“Christmas,” Greed drawls, brushing imaginary dirt off his lapels, “is some fucking bullshit.”
“Just open it, will you? God, you’re a cockslap.” Ed prods the fire with his bare metal foot. Its idiotic, but it’s an improvement on this special kind of hell conversation.
Greed turns the small box over in his hands and frowns, and it could almost be called tender—something that clearly isn’t meant to be seen, and something that reveals far more than Ed wants to know.
“What does this say?” Greed holds up the box to show off the writing scrawled on the paper. “Did you ever learn to write, or is this a new experience for you?”
“Fuck you. My hand is made of metal.”
“Is that relevant to your illiteracy?”
“It says that you’re a dick, and I wish you the most un-merry fucking Christmas.”
“And this bit?” Greed says, pointing to the rest of the message.
“That bit’s for Ling. He’ll be able to read it for himself, ‘cause he ain’t goddamn blind.”
Greed hums, and Ed bristles, and this is about how ninety percent of their conversations go.
He doesn’t even know why he fucking bothered; what was he expecting, exactly? A thank you? Some response that wasn’t snappish, and cruel, and designed to hit him exactly where he was sore?
Some bullshit indeed.
Slowly, Greed slips a finger under the paper’s edge and pries it away until it comes loose. He folds it and sets it aside.
The box in itself is pretty damn neat, fitting perfectly in Greed’s palm in all its sleek black and gold glory. Ed put a fair few minutes of brain power into the design.
“A box. You shouldn’t have.” Greed looks like he wishes Ed didn’t.
“What the—I didn’t just get you an empty box, you—!”
“Oh, shush,” Greed says, rolling his eyes, and his hands are gentle as he flips the clasp and opens the lid.
Ed goes back to the fire. It’s dying slowly, sputtering weak little embers every so often. Ed can sympathise.
“It was kind of rushed,” Ed says without looking up. “I didn’t have much time, and it’s, uh—”
“When did you make this?” Greed mutters. Ed can’t tell what emotion it’s supposed to reflect.
“You know we passed those mines the other day? I transmuted some of the culm into gold, which is a bit illegal, but we’re kind of criminals anyways, s-so…”
There’s quiet filled with the crackle of the flames and the hammer of Ed’s heart. It stretches so long that he barely notices when Greed reaches behind him and frees his hair; Ed’s never seen it down before, and he begrudgingly has to admit that Ling has pretty great hair for someone who’s been washing in streams for the past months. He gathers it into a higher ponytail.
“You like it?” Ed says. He’s not nervous. He shouldn’t be nervous.
Greed extracts the ribbon from the box, and the woven gold catches brilliantly bright in the firelight. He wraps it around his hair twice before tying it off in a bow, the ends tangling with black strands.
Finally, he shrugs. “Guess you do have some amount of style after all, kid.”
“Thank you, Edward.”
Ed swallows. “…Ling?”
Ling nods, and Ed notes that the shift from Greed was almost seamless. They’re getting better at it—coexisting in one body. Ed doesn’t like it.
And then Ling’s eyes dilate into purple and his expression darkens into a scowl. “Told you to warn me before you do that,” Greed snarls. “What’re you staring at, runt?”
That doesn’t rile Ed up as much as it should; Greed looks stumped by that too.
What the hell. It’s Christmas.
“You kept it,” Ed says some years later, entirely caught up in the way the wind whips Ling’s hair. “The ribbon.”
Ling pauses, then smiles slightly, a watered down version of his familiar grin. Ed knows the word for it would be sad; he’d just rather not apply it to Ling.
“Yes, I kept it.” Ling hums, reaching up and around his head to run his fingers along the fraying gold edges. “He liked it.”
“Yes. I believe,” Ling says, “he liked it a lot.”