Notes: Yes, they're celebrating Christmas. Pardon me while I whip out my artistic license. I guess it's sort of like modern Christmasto some people- you know, where it's lost all religious significance, but remains as a tradition. So, yeah.


"O Holy Night"


They'd declared that the alchemists were to have the night off. They were only starting to learn that the Ishvarites were no fools, for all their strangeness, and so the unfortunate among the lower ranks were left to stand guard. But the alchemists and some of the other higher-ups were free from fighting, free from guard duty – but normal rules still applied. They weren't to leave the military complex without direct permission, no, and they were under no circumstances to partake of any sort of alcoholic beverages (and each regulation was, of course, obeyed to the very letter). But there was a nice dinner that night, and they were free to stay in their rooms, and pore over letters from their families, and to pretend that it was snow piled in drifts that reached the window.

Roy had been alone with his letters and his fantasies for some time before Kimbley came in. Surprisingly, Crimson was by no means smashed. Well, he was perverse, Kimbley: most lived in moderation and observed the holidays with a bit of tippling; it would just make sense for him to live raucously and observe the holidays with restraint.

Still, he looked almost pensive, there, as he shrugged his jacket onto the floor. Did Kimbley even think about things? – Was he capable of it?

"Have fun?" Roy asked, looking at his letter but watching Crimson. The blurred peripheral figure stood still a moment, then climbed up to the top bunk without a word. Was he drunk, after all, and just moody? Hard to tell.

"So?" Roy tried again. "Any news?"

"From who?" Kimbley asked. Didn't sound drunk.

"Family? Girlfriend? Whoever."

"No."

"Oh." Roy gave up, deciding that it would be more prudent, perhaps, to read his grandmother's letter for the third time.

Someone knocked on the door and, without even waiting for a "Come in," poked his familiar head inside. "Neither of them carousing!" Maes mock-gasped. "I think I shall die."

"We all will," Roy murmured, barely looking up.

"Biggest drunks in the entirety of Amestris...Got you something, Kimbley."

There was a creak above Roy's head. "Yeah?" Crimson asked, sounding more like himself.

"For your eggnog. Catch." Maes drew a gaudily wrapped something from behind his back and tossed it upwards.

"I hate eggnog," Kimbley said over the crinkling of paper. A moment later, the gift's wrapping fell to the floor, and Crimson whistled.

"Well, do you hate straight rum?" Maes grinned.

A slosh from above, a sigh, and Kimbley said wetly, "Not when it's this good."

Maes laughed and pulled out the chair at Roy's desk. "So, what did you get me?"

A pause. "Want some?"

"You're so thoughtful," Maes said, reaching up for the bottle. He took a swig, then held it out. "Roy?"

He was about to turn the offer down when Kimbley said, "He can't have any." So he grabbed the rum and drained as much as he could, just to spite his roommate. Not the brightest thing he'd done.

"Wow," he managed, after he'd recovered from the surprise burn. "Wow," he repeated, after the alcohol in it hit him. "That's good," he managed, giving the rum back to Maes. "I didn't think you liked Kimbley enough for stuff like that."

"I don't," Maes said cheerfully. "I just couldn't find anything crappier."

"Thanks, Hughes," Kimbley said.

"Oh, don't be insulted."

"Don't worry," Crimson said jovially. "I don't hold you in nearly high enough regard to be insulted by you."

"Even after I gave you that nice present?"

"Sorry, but yes."

Maes grunted, then stuck his unshaven face into Roy's personal space. "Are you planning on coming out of your cave at any point?"

"It's winter," Roy shot back. "I'm hibernating."

"Rawr. Well, mama-bear, when you feel like emerging, I have some roots you can eat."

"Roots?" Roy asked, folding up his letter and tucking it below his blanket.

"I don't know. What do bears eat?"

"Children?" Roy suggested. He pulled himself out of his bed, and waited a moment while his head swam a little. "Wow. Really good rum." He stood, then collapsed into the chair at Kimbley's desk.

"Don't sit there," Kimbley said. He was sitting cross-legged on his bed, playing with the corner of the label on his rum and every once in a while taking another little swig from it.

"What, am I gonna get butt-germs on it?" Roy snorted.

"Yeah." Kimbley didn't even look up. "All over, and I'll have to spray it with bleach. They're omnivores, by the way," he added abruptly. "Bears. Don't eat people, but they'll sometimes eat livestock."

"Weird," Roy commented.

"What?"

"Of all the people in this room, you were the last one I expected to know anything about wilderness stuff."

"And yet I'm the first one who does." He pointed first to the other two, then himself. "City boy, city boy, country boy."

"Remarkable." Roy turned to Maes. "This is more than I've heard about him over the whole last six months."

"What?" He spread his tattooed palms. Roy avoided looking at them. "I'm an open book to you, Mustang. Ask, and ye shall be told."

"That's a lie."

"No. Go on. Ask me a question."

"Maes? Any questions for Crimson?"

"This," Maes announced, "is really awkward and I think we should move on."

"I'm curious," Roy admitted. "Why is it that you love killing so much?"

Kimbley shrugged, leaning against the wall behind him and smiling a broad smile. "Comes naturally to me."

"But why do you love it?"

"Roy – " Maes began, but Kimbley interrupted him.

"Isn't that reason enough?" he asked. "Why do you love women?"

"Because – I do."

"You love them because they're easy."

"Not all of them," Roy replied ruefully.

"I don't mean easy in that sense. The thing is, you can always work with 'em. You have the particular skill set to make 'em react to you, always. Maybe it'll be a slap, or whatever, but you know that deep down they wouldn't react with a slap if they weren't secretly lusting after you, or whatever. You don't have to work at it. It's easy. It's nice. That's how it is with me."

"That's why you kill?" Roy asked weakly.

"We all kill," Crimson replied, and held out the rum. Roy took it and again swallowed as much as he could manage. It didn't help his stomach as much as he had anticipated. It was silent save for the hiss of sand outside for several awful moments before Maes clapped his hands.

"Well!" he announced cheerily. "I promised you a present, and so..."

Roy shook his head, handed the rum to Maes, and knelt down to reach under his bed. "Mine first."

"Ohh, Roy old boy, you shouldn't have, really – "

Roy pulled out his gift and pushed it into his friend's hands. "Yes, I should have." He waited a moment for his head to clear, then slid back into his chair.

Maes beamed as soon as he hefted it in his hands. "I think I know what this is." He tore off a corner of the paper and laughed. "Definitely."

Roy shrugged. "At great personal expense...And I don't mean monetary; I'm anticipating the expense to come – "

Maes laughed again and flipped open the front cover of the photo album, then looked through the first few pages. Then he looked back up at Roy, grinned, and punched him on the shoulder. "This is...wow."

"I mailed Gracia, and she sent me a lot of pictures for it. The second half is empty, though. For you to fill it up. When you have kids or whatever, though it's a horrifying thought."

"You know you'll love it," Maes laughed. "Looking back when we're old and gray, you unable to run away 'cause your legs are too weak – "

"Popping pills just to make the pain stop – "

"Speaking of which..." Maes reached into his pocket and pulled out a pill bottle. "Merry Christmas."

"My present?" Roy asked, uncertain of what it was or how he was to react.

"Yup," Maes said quietly.

He turned it over. "Sleeping pills," he said. He forced a chuckle and a guess. "For when it all becomes too much...?"

"Sleeping pills for sleep, doofus. I enjoy tormenting you too much to give you something to off yourself with." Maes laughed; it sounded anxious. "A certain someone told me that you weren't sleeping well, so...Alcohol doesn't work like these do. It gets you to sleep, but it doesn't help you rest. These do." He watched Roy a bit more, then said, "I considered giving them to you on a day that wasn't so damn cheerful, but I just got them yesterday, so, I figured, why the hell not."

"Who told you I wasn't sleeping?" Roy asked quietly. He looked up; Kimbley was raising his hand sardonically – was it possible to raise your hand sardonically? Well, if it was, he was.

"Oh," Roy said, and cleared his throat. "Well, thank you. Both of you."

"Keep them hidden," Maes advised. "They're slightly black-market. Slightly."

"Slightly," Roy repeated. "Right. Thank you."

"Use them. I hate seeing you so exhausted." Maes wrinkled his nose. "I also hate the fact that you didn't see fit to tell me that you were so exhausted."

"It hasn't been all that bad."

"It's been really bad," Kimbley translated.

"Why?"

"Why didn't I tell you, or..."

"I know why you didn't tell me – why haven't you been sleeping?"

"Too much to do."

"Guilty conscience," Kimbley said.

"Do you mind?" Roy snapped.

"Yes," Kimbley said calmly. "I've never understood why, really, but he has one." He tore off a corner of the bottle's label, stuck it in his mouth, and chewed. "They're not people, you know."

"That's disgusting," Roy said. He might have been referring to the bad habit or to the words; he wasn't sure.

"They're not." Kimbley washed the paper down with a swig of rum. "Look – we had to post guards today. They'd attack us today. It's a holy day."

"We attacked them during their holy week."

"That was different," Kimbley said and leaned his head back. "There were so many stories we were told about the horrors of war, weren't there? All about how each side discovered the other's humanity on Christmas, and yet went back to their war the next day. Do you remember the one about the singing in the trenches, Flame?"

"Yes."

"About how they knew that their enemies were human, because they all knew the same song. Different languages, but the same song. They say it was haunting, floating out over the snow. They say it could stir a man's soul." Kimbley smirked. "But I don't hear them singing tonight – do you?"

"We don't sing, Kimbley."

"You and I, maybe. Doesn't mean we don't know the songs. We'd recognize the angels' voices, if it came down to it. Time came, we'd answer the appeal for salvation. Them, though – " He leaned down, wrenched at the latch keeping the window closed and pulled it toward himself so that it fell a bit inwards. "Heathens!" he shouted out, and laughed. Roy glanced over; Maes gave him a comforting little knock on the shoulder.

Finally, Crimson's mirth gave out, and he rested, slumped over, fingers trailing down the window, tilted toward him. "It's cold out there," he sighed.

"Like home?" Roy asked.

"You wouldn't think it would be so very much like home," Kimbley said. "You would think..." What they would think, they never found out. "I want to get to sleep. Go away."

"It's still early."

"I'm tired," Kimbley said, and resolutely pushed the window shut and latched it. "If you're staying up, go away."

Maes stretched. "Well, thanks for letting me borrow your room, Kimbley. Roy? Want to move the operations to my place?"

"Mm. No, thank you. I think I'll turn in myself."

"Okay. See you tomorrow." Gleefully, Maes snatched up his photo album. "In the meantime, with this I shall spread joy."

"Great. We won't be able to sleep, what with the screaming."

"Screams of joy," Maes said, snickering. "Sleep well, kids."

"Thanks, Unka Maes," Roy said sarcastically. His friend laughed as he left.

Kimbley didn't say anything else as Roy prepared himself for bed; didn't say anything as Roy carefully downed a pill, reading and re-reading the label several times to make sure the combination of what he had consumed wouldn't kill him. Then he lay down, and – maybe it was the drugs, maybe the rum, but, when his eyes closed, it did feel like home. The air smelled like spice, like cookies and rum and the phantom of pine. The blankets weighed heavily on his chest, pressing like love. Inside, someone sang a carol, and outside, through the chill air, with a bit of imagination, the sand's hiss sounded like wind over snow. For one moment...for one moment, he might have been facing the prospect of a dawn new and glorious, indeed. But snow was snow, and sand was sand; in the end, he was miles away, with blood on his gloves.

But Maes had given to him, at least, dreamless sleep. For that, he had Roy's unending thanks.