Fluffy friendship fic set before the game featuring Genis, Lloyd and Colette.

Dedication: for my bloke who, when presented with my "plot bunnies to write" list, pointed to the idea for this one and asked me to write it next. :)

Disclaimer: I don't own Tales of Symphonia, as far as I'm aware the wonderful game belongs to Namco.

Genis sighed and shook his head as he watched Colette attempt to give a playing card to Lloyd. It wasn't the way the game they were playing should be played but she had worked out that he needed a card that she had and, in a gesture that was very typical for her, had decided to pass it to him. He was insisting that she should keep the card in case it helped her to win but she was adamant that he should have it.

Genis smiled softly at his two friends. Sometimes they could be really funny. It was nice, being able to relax with them, two people he felt he could trust. There were few people in the village that he trusted and apart from his sister these two were the ones he felt most comfortable around. It was easy to relax with them, they didn't act differently around him because he was the teacher's brother, the nerd who paid attention in class and knew so many answers. Perhaps it was because they themselves knew what it was like to be treated differently because of a label that had been placed on you.

He enjoyed the evenings he spent with them like this, settled around a small campfire in Lloyd's backyard. They could forget about people at school who were rude and mean to them, about the villagers who weren't always entirely pleasant to them or, in Colette's case, expected her to perform a seemingly endless list of, what seemed to him at least, pointless tasks because of her title. It was a chance to have some time just for them, to relax and have fun.

He could see the discussion about whether or not Lloyd should have the card could go on for a long time if his two friends were left to continue the debate. He picked up the remaining cards that had been placed in a pile between them on the blanket they were sitting on, selected the ones he needed then coughed to get his friends' attention.

"I win," he said, grinning.

"Hey, no fair," Lloyd grumbled. Genis was about to make an amusing retort when Noishe leaned over and gently took the playing cards out of his hands.

"I think that means Noishe wins," Colette giggled, smiling happily.

"How can he win? He wasn't even playing!" Lloyd protested, rolling his eyes but smiling at the same time. Noishe grinned and wagged his tail.

Colette gathered up the playing cards, put them away in a small box and put them to one side then started gathering up pillows and blankets. Lloyd nodded, agreeing that it was getting late and was time for bed. He moved to help her arrange the pillows and blankets then snuggled under the blankets, putting an arm around Colette as she nestled up beside him. Genis settled down beside them, yawning slightly as Noishe curled up around them all. It was a warm night but it was comfortable to curl up together to stay warm, something they had done many times before.

He looked over at the fire as Colette asked Lloyd to tell them a nice story. He listened as Lloyd muttered about how old did she think they were, asking for a bedtime story? Genis rolled his eyes as the older boy, despite his protests, found himself unable to resist Colette's request. He watched the warm flames of their campfire through half-closed eyes, thinking about how kind the fire was, giving them warmth as well as providing heat to cook with and giving them a sense of security. He smiled as he remembered melting marshmallows over it earlier in the evening, they'd been so deliciously gooey and warm, then yawned and snuggled closer to his friends.

Lloyd continued telling his story and Colette wrapped an arm around the small mage, a gesture that he found comforting. There was something motherly about the blonde, a warm kindness. He always slept well when curled up with his friends on nights like this. The sounds and smells that surrounded him were familiar, ones that he associated with peaceful times. He let his eyes slip closed and let the softly spoken words of Lloyd's story, the sound of Colette and Noishes' breathing and the gentle crackling of the fire lull him into sleep.