn't the forms that were so bad, really—the finer points of array design bred an eye for detail into most alchemists—it was remembering to plan things out so that they HAD details to put into them.
"Brother." Alphonse sighed, and clanked his palm noisily into his forehead—another one of those all too useless tics he hadn't quite learned to suppress—"Two train tickets, a cup of coffee, and a keychain come out to eight hundred thousand cens?"
"Well, we only had two thousand cens left, so I figured..."
"Was that the place we had to replace the side of the gift shop?"
He turned another page.
"And in Selene we expensed six meals, a pair of underwear, two nights at the Red Griffon, and a bathhouse?!"
"That was where mob was laying an ambush, remember?"
"Ambush?! They were in the shower!"
"It was a pre-emptive ambush, okay? Dammit Al, can we drop it already? I've been over this a hundred million times with the shit-head..."
"Really. And did he actually agree with you at any point, or did he just let it slide so you'd stop trying to convince yourself?"
His sibling almost visibly deflated, crumpling into a red and black blob that would have looked pitiful if he didn't have it so incredibly coming to him.
"...they're never going to buy it, are they." Edward lamented, burying his face into his arms.
"Bingo." Alphonse nodded sagely, relished in the sound of his own grating metal. Sometimes, victory was sweet.
Edward whined high in his throat, but Alphonse was impervious.
"I told you to pay attention to the sums." He said. "We're going to have to fudge to make up for where you forgot the stubs."
"You're going to have to do these all again."
His brother slipped off his chair in protest and flopped heavily beneath the table, shed the passing stares like water. Alphonse had the presence of mind to look embarrassed for his brother and crouched down to conceal him from any curious librarians.
"Brother, come on, you're embarrassing me!"
"Soooo hopeless..." Edward complained, making a great show of rolling around helplessly. "Mountains and mountains of oceans of papers..." He made gagging noises as if drowning.
"You could always, you know, try not procrastinating." Alphonse snorted. "It's not as if you had a year to do this or anything."
"Please Al!" His sibling pleaded melodramatically and clutched at his chest, the world's most unconvincing diva. "Have some sympathy for your poor older brother, who faces Certain Doom by Papercut!" Something about his brother's diminutive form lazing about on the floor though, made him seem even less knightly than he usually was.
"Oh really?" Alphonse giggled, for once unable to resist the temptation. "I seem to recall you've faced Certain Doom over a lot...less."
He pulled his arms up over his head and stretched.
The insult took a few seconds to properly percolate in, but when it did, Edward rewarded them all with a display that certainly got him off the floor. In fact, one might say he veritably hit the roof.
He began to actually feel legitimately sorry for his sibling around three hours later, when it began to sink in that not only had they been stuck filling out forms for the past three hours, they weren't going anywhere soon either. Edward was rubbing at his eyes and making a valiant effort not to complain, but it was written in every line of his face—I'm hungry. I'm cranky. I want to shove this tax form right up the Colonel's [censored].
Mostly, I'm ready to pass out.
"Come on, brother. You go take a break." Alphonse murmured, giving his brother a gentle nudge toward the rug. He had long given up the idea that his brother would sleep in a bed of his own volition. Edward was too tough to call it quits like a sane human being, heavens no. The trick was to get him to pre-sleep somewhere convenient, and then cart him off when he couldn't protest.
Predictably, Edward refused to relinquish the ledger, though. For all he liked to whine, he liked to give up even less.
"'malmos'dun." Edward grumbled through his teeth. This was brother-speak for "I'm too stubborn to put the bloody book down."
Alphonse didn't fight him for it—that would only wake his brother up—and simply stood back and waited. Edward might be good at worrying over little details, but his human eyes got tired...and it did not take long before they slid closed completely. Alphonse waited until his brother's breaths had slowed to around six breaths a minute (the surest way to be sure he was actually out), and then gently, gently slid the ledger out of his brother's slack hands. He would have given anything, really, to be able to put his life on pause the way his brother just did. But the fifteenth loomed over both of them like Judgment Day, and there was no rest for the wicked.
It was going to be a long, frustrating night.