Started writing this on Christmas day, finished it a few days later. :)
The train sat patiently at the station. People poured out of its doors like a swarm of insects released from a cage; there was much jostling and pushing and bumping of elbows in the rush to get out of the station and into a cab. Amidst the throng a boy and a suit of armor were inching their way toward the exit. The suit of armor was very careful not to bump into anyone, and it promptly apologized each time it did; the boy, on the other hand, had lost his temper and was muscling his way through the crowd.
"Get back here you moron!" he yelled, shaking a gloved fist in the direction of several passengers. "Call me a shrimp, will you? I'll show you a shrimp! Come on! You want a piece of this?"
"Nii-chan!" said the suit of armor. It tried to get closer to the boy, but there was a young couple and their baby squeezed between them. It could not shout for fear of upsetting the baby; it kept glancing at the baby to make sure it was not speaking too loudly. "Nii-chan, calm down!" it called, cupping its gauntlets about its mouthpiece.
The boy stood fuming in silence. A few minutes later the suit of armor caught up with him and placed a gauntlet on his shoulder. "Are you okay?" it said.
"Yeah," said the boy. "Damn this holiday crowd. Aren't they supposed to be going back to their hometowns? Why are they all heading for Central on the same day we get back?"
The suit of armor shrugged. "It's Christmas Day, nii-chan," it said. "Maybe some of them have families here. Or maybe they don't believe in Christmas. The pay is higher when you work on a holiday."
"Hmph." The boy picked up his suitcase and resumed walking. "Does that apply for state alchemists as well?" he said. The suit of armor said it wasn't sure, but he seemed not to expect a reply. They passed the turnstiles and stepped into the chill December air outside the station. Central City's streets teemed with people in great coats and overcoats, hailing cabs and hurrying past with their luggage. The boy and the suit of armor scanned the cabs for the navy blue army car that would escort them back to headquarters; all they could see was the black of the waiting cabs.
"Schiller is late," said the armor. "How's your arm, nii-chan?"
"It's fine, Al," said the boy. "If he doesn't arrive in five minutes let's go back inside." He rubbed his right arm briskly.
"Ne, nii-chan," said Al. "Didn't we have a Christmas tree back home?"
The boy looked at Al's helmet. Its face bore no expression; hearing Al's seven-year-old voice come from its mouthpiece made him wonder sometimes if, the next time he removed the helmet, he might see Al inside, still whole and human. In his heart of hearts he still wished for this to happen, along with waking up one day to find that his arm and leg were still warm flesh and not Winry's heavy auto-mail.
But wishes, like Christmas, were for children. This day was no different from ordinary days - no miracle would drop from the sky for them, only snow that refused to melt on Al. The boy smiled at Al and said, "Sure, Al. I remember. Mother used to make popcorn for the tree, and you'd eat it all before we could put it on a string."
"Mou, nii-chan!" cried Al. "That was you! Stop lying!" The boy imagined a blush forming on the metal cheek guards and spreading to the sides, where Al's ears used to be. He made no move to take off the metal helmet; he knew that he'd find only a man-sized void inside the armor if he did.
"Ed! Al! Sorry I'm late." A man in a blue uniform came hurrying towards them, his breath briefly clouding up his face as he went. "Car's over there; let's go," he said.
"You took your time, Schiller," said Ed. Tucking his right arm into his coat, he hoisted his luggage with his left and followed Schiller to the waiting car. Al walked beside him; his armor looked like the statue of the old president in Central Plaza, breathless and covered in a layer of snow. Al never complained of the cold.
Ed would have given more than he had lost to see Al shiver from the snow's touch.
When they got to the car Ed climbed in first. "Brush yourself off properly this time, Al," he said, grinning. "I don't want to get my boots wet."
"Nii-chan! Cut that out!" cried Al. Ed laughed. "Here, you missed one," he said, rubbing a gloved finger on Al's jointed shoulder plate.
The tip of his glove came away with a wet spot.