The Best Gift


Snow drifted down from gray clouds to the ground below, allowing for it to be considered a true white Christmas. A lone figure sat huddled next to a couple of barrels, arms crossed over his thin chest, a messy stack of brown hair held together by a piece of string on top of his head. Quiet sobs echoed through the night as soft white flakes landed on his shoulders, making him shiver and shake even harder. Memories of the beating he had just received and the brutal attacks on him in the past came back to play in his mind's eye in full force; making the boy wish he could escape into his inner realm and never return to the harsh place known as reality.

The soft crunch of footsteps approaching made the boy's head snap up and he attempted to wipe furiously at his eyes and swallow the lump in his throat. Giving a low growl, his gray eyes glittered with hostility to the approaching figure. "Go away!" For only a child, venom was evident in his voice, gaze and posture.

The man in the top hat and the brown coat stared at him kindly, trying to make himself appear as a friend; someone the boy could trust instead of a foe. Nonetheless, the man was a tad annoyed the boy had forgotten the very few manners he had tried to instill in him. "Allen, it's me. There's no reason to bite my head off for what Cosimo did to you."

Almost instantly the fire disappeared from Allen's gray orbs and was replaced with a dead look. "Why have I survived this long if I'm only going to continuously be attacked just for who I am? Will anyone ever accept me?" Defeat now hung like a cloud around the child and instantly the man named Mana felt sympathy for him. He knew that he shouldn't voice that emotion though because the child was sensitive to others trying to do things for him. Allen felt capable of handling things and every time he couldn't it was a physical and mental pain to bear. So instead he settled for walking over and sitting down on wood barrel next to the brown-haired child.

"Allen, you've survived for so long because you're strong and brave. You shouldn't let what others do or say get to you." When the boy didn't lift his head and respond, Mana sighed softly, taking his top hat off and running a hand through his own brown locks. Replacing the hat after his annoying ritual, he placed a gentle hand on Allen's shoulder as a means of comfort. The boy stiffened instantly but Mana ignored it and began to speak softly once again. "And you do have someone who has accepted you."

"Who?" The boy asked, his gray eyes lifting to stare at the kind man. Such innocence in his gaze reminded Mana of the fragile world most children had. While they always seemed carefree, there were some who knew the true pain of the world and who just couldn't deal with its harshness. He pitied the boy who had learned to hate life so early on. But while the boy had his moments of defeat, he always strived to make himself better…to prove his worth to the world. He would make a great man someday if he didn't let the world get to him as much as it already had. Could he learn from his parent's mistakes, his mistakes and the mistakes of others? If he did, Mana would love to see how he turned out in another ten or twenty years. The woman to steal his heart would truly be lucky, and his family would be well off…Mana just knew it.

"Me." He responded, his mustache pulling up with his wide smile. While the boy looked doubtful at the truth of his words, Mana knew in his heart that he had come to accept and love the boy, and couldn't bear to leave him behind. A light bulb went over his head and he stood, his knees and joints popping, reminding him of how old he had become. Surely taking on a child will bring some of my youthfulness back, won't it? I can't leave him to suffer by himself again. Gazing into Allen's gray eyes, he was reminded of his dead brother, whom he had nearly forgotten. If he had gray hair, they'd look almost identical. Realizing he was just standing there staring at the child, he coughed politely. "I'm leaving tonight in search of another circus. Would you like to come with me?"

Allen's eyes were very wary and untrusting, so the man merely held a hand out to him. Tilting his head to the side and closing his eyes in a friendly gesture, he hoped the boy agreed. I lost my brother a long time ago…and now that I've lost the dog that traveled with me, I have no one but my own shadow. I could really use his company.

Suddenly, much to his surprise, Allen gripped his hand and stood up, brushing himself off. "Alright, I'll go with you." Mana was shocked to say the least, thinking the boy wouldn't have trusted him since everyone he had ever trusted had turned on him. What had suddenly possessed this change in him? That was when he noticed the boy was staring off in the direction of a dead tree to where they had buried the dog earlier that same day. That was when he realized Allen was no fool. He understood the cycle of life and death, of good and evil. As tragic as that might seem, some humans even in their adult stage refused to recognize such aspects of the human life that just couldn't be ignored.

Everyone died.

And there was both good and evil in this world.

But who was to say what side was good and what side was evil? There was only the existence of a dull gray, a color so lacking in detail, it was easily ignored. Every creature was gray; they were neither good nor evil, something not many realized. The eyes of this child – the eyes of his brother – they symbolized a perfect balance within the person, meaning he was one of rare few who could be both good and evil, light and dark, black and white. This boy was peace in its finest hour; when there was no fighting, just a calm benevolence that everyone, no matter what side they were on, could enjoy.

He'll surpass everyone he meets. Mana thought with a wide grin.

"Well, are we going or not?" Allen was now impatient, wanting to begin their journey. But something caught his eye and he looked up towards the sky. After a moment his face lit up and he started to dance around. "Look Mana! Snow!" Forgetting his pain and sorrow as quick as it had came, Allen grabbed onto the older man's hands and began to pull him along in his dance. Both began to laugh as the white flakes continued to fall. Mana realized the boy had been too sad to realize it had been snowing for quite sometime, but he went along with it. He didn't care just as long as he could laugh and smile for once without it being only a façade. After several long minutes, they collapsed to the ground and continued to laugh in between ragged pants. When Allen finally popped back up he grinned wildly at Mana and held out his cursed hand. "Come on Mana! Let's leave this place!"

Chuckling to himself, Mana took his hand and allowed the boy to help him stand up. Together they exited the circus grounds under the cover of darkness and snow, leaving behind both fond and depressing memories. Ignoring the cold that surrounded them, both felt as free and as light as a dove flying through the air.

They would not look back.

They would keep walking until the day both of them died.

Glancing down at the child Mana nudged him with his hip and Allen shot him a quick glare. Remembering his manners though, he changed his scowl into a small, annoyed look. "Yes Mana?"

"Merry Christmas and Happy Birthday, Allen Walker."

His gray eyes widened with confusion and he stopped dead in his tracks. "'Christmas?' 'Happy Birthday?' 'Allen Walker?'" He repeated like an eerie echo.

"Yes, it's Christmas and since you're starting anew, we'll say today is your birthday as well. The day I adopted you as if you were my own son." Allen suddenly tackled Mana, knocking him to the ground and clutching his coat. Sobs came from his small chest and Mana wrapped a comforting arm around his small frame.

"Thank you Mana…thank you…"

It was the best birthday or Christmas present he had – and would – ever receive.

He had found himself a home.


Merry Christmas everyone! Posted this late at night, so it may not be Christmas Day for you anymore, but I just had to write this! (Especially after noticing all the Yullen Christmas stories. No offense, I don't mind, but really?! –sweatdrop-)

I am also the author of a fanfic called Gray Silence. Please go to my profile and check it out. XD

Happy Holidays!