The first Holiday Tidus remembers is the one when he was laughing under the tree, staring at the way the shiny paper from his gift reflected the flickering light from the ceiling.
There is only one present under the tree, but his father told him that was his, and at five years old Tidus doesn't cares about anything else. So he smiled, and sat next to the sofa that sometimes smelled like mold and others like beer.
The red shine of the paper made it all seem unimportant.
Tidus looks at the way Firion's gaze is lost in his hand, as if holding something. He recognizes that look, knows it all too well.
"So, what's the wild rose?" he asks with the shadow of a smile
"Break's over." answers Firion, walking away.
"When this is over, I'll make you tell me" he tells Firion, and basks in the warrior's look of bewilderment.
"You're so nosy Tidus."
Tidus laughs, and runs.
Runs into battle.
Because when you're running, you can't think of anything else. Can't think of the past or the future. He runs and jumps, to him, the sounds of battle are like a song, different with every enemy, but he still recognizes it enough to want to go back to it again and again.
But Firion's lost gaze brings him back every time they take a break, to rest, to eat, to sleep...
In his sleep, Tidus dreams.
He sits next to Firion, as they both look at the sparkling red paper of the present.
"You can have it."
"I can't have your present."
"I already have one, you can have this one. Take it."
Firion looks at him with wide eyes, and Tidus smells the scent of roses. Not wild roses, he doesn't know how those smell. But dream roses. Those he knows well.
"Where is your present?" asks Firion, and Tidus looks down. From the tiny kitchen a few steps away came the laughter of a man.
"And what are you so happy about, now?" asked Firion, as Tidus awakes with the smile from his dream still in his face.
"Eh, well..." he trails off and laughs. "I was having such a good dream, and now I have to wake up to battling more copies of us!" he falls on his back again. "Give me ten more minutes!"
"Sorry Tidus, we need to get going. Besides, the weather's getting bad. I don't think we'll be able to keep sleeping in the open anymore"
Tidus opened his eyes and looked up.
"Looks like winter arrives here too." he said, finally realizing how much the temperature had dropped. "Wish we could get enough of us rounded up to do something for the Holidays."
"Sorry, sorry. I know, we should focus on the mission and all." Tidus got up, blushing slightly. He finally realized what had brought back the dreams of that one night.
"No, I meant, what did you say? Holy Days?"
"Eh, a holiday is. Well, it's a couple of days when you stay with your friends or family, or whatever; and just, basically eat. It's a celebration for the year that ends."
Firion looked at him confused for a moment, but then smiled.
"Ah. I see." he said, and got up. "That would be...nice. If we can find some of the others, it sounds like a good thing to do."
"Really?! Awesome!" Tidus jumped "We're gonna have a holiday get together!"
"Hey, now, don't get so excited. We don't even have anything to eat ourselves, so even if we do find the others we'll probably just spend a night sitting together."
But Tidus smiles. Really smiles.
He can't remember the last time he really...the image of Jecht opening the red little present under the tree flashes before his eyes.
Unfortunately, he can remember the last time he really smiled.
Tidus started using Firion as backpack.
First it's just some red fabric he found among the debris of a fallen building. Then, it's an old brown bag. Later on it's a few shiny beads, some small crumpled boxes, dirty decorated paper, colored crystals.
Firion was about to complain that Tidus' trash was starting to weight more than all his weapons; until he saw Tidus sewing together the red fabric he'd found.
"Sorry for being so selfish, Firion. But, I have to do this."
Firion just nods, and it makes Tidus a little sad, that they know each other so well. He turns around and leaves.
Then stops, turns around, and runs back.
"Oh, yeah; and if you find the others, keep them together. I haven't forgotten about the Holiday thing, eh!"
"You're so selfish Tidus. At least carry all the stuff you've been picking up."
"Nuh-uh. You'll be my elf!"
"Just wait! This will be the best thing ever!"
"Then let's do this, uh?" says Jecht. His cocky smirk makes Tidus want to strangle him.
"You're finished!" shouts Tidus, and strikes.
"Look what happens when I don't hold back. Well, now you know that nobody can beat me." Tidus wants to tell him to go to hell, but he's too busy trying to get his breath back.
"You're still just a kid You've got limitless potential running through your veins. You'll be up on your feet by tomorrow"
Tidus can breathe again, and feels the spark of rage rising in his chest.
"Where are you going? This isn't over yet" shouts Tidus to the bastard turning his back on him again.
Limitless potential, that was what the bastard has to say, after all the years gone, after all the memories.
Couldn't he see? Did he care so little about his own son that he couldn't even see the problem?
There was no potential, there were no tomorrows. Tidus had lost the one dream that he held dear. For him there was no future, for him there was nothing.
He got up using his sword. The energy slowly came back to him, all he needed was to grit his teeth and let the anger run through his veins.
"There's no tomorrow for me..." he started, looking at Jecht, and again seeing the face of the bastard turn into the face of the old drunk who held next to the Christmas tree. Chains of memories had held him down for long enough. "Unless I beat you today!"
"Pesky little runt. Who do you take after?"
"Go ask yourself!"
As he fought, he couldn't understand if the fire running through him was the same anger he always kept, or something else. Something he didn't dare understand.
"Boy that stinks."
Even as he ran to him, Jecht's body started dissolving in a dark mist.
"Oh, come on. You're fading already?"
"Looks like it"
"I hate you.I hated you so much. I've always wished you'd be gone. But, deep down, what I really wanted was just...your approval...for yout to tell me that I've grown strong."
"Looks like the kid will never grow up."
"That's not my fault! I can't help it. I'm your son after all."
"I guess you are."
Laughter. Tidus had heard that laughter in hundreds of dreams.
"Hey, cry-baby...You've grown strong."
"Don't worry. I'll take good care of this."
Tidus looks at the crystal shining in his hands. It's light is already pushing the old memories away. Slowly he feels their chains falling off him.
Firion sighs and tries to think of some excuse to have gathered all of them together. He would need a really good one now that Tidus hadn't come back. He bit his lower lip, realizing that he can't think of anything other than to go searching for the little brat.
"Well, it's very good that we can all finally get together." says the Warrior suddenly, and Firion isn't sure if he should be thankful. or if the guy's expecting an explanation for being stopped from his heroic quest.
"Tidus is missing." says Cecil, and the silence surrounding them all weighs heavier over them.
"I know. We'll give him tonight to reach us, and if he's not back by tomorrow, we'll go searching for him in groups. We all need this rest, and it'll be easier for Tidus to find us if we stay in one place."
Firion lets out the breath he hadn't realized he was holding and looks over to a nearby tree with an arrow carved on it. They'd carved signs on their way there, now they could only hope Tidus would see them.
"Firion will do the first watch" said Warrior, snapping Firion out of his thoughts. By the time Firion tried to search Warrior's eyes, he was already walking away and everyone turned to search for a place to sleep.
Firion looked to the distance, feeling the comforting weight of his sword in his hand.
Tidus come on, come back fast. I'm still carrying all the trash you picked up. He thought, smiling a little as he remembered his friend's laughing face.
"Firioniel." said a voice to his right, and Firion turned, expecting to see the soft glow of Warrior's armor. He was the only one who called him by his full name anyway.
"Is there a...problem?" he said, trailing off slightly when he saw that Warrior wasn't wearing any part of his armor. The only thing he wore were skin tight shirt and pants. The guy might as well be strolling around naked.
"No. Just wanted to ask you something." said Warrior, sitting next to him. Firion looked down and scooted away a bit. He hoped the darkness of the night would hide the way his face was heating up. "Did Tidus have to do something?"
"He was...settling an issue with his father. He was named Jecht, I believe."
"No, I meant-" Warrior edged closer to Firion, so that nobody could hear a word. Firion gulped when he realized he could feel the Warrior's breathing next to his ear."Something that he might want to keep a secret from us. From the others. I know that you and him were very close."
Close? You're the one being far too close! Thought Firion. He gritted his teeth and cursed every time he'd thought a naughty thought about their leader. But who would have thought that fantasy #473 would come true? Sitting Together Under The Moonlight. Well, now he was as good as screw-...Firion turned his attention to the ground.
"S-something he wanted to keep secret? N-no, he never...he never told me anything like that."
"Mhm...Well then, I'll leave you. The next watch is on Zidane. Rest well."
Warrior nodded at him and turned to leave.
Unknowingly offering Firion a perfect view of...- Something moved in the bushes nearby, and years-old habit made Firion take an offensive stance.
"Who's there?" he asked, and a figure stumbled out of the foliage.
"Shh! You're going to wake up everyone!"
Firion let down the sword, he would recognize Tidus' voice anywhere.
"What happened to you? I was so worried!"
Tidus got up from the ground and dusted himself off.
"I got a bit lost, and still had to get some things for the outfit. Give me the bag, I've got to get things ready."
But Tidus was already lost in his own monologue and rummaged among Firion's things.
"I can't believe I made it without anyone realizing that I was following you. I wanted it to be a surprise, but I could swear Warrior-guy saw me once. He kept looking to where I was, but I think I fooled him good!"
"I don't think you did."
"Just a feeling. Also, you were following us? And I was so worried!" Firion slapped Tidus over the head.
"It had to be a surprise! Saint Nicholas comes and leaves surprises!"
Tidus pulled out the red clothes he'd been working on.
"Help me and I'll give you a gift you'll love!"
Firion sighed, he knew he would just get dragged into whatever Tidus was planning, whether he liked it or not.
"Fine, fine, what do we do now?"
"Hmm, first we need...some reindeers."
"Reindeers? Are you sure you know what you're doing?"
"Sure! I read it in a book. Well, my old man read it to me...he was a bit drunk then, but I saw the drawing of the reindeers myself."
"Jecht...Did you two solve your...issues?"
"Issues? Pfff, we just wanted to beat the hell out of each other. I won, that's all."
"I see..." said Firion, but couldn't help notice the way Tidus' smile was far brighter.
"Reindeers. Where are we going to get those?"
Someone walked towards them.
"Hey, Firion, it's my turn to- Oh! Tidus! You're back! I knew you were alright." said Zidane, his tail wagging to show his happiness.
"You. Come here and try on these horns."
Warrior knew there was something fishy going on with Tidus. It had to be, or the kid wouldn't have hidden from everyone like that.
But he wasn't expecting what he saw when a small box hit him in the face that morning.
"What is-? Tidus? Why are you...?" he tried to find words to explain himself, but then he saw Zidane and Bartz posing next to Tidus dressed as some kind of horned animals and decided to just shut up.
"Rejoyce! You've all been such good warriors saving the world, Saint Tidus has come to reward your good actions!" he threw another box at Cecil, who caught it without taking his eyes away from the three.
Warrior looked around for Firion and found him sitting nearby, pretending to not have anything to do with it. Warrior made sure to glare at him glared some more, just for the hell of it.
So much for leaving them to solve their problems like responsible adults.
"Come now, aren't you all going to be thankful? I brought you all presents!" said Tidus, smiling with all the pride a man in a completely red suit could have.
"And food!" said Zidane, holding up a basket of random fruits. Warrior's eyes kept going back to Zidane's red painted nose.
"And presents that are food!" said Bartz, holding up a basket with fruits wrapped in shiny paper.
"I can't believe you." Said Onion Knight, glaring at his present: An onion wrapped in golden paper. Terra ruffled his hair and opened her own present to find a slightly burned teddy bear. She stared at it for a moment, then her eyes started to water.
"It's so pretty!" she said, hugging it, then hugged the Onion Knight. "I'm so happy!"
Zidane and Bartz jumped to Squall's side, holding on to his shoulders to stop him from escaping.
"You get a present too!" they told him, and gave him a small rectangular package. Squall looked at it like the thing would bite off his fingers, then unwrapped it. It was a piece of concrete with a happy face painted on it.
"What...What is this?" he asked.
"It's a miniature wall! So you can carry it with you!" said Zidane
"You can talk to it if you feel lonely!" said Bartz. Both warriors were getting too close to Squall, who looked just about ready to run far, far away.
Warrior got up and pulled away the white cloths he used to caver himself during the night, then hewalked towards Firion and sat next to him. Very close, next to him. Firion tried to scoot away from him, but Warrior leaned forward.
"You are responsible for this too, don't think I don't know."
"I have no idea what you are talking about." said Firion, pointedly looking away from Warrior.
"I heard you talking to him last night." he whispered as close to Firion's ear as he could. The weapons master shuddered, and Warrior almost smiled. If not for their mission, he would have corresponded the man's interest, but until then...Still, he could play and tease Firioniel, it was only fair, considering the humilliating waking up he'd had.
"You get a present too Firion!" Tidus hugged him and gave him something that could only be papers. A love letter, maybe? Warrior looked away from them.
He knew it, of course. Knew that he had to chose between the mission or Firion. He wanted Firion, far more than he would accept to himself, but...If he couldn't save the world, there would be no future for them. He still had to go on, and if he lost Firioniel in the proccess...Well, he was nothing more than a Warrior. He wasn't even supposed to fall in love.
"TIDUS!!!" shouted Firion, clutching the papers against himself. "You little brat! I'll strangle you!!"
"Knew you would love them, ya don't have to thank me anymore."
"I'm going to kill you!"
Warrior leaned towards Firion.
"What did he give you?"
"NOTHING, GO AWAY!" and he scrambled towards his pack, where he stuffed the papers among his weapons. Warrior blinked, shocked at the way Firion had shouted at him for the first time, but then he saw the blush in his face, and decided that he would look at those papers, no matter the cost.
"What did you get? Can we exchange?" asked Cloud, showing him a badly sewed chocobo plushie and Warrior finally looked down to his own package. He opened it and took out a piece of white fabric with hearts painted on it.
"Yes, we can exchange." he said, realizing he'd just gotten new underwear.
"Uh, no, not interested anymore."
"What could it be? what could it be?" muttered Warrior to himself, hiding in the shadows while the others slept soundly thanks to the bottles of wine Tidus had pulled out of his 'magical bag of happiness' like he'd called it. Warrior huffed. The kid was good, it would be great if Firion and him got together anyway.
He'd been telling himself that for far too long.
There were some noises from a nearby bush, and Warrior froze. He then turned and looked into the bush to see what was going on. No good getting ambushed after the first party he'd been on.
Warrior bit his lip when he recognized the voices of Bartz and Zidane. He saw them pinning Squall between them.
"It's my turn!" said Bartz, and pulled Squall's face up for a kiss.
"It's always your turn!" complained Zidane, getting his hands under Squall's shirt.
Warrior walked backwards, feeling heat spread over his face. Well, that explained a lot, but he still had to find out what those papers were. He rummaged some more on Firion's bag, getting nothing. The man carried far more weapons that Warrior had expected him to.
Nothing, if the papers were there, Firion must have taken them away when Warrior was distracted. Must have been on that drinking game against Cloud. The young man simply couldn't hold his alcohol.
Warrior closed the bag and left it the same way he'd found it.
What would he do, if he found a love letter? An answer to a love letter?
He got up and walked towards where the others were sleeping, thinking that he might be able to pick Firion's pocket. On the edge of the clear where they were all staying, he saw a soft red glow. As he approached, he could hear Firion's and Tidus' voices.
"It's hard to explain." was saying Tidus. "It's like, everything's fine now. But, well, of course it's not fine. What with the world ending and all. But, I mean, everything's fine with me now. I know it sounds selfish..."
Warrior crouched behind a nearby tree, where he could see both men sitting together. Warrior gritted his teeth.
"You are very selfish Tidus." said Firion with a smile, and passed a hand over Tidus' shoulders. The boy was still wearing the ugly red costume from before.
"I know. It's just...It's alright now. I can face anything now."
"That's the strength of a fulfilled goal, enjoy it."
They stayed in silence for a moment, just looking at the stars shining on the clear sky.
"But...what about your goal Firion? It will only be completed after we win, won't it?" suddenly asked Tidus
"My dream...I guess so."
Tidus' face turned gentler as his eyes took a soft glow.
"...Yes. You can have it."
"A present. That will be my present. I'll fight to help you achieve your dream."
Firion ruffled his hair.
"I think you've given me more than enough gifts today, you little brat! I can't believe you just gave me those photos when...when he was sitting right next to me! If he hadn't been looking away in that moment, I don't know what I would have done. Probably die of shame!"
Firion pulled out the bunch of crumpled papers from his pocket, and Warrior noticed the weapon's master was blushing furiously again.
"Oh, come on, they're awesome! And you totally like him, everyone can see that! Well, everyone but Warrior-guy, apparently. All that 'light' is blinding him to the obvious."
Warrior blinked. Photos? Tidus was aware of Firion's interest on him? What was going on?
"But how did you get this...? I mean, did you just take them when we all stopped to clean at the spring? I...I knew he'd taken a bath, but how did you...?"
"Well, while you were staring at that rock wall, trying to see through it I went around to the highest part of the waterfall and took them. I wanted to get some of Terra too, but she just washed her face."
"You perverted little-" Firion slapped Tidus over the head.
"Well, if you want to be on the safe side you can just get rid of them before Mr. Light finds them."
"Who said anything about getting rid of them?" Firion looked at the photos "I'm taking my chances"
Both looked down at the photos.
"That's a nice one." said Firion.
"I know, who would have said he'd look so good under all that armor? Besides you, I mean."
"Far better than I'd imagined"
Warrior narrowed his eyes and making sure to not make a sound, walked towards them.
"So, I heard you got a nice present Firioniel" he said, and both men yelped. Firion tried to hide the photos, but Warrior had already snatched one from him.
"W-warrior! I-I just..."
Warrior looked at the photo of himself taking off his black skin tight shirt next to the spring. He'd felt watched then, but had dismissed it as paranoia.
"Oh, it's so late! Gotta go!" said Tidus and ran away.
"I...I swear I had no idea, and then he just gave me these, and...I...I just."
"I can't offer you anything, Firion." said Warrior, looking away. "Nothing that is of any worth. But if you would give some time...I may be able to offer you a future, where you can realize your dream."
"Light..." Firion held Warrior's hand. "I think I just got the best gift."
Tidus munched on a cookie, smiling ear to ear.
"Saint Tidus deliver again!" he said, taking another cookie out of his brown bag.
"What was that?" Asked a frazzled Zidane, with the red paint of his nose smeared and one antle turned upside down.
"What happened to you?!"
Bartz stumbled out of the bushes, smiling tiredly.
"Uh, Squall didn't like our gift, so we just gave him another."
"And took some for us."
"He owed us anyway."
"Owed us lots of gifts."
Tidus blinked a couple times. Then smirked.
"So everyone's happy! Neat!"
He hugged both of his 'reindeers'.
"This has got to be the best holiday I've ever had!"