The Things You Do

They never celebrated Christmas when Al was in the armour. Al because Ed didn't, Ed because—well, could you share mince pie with a brother who didn't eat? What could you give a soul trapped in a suit of armour as a present? Unless it was his body back, Edward wasn't interested, and thus Christmas joined their birthdays in their list of days to take note of but ultimately ignore. Only once, they'd joined someone else; they'd spent Ed's thirteenth Christmas with the Hughes'. The one after that was spent in the cafeteria of East HQ, Ed scorning the Christmas crackers and festive decoration in order to dump a huge pile of books on the table and growl about the library being closed, and Al had—reluctantly—joined him.

And then he'd gotten his body back.

It had actually happened in August, giving him time to re-learn motor control and muscle movement. This was fine with Alphonse, who used the opportunity to learn all sorts of things about Ed, things he'd often wondered about but never had a chance to find out. Ed didn't really object, though they did have to take the phone off the hook during one particularly heated re-acquaintance session.

It was wonderful, having a body again. There were all sorts of things to catch up on; the taste of apples; the scent of pine burning in a wood stove; the sweet decay of freshly-shed autumn leaves and the delightful way they crunched beneath your feet; the texture of soft skin under your hands, marked here and there by scars and metal; the sight of golden hair scattered over a pillow, golden eyes half-lidded in pleasure, glinting white teeth in a wicked wolf-grin.

And if there was one thing Al was looking forward to, it was having his first proper Christmas with his brother. Ed didn't seem to get any of his hints, however, and Al was too polite to outright demand that Ed change a by-now ingrained habit, so when December arrived Al resigned himself to a lack of festive spirit. He was mildly consoled that Winry was coming to Central to check up on he and his brother, but annoyed to learn she left on Christmas Eve in order to be back home in time to spend the holidays with Auntie Pinako, and Ed was oblivious to Al's hints that they join her.

"I just wish he'd make an effort," Al grumbled as he walked Winry down the high street in order to buy her a new set of screwdrivers on the twenty-fourth.

"Oh?" Winry asked, giving him a sidelong glance, and Al sighed.

"Yeah. I mean, he tries and all and I know he cares, but I wish he'd just do this one thing for me. It'd mean a lot."

"Ah. Oooh! Titanium-alloy diamond-tip MGX40! These things were given full marks by the Rush Valley College of Automail Surgeons in their 'Which Screwdriver' August 1917 article! Al...?" Al feigned a sigh, grinned and counted out the money for her.

"Merry Christmas, Winry."

"Thanks. So, I don't know why you're so worried. Ed's a bit thick, but he tries. Stop hinting and, y'know, tell him. Which way to the station?"

He waved her off—Ed had an appointment with the military brass, or something, and had shoved them both out to prepare—and headed back home, hoping his brother was done. Instead he found the door locked and Ed absent; he'd forgotten his keys, so retired to the cafeteria downstairs in a huff. Havoc, Breda and Farman were there, playing a game of cards, and seamlessly he was included into their game and conversation. They were awaiting Mustang so they could go to a particular bar together, and he should be along shortly. No, they hadn't seen Ed anywhere, and no, they couldn't think of anyone else with spare keys to the dorms, but they'd keep an eye out for him when they left.

Mustang and Hawkeye joined them an hour and a half later, nodding to Al as he wrapped a pale green scarf around his throat. It was somewhat strange seeing the man in plain clothes, but Al merely smiled at him and dropped his cards in the centre of the table. Breda organised the deck as Mustang asked, "What's wrong, Alphonse?"

"Nothing, I'm just waiting for my brother. Have you—?"

"Fullmetal? Yes, I've seen him, about an hour ago. On the way to the dorms."

"Thank you!" Al said, exasperated, and Roy chuckled.

"I wish the two of you a good Christmas, Alphonse. I would appreciate it if you didn't tell Edward I said that, though you can tell him he's to report back for duty on the third of January."

"Aa—sure, you too, Colonel Mustang," Al said awkwardly, and Roy nodded at him as he headed out of the cafeteria. Al watched him go, then snapped out of it and headed up to the dorms. "Brother, you had better be in there—" he thundered, shouldering the door open, and froze.

Ed tossed his bangs out of his face and scowled down at him from his precarious perch on a chair with a wobbly leg. "You could have waited another fifteen minutes, Al, by then I might've been finished," he grumbled sourly, and inched forward in an effort to fix the holly wreath onto the ceiling fan. The chair creaked, the wobbly leg snapped, and it was only Al's reflexes that prevented Edward from taking a nasty fall. As it was, he received a blow around the back of the head with Ed's automail. "Ow," Ed said, sprawled over Al's lap.

"You say 'ow'?" Al protested, rubbing the back of his head. Ed hooked his automail around Al's neck, leaning over to inspect his head for signs of bleeding or bruising.

"Sorry," he said softly, rubbing at the injured spot with his human hand. Al used the opportunity to examine the decorations Ed had managed to put up; holly, tinsel, a little bit of mistletoe over the door. Even a minuscule Christmas tree balanced on the bedside table, with a shiny stack of presents underneath and around it and a bottle of wine, a cork-opener and two glasses resting beside the stack. Their dorm room was cramped and small, especially with the addition of the decorations, but right now it seemed cosy, and Al smiled at the sight. "I thought you'd like this," Ed muttered against his throat. "Since you've been hinting all month that you want to actually celebrate Christmas again this year. Is it... okay?"

"Yes," Al said, pressing his lips to Ed's forehead. "It's fine. Thank you, brother, it's wonderful."

"Eh. It's okay," Ed replied with an exaggeratedly casual shrug. "I love you, you know."

Al didn't even make an effort to stop his smile, instead drawing Ed closer. "Love you too, brother," he said quietly; Ed raised his head and Al lowered his, and their lips met smoothly, softly, opening under each other tenderly.

That, Al would later say, was the best Christmas Eve he ever had. Ed, being Ed, would point out that he preferred the day after, when they didn't even try to get out of bed.