Merry Roymas to all, and to all a good night. n.n The ending of this piece (which seems to have brought me to the 150-story mark, good God) seems a bit odd to me, but I didn't want to put it off any longer. I hope you enjoy it nonetheless.

Thanks to Naomi for her assistance and advice. :)

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Grey Christmas

by Shimegami-chan

w w w . shimegami . com / ichijouji

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Christmas on the front lines was even more removed from civilian life than Riza had first imagined.

The fighting had fallen silent, all flames but the main bonfire extinguished for the night, but ashes and sand still rained from the sky, carried by the wind to create small grey blizzards. The festivities had long overtaken the women in Riza's platoon of marksmen. The camp area was sparesly decorated with tinsel and 'snow' made of shredded cotton while the girls huddled by the fire and reminisced of home.

She, Riza, had retreated into her one-man tent long before dusk and was laboring over an embroidered sigil in blood-red thread. She could not afford any Christmas gift that could not be made by her own hands - none of them could. Though her hands were trained to load rifles, not a needle and thread, she handled the equipment with natural skill.

The gift, she hoped, would serve purposes both practical and self-indulgent. Though she and its recipiant were now separated by the barrier of rank and rarely spoke as friends rather than officer-and-subordinate, she recognized opportunity when she saw it.

She did not necessarily admit to herself that part of the reason for the gift was to see him smile, as he rarely did these days.

The gloves were ones that she used for drill squad back home, clean white parade accessories with which to hold her rifle, back when it was more of a decoration than a weapon. The thread had been unraveled from the end of her favorite woolen scarf. Flint - the secret to making the gloves do what they were supposed to, she hoped - had been collected from the spare lighters of various corporals in her platoon, renedered useless without a steady supply of cigarettes.

She had devised the idea for the gloves herself, after seeing the Flame Alchemist perform his trademarked fireworks for the first time. He did this by drawing a circle upon the gound with whatever was handy and applying fire, usually with a lighter but occasionally from an impromptu flint of two stones struck together. From there, he manipulated the oxygen molecules in the air, forcing it to combust.

Her idea, if it worked, would eliminate the need for lighters and stones. Here was a ready supply of flint, carefully stitched into spaces cut in the thumb and center fingers of both gloves, bound to the fabric by thread and what little adhesive Riza had access to. The transmutation circle, though her hand was unskilled at crafting it, was flawless and indelible. She had seen many alchemists with circles simply tattooed on their hands, but he had never done that - he always drew it himself when it was needed. She hoped that her gift would help rather than hinder that determination. To prevent the gloves' destruction and protect his hands from the fire he created, She had even applied a coating of a fireproof substance made for her by Sergeant Armstrong, another promising soon-to-be alchemist under Major Mustang's command.

When at last the final stitch completed the tail of the salamander, she withdrew her needle and cut the thread with a knife, laying it in the nearby lantern's light. It was almost midnight - almost time. He would be out there by the fire, ever vigilant as he watched over the company's festivities, perhaps partaking in the sweets sent to Warrant Officer Hughes by his girlfriend. He would not expect her to come visit so late, especially not bearing a gift...but Riza Hawkeye was not one who shied away from important tasks. She extinguished the lantern and paused in the darkness.

The gloves lay in her lap, almost heavy with expectancy. She put them on her hands - they felt comfortable and familiar, even with the strange new markings, bumps on the pads of the fabric. She snapped her fingers, feeling the flints grate against each other with satisfaction. Sparks fizzled and died with each precise strike. Perfect.

Riza crawled out of her tent and stood, back aching from hours of stillness, and observed the two duty officers stationed by the main campfire. He was there, along with Major Archer, both in full uniform and trenchcoats to stave off the nighttime desert chill. She approached him, moving silently through the gatherings of people until she stood by his side with gloves in hand, ashes gathering in her hair like so many snowflakes. "Merry christmas, sir. This is for you."

He turned, surprised to hear her voice at his ear. "Sergeant-Major Hawkeye."

"I hope they fit." She pressed the bundle of fabric into his hands and turned her face away, cheeks slightly reddened.

He was surprised but accepted the gift graciously, trying not to draw the attention of the other officer. "I--thank you. I didn't think to get you anything, I'm sorry..."

"It's not necessary, sir, so long as you like them."

He was already pulling the gloves onto his hands, flexing his fingers inside the white material. "A transmutation circle?" It seemed to glow in the firelight.

"You'll know soon enough what they can do. I hope you find them useful." She hid her own smile and threw a sharp salute, turning to return to her tent for the night. "Merry christmas, sir."

He returned the salute. "Thank you for the gift, Sergeant-Major. I'll put them to good use."

"Good night, sir." She began to hurry back to the warmth of her tent, leaving the young officer watching her retreating back.

"Hawkeye! Uh--" His voice fell silent before she had yet reached sanctuary, and she paused at the entrance to the tent. "Well--merry christmas. Thank you, again."

She smiled and fled.

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The next morning, one of the female NCOs made the call to awaken the company, and paused outside Riza's tent. "Sergeant-Major, it seems as though Santa couldn't find your chimney."

"Hmm?" Riza paused in the middle of lacing up her right boot.

"Here." The other sergeant stuck her hand into the tent, holding out something small and brown. Riza accepted it and thanked her, turning it over on her palm. She might have thought the object had been lost by another soldier, if not for the tag attached with her name written on it in a familiar scrawl.

It was a hairclip with minimal design, brown in color except for the metal backing. Simple and practical. It had probably been transmuted out of sand and shells, but Riza didn't mind.

She secured her hair with the clip and emerged from her tent into the Ishbal morning, the sun burning brightly overhead. Mustang and Archer stood near the dying fire, still on duty, watching the platoons line up for another day.

The Major caught her eye, the gloves she had crafted still on his hands. Instead of speaking, he smiled and snapped his fingers, conjuring a tiny burst of fire above his palm.

She paused en route to her platoon's area and turned her head slightly, allowing him to glimpse the clip. He did not speak, only nodded slightly, and turned his gaze back to the other soldiers.

She didn't need anything more than that. She picked up her rifle and they went their separate ways, hurrying through the cotton-and-ash snow.

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Have a great day, guys. :)