The Gift-Giver

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Summary: The Gift-Giver, the bringer of joy for those both young and old, has disappeared and Lloyd's determined to bring him back, one way or another. (Family-fluffs)

Spoilers: DO NOT READ UNLESS YOU HAVE BEATEN THE GAME.

A/N: Thought up on a walk with my dog in the gorgeous night under the light of a full moon and the dazzling light displays of the houses. Happy Holidays to all and have a great 2008! (Please note within the story I have made references to the three major holidays in the United States… think you can find them all?)

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He stepped out into the crisp night air, the cool wind quietly blowing through the pines, but the breeze could not induce shivers on this night. He stood upon the rooftop, a soft smile gracing his features and a twinkle in his eye as he looked over the serene world covered in a delicate blanket of snow. His godly, yet friendly gaze hovered over a small village to the south as it sparkled with warmth. His steady breaths crystallized as they met with the cold night air, swirling and dancing playfully with the snowflakes that flittered near.

The stars overhead winked as they peeked out shyly from behind their curtaining clouds. The full moon shone brightly with a silver glow, illuminating the night and making the snowy quilt that covered the planet glitter sleepily.

Silently, he broke his gaze from the shimmering sight to look at the lists he held in his gloved hand. He remembered to which house they went and had scrawled a short response on each in hopes of alighting the children's eyes with hope. Beside him sat a sack swollen with gifts of all shapes, sizes and sorts holding every item scribbled by the hand of a child onto the paper he held tightly. Each beloved toy came from the northernmost pole, in some way or another.

He smiled once more and tucked the lists gently away in his thick red coat, brushing a few stray flakes from the wooly white lining and adjusted the dainty—although useless—spectacles. His face had become cold to the touch from the frosty winter weather, but his cheeks remained warm and rosy, his auburn eyes just the like. He clicked his boots a final time before tucking back a few stray locks of ginger-red hair.

"Now Dasher, Dancer, Prancer and Vixen… On, Comet, Cupid, Donner and Blitzen…" he mused, pausing. "…And how could I not recall… the most famous … of all?"

Antler like ears atop his furry head with nose glowing red from Origin's spell, he barked happily.

"To the top of the porch! To the top of the wall! Now dash away! Dash away! Dash away all!" he chuckled softly, lights dancing around his companion's paws. "Fly away! Fly off at the sound of my voice! Tonight is the night! So fly—fly away! Fly away …!"

With a joyous yap, the creature leapt through the air, legs running on nothing—but he didn't care. He came to a halt at the first house on their route, and watched as the man pulled out a present quite stout. He lifted a small door almost buried in snow, and dropped in the gift and away did they go. They carried on, from one to the next, giving each home a gift until only one more was left.

At last they arrived on the roof of the Inn, the bag once swollen had gotten quite thin. Two gifts remained, with which both he had toyed, one addressed to Anna, the other to Lloyd.

He heaved a sigh of relief, his wings disappearing in a quick flash of light. "Happy New Year to all… and to all a peaceful night."

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"…Oh come on. It's just a children's story. A myth—an urban legend."

"What? How can you say that?!"

Zelos laughed bitterly, standing up from his chair by the hearth of the fireplace in Dirk's tiny house. It was a miracle everyone managed to fit inside comfortably. "Heh, well, you know how well I get along with the winter season, bud."

Sheena shook her head in disgust, reaching out and grabbing the backside of his collar forcefully. "Idiot, if you helped out then maybe you could help some other kid avoid what you had, hmm?"

He crossed his arms bitterly over his chest, grumbling, "Maybe if someone wasn't so stingy with the eggno—" he cut himself off after receiving a hard kick from Sheena.

"I disagree!" Colette said, "I think Lloyd's right! I don't remember it very clearly, but my parents said that when I was very young, there was someone who granted everyone's New Years' wishes. Nobody knew who it was, but sometimes they could hear him on one of the last of the eight holy days before the New Year."

"Yes," Raine nodded, "I remember one year quite clearly seeing two figures on the roof tops of Iselia illuminated with red and blue light… then I awoke the next morning to find all the items Genis and I had left on our wish list sitting in the front room."

"Oh come on." Zelos carried on, rolling his eyes. "The legend's been dead for over fifteen years now. Even if we were to bring it back this year, people would expect it to happen every year again—you really think we could—" He cut himself off when he saw the eyes of his comrades light up. "Oh boy…"

"Of course we could!" Lloyd cheered. "We could tell all the townspeople to put up their lists again, and—"

"Calm down, Lloyd." Raine lightly reprimanded. "You have to think this through… how would we get enough money to fund this whole escapade in the first place?"

Colette jumped in with an idea. "Oh, we could raise money!"

Genis chimed in a thought in a low tone. "We could always whore Zelos out on every girl in tow—"

Zelos escaped Sheena's grip and rushed over to the younger half elf, infuriated. He held one hand up threateningly, asking, "What'd you say, shrimp?!"

Yelping, he ducked behind the chair, keeping it between them as he went on to point out flatly, "It's only true!"

"Shut up, both of you!" Raine growled, sending a deadly glare their way. The two glowered towards one another as they sourly resumed their seats. Noishe, from his comfy position beneath the stairwell, sighed, rolling over as if to block out the noise.

Lloyd continued, "Regardless, we still have enough left over from the journey to fund this year's, at least. Not only that," he beamed with excitement. "We have everything else we need to make the legend come to life! Like, one of us could easily play the gift giver, all we need is someone dressed in red… And we could get from house to house using the red rheaird 'cause it's red and gives off a blue-y glow, right? And—"

Colette frowned, shaking her head, her blonde hair swishing from side to side. "But… that's not how the legend goes." She paused, "There were two people… one of them looked human, dressed in red and the other was… almost like a canine with huge antlers on its head and a glowing red nose! And both of them could fly, not just one or the other… But some people also said the human had a whole pack of creatures, but only one of had a glowing nose…" she trailed off in thought.

Silence spanned between them until Sheena picked up where the blonde chosen left off. She began to smile wryly. "If that's how it goes, then it should be easy to pull off… I got it. Colette, Genis—you get the town's children to post their list, then take them as assistants to the gift-giver. Once you have all the lists, take the rheairds and purchase whatever they say, then bring them back here. Zelos—flirt with every girl you see. They have a tendency to give you gald or items which could be extremely useful. Lloyd, Raine and I will pull together the appearance of the gift-giver and plan out the routes and such." She looked around the room. "Everyone got it?"

Everyone returned a sort of satisfactory response—save for Zelos, who simply snorted.

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Lloyd stepped out onto the roof of his house, an eager smile on his face as the brisk winds blew by him. Snow covered the land all around him, but that couldn't take the warmth from his rosy cheeks or auburn eyes as he gazed contently at the world around him. Finally, he called out into the night, "Now Efreet, Celsius, Sylph and Gnome… On, Luna, Aska, Undine and Volt! And to lead the charge… the glowing Summon Spirit of Heart…?"

The gales swirled, uplifting fallen snow from its resting place. When the light to lead him did not appear, he looked around, unsure of what to do. He startled, as he heard a happy bark from the ground below. Noishe sat in the snow outside the house, with his great ears piqued in curiosity… his brown nose glowing red.

Lloyd's eyes grew wide with shock. There was always parts to the story he had long since forgotten, or perhaps brushed off as unreal, but as the living evidence stood before him, he beamed with confidence.

"…Now Efreet, now Celsius! Sylph and Gnome! On, Luna, on Aska! Undine and Volt! …And most importantly of them all… the most famous protozoan of all…!"

The wolfish creature stood, his nose shining brightly in the night darkness and tail wagging, urging Lloyd on as the son of an angel withdrew his sparkling azure wings. "To the top of the porch! To the top of the wall! Now dash away! Dash away! Dash away all! …Fly away! Fly off at the sound of my voice! Tonight is the night! So fly—fly away! Fly away …Noishe!"

With a delightful howl, the protozoan leapt into the sky and danced with the snowflakes as he climbed ever so high. The two took off with great haste, one red and one blue, through the air, through the woods, to the rooftops they flew. Landing quietly on each roof, they opened each door with care to find eight candles lit and fresh fruit to share—but they didn't stay long, for they had more gifts to give. With each flickering light they found more reason to live… in one world with many minds and different races, different kinds. For on the cold winter's night, none could deny the two lights shining brightly so high in the sky—the same sky under which all creatures roamed, some with their family and some few alone.

Lloyd heaved a sigh of contentment, his wings shining bright. "Happy New Year to all… and to all a good night."

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A sliver of light crept through the darkness of the Iselia Inn as Kratos, dressed in his everyday garb, slipped into the room, shortly followed by his faithful companion. He closed the door without a sound to the unequipped ear, or so he thought. Soundlessly, he set down a small stuffed lion next to the silhouette of his sleeping son—who didn't stir in the least—before at last joining his beloved for a few more hours of sleep. As soon as he had slipped under the covers, she asked in a sleepy whisper, "Where have you been? That's the eighth night in a row."

"Unfinished busin—"

"Unfinished? Hah, I guess so."

"I'm done now, so tonight's a bit different." He teased a small band over her finger. "I hope this is sufficient."

Her sleepy eyes lit up as she examined the ring, covered in diamonds. "Kratos, what does this mean?"

"I thought it would be appropriate, since I never asked you outright…" he embraced her so tenderly. "Anna… would you become my wife?"

She whispered yes to her husband who kissed her with care, as young Lloyd snuggled into his lion, completely unaware.