A/N: There is a song file for this chapter. There is also a song for the 'End Credits' even though there are no end credits haha. You can find the link to the folder for these songs in my profile.
The sound track is as follows:
Chapter 03 - [Decorating the Office] David Tolk - Il Est Ne le Divin Enfant
Chapter 18 - [The Party] Ryan Shupe & The Rubberband - Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer
Chapter 19 - [Talking with Santa] Paul Cardall - Jesu, Joy of Man's Desiring
Chapter 20 - [Heavy Thoughts] Jon Schmidt - Christmas Medley
Chapter 23 - [Christmas Eve] Huron Carol
Chapter 23 - [Father Christmas] Paul Cardall - We Three Kings
Chapter 24 - [Christmas Morning] Jim Brickman - December Morning
Ending Credits - Shadow Mauntain Artists - Peace In Every Heart
"Do it, Brother."
"No way. You're the one who wants to start. You do it."
Maes forced his eyes open. He was so tired... Turning over, he looked toward the doorway where the two Elric boys were talking to each other. He was sure that they'd started the argument by being quiet, but now their whispers were almost at regular tones. He glanced at the clock and groaned. It was way too early for this...
"Did we wake you?" Alphonse asked when he noticed Maes was awake. He was polite, but Maes noticed he didn't sound too sorry.
"What are you doing up this early?" he asked, then yawned.
"You get up every day about this time, don't you?" Ed asked.
Maes scowled. "Only because I have to work..." It was criminal that he should have to get up early on a day off. Maes felt a touch on his shoulder, and looked behind him to where Gracia was lying beside him and staring at him with a smile.
"Should I make breakfast?" she asked. Maes sighed. Obviously he wasn't going to get to sleep in any later.
"Yeah..." He was about to say more when a delighted squeal sounded from the other room. Then, a moment later Elysia came scampering into the room.
"PRESEN'S!" she exclaimed excitedly.
Maes smiled at her excitement, wishing he'd had his camera so that he could have captured that look. And then it hit him. He'd be able to take all kinds of pictures as she opened her gifts. With that he got out of bed and picked up his daughter and gave her a big kiss on the cheek before she squirmed out of his hold.
He glanced up in time to see Ed giving them both a small smile. "Do you want a hug and a kiss too?" Maes asked with a laugh.
To that, Ed blushed and looked away in embarrassment. "No thanks. I think I've had enough kisses for my life," he ground out. Gracia picked up Elysia and started out of the bedroom, but before she moved past the two brothers she gave them both a big hug.
"Merry Christmas, boys," she said.
"Merry Christmas," they both said, and Maes could see that even though Ed was trying to maintain his tough exterior, that he was pleased by the attention. "Why don't you both come help me with breakfast? After that we'll open presents."
Roy opened his eyes and stared blankly ahead as his body and mind both made the adjustment from being asleep. He saw the small tree and the four presents beneath the tree directly in his line of sight and he stared at them for a moment before it registered that it was morning.
He shivered a little and realized that he'd fallen asleep on the couch without a blanket. Groaning, he got up and stumbled into his bedroom where he pulled off his uniform and slipped on a pair of sweats and a sweater. After that he wandered to the kitchen—turning the heater up on the way—where he started a small pot of coffee and fixed himself some toast.
Bringing the coffee and toast into the living room, Roy settled down in front of his small tree to open his gifts. He felt rather curious. He'd never received a gift from any of these people before, and he wasn't exactly sure what to expect.
The gift Breda, Fuery, Falman, and Havoc had pitched in for turned out to be a girly magazine with a note saying it was the first of a year's subscription. Maes and Gracia had given him a very nice shirt—most likely Gracia had made it herself—and Hawkeye had surprised him with an alchemy book. There was a small card inside that mentioned it had belonged to her father.
That left only Ed's gift.
Picking it up, Roy slowly unwrapped it. Opening the box, he pulled out the contents and stared at them for a moment, wondering why Ed had given him such a gift. It was only after he started inspecting his gift that he realized he'd been given something much more than what it had seemed at first.
Ed watched curiously as a large box was placed before Al. They had already gone through their socks. There had been candy and treats for Ed and Elysia, and for Al there had been various travel sized metal polishing items. There had also been a new box of chalk in Al's sock.
Each of them had one large gift and a few smaller gifts. The smaller gifts for Elysia had mostly consisted of various toys and dolls. Hughes and Gracia had gotten clothes for each other. Gracia had received a new pan set that she seemed to have wanted and some jewelry. Hughes had received something from Mustang's crew—minus Hawkeye—that had made Gracia scowl, though neither would say what it was. Al had become the proud owner of a homemade loin cloth and Ed hadn't been able to miss the opportunity to mention that there were no flowers or hearts on it. They had both received luggage as a joint gift from Mustang and his crew.
And so now there were only the three large gifts left that were from 'Santa'.
Elysia had gotten a new tricycle and had happily ridden around the room while Hughes had taken pictures. When the excitement calmed down, they had come back and now it was Al's turn—given that they were going in order of birth.
Excitedly, but carefully, Al took the wrapping off the box, then opened it. He stared inside for a long moment, then exclaimed, "WOW!"
"What is it..." Ed asked, getting up and looking inside. He stared for a moment, not believing his eyes, then watched as Al took out the pieces of the train set. It was obviously an expensive set and Ed couldn't help but immediately wonder what they would do with it. They couldn't very well carry it around with them as they traveled... But he didn't have the heart to say anything either. Al was obviously out of his mind with delight.
So Ed pushed his realistic worries away and helped his brother and Hughes put the set together while Elysia and Gracia watched. And, admittedly, he had fun. It was almost unavoidable. When they finished, they all watched the train go on its tracks, though Hughes's attention was diverted by taking pictures of Elysia while she squealed with excitement.
"We thought you could leave it here while you traveled, and whenever you're in Central you can come play with it," Hughes said to Al, then looked at Ed and smiled as if knowing that would be on his mind.
"Great!" Al said, and for a moment Ed imagined his brother, small with brown hair and eyes, giving a huge smile. At that moment, Ed promised himself again that he wouldn't let his brother down. One day he would see that smile again...
"And now for you, Edward," Gracia said moving a large, wide gift toward him. He stared at it, wondering what it could possibly be, then a thought hit him and he felt his face heat in embarrassment.
"Open it, brother!" Al said in excitement.
Without any of the care Al had shown, Ed ripped open the package, and opened the box. There, packaged snuggly in foam, was a brand new sled.
"Neat!" Al exclaimed, then pointed to the front of the sled. "There's even a place where we could tie a rope to it. I could pull you when we're traveling in the winter!" With how much they traveled and how hard they were on their belongings, Ed wondered if it would last out this winter.
Ed glanced at Hughes and Gracia, feeling slightly embarrassed that they'd actually gotten him something this nice. Hughes winked at him and said, "Good thing you told Santa what you wanted."
"Pull it out, brother," Al instructed. So, Ed pulled it out and they all examined it, and it was decided that they'd all go sledding later today.
And, with that, the gift opening session was over. Gracia stood and squeezed Hughes's shoulder before helping Elysia pick up her toys and take them to her room. Ed was about to wander over to look more at Al's train when Hughes spoke.
"Oh, it looks like we missed something. Al, will you grab that package in the back?"
Ed turned in time to see his brother pulling a gift from behind the tree. Al looked at it for a moment, then glanced at Ed. "It's for you."
"Me?" he asked curiously. Taking the package, Ed looked at it. It said:
To: Edward Elric
From: Father Christmas
Ed shrugged and pulled off the wrapping, then opened the box where he found a bunch of folders and papers inside... There was a note on top that said, 'Anything is possible.' Frowning, and feeling a little confused, he began to examine the papers. Then suddenly his eyes widened and he simply stared in dumbfounded silence.
"What is it?" Al asked.
With a shake of his head, Ed read the note again, then he thought of the letter he'd mailed out to Father Christmas. No one was supposed to have read that. It wasn't possible... Looking up, Ed stared at Hughes, but the man simply shook his head.
"It's not from me."
He opened his mouth to say, 'But you're Santa,' then he stopped and realized that the name on the package didn't read 'From Santa'. It read 'From Father Christmas'. There was only one man in Central who could claim that name.
"Brother?" Al asked.
Stuffing the papers back in the box, Ed pressed it against his chest for a moment as he tried to sort through the jumble of thoughts racing through his mind, then he shook his head before turning and heading toward the door.
"Where are you going?" Al asked, sounding confused now.
"I'll be back!" he said, then rushed out the door.
Roy stepped outside and shut the door behind him before looking around. The sky was clear and the snow on the ground was fresh and new. It sparkled in the sun, and he couldn't help but smile.
It was a beautiful morning.
With a deep breath of the crisp air, Roy exhaled and his breath was misty for a moment, then he stuffed his gloved hands in his pockets and started down the sidewalk. He wasn't exactly sure where he was going to go, but for some reason he didn't want to be stuck inside today. He wanted to be out, wanted to enjoy this Christmas day in all its glory. After all, this was the day—the day that they'd been all been waiting for.
The world was quiet around him and he could clearly hear the show crunching under his boots. In an hour or two, children would be out and people would be driving around, but right now it was just him.
Roy stopped and glanced at the park across the street. It wasn't uncommon for the benches to be filled this early in the morning with the homeless vagrants that wandered in and out of Central, but not this morning. Money had poured into charities for the homeless over the month and, at least for now, there were enough funds to provide a warm place to sleep for any vagrant who needed or wanted one.
Deciding that a walk in the park would be a great addition to this stroll, Roy crossed the street and was just starting onto one of the walkways when he heard his name being called. Turning he saw Ed running down the sidewalk toward him.
His eyes rested on what Ed was carrying and he wondered if Maes had said something or if Ed had just figured it out. Well, it really wasn't as if it would be that hard for someone of Ed's intelligence to figure out.
"Colonel!" Ed said again, now that he was closer. He was gulping in breaths and Roy wondered if he'd run all the way here from Maes's house. Ed tightened his grip on the rather thin box of papers and said, "It was you, wasn't it?"
Roy pressed his lips together then shook his head. "I don't know what you're talking about," he said, playing dumb.
Ed shook his head impatiently. "You're the only one who could have gotten these documents for me."
Roy lifted an eyebrow. "And what documents are those?" he asked. Roy had been in the military for enough time that he'd learned one very important rule. Deny everything—at least everything that could possibly have negative repercussions on you later.
Ed stared at him and Roy could see a confusion and uncertainty begin to cloud Ed's eyes. He could almost read the thoughts going on inside that brain of Ed's. There were sure to be questions like: Was I right? I'm almost certain that I'm right, but what if I'm wrong? What if I'm wrong and I tell him what these are and he takes them away? Is it worth the chance?
"Well... uh... I..." Ed stammered, unsure now.
"I was just about to take a walk," Roy said. "Why don't you come with me?"
Ed stared at him for a moment as if trying to decide if he really wanted to, then he hugged the box of documents to his chest and nodded.
They walked for a time, before Ed said, "Did you open..." He trailed off and muttered, "Never mind."
Roy smiled, knowing what Ed was about to ask, and amused that he seemed to care at all. Pulling his hands out of his pockets, Roy held them up for Ed to see. "I did," he affirmed. "Thank you."
He'd been a little mystified this morning when he'd opened the box from Ed and found two padded winter gloves. It wasn't until he'd looked them over a little to find that they were each actually two gloves in one. The outer glove was waterproof, but there was a strap that held it onto the inner glove. It was easy to un-strap and pull the outer gloves off if need be. The inner gloves were also padded, but not quite as heavily. These were made out of ignition cloth like his other gloves. No flame alchemy symbol had been drawn on them, but it hadn't been difficult to know that was what Ed had intended for them.
Pulling off one of the outer gloves, Roy showed Ed the inner one. He'd spent time preparing the gloves this morning and each one now had the appropriate array on them. When Ed saw that he instantly grinned.
"I came up with that idea! Do you like it?" Ed sounded excited and rightly proud of himself.
"Yes, actually," Roy said. "Ignition cloth is very expensive... I was really surprised." Not only that, but the gift had been incredibly thoughtful, and may even save his life someday.
Ed glanced away, looking suddenly a little embarrassed. "It was no big deal."
Roy pulled on the outer glove, then put his hands back into his pockets. "No big deal?" he asked, deciding to fish for some information. "It was a very thoughtful gift, and I didn't see you handing out gifts to everyone when you gave me mine."
Still looking away, Ed shrugged. "Yeah, no big deal. I mean. You gave me the chance to take the state alchemy exam, so I kinda owed you anyway. If it weren't for you then..." He trailed off and then shrugged.
There was a moment of awkward silence, then Ed looked back at him. "So... you really didn't give me this?" He nodded down at the box in his arms.
Roy looked down at him and for a moment he said nothing, then he said, "No. I didn't." He paused, then said, "And you don't have those documents in your possession either." Ed's eyes widened just a fraction as he digested the warning and the fact that Roy had just affirmed his suspicions in a around about way.
"But... why? I don't understand..."
The question hung in the air for a moment. They both knew he wasn't asking why he shouldn't let anyone know what he had; he was asking why Roy had gone through such lengths to give him the documents.
Finally Roy stopped walking and glanced around the empty park, then sighed heavily. "You know... you're right about there being no real 'Santa Claus'." He stopped and glanced down at Ed, who seemed a little surprised at the direction this conversation had taken. "But perhaps there is a... I don't know... a 'spirit' of Santa Claus or Father Christmas."
"I didn't know you believed in spirits," Ed said smartly, and Roy shook his head, hoping that his own dry wit wasn't rubbing off on the kid.
"What I mean," Roy said with a smirk. "Is that perhaps what this holiday is really about is giving and doing good, and that eventually became embodied into this Father Christmas, or Santa Claus, whatever you choose to call him. Maybe we're all that person in some way or another." In fact, this was one of the lines of thought Roy had taken the night before. Ed seemed to consider that for a moment, then nodded. Roy shook his head. "Perhaps it's a shadow of how we should all be all the time."
Ed studied him for a long time, then he held the box more tightly to his chest and looked down at his feet. Roy watched him, wondering what the kid was thinking. He hoped that Ed wasn't considering asking for a clearer answer. Roy had no real desire to explain himself or to have his reasons psychoanalyzed.
Finally, Ed quietly said, "I..." His voice sounded tight and strained, and Roy wondered what he'd see if Ed were to look up at him. "I didn't believe... I... I don't know how I can ever possibly..." A pause, then, "Thank you..."
Roy stepped forward and put a hand on Ed's shoulder. "Some things are worth believing in." Ed's head snapped up. His eyes—slightly red—were wide with surprise. Roy smiled a little. "Right?"
Ed seemed to think about that for a moment, then a small smile touched his face. "Yeah," he said. "Yeah... you're right."
Roy squeezed Ed's shoulder then let his hand fall. "So!" he said, feeling that the moment was getting a little too heavy for his liking. "Don't you think you should be with your brother today instead of hanging around me?"
"I just wanted..." Ed began, then he shook his head, before saying, "I just wanted to be sure you figured out what to do with those gloves. I probably should have left you instructions or something, but I guess you didn't need them."
Roy laughed lightly. "Praise coming from you?"
"Don't be too flattered," Ed said, blinking quickly now as if something had been in his eye and he was trying to get rid of it. "I'm just feeling generous 'cause today is Christmas."
"Right, well, I think you'd better take your generous self back to the Hughes house. If I'm right, you didn't bother telling them where you were going?" Roy asked with a raised eyebrow.
Ed gave him a sheepish look and Roy knew that he was right. Roy smiled, then said, "Merry Christmas, Ed."
The corners of Ed's lips lifted into a smile of his own. "Merry Christmas to you too, Colonel."
And with that, Ed turned and started away. Roy watched him go, and at that moment, he knew that he'd done the right thing. With a deep breath, Roy glanced around the snowy park, wondering where he was going to go next.
Then he smiled. Today was Christmas. He was still 'Father Christmas' for the rest of the day. He might as well make the most of it. And with that, he turned and headed out of the park.
Thank you all for reading. I hope you enjoyed the story and the consecutive posting. I'm sorry that I haven't been able to answer all the comments you've left me, but know that I've appreciated each and every one. With packing and buying a house, plus Christmas things, I was lucky to have time to even post on some days.
Have a merry Christmas and a safe and fun new year!