A/N: This started as a little something I wanted to write ten minutes before drivers' ed, but it kind of...grew, a little. Still, here you have it. A fabulous birthday bash (in the woods), featuring (almost) all our favourite folks, courtesy of Namco to whom Tales of Symphonia belongs. Enjoy!
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"Happy birthday Colette!" The cheer rang around the campfire. Unbelievably, the journey for world regeneration gone journey to separate the worlds gone journey to reunite them had already lasted a year – no doubt thanks to some of the lazier, less enthusiastic members, not to mention the handful of traitors someone kept letting back into the group, the dizzyingly diverting side-quests, and perhaps due to the somewhat necessary Sylvarant Chosen having been kidnapped and sick so many times. But putting the perilous journey aside, today was a joyous day, because Colette had turned seventeen.
The gang was seated on assorted fallen logs, which had been set up comfortably around the fire. Colette and Raine were sharing; to the half-elf's left sat Regal, who was sharing the largest log with Genis on the end and a slightly awkward-looking Presea in the middle; on the log to Colette's right was Zelos, and sharing with him was Sheena; on the last log, at everyone's unspoken insistence, were Lloyd and Kratos.
"Thank you so much, everyone!" The blond smiled prettily.
"That dinner was amazing, guys," Lloyd congratulated Genis and Regal, patting his very full stomach.
"You didn't have to eat so much of Colette's birthday cookie shortcake, Lloyd," Genis informed his best friend.
"Hey!" the swordsman said defensively. "Didn't the Professor once say that growing people need more food?"
"Hmm…" Raine tapped her chin thoughtfully. "That's true."
This caused simultaneous shouts of "What!", "I was right?", "No wonder he eats like such a pig!" and a quieter "Appetite increase of thirty to sixty percent to account for growth spurts during puberty."
Genis shook his head in surprise. "I guess it must be Kratos' influence kicking in…finally." He grinned at the red-clad boy and was promptly thwacked over the head. "Oww…Rai-aine, he hit me!"
The professor hadn't noticed. "Hmm… Dramatic increase in subject's intellectual capacity following prolonged exposure to subject's considerably intelligent absent father… I must observe the phenomenon closely…"
"Uh-oh," Lloyd mumbled.
"…" was Kratos' reaction, though whether at being called merely considerably intelligent, being reminded of his guilt-ridden absence in his son's life, or being viewed as an experiment subject, the group would never know.
"Oh," Colette said awkwardly. "That soup was delicious as well, Regal!"
"It was my pleasure to cook for your birthday, Colette" the convict replied modestly. "When I heard how much you enjoy cream stew, I thought the least I could do was make it for you."
"I can't believe anyone can cook so well with handcuffs, pops," Zelos commented. "Then again, the handcuffs might actually improve your technique. In fact, it reminds me of this one time in Meltokio, a few of my hunnies thought it would be fun if I–"
"Would you like to open your presents now, Colette?" Raine interrupted hastily.
"I'll go first," the ninja said, handing the younger woman a small, embroidered sky blue silk bag.
"Wow, it's beautiful, Sheena," Colette said brightly.
"Uh, there's something inside it too, Colette."
"Really? Let's see!" She loosened the drawstrings and pulled out a round silver charm, divided into four sections by a wavy cross. Each section was decoratively enamelled: one red with an ice blue flame, one green with a brown feather, one navy with a purple teardrop, and the last one golden yellow with a black sunburst. It was coin-sized and dangled from a simple bracelet. "This is amazing, Sheena!"
The summoner blushed. "Oh, sure, no problem. I picked it up last time we were in Mizuho. It's supposed to give the wearer elemental protection, as well as help with, uh, balance."
"It's perfect!" the blonde exclaimed, putting it on carefully.
"Maybe now our cute little angel won't take so many tumbles," Zelos remarked. "Well, I guess I'm next." He grinned and winked. "I, the Zelos Wilder, the Great Chosen of Tethe'alla, second only to the King, bequeath my dear Colette this." He reached into his vest and removed a rolled-up paper, which he handed to the blond.
"Oh! It's a…" She unrolled it. "A picture of Zelos! Signed by…" She peered at the extravagantly embellished signature. "…Zelos! Neat!"
"Half the ladies in Meltokio would kill for that," Zelos informed her smugly.
Sheena shook her head. "He probably isn't kidding, either."
"Wait!" Genis squinted. "There's something written on the back as well."
Colette turned the picture over and read. " 'Roses are red, violets are blue, we Chosens should stick together, tonight if you want to.' He drew a little winking face, too. How sweet!"
"So how about it my little angel?" The redhead switched logs smoothly and draped his arm around the blonde's shoulders.
There was shout of 'philandering pervert!' and a loud smack, followed by a thud, as Zelos was whacked in the face by Sheena, and knocked off the log onto his back by the force of it.
"Come on, my beautiful banshee!" he pleaded. "No need to be jealous, there's plenty of Zelos to go around!"
"That goes for you too, my cool beauty!"
"Nice one, professor!" Lloyd cheered.
"Thank you, Lloyd."
"Aw, come on, guys, I was only joking!" Zelos muttered, rubbing the side of his head as he sat back down on the other log. "I got Colette this, too." He handed her something fluffy.
"A puppy doll?" The blonde hugged it. "It's so cute! Thank you, Zelos!"
"No problem, little angel."
"And don't worry," she added. "I don't know what's different about tonight, but we'll always stick together!"
Half the circle groaned and/or sighed.
"Anyway…here is my gift, Colette," Raine said, passing her a bulky, cloth-wrapped, square object. The professor's eyes grew wider and wider with excitement as the blonde unwrapped it.
"It's…a book!" Colette hefted it, and smiled appreciatively. "A really big book! Thank you, Professor Raine."
Taking this as an invitation, Raine began babbling. "Well, I was thinking about how, back at Asgard, you were curious about the Balacruf Empire, and I don't think I did it proper justice when I explained it to you because Lloyd found Harley and Linar trying to destroy the ruin, so I decided to write down everything I know about it – which is more than many scholars in Sylvarant, let me assure you – and when I finished, it occurred to me, why stop there? So I compiled everything I could get my hands on with such short notice, what with travelling and all, and composed the first recorded volume of the entire known history of Sylvarant! Complete with an introduction to Tethe'alla, as well as a detailed log of our journey, not to mention everything we learned about the Great Kharlan War, Cruxis, and…" She went on, silver eyes glowing as she breathed on the verge of hyperventilation.
"That is moderately…" Regal was at a loss for words.
"Terrifying?" Presea suggested.
"I was going to say, impressive, but…" He shrugged.
"That's our Raine," Genis muttered, sounding a little embarrassed.
"It must have taken such a long time, Professor!" Colette exclaimed when Raine finally finished speaking. "I can't wait to read it. Learning is so much fun!"
"Ugh…" Lloyd groaned. "I can't believe she gave her…a book."
"As I recall, I gave you a book as well, when we first met." Kratos informed him.
"That's different, though," the swordsman protested. "It was about fighting and, you know, useful stuff."
Raine fumed at him, but Kratos spoke first. "Do not underestimate the value of knowledge of any kind. It is true that basic information regarding combat will help you stay alive in this world, but without any other kinds of knowledge, how do you hope to live a life of purpose?"
Lloyd blinked, then shrugged. "I've made it this far, haven't I?"
"You've been relying on the knowledge of your friends, Lloyd," the Seraph answered matter-of-factly. "It is good to remember you have help in this, but there may come a time when you find yourself alone and in dire need. What will you do? You cannot hope to win every battle with a sword."
The swordsman grinned at his father. "It's a good thing I've got two, then!"
"Lloyd…" Genis groaned. "He didn't mean…"
Lloyd sighed. "I know." He glanced at Kratos, and a look of determination spread across his face. "Alright. I'll try harder, Da-… Kratos. I'll study everything I can, and then, someday, I'll be the smartest swordsman in Sylvarant!" He punched the air enthusiastically.
There was a sob, and everyone turned to Raine, who had tears in her eyes. "I've been trying…for years…" She jumped up from her seat suddenly, sidestepped the fire, and threw her arms around Lloyd's neck in something resembling a death lock.
"See what I mean?" Zelos said, to no one in particular. "For some reason, beauties are drawn to that guy."
"Er," Lloyd croaked. "Can't…breathe…"
"That's right, Lloyd!" Raine said encouragingly, tightening her grip if anything. "Pressure to the neck does cut off airflow to the lungs! You're doing so well!"
"You want to help too, Genis? Perfect!"
"Professor, I think you had better…"
"Start as soon as possible? What a wonderful idea, Colette!"
"Probability of Lloyd surviving Raine's affection…"
"Excellent, Presea! You can teach him probability!"
"Raine." Kratos tapped the professor's arm, and glanced emphatically at his son, whose face was beginning to turn purple.
"Oh. Oh!" Raine released him quickly. "Sorry, Lloyd." She murmured, sitting back down. "I suppose I got carried away…"
"No…problem…professor," the swordsman said between deep breaths.
"So Lloyd's decided to stop being a complete idiot–" Zelos started.
"–and he's got the gorgeous Professor, my little rosebud, and the brat–"
"–to help him out. Now, if I'm not mistaken, our little angel still has a few presents left, so on with the party!"
"Sounds good!" Colette chirped.
"This is for you, Colette," Presea said, giving the blonde a small, wooden object.
"A dove! Did you carve this, Presea?"
"Yes," the girl replied quietly.
"It's lovely. It's kind of like Genis' bear, isn't it?"
"Sort of. The carving I made for Genis was for wealth, though. This one is for…a pure heart. Not that you need any help with that…" she trailed off.
"Thank you so much, Presea. I love it!" Colette beamed.
"Oh. You're…welcome." Presea gave a rare smile. "I'm glad you like it."
"What about you, Lloyd?" Genis inquired. "You remembered this time, didn't you?"
"Uhm. About that…"
"Here you are, Chosen," Kratos said. He stood up to pass her a worn-looking little book, and sat down again.
"Wow, this looks really old!" Colette opened it gently and skimmed through the first few pages. "It's written in the angelic language, too."
The Seraph closed his eyes, as though reminiscing, before answering. "Yes, it is very old. It belonged to…a friend. She wrote beautiful poetry."
Colette looked thoughtful for a moment, then smiled. "It's Martel's, isn't it?"
The group gasped, still unused to the fact that Martel wasn't a goddess, per say.
"That's correct," Kratos replied. "She wrote a good deal of it for Yuan, but when she died… Well, suffice to say, he couldn't bear to keep it. I kept it all these years, but it seemed like a waste, for no one to see it."
"Are you sure I should have this?" She half-rose, to give it back.
"Keep it, Colette. You and Martel…your mana signature is not your only similarity. I'm sure, if she was alive, she would…be pleased at your having it."
"Kratos… sentimental?" Presea said disbelievingly.
"Who'd have thought, huh?" Lloyd said brightly. "Then again, he did sneak into Flanoir just to visit me, and he kept that pendant until he gave it to me." He nudged the Seraph, whose face had gone blank. "He's got warm, heart-felt gift thing perfected."
"How sweet!" exclaimed Raine and Sheena.
"Very!" Colette chimed.
"Hey," Genis perked up. "Is he…?"
"I didn't think it was possible, but it seems…" Regal agreed.
"Our favourite grumpy old Seraph is blushing!" Zelos laughed wildly.
"...You are most certainly mistaken," Kratos retorted, despite the faint flush in his cheeks.
"So cute!" the girls, excluding Presea, squealed.
"Humph. Don't you still need to give Colette her gift, Lloyd?"
The group's attention shifted from Kratos to his son.
"Aw, no fair, Da-…Kratos."
"You did remember her birthday, did you not?"
"Of course I remembered! It's just…" Lloyd sighed. "It doesn't seem like a very good gift, after all those amazing things from everyone else."
"That doesn't matter," Colette insisted. "Any present from you will always be amazing, Lloyd, because…it's from you. Anything from you will always be special." She smiled.
"Well, alright…" He fished around inside his coat. "I guess it's on time at least, and not broken or anything…" He walked over to the blonde and pressed something into her hand.
"This… Wow, Lloyd!" Colette lifted her hand to reveal an exquisite pinkish golden ring, shaped like tiny angel wings, set with a spherical stone. It was clear like a diamond, but when Colette put it on, it immediately changed to a vivid fuchsia.
"It's a mood ring," Lloyd informed her. "Dad helped me a bit with the setting, but I did the charm on the stone myself. I know you don't always like us to know how you're feeling, so you can take it off whenever you want, but… I want you to know that if you're ever feeling down about something, you can always talk to me. No matter what, I'll do my best to cheer you up. This journey's probably been harder on you than anyone, but you aren't alone, and if you ever need anything–"
He was cut off as Colette wrapped her arms around him, hugging him tightly. After a moment, he returned her embrace. "Happy birthday, Colette."
"Thank you so much, Lloyd…everyone…" she let go of the swordsman to wipe a few tears from her eyes, though the colour of the mood ring only intensified. "I'm sorry, I know I shouldn't be crying… It's just that, when I left Iselia to regenerate the world, I never thought I'd live to have another birthday. I didn't think I was going to go home again, or anything. And I never even dreamed that I would make so many great friends. So thank you. Thank you all for everything. This has been my best birthday yet!" She laughed.
"Hey, little angel," Zelos grinned. "Same time next year, kay? We can party all night at my fabulous Meltokio mansion." At Sheena's glare, he added, "Sheesh, not alone!"
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A/N: End! So, a little cheesy, a little cliché, but fun, I hope. Please review if you liked it! Thanks!