— Story is set in "my" Alternate Universe/Divergent Future after the events of Inextricable.
— This story was written in response to the Christmas Contest at the Ed/Winry LiveJournal community
where it won Runner Up Best Entry (fanfic) and Most Christmas Spirit (fanfic)
One of the few things Edward Elric missed from his lost years on the other side of the Gate was Christmas.
It had been a novelty the first time, a moment of beauty and light and kindness in the midst of a dark and unhappy time. The lights, the decorations, and the general mood had all seemed to transmute the city from lead to gold. The second Christmas he had anticipated with all the wide-eyed enthusiasm of a very young child.
When he had first come upon all the ceremony and celebration of the holiday, it had reminded him a little of the solstice bonfires of his Rizembool childhood and how much he and Al and Winry had looked forward to them every year.
Everyone would bundle up in their warmest coats and mittens and mufflers and trudge through the fields to wherever the bonfire was being held. There, in the firelight, the village elders would serve everyone cider, and they would all sing and dance and laugh as they waited out the longest night of the year.
Christmas wasn't quite the same, of course. There was more cocoa and whiskey than cider and the bonfire was replaced variously with a Yule log and candles burning dangerously all over a cut-down, drying-out fir tree. But there was fire and cold and celebration.
For a die-hard atheist, he knew it was odd how much the religious holiday delighted him, but Christmas also included such nonspecific aspects as a mysterious old man who left gifts behind, and — once -tasted, never to be forgotten — krugel.
But what he remembered the most were the bells.
Alphonse tried to think of what to bring to his brother and Winry as he rode the train home from Hoyle. Ed had been so busy with his latest case, he'd only been able to visit twice in the last month, and it had been even longer since Al had seen Winry, though they wrote regularly.
Winry was busy with her business, what with automail in general and Rockbell automail, in particular being in very high demand in a world still filled with recovering veterans of the last war. Both of them were busy and he was busy and they only had the few days between Al's school quarters to be together like old times.
Ed had told him stories of Christmas, and he liked the idea. He loved the idea of Santa Claus and presents and making things pretty and bright during the dull, dark days of winter. He wanted to make a Christmas for all of them, and for Ed in particular who — though he tried to pretend otherwise — had not entirely hated his life on the other side of the Gate.
Sometimes, Al was sure, he even missed it.
Winry stared at the slivers of metal littering her workbench and sighed. It had seemed like such a simple project when she'd started, but nothing was coming together as she'd planned. "Of all the days for there to be a curse on me," she muttered.
Alphonse, who hadn't told Ed or Winry when he would be arriving so that neither of them would feel obligated to run to the train station to fetch him, arrived then and, hearing Winry call out, "In here!" walked into her workroom to say hello.
After a quick hug and the usual how-are-yous were said, Alphonse noticed the state of her project.
"What's that supposed to be?" he asked, all innocence.
Oh, how Winry longed to whack him with her wrench, but that would not have been fair. It wasn't Al's fault that she couldn't manage to make something so simple.
"It's supposed to be a 'jingle bell,' if you must know," she grumped. "And why," she demanded, "do you smell like a pine cone?"
"Fullmetal, you do seem to be getting the hand of delegation," Brigadier General Roy Mustang observed. Ed was just at that moment handing Scieszka a huge stack of papers to sort through, and he arched a sardonic eyebrow at the man.
"I have things I have to do tonight," Ed said, dismissively. "Family stuff."
Roy raised his own sardonic eyebrow at this. The Fullmetal Alchemist was well-known for being motivated by family needs, but this was perhaps the most domestic — practically Hughes-like — thing he'd ever said. The general had nothing to say to this but gave a nod and wandered his way on down the hall to Hawkeye's office.
Where, Ed thought with an inward smirk, he'd probably been headed in the first place.
Ed had never mentioned Christmas to anyone but Al and Winry. He hadn't even mentioned it to Gracia-san or Elysia. It was from far too private a place in his memory to talk about to just anyone. The life he'd lived that included Christmas was something he planned to keep only for the three of them. Al deserved to know; Winry needed to know; he couldn't forget. But beyond the three of them, it was too much to share.
As he pulled on his coat and walked out into the cold night, he wondered if Central City celebrated bonfire night and, if so, where and how they did it. He'd always been far too busy, before, to even wonder. It would be fun for us all to go. I wish I'd thought of it sooner so I could have found out.
The walk from HQ to the place he now shared with Winry was not a long one, and within a few moments, he could see the light-filled windows of his home shining like beacons ahead of him.
Thinking the word warmed him in spite of the sharp wind that was paying no regard whatsoever to his heavy, wool coat: Home.
He unlocked the front door and pushed it open, only to hear an odd sound. He froze for a split second, then pulled the door toward him and pushed it open again. Again, he heard the sound.
Stunned, he moved through the door and pushed it closed behind himself. And heard the noise again. He turned and stared at the door, eyes wide.
"Do you like them?" Winry asked, her voice high-pitched with enthusiasm.
He turned around again to face her and saw an enormous, battered and lop-sided fir tree tilting precariously behind her. Two feet stuck out from beneath it and a muffled voice called, "Winry?"
"Oh!" she squeaked and whirled around to hold onto the branches as... Al? worked to steady the tree.
"Niisan, you're early!" the still-muffled voice scolded him happily. "We were going to have it all done as a surprise."
"All what done?" Ed asked faintly, staring around the room. Small piles of white candles lay on a table. Popped corn filled a bowl and littered the table and floor, all around a few-foot-long string that someone had been making.
And little silvery metal objects hung by red cords from the front door's handle.
Winry picked up something that Ed at first thought was her wrench and shook it, still smiling. "Like it?" she asked. Her face was glowing with happiness. The item she held was a piece of wood with several more of the little silvery metal objects stuck to it, somehow. As she shook it, the sound of bells filled the room.
Ed realized he was grinning like a little kid on Christmas morning.
A scratching noise was quickly followed by a small flash of blue light and the disheveled tree immediately stood tall and straight and perfectly, fluffily even.
"Where did you find the tree?" Ed asked, still dazed.
"At the park over by the train station. They're having bonfire night there, and since this tree was half-dead and in the way, they'd cut it down. They let me have it, though I think they thought I was crazy to want it," Al said.
"They probably thought you wanted to have your own bonfire night," Winry guessed, turning back to the popcorn string. "Al made the bells, too. I wanted to make them, but I couldn't figure out how, and it would have taken too long, anyway—"
Her explanation was cut off when Ed closed the distance separating them, caught her by the shoulders and kissed her right on the mouth. Al had managed to drag himself out from under the tree by then and just witnessed the kiss. He grinned back at Ed as his older brother reached down to help him to his feet, only to pull him into a hug so tight, the younger boy felt breathless.
They spent the rest of the night making up their own holiday. They drank improvised cocoa and decorated the tree, and each of them, by turns, picked up the jingle bell stick and waved it around, just to hear the ringing.
They laughed and talked and transmuted bits and pieces of unwanted things around the house into ornaments. Winry twisted small bits of metal into lovely shapes, and these were added to the tree as well.
At about a half-hour to midnight, they all bundled up in their warmest coats and mittens and mufflers and walked the silent streets of Central City to the park for bonfire night. There, they drank cider and danced and sang and waited out the longest night of the year.
The next morning when they all awoke, Al and Winry found that wrapped presents had appeared around the tree, each one marked either "To Alphonse" or "To Winry" and all marked "Merry Christmas from Santa Claus."
"You didn't get anything, Ed!" Winry exclaimed, as she and Al both looked, dismayed, at the lovely packages.
Ed didn't say anything at first, but looked at the jingle bell stick as he twisted it between his metal fingers. "Don't be silly, Win," he said at last. "I got everything I ever asked for."