Hello everyone! Merry Christmas! This is my second one-shot, inspired by the holiday season, and a very amusing thought about mistletoe. I hope you enjoy it, and get a few laughs out of it. I had fun writing it, and I really hope you have fun reading it.
As for "Give Way" I intend to resume writing it shortly. I simply had to get this one out before I did anything else, lest I forget the idea!
With that said, on with "Ridiculous Hume Customs," a one shot by Kanarah J
"Are you alright, dearest?" Balthier asked through clenched teeth. He cringed as a slow cloud of smoke rose from the console.
Fran eyed him with a hint of frustration, but chose not to express it any further. "I'm fine."
"Good." He glanced over his shoulder toward the rear of the airship, also filled with a substantial amount of smoke. "I trust the rest of you are alive and well."
"I think I'll be alright."
The rest of the passengers settled on a series of groans and complaints, to which Balthier promptly ignored.
"Glad to hear it." He coughed. "Now, if you don't mind, I want all of you off my ship. We begin repairs immediately." It was on his tongue to end the sentence—as well as a few others—with a fair amount of profanity, but he bit it back and settled on a stiff swallow.
The console hissed, and a small spark flashed between a few of the buttons.
Oh how he hated it when his beloved airship crashed.
The venture began only a few moments prior. He and the others were flying valiantly through the Mosphoran Highwaste, taking care of some errand he didn't care to remember anymore.
All had been well. The children were chatting among themselves in the back. Basch and Ashe were brooding quietly. Nothing, save for the occasional tuft of floatweed came anywhere near the Strahl and it's magnificent, ethereal trail across the sky.
He remembered clearing a small patch of fog from the window before it all happened. Mosphoran was heading into one of it's short but infamous winters rather quickly, and the drop in temperature fogged the glass. As soon as the patch was clear, a Vulture was revealed, letting out an occasional caw as it flew gracefully toward the airship.
Though surprised, he noted it silently, assuming the poor bird had left late for its annual migration. He turned away without a second thought.
Little did he know that he had greatly underestimated the beast's stupidity. Within seconds of clearing the port side, the Vulture was drawn into the swirling turbines of the left wing, squawking and crying with a sound Balthier had never heard before.
...And the ship was sent careening toward the edge of the Mosphoran into the Salikawood.
The surprise nearly sent him from his seat. Desperately, he scrambled with the console to gain some control of the ship.
He succeeded in slowing it down, but only marginally.
Thus, the ship landed, smoking and sputtering in a mangled heap into some brush.
This was where he was now.
Basch muttered something under his breath, helping Ashe from her seat. Vaan and Penelo were holding onto each other for dear life. Balthier rolled his eyes. It wasn't their beloved Strahl that had just crashed.
This ship was his trophy! The thought of her golden bow planted firmly in the dirt and rubble, marred by the cruel hands of the unforgiving Salikawood made his body rigid with lividity. His love for the Strahl was exceeded only by Fran, and perhaps a child, should he ever choose to rear one, so his natural instinct was to let out a long, loud, ringing string of obscenities at whomever should be in earshot when it nose dived.
Again, he restrained himself.
Fran twitched her nose and stood from her seat. "We'll assess the damage from outside. You will be out shortly?"
Balthier clenched and unclenched his fists. "Of course." He followed her through the mangled hatch, and hopped out onto the ground.
"Woah," Vaan gasped, picking his way around the airship. He cringed as his eyes fell on the smoking turbine. "Is this going to be really hard to fix?"
Fran folded her arms. "No. The Strahl is a strong ship. She can take quite a lot. It should be no more than a day's work to get it up and running again."
Balthier nodded grimly. Indeed, the damage wasn't as great as he thought it would be. In fact, he was rather pleased that his vessel was able to take such a monstrous crash and come out with only a few scratches. Perhaps he could get the children, Ashe and Basch to pull the branches from the wings, and polish the bow while he and Fran worked on the more technical aspects.
"Alright then," he clasped his hands together with restored enthusiasm. His breath came out in white clouds."The Strahl isn't going to fix itself! Fran and I will fix the engine, and the rest of you can start clearing the shrubbery from the outside." He heard Vaan and Penelo groan, and a smile came to his lips.
"Come on Fran, though the smell of roasted foul is piquant, I don't fancy it coming from the turbines."
He and Fran picked their way around the brush to the left wing, where the miserable turbine sputtered and smoked as though it were about to expire at any given moment.
"We should start unclogging the turbine first. With the engine still broken, we won't have to concern ourselves with it kicking in while we work." Fran mused.
"Fran," Balthier grinned. "You are a genius."
She did little in return of his comment. She knew him well, and any acknowledgment whatsoever would only encourage him.
Fran was not in the encouraging mood.
"Vaan, Penelo, find a long, sturdy branch, will you?" Balthier called to the other side of the airship. Two sets of eyes peered back at him through the densely packed shrubbery, and their heads gave a motion to what Balthier could only assume to be a nod.
A few moments later, there was a squeal of delight.
"Look what I found!" Penelo nearly sang, jumping up and down like a moogle stepping on hot coals.
Vaan followed her cheering with a flat sigh. "Oh brother."
Balthier heard the commotion and immediately knew that his branch was not going to be retrieved anytime soon. He sighed, motioning for Fran with his head, and met the two teenagers beside the airship.
"What's all the ruckus? If I knew that branch retrieval was such an exciting task then I would have..." Balthier lifted an eyebrow, and a small smirk appeared on his lips. "Well, well, well. What have we here?"
Penelo was still jumping up and down, while Vaan's frown only intensified as Balthier knelt down to a small shrub underneath the ledge of the right wing. There, nestled in it's collection of leaves, grew a small bunch of mistletoe.
Balthier plucked a sprig and held it up to admire. Penelo was clapping her hands at this point.
"Mistletoe, out here?" Basch chuckled bemused. "I suppose winter is setting in. I just didn't think it grew in the Salikawood."
"Can I see it?" She squealed, taking the leaves from Balthier and clutching them in delight. "Look Vaan, mistletoe!"
"I can see that." he rolled his eyes. "Hurry up and throw it away before someone steps under it."
Penelo looked positively crushed. "That's the point."
Basch and Ashe chuckled as the two bickered lightly, but Balthier couldn't help but notice the perplexed expression occupying Fran's features.
"What's the matter Fran?"
She looked at him confoundedly. "What is so mystifying about this plant?"
Vaan and Penelo immediately stopped arguing, and everyone else turned their heads to stare bewildered at the Viera.
Balthier frowned. "What do you mean? It's mistletoe, naturally those two are going to start a fuss about it."
Fran tipped her head, still not understanding, and a look of utter shock overtook Balthier's face. "Fran, you honestly don't know about mistletoe?"
Fran lifted an eyebrow. "If you're talking about that plant, it's called Phoradendron flavescens, and I hardly see how a parasitic plant can be of any use to—"
Balthier waved her away. "Yes, yes, there's that, but don't you know about it?"
Fran tilted her head again, ignoring the stares she received from the rest of her traveling companions. "I think I saw Jote use the sap from the berries to trap a bird once."
The silence that followed unnerved her, a feeling she didn't often have.
Balthier smiled, hopping onto a nearby boulder. "The ship can wait. I don't see how reconstruction could possibly go on without Fran knowing about the secret romances of the Mistletoe." He rubbed his hands together to warm them. "Fran, when two people step underneath a mistletoe, they are supposed to kiss."
All eyes turned to the Viera, perhaps expecting a blush or some stammer of embarrassment. Instead, she frowned, folding her arms. "Bah, you and your ridiculous Hume customs. It is a wonder anything gets done when the majority of you are busy dreaming up unnecessary fairytales."
Balthier chuckled and hopped off the rock. "But just imagine it Fran, standing underneath a mistletoe with your one true love, sharing a romantic winter's kiss."
"I hardly see the point."
"Well," Balthier rubbed his chin thoughtfully. "I suppose there isn't an immediate one, but there is no mistaking the seasonal satisfaction of standing underneath the mistletoe with a partner, and kissing her with or without consent."
Vaan and Penelo sent curious looks at each other.
"I believe we have a ship that needs mending," Fran said dryly, turning on her heel toward the turbine.
Balthier smirked, suddenly far more amused than any of the others knew. Perhaps Fran just needed the right coaching. Pausing briefly, he turned toward Basch, Ashe, Penelo and Vaan, grinning like the Cheshire cat. "Back to work everyone. Vaan, Penelo, where is that stick I asked for?"
The feathers had been cleared out of the turbine with little to no fuss from Balthier, though Fran had expected the opposite. She glanced at him now and then, searching for some sign of indignation, but his face held little more than a coy smile.
He was up to something.
Her ears twitched in annoyance as Balthier caught her gaze and offered her a wink. His thoughts were clearly not on the task at hand, and she knew from the smile that played his face that it was either derived from stealing something, or women.
She hadn't seen any article of value in the vastness of the forest, nor did she detect any other being—of the female variety—except for Penelo, Ashe and herself. Penelo was absolutely out of the question, as her beauty, though present, was far too youthful for Balthier to find attractive. As for Ashe, he had explained to Fran on multiple occasions—to prevent her jealousy, he had said—that he saw her as nothing more than the Princess she was. He also didn't fancy grieving widows.
As for herself, Fran had been aware of Balthier's frequent but fruitless attempts at wooing her for quite a while, but she had dismissed them as being part of his usual flirtatious nature and had no reason to suspect anything different now.
"Ah, I believe that's the last of them." Balthier said with a grin, retracting the branch he had used to clean out the turbines. "Bloody feathers were so tightly packed in, it's no wonder she crashed like she did." He gave the ship an affectionate pat.
Fran examined Balthier's features again, this time lifting an eyebrow.
Surely his thoughts weren't still on that tiny plant Penelo and Vaan had discovered underneath the mangled wing of the Strahl. She rolled her eyes at the fuss the children had caused over such a trivial, insignificant specimen.
A cold wind blew past, and the surrounding trees shook a little. "Are you coming Fran?" Balthier called from the confines of the engine room. He grinned valiantly, as though he had just stolen all the King's horses and all the King's men.
Fran climbed down from the wing and followed him into the engine room, still filled with smoke. He waved his hand in front of his face, diving in.
Fran stepped in as well, kneeling in front of frayed wires and damaged coils. With the tool box on the floor, the two immediately started repairing.
Outside, Vaan and Penelo were scampering about, waving the Phoradendron—rather, mistletoe—about. Penelo was attempting to snag Vaan underneath.
"Come on Vaan, be a sport!" Penelo called, giggling.
"No way. Get that plant away from me. Basch, help!"
Balthier chuckled as he soldered two wires together. "Don't you see what joy the mistletoe brings?"
Fran sniffed indignantly. "Vaan seems to think quite the opposite."
"Ah, but Vaan is just a boy. Only adults can truly appreciate it for what it is."
Fran reached for a wrench. "I should think adults can appreciate a hard day's work, and full concentration on the task at hand." She dangled the tool box in front of Balthier's face, from which he reluctantly took a rachet.
"Oh Fran please," he mock scolded. "Don't tell me that you never had a trivial custom in Eryut."
She pulled at a few damaged wires. Though she had been a part of Hume culture for quite some time now, there were times when her full integration seemed downright impossible. She did not understand the various mannerisms—Balthier got quite a kick out of explaining why men and women had separate restrooms—nor did she understand the customs that seemingly fit for children, that adults still participated in. A rather bizarre habit of Balthier's was to throw grains of salt over his shoulder. He had explained something about bad luck to her, but she dismissed it altogether. There was no need for this peculiar superstition.
With the addition of this mistletoe—with on other apparent purpose other than to force someone into unwanted affection—Fran was just about fed up with Humes altogether.
"We don't have the need."
"You've missed out, then."
"I don't mind."
Balthier muttered something very quietly under his breath, but Fran knew he knew she could hear him.
"I'll get you yet."
The repairs were finished in the engine room, and Bash, Ashe, Penelo and Vaan had nearly finished cleaning the shrubbery from around the airship.
Balthier called for Fran to stand outside while he tested the engine from the cockpit. There was only a small trail of smoke, and the two agreed that it was only a few left over feathers.
Penelo and Vaan had ceased chasing each other and were now seated on the edge of the wing. Apparently Penelo had won, judging from the peculiar blotches of red settling on Vaan's cheeks.
Balthier hopped out of the cockpit and grinned wildly. "Are we ready?"
Basch waved, throwing the last of the branches away from the airship. Ashe grinned, having finished wrestling a particularly cranky ding from the side of the ship. "All finished here."
"Wonderful." Balthier rubbed his hands together again, relieving them from the cold. "Everyone, head inside. Fran, let's finish inspecting the job."
Fran strode past the others and stood next to Balthier, examining the side of the ship and testing for weakness with her hands. "It seems sturdy enough."
"Good, good." Balthier mused.
Fran couldn't help but notice she was doing the majority of the examining.
"Now for the right wing." He strolled lazily toward the newly repaired wing, careful not to step on the small shrub growing underneath the ledge.
"Fran, how does this spot look to you?" He rubbed his chin in mock thoughtfulness as the Viera made her way over, raising an eyebrow.
"I should think it would hold." She wasn't even looking at it.
"Excellent. Well then, shall we be off—oof!"
Balthier made a show of falling backwards into a pile of shrubbery, nearly clipping his head on the edge of the wing. Fran could just make out his leg, and an arm, for the rest of it was covered in vegetation.
"Mind helping me up, my dear?"
Fran folded her arms. "You are not a baby turtle."
Balthier grunted, fidgeting underneath the branches, struggling to get himself free. "I'm stuck," he said after a moment.
Fran rolled her eyes and strode over to where the sky pirate managed to ensnare himself. Standing over him, arms still folded, she eyed him wryly.
"Is it so hard for you to help me?"
"I do not trust the look in your eyes."
Balthier had to laugh out loud, his breath rolling out in white clouds. "I'm not up to anything." He extended his hand.
Fran's nose twitched. Still, she extended her hand, and Balthier grasped it firmly.
However, she did not expect him to pull back.
Suddenly caught off balance, she stumbled forward on top of Balthier in a very unceremonious heap. Her eyes shot poison, so Balthier did his best to avert her gaze. "Sorry," he said casually, attempting to sit up. "That was completely my fault."
Fran opened her mouth to say something, but she caught his eyes, staring mischievously at a small green plant dangling innocuously above them.
"Hm, mistletoe," Balthier mused out loud.
Fran rolled her eyes. If he thought she was going to participate in such an inane ritual, he had lost what little sense he had. She scoffed inwardly, attempting to pull herself off of him. Besides, he wouldn't dare try to—
His lips met hers with the softness of an Ozmone Hare's paw upon the earth.
She felt him smile against her, then slowly pull away.
Fran opened her mouth to say something, but he leaned in just so his voice tickled her ears.
"This my dear," he whispered coyly, "is one of those 'ridiculous Hume customs' that I find particularly enjoyable."
With that, he rolled from underneath her and dusted off his pants. "Shall we go?"
Fran felt her senses leave her, and could only stare dumbfounded at the hand outstretched above her.
Balthier arched an eyebrow. "The others are waiting, not to mention it's cold out here."
She nodded slowly and took the hand, standing to dust her own armor off. A feeling she couldn't quite place surged through her and took rest in her cheeks. How she hooped she wasn't blushing. Vaan always looked so ridiculous when he blushed.
Moments later the ship was flying with the same grace and valiance it had only a few hours earlier, if not a bit more cautiously. Vaan and Penelo had resumed playing with each other in the back, and Basch and Ashe had assumed polite conversation.
"So Fran," Vaan asked, playfully shoving Penelo. "What do you think about the mistletoe?"
It was all he could think of since Penelo pinned him against a tree, dangling the plant above their heads.
Fran, who had been curiously quiet for the duration of the trip, was staring out of the frosted window. Balthier chuckled in amusement.
The Viera frowned indignantly. "Bah, such a ridiculous Hume custom."