If this seems rushed it's cause it is XD It was a spur-of-the-moment gotta-get-it-done-by-Christmas kinda thing. Anyway, it's just short and fluffy and Christmasy. Oh yeah, and completely separate from my other fics. Oh, and this fic is going on the assumption that everyone in the FF7 world celebrates Christmas or some equivalent of it that is called Christmas in this fic. …Er, you get the idea don't you? XD Anyway, Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukkah, Happy Holidays etc to everyone!
Some things never changed. That was the essence of tradition, she supposed. But by now, she felt that all the Christmas spirit she had when she was young had probably gone out of her. After losing her family, her hometown, and then some of her dearest friends, it just seemed to her that something as carefree and frivolous as Christmas just wouldn't apply to her anymore.
There were other reasons for that too. Her current view of the holiday wasn't entirely merry. Serving drinks was nothing new, but seeing all of them alone during what was supposed to be 'the most wonderful time of the year,' and being alone herself, was entirely depressing.
It had been different when she was a child, like Marlene. She glanced at the child next to her, coloring with the crayons she'd gotten for her birthday and stealing from the plate of cookies Tifa made. She smiled, thinking to herself when the girl suddenly piped up.
"Tifa," she started, looking up and ceasing the movement of her red crayon. "When's Santa gonna get here?"
Tifa bent down closer to the girls level. "Not until you're asleep Marlene."
"Aww! But I want him to come now…"
"Well I'm sorry, but you're going to have to wait." Tifa sighed. It must've been nice to be a girl of Marlene's age on Christmas, with nothing to think about except when Santa would arrive with presents.
Maybe it wasn't so much being her age, as having a family around. She couldn't help but wonder what was going on in the lives of all these people around her, all her customers, that they would be so alone during a time they should be surrounded by loved ones. But the bar was closing soon—early in fact, 11:30 because of the holiday— and hopefully they were all going home to someone who cared about them.
Hopefully. "So what are you drawing?" she finally asked. The little girl had been working on her picture all afternoon. She went to the other end of the bar so she could look over her shoulder and see what it was.
A chime from the door signaled that her most loyal customer—and she was using the term loosely—had just arrived. She knew he'd be coming in just when the last drunk had gone and the bar had officially closed.
"Hi Reno!" Marlene said immediately, before the door had even swung shut. He sat at the bar and grinned.
"Hey kid," She grinned back and giggled. Why that child had such a natural attachment to him Tifa would never understand. He just didn't see like the type to attract children. "Do I get one of these?" he asked, motioning to her plate of cookies.
"No! They're mine! Tifa said so!" Tifa wanted to laugh—they'd been battling over baked goods since the morning.
"Fine. Peanut butter cookies are for peanuts anyway," he said, teasing her.
"I'm not a peanut!"
He laughed and stuck his tongue out at her when she did the same. When he turned to Tifa, his grin turned slightly different. "Hey babe. Merry Christmas."
She smiled reluctantly. God, how many times had she told herself not to be such a sucker for that grin? "Merry Christmas yourself."
"…You really give her that whole plate of cookies?"
"I had to. It was to keep her away from those." she pointed to the opposite end of the bar from where Marlene was.
"And what are 'those'?" he asked leaning closer to inspect them.
"Rum balls." Her own secret recipe.
"…Do I get to have them?"
"Help yourself." And he eagerly did. Reno was a very vocal fan of her cooking—most likely because she gave him free food for no particular reason.
"These strong enough to give you a buzz?"
She smirked. "Why do you think I won't let Marlene have any?"
She ate a few as well, and silence ensued for a while. Normally Marlene would be excitedly chatting with (or at) Reno, but she seemed very focused on her picture.
"Tifa," she spoke up again. "Isn't it Christmas yet?"
Tifa looked at the clock. 12:03. She should have put Marlene to bed by now, but the girl insisted on staying up with her. "Ya know Marlene, it actually is."
"Really?" she said with excitement in her eyes. This time she actually put down her crayon. "So do I get my presents now?" What a one-track mind.
"Well Marlene, I already told you that Santa won't bring your gifts until you go to sleep."
"Buuut… I do have a gift for you," She rummaged around the shelves behind her until she found the doll that Marlene had been wanting all year. "Merry Christmas sweetie." There was nothing quite like the feeling she got when she saw the look on Marlene's face as she revealed what was underneath the wrapping paper.
"Thank you Tifa!" she exclaimed, leaping into her arms and giving as tight a hug as her little arms could give. "I have a present for you too, okay?" she said returning to her artist's corner, and handing Tifa the picture she'd been working on.
Tifa blushed when she looked at it, and was glad that Marlene hadn't verbally explained what it was so Reno could hear. She carefully placed it out of his view. "Thank you Marlene," she said hugging the girl again. "That was very thoughtful of you. Now go on and go to bed so Santa can bring you the rest of your presents, all right?"
"All right," she replied. "But Tifa?"
"Daddy's gonna be back tomorrow for when we unwrap presents, right?"
He'd better. "Of course Marlene."
"Hey peanut." Reno said as she turned to go up the stairs.
He grinned again. "I've got a present for ya," Curiously, she walked over and took the gift—a chocolate snowman—that he handed to her. "Merry Christmas kid."
Marlene launched herself into his arms the same way she'd done to Tifa—only Reno obviously hadn't been expecting it. Tifa bit back a giggle at the look of surprise on his face.
"Merry Christmas Reno," she said, and disappeared up the stairs.
"So what was the picture of?" he asked after a lengthy silence.
"Oh… oh, um, it was…" she tried to think of something. "I mean you know how kids are…" Oh she might as will just tell him. She picked up the drawing and handed it to him. "It's… us."
And it was. It may not have been the most skilled rendering, and a certain portion of Tifa's anatomy was grossly exaggerated due to Marlene's childhood naïveté, but it most certainly was them. He smirked as he looked at it—she knew it was mostly for the aforementioned embellishment. "Kid's got an artist's eye," he said, staring at her pointedly.
"Yeah I guess," she mumbled, blushing and folding her arms over her chest. "That was sweet of you to give her a gift," she said after a long silence.
He grinned cheesily. "I got something for you too."
"Ah, but of course," he said, revealing a large bouquet of red roses.
She blinked, first wondering where on earth the roses had just appeared from, and then how she was supposed to react. "Wow…" She couldn't fight the blush. "Thank you," she said taking them, looking for a vase. When the flowers were taken care of, she frowned. "But I didn't get you anything…"
"You can make it up to me in other ways."
She narrowed her eyes. "Well I don't know what you think a bunch of flowers are worth to me, but I'm not that kind of gi—"
"Whoa, whoa, I didn't mean that."
She eyed him skeptically. If he was telling the truth, then it was the first time as long as she'd known him that he wasn't talking about 'that.' "Uh huh. What then?"
"I meant like… y'know, the free food and booze and stuff," He gestured with his hands. "I figure after all that I owe you something."
She thought for a moment. "…All right then," she said walking off to start her close up routine.
He followed her around the room while she put the chairs up on the tables, telling her about this one Christmas he Rude and Elena went to the Icicle Inn. They got so drunk, he said, that they started a whole commotion, falling all over themselves, and knocked over the giant Christmas tree in the lobby.
"I was out a lot of money by the time that trip was over. That asshole manager made us pay for all his 'expensive' crap."
"What would you have expected him to do? You broke it all."
"I say it's his fault. He's the one who left all that shit out there at the disposal of everyone," He settled himself in the archway. "Besides, didn't he expect people to be getting drunk out of their fucking minds?"
"Obviously not, or he wouldn't have put anything expensive out there," she said, putting up the last chair. "Why do you think I don't decorate this place?"
"You did though," he insisted. "See? You've been 'decking the halls with boughs of holly."
She joined him at the archway, leaning on the opposite side of the doorframe leading into the back room. "That's not holly," she said, blatantly laughing at him.
"Oh," He paused for a moment. "What is it then?"
"It's mistletoe." She explained.
"…And what's that again?"
She was just deciding it was probably a bad idea to tell him when he seemed to have a revelation.
"Oh wait, I know! That's the stuff that when you stand under it with someone you—" He caught her sneaking out of the doorway. "Aww, come on," he grabbed her hand and pulled her back to where she'd been. "I wouldn't try anything unless I had your permission." He smiled innocently.
"Although…" He looked her up and down and grinned when his gaze came back to her eyes. "I know what I want for Christmas."
"Just a kiss, I promise." When did his hands manage to get on her waist?
"I don't…" She was having a hell of a time trying to find a reason why not.
She was trying really hard to find something to say, but she lost her chance when his lips met hers, and all rational thought was driven from her mind.
He finally pulled away and grinned at her, quite obviously pleased with himself. "Now that wasn't so bad, was it?"
She couldn't think of a response (or at least one that she could voice—her mind was screaming 'Oh God no! Not bad at all!') so she just mumbled something.
"So how long are you keeping the decorations up?"
She learned to speak again. "P-probably 'til New Year's." He still held her pressed right up against him. Her hands, she suddenly realized, were on his chest.
He made his way to the door, but held her hand so she'd come with him. "Then I guess I'll be back at the end of the month. Bring in the New Year with a bang, hmm?" He winked and kissed her again.
"O-okay." God, her face must have looked like it was on fire. "But um…" Keep it together! "You don't have to leave now." He raised an eyebrow. Ohhh God that was a mistake.
"You offering something if I stay?" He grinned slyly and advanced on her again.
And there went her voice again. "I-I didn't mean—"
He smiled and cut her off. "Only kidding," And he kissed her again. "Merry Christmas Teef."
She fidgeted when he was gone, thoroughly embarrassed. She sought comfort in the form of chocolate and liquor by eating more of the rum balls.
She was a little ashamed to admit it, but she was already trying to figure out what she would wear on New Year's Eve. Next time, she'd wait for him under the mistletoe.
Give a little. Leave a review as a present.