Title: Simple Gifts
Author: Jordanna Morgan
Archive Rights: Please request the author's consent.
Rating/Warnings: G.
Characters: Ed and Al.
Setting: General.
Summary: Al has a peculiar Christmas gift for Ed.
Disclaimer: They belong to Hiromu Arakawa. I'm just playing with them.
Notes: Just a little brotherly love for Christmas. Written as a Fandom Stocking gift for InfiniteViking.

On the forest road that wound its way through the trees from one village to the next, Christmas morning was cold and snowy and still. The only sound was that of an old farmer's ramshackle wagon, creaking along at a walking pace behind an equally ancient gray carthorse.

In the back of that wagon, Edward Elric sat bundled up in his coat, half-dozing. His brother Alphonse loomed beside him, armor glittering in the bright morning sunlight that slanted through the trees.

The fact that it was Christmas was not enough to interrupt their quest for the Philosopher's Stone. They were chasing a promising lead now - promising enough that they had declined an invitation to spend Christmas at the Hughes household, and chosen instead to be out on the road, on their way to a distant village. Now, after two days of travel on crowded trains packed with holiday travelers and squalling children, hitching a ride with the farmer in this woodland stillness was a refreshing change to Ed.

It's just another day, anyway, he thought drowsily, shifting position on the sweet-smelling straw that filled the bottom of the cart.

As far as he was concerned, any chance of finding the Philosopher's Stone was worth being in this much of a hurry for. They could visit with the Hughes family some other time... and as for gifts, the brothers needed nothing but what they were out here to seek. For now, it was enough to have each other.

...Not that he had neglected to give his younger brother a little something. Al's armor gleamed especially brightly that morning, thanks to the metal polish Ed had somewhat awkwardly presented to him the night before. He'd picked it up on a trip through Rush Valley a month ago; the special rust-retarding formula was made by a master metalsmith there, and it was every bit as good as the man promised.

To an ordinary person, such a prosaic thing might have seemed like a poor present - but it addressed the only real physical need Al had now, and he received it with the same delight he once showed for the toys of their far-away childhood Christmases. Ed's heart ached a little at that, and it only made him more determined to restore Al to his body, so he could once again enjoy proper gifts with all the senses of living flesh.

Next to Ed, Al's echoing voice softly broke the silence. "Brother? Are you awake?"

"Hmm? Yeah..." Ed sat up straighter, pushing back the hood of his coat, and squinted at Al through the sunlight. "Anything wrong?"

"Oh, no. I just have something for you - that's all."

Al's gauntlets moved to the fastenings of his chestplate. He opened up one side of it and reached inside his hollow shell, withdrawing a small package wrapped in red paper. This he held out to Ed with a shy tilt of his helmet.

"Merry Christmas, Brother."

Ed's eyes widened, and he looked from the package to the metal faceplate that could not reflect the loving warmth in his brother's voice. "You didn't have to," he murmured sheepishly, and reached out to lift the parcel gently from the leather palm of Al's hand.

The package was not heavy, and it was soft when he gripped it. Holding it in his left hand, he tore open the paper with the steel fingers of his right - and several bits of snow-white cloth tumbled out onto his lap. They were gloves, three perfect new pairs of them, just like the ones he always wore.

"Aww, Al." Blushing a little, Ed glanced at the rather threadbare gloves he was wearing then. "You noticed I needed new ones, huh? Thanks."

"Well, you can only fix them with alchemy for so long," Al pointed out brightly.

Ed chuckled at that; but he became suddenly quiet as he picked up the gloves and examined them. With increasing puzzlement, he looked over each one carefully, and at last gave Al a thoroughly baffled look.

"Wait a minute - there's only one left-handed glove here. The other five are all for the right! What's up with that?"

"Oh... yeah." Al rubbed the back of his helmet, and Ed knew that if steel could blush, Al was the one who would have been doing it then. "It's just - you are always ruining right gloves when you transmute a blade on your automail, and I... kinda thought you could use more spares for that one than the left."

There was a fractional moment of silence - and then Ed started laughing.

"Smart thinking, Al," he sighed between his gusts of hearty chuckles, and reached up to bump his fist against Al's chestplate. "Thanks, Little Brother."

Then Al giggled too, and he snuggled a bit closer to Ed, his armor warmed by the sun and smelling faintly of fresh metal polish...

And Edward knew what Christmas gift he loved most of all.

2010 Jordanna Morgan