A/N: C'mon, guys, Al/Winry needs more love!
Blah, blah, I only proofread once, probably lots of typos.
I am also aware of the fact that it has been explicitly stated that Christmas does not exist in Amestris. I DON'T CARE. :)
Post-series, so MINOR spoilers for the end of the manga/Brotherhood.
Merry Christmas, and enjoy! :D
"Mm?" Ed didn't even bother to look up from the book he was reading as he acknowledged Al.
Al, sitting upright with his legs dangling over the edge of his bed, twiddled his thumbs nervously as he glanced at Ed, who was sprawled across the bed next to his. "Ah...um..." he said, trying to form a sentence from his thoughts.
Ed looked up now, crossly, and said, "Spit it out already."
"What should I get Winry for Christmas?" Al blurted out.
At first, Ed offered only a blank look in response. Then, with deliberate slowness, his brother allowed a huge grin to spread across his face. "What's this, Al? D'you like her?"
Though he tried, mortified, to stave it off, Al couldn't keep from blushing, already regretting asking his question. "It's not like that," he mumbled. "She's our friend and I just thought..."
"You're blushing," Ed pointed out teasingly.
"Brother! You're getting her a present, too, aren't you?"
"Alright, sorry." But Ed didn't look sorry, nor convinced. "Yeah, I did get her something, But aren't you cutting it a little close? It's Christmas Eve."
Al sighed. Of course he knew that. He and Ed were currently living in Central (After the whole Promised Day incident, Ed had insisted on remaining in Central City. "I may not have alchemy anymore, and I'm glad for it, but I'll be damned if you take my books and research away, too," he had said.), but they were taking an early train the next morning to Resembool to surprise Winry and Pinako.
"But I've been thinking the past two weeks and I still don't know what to get her," Al said dejectedly.
"Oh, is that why you didn't want to go to Resembool sooner?" Ed snickered. "Geez, Al."
"What are you getting her?" Al asked. He avoided Ed's question even though he knew that his brother likely realized that he had hit the nail dead on the head.
"A wrench," was the simple answer.
"A wrench?" echoed Al. "But she has dozens! She doesn't need another."
Ed winked at him. "Did you know, whenever I get Winry a new wrench, she stops using all her others?"
"So she wants to make sure your gift isn't completely useless," Al responded with a shrug. "But she still doesn't need a new one."
"Eh, she'll like it anyways. You'll see. Why don't you get her some tools, too?"
He shrugged again, uncomfortably this time. "But I want..." He trailed off, not quite sure how to explain.
"You do like her," Ed stated smugly. It wasn't a question this time.
Al turned away, annoyed at Ed for being unhelpful. And because he knew that endless teasing was imminent. "Maybe," he muttered, figuring that the sooner he admitted to it, the better.
"Winry will like anything you get her," Ed said, not unkindly now. "Hell, she can name what year I gave her what wrench. No idea how, they all look the same to me. Anyways, the point is, you don't need to get her something special or unique, Al. Just the fact that it's from you will be enough for her."
"Okay," said Al uncertainly.
"Why don't you go out for a bit?" Ed suggested. "Look around the stores, or something."
"I think I'll do that. Thanks, Brother," Al said.
Ed waved lazily, his attention recaptured by his book. "Thank me by getting me some food while you're out."
Al smiled. "Will do."
He exited the house and strolled down the snowy streets of Central. Instead of heading for the market center, though, he walked towards Central Command Military Headquarters. Although Ed had been officially discharged from the military shortly after the Promised Day (a State Alchemist who couldn't perform alchemy wasn't exactly efficient), no one seemed to mind when either Elric brother paid a visit. And so Alphonse was able to make his way to the recently promoted Brigadier General Mustang's office without protest.
The outer office was surprisingly empty, but since the door was unlocked, Al knew that someone must still be here. Hopefully it was the Brigadier General. He crossed across the room to Roy's office, knocked briefly, then opened the door.
Roy looked up when Alphonse entered. He was sitting behind his desk, pen in hand, and on his desk in front of him was the largest stack of paperwork Al had ever seen.
"Alphonse!" Roy greeted. "Have you come to save me?"
"Unfortunately, no, sorry, General Mustang," he said amusedly. "Where is everybody?"
Roy scowled. "They finished all their work and went home. I have to finish all this—" He indicated the massive pile with a slight wave of his hand. "—before I can leave."
"Maybe you shouldn't have procrastinated so much," Al said, trying and failing to hid a smile.
"I don't need you telling me that too,," muttered Roy, rolling his eyes. "Anyways, why are you here?"
"I was actually hoping you could give me some advice," Al admitted, fidgeting a bit. When Roy nodded, urging him to go on, he continued, "What would...what would you give a girl for Christmas?"
"Someone caught your fancy?" Roy asked, a grin almost identical to Ed's creeping across his features.
Al wished a hole would just open up under his feet and swallow him. No such thing happened, though, so he was forced to nod.
"I suppose I'd give her flowers and chocolate. Perhaps a doll. Women seemed to like them for some reason..."
"I...don't think she'd like that," said Al hesitantly.
"Oh? Who is it for?"
"Ah...Winry." Al shuffled his feet in embarrassment as he made the confession.
Roy didn't tease him, for which Al was grateful. Instead, the older man nodded slowly in understanding. "The young Rockbell lady, correct? Well, what kinds of things does she like?" he asked.
"Um..." Alphonse paused, thinking. "Automail and mechanics, I guess," he replied, wondering if Ed was right and if he should just get Winry some mechanic's tools after all.
But Roy waved his hand impatiently at Al's answer. "No, no, those are obvious, Alphonse. You want to get her attention, don't you?"
"Well, yes, but..."
"Then get her something she'd like, but make it different and unique, something that will stand out because it shows you know her better than any old person."
"O...kay." This advice contradicted Ed's a deal, considering he had said it didn't matter what he got her, and Al didn't know who he should listen to.
"It'll work, trust me," said Roy, as if sensing Al's doubt and hesitance.
"I'll...try to figure something out," said Al. "Thank you, sir."
"Think nothing of it. Now, I'd better get back to this paperwork." Roy looked at the stack and sighed. "I'll probably be working straight through Christmas," he added.
"I'll stop bothering you now, then," said Al as he exited the office.
As he navigated the snowy roads, Alphonse decided that he still had one more place he could try for help. He only hoped this endeavor would turn out to be more successful than his previous two attempts.
Arriving at his destination, Al hesitated for the briefest of moments before knocking on the door and waiting, shivering slightly in the cold. The door was opened and he greeted, "Hi, Lieutenant Hawkeye."
"Oh, hello, Alphonse," Riza said. "What brings you here?"
"I need some advice," Al said. "There's...there's this girl I like, and I don't know what I should give her for Christmas." He didn't mention Winry's name, but Riza's small, knowing smile told him that she had probably guessed.
"I see. Well, I don't think you need to get her anything lavish to impress her," remarked Riza. "Just give her something simple and thoughtful. Make it a gift from your heart, not your wallet."
Alphonse frowned. This went against what Roy had told him to do. With the conflicting advice from three people, Al wasn't quite sure what to do anymore. But there was no need to say so to Riza. This was his problem, after all. "Thank you," he said politely. "I'll do that."
"Would you like to come in and drink something?" Riza asked, pulling the door open wider. "It must be cold out there."
Al shook his head. "No, no... I have to be going anyways," he said. "Brother wanted me to get him lunch."
"Very well. Will you be going to Resembool tomorrow?"
Positive now that the question meant that Riza knew who he liked, Al fought off a blush and nodded. "Yeah."
But all Riza did was nod and say, "Merry Christmas, then."
Alphonse nodded respectfully to Riza as she closed the door, then turned and walked slowly down the street, mulling over all the advice he had been given today. He still hadn't the faintest idea what sort of gift he should get Winry. He probably had even less of an idea now, but he supposed he should poke around some of the stores before going home.
Al liked Winry. The news shouldn't have surprised Ed, really. His younger brother was pretty obvious with his affections. He wondered now if Winry liked Al back. It was highly possible, he realized, despite everyone saying that it was he, Ed, who would end up getting together with Winry. Ed was uncomfortable with the idea of having any romantic relationship, though, and truly saw Winry as nothing more than a very close friend or sister. He wished people would stop bothering him about how he should "hook up with his mechanic already." Maybe if she and Al got together instead, Ed could finally have some peace. (How embarrassing was it to have so many people accuse you of liking someone you saw as a sister? Quite.)
With that in mind, Ed decided it was time to play matchmaker. Because, knowing Al, he wouldn't make any progress in their relationship—or lack, thereof—for several months. It was high time to give his younger brother a friendly nudge in the right direction and get something started.
Unfortunately, Ed had never tried to get two people together before. Actually, he was pretty clueless as far as romantic relationships went; all of Ed's relationships were purely platonic. He'd need some help, and he knew just where he could get it. After all, who better to ask than the famous (if not annoying) Flame Alchemist, womanizer? Which was why he was heading for his former superior officer's office right now. He'd finished his book; he had nothing better to do.
He was worried that the Brigadier General wouldn't be in the office; it was Christmas Eve, after all. But he could go to his house if he wasn't. He could come up with an excuse. Actually, he had the perfect one already; Roy was currently holding on to Ed's Christmas gift for Alphonse.
Luckily, though, the office door was unlocked, although the outer office was void of any people. Ed threw open the door to Roy's office, grinning in sadistic amusement when he saw the stack of paperwork on the man's desk.
"Oh, it's Fullmetal," said Roy. "I can't believe I'm asking you this, but have you come to perhaps save me?"
Ed stuck his tongue out as he walked over to sit on the couch. "You wish. Hawkeye is seriously making you work through the holidays?"
"Yes," grumbled Roy. "That woman is evil."
Roy glared at him halfheartedly. "Did you come here for present advice, too?"
"Eh?" Ed blinked confusedly. "What do you mean?"
"Never mind then," said Roy dismissively. "What did you come for?"
"I came to talk about Al."
"Ah, yes," said Roy. "He's got the hots for your mechanic. Are you jealous?"
"Oh, so you know already," said Ed. "Wait, how do you know—AND NO, I AM NOT JEALOUS, YOU IDIOT! I DON'T LIKE LIKE HER!"
Roy twirled his pen around his fingers. "Whatever you say. And I know because your brother came to me earlier asking for advice. Seems he doesn't know what to get Miss Rockbell for Christmas."
"He asked you, too?" Ed asked, grinning. "That explains your comment earlier. Still, what on earth possessed him to think that you would be able to provide any help?"
"Well, assuming he already asked you, he must have found your advice wholly unhelpful."
"Shut up, you bastard."
Roy smirked. "I'm right, then. But why did you come?"
"Well, just a Christmas present won't do much, wouldn't you agree? Don't you think Al needs a little push?"
"Resorting to playing matchmaker now, Fullmetal?" Roy asked.
Ed rolled his eyes. "Let's call it revenge for everyone telling me to get together with Winry," he suggested.
"Ah, yes. What if she likes you?"
"Pfft, nah. If she did, she wouldn't try to kill me with her wrench every time I saw her," he replied.
"Sometimes violence is a sign of affection," Roy pointed out.
"Sometimes is not all the time," growled Ed. "I didn't come here to discuss who Winry likes. I'm pretty sure she likes Al, too, anyways, so I just need to know what to do to get them together faster."
"And you want me to be your partner in crime, is that it?" asked Roy.
"Pretty much, yeah." Ed responded.
"Sounds fun," said Roy. "Did you have anything in mind?"
"Just don't do something you'll both regret."
Both Ed and Roy turned to the new voice as Riza walked into the room.
"How long have you been here?" spluttered Ed.
"Not long," she replied. "I came to make sure the Brigadier General," she looked pointedly at Roy as she spoke, "was completing his paperwork."
"Whoops, sorry for distracting him," said Ed, not looking sorry at all.
"Sorry for letting such a small pipsqueak distract me," added Roy.
"WHO ARE YOU CALLING—!"
"Apologies accepted," Riza replied, swiftly cutting off the rant. "This may or may not be relevant to your interests, but your brother also came to me seeking advice on what to give Miss Winry for Christmas," she told Ed.
Ed jumped up from the couch, grinning. "See? See how desperate he is?" he asked. "We really need to do something!"
"But, really, what are you planning to do?" asked Roy.
Ed frowned at him now. "I don't know. I came to ask you what I should do. I don't know anything about how relationships work."
Riza sighed at them both. "Like I said, don't do anything you'll end up regretting," she repeated as she turned to leave the office. "And, sir, please make sure you complete your paperwork."
"Yes, I know. I will," replied Roy, rolling his eyes.
Even though her back was to Roy and Ed, she said, "Don't roll your eyes at me, sir. It's your own fault for procrastinating so much." She promptly shut the door before Roy could offer any sort of response.
"How does she do that?" asked Ed in amazement.
"Who knows?" Roy responded. He scrawled his signature on one of the papers on his desk. "A plan, then."
"Yes, a plan. Uh...got any ideas?"
Roy tossed his pen in the air and caught it again before saying simply, "Mistletoe."
"Indeed, Fullmetal. Mistletoe. It's a—"
"I know what it is," interrupted Ed irritably. "But isn't that a little...I don't know, simple?"
"Were you hoping for something more?" Roy asked.
"Well, yeah," said Ed. "We should come up with something intricate and creative and awesome."
"Complex plans have more room for failure," Roy said. "Simple plans are better, less room for mistakes. Think of it like an array. Your little alchemist mind should be able to comprehend that."
Ed twitched at the word 'little,' but he didn't rise to take the bait. "Complex arrays can have more exact results," was all he said. "And, by the way, I'm not an alchemist anymore."
"No matter. I still think the mistletoe is a good idea."
Ed rolled his eyes. "Fine. I'm trusting you on this one because even I know I'm romantically dense. What did you have in mind?"
Roy went over the brief plan and, though Ed still thought it was a terribly plain and boring idea, he agreed to it.
"Fine, then. I'll pick up the kitten from your house when I drop off your present tomorrow morning," Ed added thoughtfully. "Thanks for holding her for me."
"You got me a present?" Roy asked. "Fullmetal, I'm touched."
"Bastard. Al said we should get something for you. I don't think you deserve it."
"Pleasant as ever," muttered Roy.
"But of course. I'm always pleasant," Ed asserted as he stood up to leave. "You'd better be up tomorrow."
"At, what, three in the morning? I'll be nice and warm in my bed, thanks."
"Ugh, fine. Lend me your keys, then."
Roy tossed his spare keys to Ed. "Don't lose them."
"Yeah, yeah. Later, Mustang."
When he arrived back at his and Al's little house, Ed saw that his brother was already back, sitting on the couch and looking discouraged. He looked up as Ed entered the room.
"Brother, where have you been?" he asked.
"Uh...oh, you were taking so long, I went to get lunch myself," Ed invented. His stomach chose that moment to start growling and he added loudly, "But I'll eat what you got, too, since you went to the trouble of buying it for me."
Al nodded absently as Ed pulled out a hamburger from the bag Al had with him and began eating.
"What's wrong?" Ed asked around a mouthful of food. "Did you get anything for Winry yet?"
"No." Al frowned.
"I don't know why this is so hard for you," Ed commented as he ate. "You never had any problems before."
"But this is the first Christmas since we've gotten our bodies back," Al pointed out. "I want it to be...I don't know, special. Significant."
Ed narrowed his eyes thoughtfully. At length, he said, "I still think it doesn't matter what you get her, but whatever. It's your choice, so do what you want."
"I was going to go out again after you got back," Al confessed. "I just came to bring you lunch."
"Well, go on, then," said Ed, waving his hand. "Remember we're leaving early tomorrow, though."
"Yes, I know. Six o' clock train, right?"
"I won't be long," promised Al. "There were just a few other stores I wanted to check out."
"Sounds good." A thought occurred to Ed and he added, "Al?"
Al paused halfway out the door. "Yes?"
"Why can't you just transmute something for her?"
Al shrugged. "I'd thought of that, but what would I make?"
Ed rolled his eyes. "I'm not deciding for you. It's your gift. Stop being so damn indecisive."
"Sorry, Brother. I'll see you later."
The first thing that registered in Al's groggy mind when he woke up was the time, 5:40 A.M. The second thing that registered was a slip of paper on top of the dresser where the clock was. And the third thing that registered was the fact that the bed beside his was empty.
Since the time registered first, Al shot up in bed, words tumbling out of his mouth in a rapid, nearly incoherent sentence. "Brother, we're going to miss the train, why didn't you wake me up?" It was at this point that he noticed the slip of paper on the dresser.
Even as he wondered what the paper was, Al frowned when he received no response from Ed. "Brother?" He turned to look at Ed's bed and saw that it was empty and neatly made.
So he'd left early. But why? Al had a feeling that the paper on his dresser would provide an explanation. He stood up, stifling a yawn, and retrieved the paper. As he had assumed, it was a note from Ed, just a few lines written in his usual hurried scrawl.
Something came up, so I'll be taking a different train to Resembool. Don't wait up for me. And don't worry about Winry's present, either. Has it maybe occurred to you that while you've been stalling on leaving Central and trying to find her the perfect gift, Winry has just been waiting and wanting to see you again?
Al read the note again, brows furrowed. What could possibly keep Ed in Central longer? He'd been looking forward to going back to Resembool, hadn't he? He'd been the one to suggest it. But even though he pretended to be concerned with the first part of the note, it was really the final part of Ed's message that Al was really wondering about.
What if Ed was right? He'd been spending so much time trying to find a present after they had decided to return to Resembool for Christmas to surprise the Rockbells. Maybe all Winry wanted all along was just for them to come home. It must have been a disappointment to learn that, after finally achieving their goal and saving the world while they were at it, the brothers had decided to stay in Central instead of going back to Resembool.
Al looked at the clock. 5:45. Al had fifteen minutes to get to the train station. Cursing under his breath, Al changed out of his pajamas, threw a coat on, and dashed out of the hotel.
Running the whole way, Alphonse made it to the station in record time. He hurriedly boarded the train bound for Resembool and flopped down in a seat, panting, just as the train pulled out of the station.
It was a three-hour ride, and Al realized belatedly that, in his haste, he'd forgotten to bring anything to eat on the way, and the only money he had was some spare change in his pockets; he'd forgotten his wallet, too. He had to chuckle a bit at himself despite his predicament.
"I must have really been in a hurry." Obviously. "Usually it'd be Brother who would forget this stuff," he said to himself. "Not me."
He managed to buy a little snack with the money he did have, and he munched on it miserably, thinking about how he still didn't have a present for Winry. Maybe he didn't need one, but it would still be nice. Perhaps he could ask her what she wanted. But the problem remained that he didn't have any money now.
"Well, this sucks," he muttered. He propped his arm on the windowpane, leaning his cheek against his fist and staring dully out the window.
The train arrived at its expected time of 9:00 A.M. Al had been dozing, but he woke up as the train eased to a stop. The short nap had rejuvenated Al, who had spent the last couple nights stressing out over what to get for Winry (something he admittedly felt foolish for now). He hopped down from the train and, eager to see Winry, started down the well-worn road at a run.
Even running, it took a while to reach the Rockbell home, and Al slowed to a trot as the familiar Rockbell Automail sign finally came into view, breathing heavily as he jogged the last few yards.
Appropriately colored lights had been strung up for the Christmas season, but Al hardly noticed them as he was hit with a wave of nostalgia at the mere sight of the house. In reality, it hadn't been that long since he was last here, but this was the first time in a long time that he had come under happy circumstances. He wished, for a fleeting moment, that Ed was here to share this with him. Then he pushed the feeling aside. Ed would be here soon enough.
Still struggling to regain his breath, Al lifted his hand and knocked on the door.
The door opened a moment later, and Winry stood under the doorway, looking pleasantly surprised. "Al! I didn't think you'd make it!"
"Ah...yeah," said Al. "We...wanted to surprise you. Merry Christmas, Winry."
"Merry Christmas!" Winry started to move out of the way to let Al pass inside, then paused. "Where's Ed?"
Al wondered how he could explain when he wasn't even sure himself, then settled for saying, "He said he'd come later."
"Hey, wait, I'm right here."
Al spun around to see Ed standing just a few paces behind him, looking as if he'd just run up. "Brother!" he exclaimed. "I thought you said something had come up."
Ed waved the comment aside. "I'll explain later. ...Say, Al?"
Al stumbled forward with an undignified sound of protest, nearly bumping into Winry, as he was pushed from behind by Ed. "What was that for?" he asked crossly.
Ed didn't answer, just pointed to the top of the doorframe. "Do you know what that is?"
Both Al and Winry looked up, and Al felt his face heat up as he saw what "that" was.
"That," of course, being a mistletoe, hanging directly above him and Winry.
"You know what that means, don't you?" Ed continued.
Curse his big brother and his evilness. This must have been his doing.
Al glanced over his shoulder to Ed. "Brother!"
Ed grinned at him, then jerked his head towards Winry meaningfully.
Al turned back to Winry, who was blushing (though probably not as much as Al, because he was sure his face was the color of Ed's old coat) but also looking at him expectantly.
"Well?" she asked.
Al's mouth went dry. "Er..."
"What are you waiting for?"
Al threw a glare at Ed, who had the hugest, most evil grin ever plastered across his face. Then he looked at Winry. She was raising a slightly amused eyebrow at him, and Al realized with a sinking feeling that Ed wasn't the only one who would never let him live it down if he chickened out of this.
Now, Al was usually a pretty humble person, but even he had his dignity and pride, which he would very much like to keep intact. And so, without giving himself the chance to think things over again, Al swiftly leaned down and captured Winry's lips in a kiss.
He was a little fuzzy on the details of what happened next. He was pretty sure Ed was saying something—either cheering him on or taunting him; Al couldn't tell which, but he was thinking that he needed to punch him either way, except he was sort of distracted at the moment by Winry, who had stretched up and returned the kiss. Al felt a warmness creeping over him as he put his arms around Winry.
They were broken apart by Ed, who was shivering and complaining that the cold was making his automail leg lock up. Al hadn't even noticed the frigid weather anymore and he looked down at Winry, feeling slightly lightheaded. As they were pushed inside the house by Ed, Winry leaned against Al and said, "Welcome home."