General Marian Cross didn't know anything about raising a child. He didn't know the first thing about being a good father, and he wasn't about to start learning now.

He wasn't exactly what you would call the 'ideal' role model- not that he cared about any of that. However, it was getting rather close to Christmas time, and he figured that the least he could do was get the brat something.

And that was how he wound up wandering the streets at eleven o'clock at night, two days before Christmas Eve, looking for an open store, wishing he were in the bedroom with some pretty girl.

Snow fell around him gently, the bitter cold air biting his exposed skin. His breath came in quick little white puffs, quickly dissipating into the cold air.

At long last, Cross passed by a store which was, mercifully, still open. He stepped in gratefully, warmth enveloping him and dispelling the cold. A tired looking old woman smiled up at him as the door swung shut.

"Good evening. How may I help you?"

"I'm looking for a Christmas present for my apprentice," Cross said, letting his gaze wander to the many trinkets that littered the shelves. The woman stood up and walked amongst the shelves.

"I see. How old is he?" She asked.

"Eleven," Cross replied.

"Hmm… I don't have much that would interest an older child… but this might work."

The woman held up a small wooden music box, simple designs carved into the polished surface. Cross took it, winding it about ten times and letting it play.

The tune was very slightly off key. The melody was nothing fancy. No doubt he could have done better- but Cross wasn't about to waste any more time freezing his ass off.

"I'll take it."

"Here ya go, kid. Merry Christmas."

Allen tore open the brown paper wrapping to reveal the tiny music box. Cross wasn't expecting the tears that came to the boy's gray eyes, or the smile that lit up his face.

With shaking hands, Allen wound it up and listened to its off-tune melody. A few of the tears ran down his cheeks. Cross found himself looking away, feeling embarrassed.

Suddenly, he felt Allen throw his arms around his neck and hug him tight.

"Thank you, Master. I…I don't remember the last time I got a Christmas present."

Cross looked back at Allen, something akin to shame tugging at the corner of his conscience. He knew that even Mana couldn't really afford much on Christmas. Cross had spent all of three dollars on that present. Yet…in all the time Allen had lived with him, Cross had never seen him this happy.

"Merry Christmas, Master!"

He's the Fourteenth. It's only a matter of time before the kid's gone forever. And when that happens…

Why did it have to be a kid? Why did it have to be this kid? Couldn't it have been someone else? Anyone else?

"…Merry Christmas, kid."

There you have it! Please make my Christmas and review for me *puppy dog eyes*