Title: Snow Globes
Author: Jordanna Morgan
Archive Rights: Please request the author's consent.
Characters: Edward, Noa, Alphonse
Setting: First anime. Set in my Tiesverse.
Summary: The Elrics begin a new holiday tradition.
Disclaimer: They belong to Hiromu Arakawa. I'm just playing with them.
Notes: Christmas semi-fluff with the Elric family. Written for the prompt "snowglobe" at Genprompt Bingo.
For Edward Elric, celebrating Christmas as a family was something almost new.
He still had a few tiny slivers of memory—little more than lingering feelings—of a real family Christmas when he and Alphonse were very small. Himself in the arms of their father, and Al in their mother's, both of them being hoisted up to string tinsel across the branches of the Christmas tree. Dad using alchemy to make a grand snow fort in the front yard, and kissing Mother beneath a sprig of mistletoe.
These bygone images were full of a warmth and brightness that was missing later, after Dad went away. Christmas was still good then, bringing all the trappings it was supposed to—gifts and decorations and holiday feasts. However, it was tainted by the wistfulness in Mother's eyes, and the vague sense of what was absent: the approving bearded smile that had met their eager showing-off of their presents, the strong hands they had watched assembling their new toys on the rug.
Later, during the quest that followed their great alchemic sin, Christmas came to feel almost completely foreign to Ed. The brothers remembered the occasion diligently, exchanging whatever small and heartfelt gifts they could pick up, but it was always overshadowed by the feeling that finding a way to make each other whole again was the only gift that could truly matter. With his relentless kindness, Maes Hughes did his best to drag the boys into his family's holiday festivities, and that was nice… but the Hughes home wasn't their home, and there were times when Ed wondered if they would ever have a home of their own again.
Now, ten long years after the Elrics had burned their childhood home to the ground and walked away, everything was different. Ed was recently married to his beautiful Noa, and they shared a fine, large house with Al, in a well-to-do neighborhood in Central. Now the three of them were a family, at peace with the past, and ready to build a new future together.
The excitement of the holidays started with Alphonse. In the past three years, before Noa's arrival in their world, he had already been the one to preserve Christmas. He would drag Ed out to hang lights on the house and hunt for the perfect tree, even though Ed was a little halfhearted. Something still quietly felt as absent as it had when Dad disappeared; but that didn't matter, because after losing so much of his childhood, Al deserved to reclaim as much fun as he could want.
So Ed had simply played along… but now, that vague lack he had felt was filled at last. Now he not only had Al, but a gentle young wife whose difficult, nomadic past meant she had never even lived in a house of her own before, much less taken part in the proper traditions of the holiday herself—and he found he was eager to make her first real Christmas perfect.
Noa was delighted by every moment of the preparation. She loved cooking holiday treats, adding creative twists from her native culture to the usual dishes of the season. She loved it when Al, in his armor form, lifted her up on his shoulders to string lights on the trees in the front yard. She loved having a real fir tree in the living room, the scent and greenery reminding her of the woodlands her Roma family had often traveled through. She loved decorating the inside of the house with holly and ribbons… and she responded more than happily when Edward pulled her to the threshold of their bedroom, to hang a mistletoe sprig of his own above the door.
For Ed, nothing had ever been better than watching the two most precious people in his life dive into Christmas with such joy.
"We should do something special tonight," Al mused in the early hours of Christmas Eve, as the three Elrics sat comfortably in the afterglow of a large and delicious dinner. "Something to mark our first Christmas as a family."
Drowsy and only half-listening, Ed stared with lazy blankness across the living room, at the illuminated tree near the hearth. To him it was much more beautiful now than it had ever been in those three years before Noa joined them, but… for the first time, he noticed that it was a little bit generic. With his former mild disinterest, not much effort had gone into picking their ornaments. They had only a few boxes of plain glass balls and icicles and silver bells. Elicia Hughes gifted them each year with an ornament she made, and Ed had suffered Al to put up a few in the shape of whimsical porcelain cats; but other than that, there was little individuality in the baubles that adorned those evergreen boughs.
"Maybe we should each make a new ornament for the tree," Ed thought out loud, only half-realizing that it was an answer to Al's comment.
The younger brother perked up from his own slouch in his favorite armchair, slightly disrupting the nap of the orange tabby in his lap—the first one among his several cats to lay claim to that resting place after he sat down.
"Yeah, that's an idea… We could make it a yearly tradition! You were thinking of using alchemy, right?"
Ed snorted. "Of course. I don't know about you, but anything I tried to make without alchemy would just be a mess."
"I doubt that," Noa said warmly at Ed's side, snuggling her cheek against his left shoulder. "But I wouldn't mind using alchemy myself. After training so hard to become a State Alchemist, I'm afraid I'm a little out of practice at the handiwork skills I learned growing up."
Al grinned. "Okay, let's do this.—And how about we pick a theme for our ornaments each year?"
"Oh, Al. You know that's just tempting Ed to turn it into a competition."
"I will not!" Ed protested, wrinkling his nose at his wife.
"Let's start with snow globes," Al suggested, ignoring the fond interplay between the couple. "I'll bet we can make some really nice ones, and we have plenty of things lying around that we can use."
In short order, the Elrics gathered around their kitchen table—which they had covered with a few layers of newspaper, just in case any of their equations did not work out as planned. At the table's center stood a variety of raw materials: glass bottles, fragments of scrap metal, and some old pieces of porcelain, as well as a large jar of alchemically-purified water thickened with glycerin for the liquid inside the snow globes. After Ed gleefully suggested keeping their creations a secret until they were finished, they also arranged a few dinner trays to screen their separate work spaces. Noa further contributed hot tea and oatmeal cookies to nibble on between transmutations.
For the next hour, the kitchen was filled with sporadic bursts of alchemic light, punctuated by long and thoughtful pauses as the three creators evaluated their work. There was trading of helpful tips about techniques that worked well, and laughter at a few self-deprecating grumbles over things that didn't quite succeed. In short, the family crafting session was simply fun.
Edward was the last to complete his snow globe. When he was finished, and had judged his work satisfactory at last, he raised his head above the dinner-tray shield that guarded his work.
"Okay—I'm done. Everyone ready for the reveal?"
His brother and his wife both nodded. Alphonse added, "You go first, Ed. Let's see what took you all this time."
With a good-natured mock-glare at Al, Ed raised the screen from his ornament… and his companions blinked at it.
Inside Ed's globe of water-filled glass, there were intricate nested spheres of silver rings and half-circles. These were fashioned with several different textures—rough hammered styles, screw designs, polished ridges—and several were studded with sleek curved teeth that gave them fluid, bat-winged shapes, like the gears in some kind of gothic clockwork. Primal yet graceful, it was a refinement of the decorative flourishes Ed had often added to the weapons he alchemized. When he shook the globe, red glitter sparkled as it drifted through the spheres.
"So what do you think?" Ed demanded, after the silent appraisal had stretched out for a moment.
Al grinned and rolled his eyes slightly. "Oh, yeah, Ed—it's definitely you. And it looks really tough. I just kind of expected something a little more… Christmasy."
"Oh, come on, who says everything for Christmas has to be sleigh bells and gingerbread?" the elder brother retorted, possessively clutching his ornament. "I think it looks awesome."
Noa laughed gently. "Of course it does, Ed. It's kind of beautiful, actually. And Al is right: it suits you so well. I think it's just as it should be if these new ornaments we put on the tree reflect something of ourselves."
"That was exactly my thought when I suggested making them," Ed agreed with a nod.
"So let's see yours next, Al," Noa prompted, turning to her brother-in-law, as her eyes lit with an amused sparkle. "Although I'll bet I can guess something about it already."
The younger brother pinkened. "Uh… yeah," he murmured sheepishly. He unscreened his ornament, revealing that his snow globe contained a very traditional porcelain figure of a tawny kitten hanging out of a Christmas stocking, dusted with iridescent white glitter.
Noa giggled as her suspicion of a feline theme was confirmed—but Ed leaned forward over the table to give the ornament a scrutinizing squint.
"You know, that kind of looks like Lucy…"
"What? No!" Al squeaked, jerking the globe out from under his brother's gaze. "That's not who I was thinking of at all!"
Ed smirked. "Al, you're always thinking about Lucy—and even if you weren't deliberately doing it, it must be subconscious by now. When are you gonna just pop the question and get it over with?"
His face burningly red, Al cradled the ornament against his chest and glowered at his sibling.
Unwilling to tease Al too much about a romance he thoroughly respected and approved of, Ed let him off the hook by looking to Noa. "So how about your snow globe?"
"Oh…" A blush spread across Noa's own cheeks in turn as she dropped her gaze. After a brief hesitation, she slowly revealed her creation—and Ed's breath caught, just a little.
The object at the center of Noa's ornament was made of translucent blue-violet glass, yet it seemed to give off flashes of a faint crimson sheen in the light. Its shape was difficult to define. A vortex, perhaps: a rough circle extending delicate phantom threads whose tips darkened to black, merging with the metallic blue swirls of the globe's glitter. Yet at the center of this ghostly form, in defiance of its subtle shadows, a twisted ring of gold and silver encircled a bright scarlet crystal.
It was not at all what Edward had expected. He thought Noa would draw upon the art of her native culture, evoking nature and the stars and the beauties of singing and dancing; but this piece of work made his chest feel tight and his heart skip a beat.
Alphonse showed no such reaction. Although his eyes also widened in surprise at Noa's uncharacteristically dark handiwork, he only tilted his head and regarded it with curiosity.
"Wow… So, what is it? Or what does it mean?"
A thin, rueful smile crossed Ed's lips. He was glad it stirred no familiarity for his brother.
"It's…" Noa fidgeted. With an awkward movement, she pulled the snow globe over the edge of the table and into her lap, nervously fondling it between her hands. "It's nothing, really. Just—sort of an abstract idea, I suppose." She gave Al a feeble grin. "You see, I was no one to talk about Ed making something that doesn't really have anything to do with Christmas."
"Well, whatever your inspiration was, it's really pretty." Al grinned approvingly at Noa, having apparently taken her abashed behavior as mere shyness about her efforts. Then he glanced at Ed, in search of reinforcement. "Don't you think so, Brother?"
For a second, Ed hesitated… and then he smiled genuinely.
"Yeah. It is."
When the Elrics took their new ornaments into the living room, Noa was reluctant to place hers on the Christmas tree. Not quite swayed by further urging and assurance from Al, she gave in only when Ed himself encouraged her.
Hung upon the evergreen branches, the snow globes did much to enliven the tree, sparkling in its colored lights. Each one was unique, each beautiful in its own way… but Ed found his eyes continually drawn back to Noa's creation, with the complex play of shadow and dark light that made it seem almost alive.
Or maybe he was only imagining that—from memories all too like the ones he was sure had inspired Noa.
The remainder of the evening was a cozy affair of hot chocolate and roasted chestnuts by the fire. Nestled in Ed's arms, Noa soon relaxed, and was further cajoled by Al to sing a few Romani songs. Ed closed his eyes, letting her voice take him back to memories she had shared with him: a much larger family, gathered around a campfire at the center of their circled wagons, singing these same songs together.
Noa had lost so much to the strange and violent convolutions of her past. They both had. And yet, without every one of those tragic twists of fate… they would never have been brought together.
Ed's eyes slid open, and he gazed at Noa's snow globe, seeing it again as if for the first time.
At bedtime, the couple said good night to Alphonse, and he shuffled upstairs—to squirm into a bed half-occupied by sprawling cats. At least they provided plenty of warmth, Ed mused. He wondered how Al's sweetheart would handle the cat situation, whenever Al did finally muster the nerve to ask her to marry him; but then, Lucy was a girl who loved just about everyone and everything. Nurturing as she was, she would no doubt see Al's pets as just a little more practice for future parenthood.
The thought of someday becoming an uncle was definitely too much for Ed to think about at such a late hour. With a wry shake of his head, he turned to go upstairs himself… but his eye was caught once more by Noa's mysterious snow globe on the still-lighted tree. He moved closer to study it again, taking in the inner light within its shadows, and the glistening promise at its jeweled heart.
Presently, Noa stepped in from the kitchen. Ed felt more than heard her pause behind him. After a moment, she continued on across the room, to set a bowl of food from their dinner on the windowsill: a traditional Christmas offering of the Roma for their dead ancestors. To her people, remembering lost loved ones was an important part of the holiday.
But the most important part of all, to them, was the granting of forgiveness.
"Your snow globe," Ed spoke up quietly, as Noa was lighting a few small candles around the offering bowl. "It shows the way you saw the Gate… doesn't it?"
Noa did not turn, but Ed saw the stiffening of her shoulders, the tremble of the match between her fingers.
"…I shouldn't have." Suddenly restless, Noa shook out the flame of the match, and her hands moved to rub together anxiously. "Not when I knew—the terrible things it meant to you. The memories it would bring back."
Moved and intrigued, Ed stepped behind her. Clasping her shoulder gently with his flesh hand, he turned her to face him. She looked up at him with dark and uncertain eyes, her rosy lips quirked in an unasked question.
Ed couldn't help himself. He kissed those lips, and smiled somberly at her.
It had been a long time coming, and now was as good a time as any.
"I don't blame the Gate, Noa. At least not now." He gave a small shrug, and his golden eyes briefly hardened. "The choices that did so much harm—they were all mine. The Gate was just the conduit between cause and effect. If I was ever angry at it, that was only a childish excuse to be less angry at myself. But now I realize… I'm just lucky that in the end, it gave me the chance to undo so much of the wrong I'd done." His gaze grew lighter as the corners of his mouth faintly turned up once more. "And even luckier that it brought you back to me."
Noa's eyes glistened. She threw her arms around her husband and squeezed his ribs tightly, with a soft sound of relief and gladness for his understanding.
"I was frightened of it," she murmured against his chest, tucking her head sweetly under his chin. "Even after all I'd seen, nothing had looked more horrible. But I knew—I could feel—that you were on the other side of it, in this world and this life. I knew it was going to bring me home. And knowing that…"
"Knowing that made it beautiful to you," Ed concluded for her, in little more than a whisper, as his arms enfolded her in turn.
He felt her nod. "Yes."
"And the part in the center? The red crystal?" He frowned. "That's not—"
"Oh no. It doesn't stand for the Philosopher's Stone. The Gate may not be evil in itself… but that was." She shuddered. Ed felt heartsick at the thought of what she must have felt when she transmuted the Stone within herself, sensing the stolen lives it contained; yet when she lifted her head to meet his eyes, she was smiling. "The red crystal represents what was waiting for me here. Your fiery spirit—framed in gold and silver." Slim brown fingers brushed mischievously against Ed's bangs, and trailed down the steel of his right arm through his sleeve.
Ed's eyebrows arched in momentary surprise, and he chuckled. "I think you're the only person who'd ever describe me that poetically."
"The Roma are a romantic people." Noa tossed her head slightly, with an impish glitter in her eyes. "Now, we could stand here discussing the symbolism of Al's strangely familiar kitten ornament, or that ball of spikes you made—"
"Ball of spikes? If I remember correctly, you were the one defending it to Al!" Ed spluttered… but his protest was cut short by the touch of warm lips against his own.
"…Or we could go up to our room, and explore those native romantic impulses of mine more deeply."
That proposal neatly settled the matter. With a wolfish smile, Ed swept Noa into his arms, and carried her up the stairs—passing by the glow of the Christmas tree, with the three new ornaments that hung close together on its branches.
© 2014 Jordanna Morgan