I realize we're not on Christmas yet, but bear with me. You're surely putting the Christmas tree up as we speak.
Please read on, enjoy, and review.
Chapter 17: A Christmas
December was known as the time of the season when people were more busy and about, preparing for perhaps the most important holiday of the whole year; Christmas. From around the neighborhood, houses were decorated with a wide variety of items that certainly seemed far more uplifting and positive than the few houses that used freaky Halloween decorations. The most prominent of decorations were that of a fat white-bearded man wearing red; the so-called Santa Claus.
Lucario also took notice on how the temperature was colder than usual, though him being part Steel-type Pokémon that resisted Ice-type moves and possibly the fact he was definitely stronger than whatever the average Lucario was, his body didn't register low temperatures, unlike how he would turn into a sweating mess at hot temperatures due to the very same Steel-type nature of his being. That was all well and good for him to be resilient to cold, but not so much for Chris, who had to wear long-sleeved shirts and sweaters.
The teen, wearing a blue sweater with black sweatpants, was placing firewood in the living room's chimney located right of the flat screen TV. Using used newspaper as paper to light up fire, Chris used a match and set the paper aflame, the firewood slowly being bathed in fire. "B-brr… I hope the wood starts to burn soon," Chris said, standing up from the floor. "Luckily, thanks to you, we have plenty of firewood to make the house warm."
Sitting on the couch, Lucario said, "But wouldn't it easier to use the heaters?" The jackal had seen Chris using some white machines that exuded heat when turned on around the house. He even used one at their room and left it on while sleeping.
"It is a nice feeling using a chimney to burn wood now and then. Besides, outside the stove, it's a fun way to roast marshmallows," Chris said. Lucario eyed the bag of large marshmallows and long, thin wooden sticks on the table. The wood was starting to burn, increasing the temperature around the living room steadily behind the iron bar pedestal it was on. "Are you ready?"
"Um…let's see…" Prior to setting up the chimney for use, Chris had told Lucario that they were going to roast marshmallows. Having tried one before roasting it, Lucario deemed the spongy snack an interesting object, finding some appeal to it with its strange taste, although he was a bit annoyed chewed bits stuck to his fangs until licked. Wondering how the flavor would taste when roasted, he picked a stick and skewered two large marshmallows, Chris doing the same. "Like so, right?"
"Yes. Come over here," Chris invited, patting the right side next to him facing the chimney. Lucario stood up from the couch and went over to squat next to the teen.
For that brief moment they looked at each other, the inner Riolu gleefully barked. Chris didn't react and only turned towards the chimney, missing the small smile on Lucario's lips.
The jackal focused his attention on the chimney, where Chris stuck his stick inside, his marshmallows hovering above the weak flame. Lucario followed suit, putting his on the side over another flame. "Alright, here's the thing. The marshmallows will start catching fire. Once they do, pull back and slowly turn the stick around so the flame goes around the sides. I'll tell you when you should blow the fire out," Chris explained.
It didn't take long before Chris's marshmallows caught a weak fire, roasting the underside. Lucario watched him pulling the stick out of the chimney. "Yours is ready. Pull it out," Chris instructed. Almost forgetting, Lucario pulled his out, staring at the flame roasting his marshmallows. "Now do this." The jackal watched the teen slowly turn his stick, the flame slowly but surely burning the pair of marshmallows together as it engulfed more of it. And so, Lucario mimicked Chris perfectly, a bit thrilled to see the white skin of the snacks turning black.
"Are you sure we're not burning them too much?" Lucario asked.
"No, it's fine. What matters is how the inside will be like," Chris reassured. "Okay, blow the fire out now." The two, almost in unison, blew the fires on their marshmallows, leaving an almost-charred top on their sticks, trails of thin smoke on the tips. Unsure if it was safe to bite the black snack, Lucario saw Chris biting a side of it.
Lucario was mildly surprised that the charred marshmallow was melted inside the black core, seeing the sticky substance stick into Chris's lips as he bit it. The big jackal looked at his own marshmallows and took a careful bite on the side.
He was surprised. The marshmallows were melted from the inside, somehow tasting different than uncooked. Lucario's tongue wrestled with the sticky substance, actually enjoying the flavor better than before. He and Chris enjoyed the charred snack together, slowly eating away. "How is it?" Chris asked.
"It's…good. Not bad at all," Lucario said, looking relieved. His inner Riolu, meanwhile, rejoiced, tossing his hands up and wagging his tail. "I wouldn't mind doing this more often with the chimney burning wood."
"We can also just use the stove in the kitchen when not using the chimney. No need to burn wood for this," Chris said.
"I don't know…" Lucario looked at the chimney, feeling refreshed to be next to its warmth. "It's…it's nice, you know. Eating roasted marshmallows next to the fire."
"Oh…" Chris's smile was a shy one. "Y-yes. It's nice. Certainly very different than using the stove."
Lucario chuckled, looking his way, nodding. "Thank you, Chris. This was nice," he thanked.
Chris's expression was a thankful one, though he couldn't shake the feeling that Lucario was being a bit nicer to him the last couple of months. If something as small as eating roasted marshmallows by the fire made the Aura Pokémon grateful, was it a sign he was feeling more comfortable than before? There was also the fact Chris was pulling almost all the stops to satisfy Lucario, as the teen was practicing his meat cooking skills and steadily improving every week when he snuck in a meat dish Lucario practically devoured without a second thought. Perhaps the jackal was coming to terms with his impossible predicament?
No, that wasn't it. Lucario was simply more grateful than ever. That was what Chris thought. Though it was no reason to stop if they were both enjoying their time together more, even as something as small as eating roasted marshmallows by the fire was very meaningful.
"You're welcome, big guy," Chris said.
"(Big guy… I like it,)" Lucario thought, feeling empowered by the stealth compliment. His inner Riolu grinned, puffing up his chest and standing on the tip of his toes to appear larger. He even let out a roar, though being a Riolu, it came out a bit cutesy to the general person.
"Well!" Chris stood up, having finished his snack. "It's time I get to work and bring the Christmas tree to the living room."
"The…Christmas tree?" Lucario repeated, still holding his stick.
"Yes. Many people have already set up a Christmas tree by the last days of November, but I usually call relatives over to set it up in my house," Chris explained. "But this year, I think I can handle it alone. I have the tree stored up in a box in the attic. It's a fake Christmas tree, so it's not real wood or anything. Just plastic that looks like a pine tree."
The attic was an area of the house Lucario hadn't seen yet, mostly because he wasn't curious enough to wander upstairs into the unspoken third floor.
Chris looked embarrassed at Lucario, who irked an eyebrow. "I…uh…had this crazy idea to have you help me bring the pieces down…and…maybe decorate the tree together…" he said, almost muttering the whole sentence. "But, um, it's okay if you don't want, though! Oh god, I don't even know why I blurted that out…"
"Hmm…" Though Lucario wasn't exactly an interior-decorating buff, he really couldn't help giving his aid to the teen. If there was just any way he could help, Lucario wasn't going to turn down the offer…mostly because it was coming from Chris himself, subconsciously trying to make sure the human was happy. "I…can help you," Lucario hesitated to say, though his small smile was faster than his words were.
"…Huh, really?" Chris asked, actually looking surprised.
"Yes… I…want to. Sure," Lucario said, standing up and looking down at the teen. "Let me help you out, please. I could probably learn how to…decorate? Um, yes."
"…" Chris tilted his head, feeling that Lucario was trying his best to appear interested. "Is it me, or are you…indifferent? Like you don't really want to help me?"
"N-no, that's not it," Lucario said, looking worried he appeared too indecisive. "Listen…I… Look, I want to help you in any way I can. That is all. I don't want to appear lazy when you're doing everything for yourself."
"Oh… Oh, right. That makes more sense," Chris said, nodding. Lucario sighed in his mind. "Thanks, then. Let's go up to the attic to get the tree."
The two went upstairs to the second floor, where they headed to the northeast corner to a new set of stairs leading up to the attic above. As they went up, the light of day started to dim, the smell in the air getting duller than the other two floors. A wooden door hatch stopped them in their way up that Chris unlocked by pulling an iron piece on the edge, pushing the hatch up where it fell on the attic's floor. Once making it to the top of the stairs, Lucario was greeted by a darker atmosphere in a large flat room with dozens of boxes, either laid flat or stacked on top of each other. The ceiling above was less pleasing to look at, due to the fact the attic was ruled by a wooden setting mostly covered in dust and some spider webs in the darkest of corners.
"Boxes…" Lucario muttered, looking at the wide variety of boxes around. Many of said boxes had words written with permanent marker. Some of the words he could make out were "Mexican decorations," "graduation clothes," "old computer devices," "family photos," "vacation photos," and "family vacation photos." "…This place is rather dirty."
"I know," Chris said. "That's why I've given up on cleaning this place unless it gets very, very dirty. Thankfully, it's…almost time for me to wipe the dust." He sighed.
Lucario lamented the fact that aura was not really that good at seeing inside objects when the inside lacked aura waves he could pick up. Whatever was inside a box, it was shrouded in mystery until opened. He took notice of the many boxes, wondering which one the Christmas tree was in. "So where is the Christmas tree?" Lucario asked.
"Easy. It's this box right next to the stairs," Chris said.
They both looked at a tall white box that was about 5 feet tall and 2 feet wide, standing idly against the wooden wall. Sure enough, the box had a picture of a fake pine tree and several other words that all basically spelled "Christmas tree" several times.
"I was imagining a much larger tree…" Lucario said, somewhat disappointed he towered over the box.
"It's not that big, though. The pieces are all scattered inside with a base and a large pole that can be retracted," Chris explained. "The problem is…this box is heavy. My plan was to take down the pieces one by one. Usually, in previous years, I have some relatives come over and help me take it down and decorate it."
"Wait, what?" Chris asked, suddenly noticing Lucario had gotten closer to the box. The Aura Pokémon knelt down next to it and wrapped his right arm a bit short on halfway around the width of the box. The teen moved back several steps away, until he said, "A-are you going t-?!"
"HMPH!" Lucario used his other hand to tilt the box towards his right arm, reclining it enough for him to let it dangle against it. So very casually, Lucario held the box in place on his arm and stood back up, the heavy white box perfectly still, turning around towards Chris. Inside the box, the parts of the Christmas tree rattled, though thankfully it was very hard to break plastic even by a sudden lift from the floor. "I'm ready."
The teen was more than a little impressed by the Herculean strength of the towering Lucario, holding the box like it was nothing slowing him down any. Lucario exhibited no signs of struggle; not even gritting his fangs. The white box may as well had been invisible.
However, more importantly, was how Lucario looked rather heroic in Chris's eyes, even if it was just a box he was carrying over his lithe-looking right arm. Immediately, Chris's mind played out a rather bizarre scenario, inspired by the event unfolding before him.
"How do you want me to dispose of this box?" the Lucario in his head asked.
"Yes," the Chris in his head said, in a deep voice.
"An astute choice," the Lucario said nodding, and the box blew up, for no real reason.
"Chris," the Lucario in the impossible reality called out to him.
Chris, somewhat startled, shook his head. "U-uh, what?" he asked.
"You were…uh…spacing out for a bit," Lucario pointed out. "You were staring at me without saying anything. What is wrong?"
The teen could only blush as a visual response. As for a vocal one… "I-I kind of got too impressed seeing you carrying that box like nothing. S-sorry. I'm still easily impressed whenever I see you lifting heavy stuff up or using your…incredible strength," he explained.
"…" Lucario looked at the box, being actually easier to carry than the time he had lifted Chris's bed that one time before. Puzzled that Chris thought the box was heavier, Lucario couldn't ignore the part when the teen said he was easily impressed by his feats of strength. Subconsciously, Lucario preened a little, and very much obviously showed off his strength by twisting his body to the sides, the box at his mercy. "Oh, it's nothing to me. I've lifted heavier with your bed," Lucario said, unable to hide a small smile. Although Chris didn't look impressed, his flaring aura burst with waves of happiness Lucario picked up that told a different, more honest story. Mentally, Lucario chuckled. His inner Riolu, meanwhile, put up a tough look again and flexed his little arms.
"Y-yes, I see that. Please stop using that box like a weight," Chris said, prompting Lucario to stop. "A-anyway, I need you to take that box down to the first floor. We'll set up the tree there… Oh, wait!" He went to the other side of the attic towards a stack of five boxes. He eyed one of them that read "Christmas tree decorations" that was roughly large but not so much for him to carry for himself. The problem was, the box was the second-to-last box going up. "I need to pick this box. It's got the lights and plastic spheres to put on the tree. Let me just grab it…and make sure the box on top doesn't fall on me…"
As Chris set out to retrieve the box, Lucario was just about to move downstairs until a sharp pang rang in his head. He grunted, putting his free hand on his forehead, as his mind fell into some kind of deep focus…
The pang he experienced was no strange feeling, however. Truth be told, the Aura Pokémon had experienced several pangs before. Notably, when it was time for him to learn Aura Sphere, the same pang – the first of a few ones - ran through his head as he sorted out his thoughts…or rather, his move set, in his subconscious. His mind had played out how he was about to learn Aura Sphere, which he agreed to, while discarding his Counter move while leaving Swords Dance, Bone Rush, and Force Palm intact.
Though, after that, during his meditation sessions and some house chores he helped Chris with, the pangs manifested at least two more times throughout the months. The second one, having occurred during meditation, involved a mental picture of him rushing towards a target and delivering a devastating series of punches and kicks that, afterwards, left him panting heavily, his body shooting out steam. It was the Close Combat move that was coming to mind, which he agreed to learning by discarding Bone Rush. He was going to tell Chris about the new move, but due to an event involving eating pizza for the first time, Lucario completely forgot.
The third time occurred while he was moping the floor with a wet mop on the first floor. Back then, his mind played out a visual representation of him pulling back his hands before holding them out together in front of him, launching a purple and red beam into a target. That time, it was Dragon Pulse, though he declined to learn it, just because he feared launching that move by accident while at the house…and there was no way he would fix a huge hole in the wall. Ever.
As for now, the fourth pang that rang in his head…
While still deciding what to do, Lucario, startled, turned towards where Chris was, seeing him pulling back from the box he was grasping after spotting a small brown spider hanging from a thin spider web thread from the ceiling, almost touching his face, panicking him. Though he did well in getting away, there was no denying the fact he clumsily pulled the box too quickly, stumbling back on the floor…
Causing the stack of boxes to fall on him.
Time seemed to run much slower before Chris actually fell on the floor, alongside the boxes threatening to injure him. From where Lucario was, he instinctively let his body move on his own and dashed towards Chris, although not in a way considered to be normal. At a normal pace time ran, Lucario quite literally became a large blur of blue that sliced through the air, left a clean trail cutting through the dust on the floor, and removed Chris from the direction of the falling boxes before they completely reached him, falling down on the floor and making a bit of a mess with several items coming out from some of the unsealed boxes.
And all this had happened in a fourth of a second, right between Lucario moving and before he was seen carrying Chris on his arms next to the fallen boxes, knelt down and clutching the human close in a protective stance.
"You're fine," Lucario growled under his breath, the adrenaline of his blinding speed wearing out.
The abrupt change all around Chris had shaken him a bit, mostly because his mind was still catching up to the present, until he finally came to and gasped when he found himself being held on Lucario's arms. His eyes darted around, and he spotted the boxes that almost fell on him, realizing he should have been buried under them…which was an impossibility, replaced with the impossibility that was Lucario carrying him while kneeling down.
"W-what the… What in the…?!" Chris gasped out.
Compared to him, Lucario didn't look any worse for wear. "It's fine," he said. "I saw those boxes about to fall on you, so I simply ran and took you away from them."
"B-but…" Chris looked towards where Lucario was holding the Christmas tree box, now lying down on the floor next to the exit to the second floor. The discrepancy was evident to Chris. The two were standing away approximately forty feet away from each other, nothing blocking the way. Logically, Lucario was simply too far away to even set down the box in time to grab Chris at the same time…and yet, the straight trail cutting through the dust on the floor left Chris speechless.
"…" Lucario looked at the direction Chris was looking at and finally understood, his mouth gawking. "What the…?"
"W-wait, you don't know what just happened?" Chris asked, his focus coming back to him.
"I-I… Well, like I said, I saw those boxes about to fall on you, so I ran to save you."
"We were too far away from each other for you to just reach me out!" Chris pointed out. "Plus, you would have been standing right behind me to even react in time, but that'd only mean you predicted the boxes would fall on me prior you saw it happen! And yet you say you ran?"
"T-that's what happened!" Lucario said, standing up and still carrying Chris. "I-I mean, why don't I show you so you believe me?" He turned to face the opposite direction of the attic.
"Oh, please, like you're trying to tell me you ran at the speed of light or som-"
A quarter of a second passed before Chris's body registered a gust of wind that had brushed his skin. Moreover, his eyes looked to his right, and he yelped when he saw more stacks of boxes that were placed on the far side from where they were…that were a few feet away from his position. Gawking in utter disbelief, he looked up at Lucario, who appeared completely unfazed, at least until he himself noticed what had happened again, leading to more gawking. They looked behind, where a second clean trail cleaving through the dust was left, leading all the way back from where Lucario had been standing on the far side where the fallen boxes were.
"Holy…CRAP!" Chris yelped, holding his chest from his beating heart.
"I…I…" Lucario stammered, stepping back some.
"That…that was… Wow!" Chris looked at both trails splitting the dust, and then back at Lucario. "You…you really DID run at the speed of light! Holy CRAP!"
"I…I did?" Lucario said.
"W-well, duh! M-maybe not that fast, but… Holy CRAP!"
"Y-you keep saying those words."
"Because this was… Holy CRAP!" Chris held his head, unable to keep his excitement in check.
Lucario sighed, setting the shocked but surprised Chris down on his feet. The jackal looked down at his feet, seeing no drastic changes to them, even as he inspected his pink paw-pads and wiggled his toes. "I seriously don't remember being able to run that fast before…not even when I left the house and went to your school," Lucario said.
"S-seriously?" Chris asked. "Then how were you able to pull this off?"
"W-well…" Lucario pinched his chin in deep thought. "…Wait…" He recalled the pang. "Chris, I have to tell you something first… Actually, there is something that had happened to me several times starting when I first learned Aura Sphere."
And so, Lucario explained Chris the pangs he had gone through in previous occasions and how they all were related to him learning a new move that he had to choose to accept or discard from his list of moves.
At the end of the explanation, Chris rested his left check on his left palm in thought. "Is this…how Pokémon learn new moves, then? They get this sharp pain in their heads and they decide to learn or discard new moves? But then how do the trainers in the game even know what's happening?" he wondered.
Lucario could only shrug. "I have no idea… My memories of my past before arriving here are hazy, other than recalling where I was supposedly training with my trainer," he said.
Chris grunted, putting his palm down. "Oh, all these juicy bits of exposition and no way to ever find out what it all means in the bigger picture…" he lamented, slouching a bit. "So then…" he straightened up, "you learned Aura Sphere, then learned Close Combat and discard…Dragon Pulse apparently, and now… Extreme Speed!
"Extreme Speed?" Lucario repeated.
"Y-yes! That's it! That blinding speed you ran was definitely Extreme Speed!" Chris said, but then, he grimaced. "Wait, how is it that you sound doubtful?"
The jackal scratched his head. "I…well, to be honestly fair, I didn't know exactly the names of my moves other than Aura Sphere and whatever else is etched in my mind," Lucario explained. "…No, wait. Aura Sphere was also alien to me. I simply guessed right it was called that only through appearances."
"…Wow," Chris said, looking away. "This…wow."
"What is it?"
"If…what you're saying about not knowing the names of your moves is true…what could this mean to the logic of your world?" The teen asked, giving Lucario a quizzical look. "Is it possible Pokémon can go their whole lives using moves without ever knowing the names?"
Lucario shook his head. "It's…an interesting thought, really, but I can't tell. I'm sadly unreliable in the ways of how things work in my universe," he said. Chris expressed disappointment in his saddened look. "U-um, I wish I really knew better to explain it to you. You, um, seem very interested in all this…"
The teen then smiled, eyes hinting at some lingering disappointment. "I got very interested, didn't I? Sorry. It was a bit fun to find the logic in this phenomenon. Turns out making up theories can be rather entertaining," he giggled. "Don't feel bad. I feel like we made a breakthrough by ourselves! Even if we didn't get quite there."
The Aura Pokémon smiled, nodding. "Yes… I admit this was enlightening in some way," he said, looking at his right hand as he fondly recalled when he learned Aura Sphere time ago. On that note, he had to admit that trying to find out the mysteries of learning moves with Chris helping gave him some good vibes in him, as shown by his inner Riolu playfully looking around and pretending he was entering some ruins in dire need of exploring.
"Anyway. Back to what just happened a moment ago," Chris began, "you must have learned Extreme Speed. What move did you discard over it?"
Lucario thought for a moment. "I discard Swords Dance over it," he said. "Now I have Aura Sphere, Force Palm, Extreme Speed, and Close Combat."
"Goodness. You really like the offensive…"
"It's a rush I enjoy," Lucario said, sounding like he was showing off.
"S-sure… But before I forget… You're so amazing!" Chris gushed, his hands interlanced, startling Lucario, who wasn't honestly expecting such a reaction despite the fact he really was showing off his move set. "Super strength, super speed, the ability to talk through your mouth and your mind, the ability to sense auras and borrow senses from others without suspicion… What can't you do?"
The Aura Pokémon could only blush, his wagging tail going unnoticed by him and Chris himself. His inner Riolu was hopping around, barking, his tail wagging rather ferociously after hearing those praises from the teen. Praises like those, of course, weren't enough for the inner child, wanting to hear even more to feel even more truly appreciated. "W-well…it…would be nice to…fly, I guess?" Lucario said, a bit unsure at first, but then he wondered if he could pull it off. Maybe he could weaponize his aura to let him fly using explosive bursts from his hands and feet.
"Oh, I don't doubt you can do that somehow if only we had the means to find out," Chris said. The inner Riolu was now rolling on the floor, giggling. "Thinking back, when you swooped in and saved from those boxes…you looked like a super hero for a moment."
"A…super hero?" Lucario repeated, his mind really attaching to those words. The inner Riolu stood straight up, petite hands on his hips, roaring.
Chris blushed when realizing what he had said. "U-um, well, not that you don't look like one when not pulling those heroics…"
Lucario's body suddenly flared up with aura for about a second, making Chris gasp and back off. "O-oh crap. Did I make you angry or something?" Chris asked. "T-that must have sounded harsh. I-I'm sorry."
"N-no. No. On the contrary, I…" Lucario smiled, "I…felt a bit too happy that my aura got overwhelmed with all these…all these happy feelings in me. You're being too nice to me more than usual, so…" He averted his eyes from the surprised human. "…So…yes… Thank you." He had muttered the last part, though not quietly enough for Chris to miss.
Chris, also looking away with a smile and his cheeks red, tried his best to drop the subject, thinking that it was probably too much to dwell on any longer. Although he was just as happy with himself as Lucario felt, it was perhaps to the best that both of them regained their focus in the attic. "You're welcome…my super hero?" The teen gasped, turning his back to Lucario, who swung his face towards him with shock. "A-anyway! Would you be so kind and bring the Christmas tree box down to the second floor? It's better to put it there where we have more space. P-plus, it'd look nice next to the terrace doors. I-I'm going to go get the decorations from the box I was trying to get." He awkwardly and hurriedly went to the other side of the attic to retrieve the box lying down around the scattered boxes that tried to bury him.
The Aura Pokémon watched the human walking fast, unable to forget the words "my super hero" from his head. Certainly a very good description other than saying "my Lucario" or something, Lucario thought. He chuckled to himself, satisfied that Chris thought even more highly of him thanks to his heroic act. As he went over to the box he let go prior flashing from one side of the attic to the other, in his head, he fondly thought, "(I am Chris's super hero.)" He waited for Chris to come to him, noticing the rather embarrassed smile the teen failed to completely take off from his face, and led the way down the attic with the box he so heroically carried down.
Chris did come back to clean the mess of boxes with Lucario's help. Once having finished that, after Chris started to leave, Lucario sensed the aura of that one spider that had scared Chris and caused the incident, locating it by his feet by coincidence. Growling and baring his fangs, Lucario raised his left foot and stomped the pathetic bug to death, twisting his foot on it for good measure. Proud of felling the evil bug, Lucario chuckled, and promptly followed the unaware Chris down to the second floor. His inner Riolu roared, proud of saving Chris from the monster.
Lucario groaned when he realized he had gotten some of the spider's inner bits stuck on his foot, sticking to his paw pads. One outing to the bathroom's tub would fix the spider's last act of revenge.
The 25th of December dawned on their home, despite it being cloudy with a chance of snowing outside.
On the second floor, Lucario sat on the couch, taking a sip of hot chocolate from a coffee mug, looking up at a decorated Christmas tree positioned in the middle of the floor.
The tree was truly so much different than when he had remembered when he had opened the white box. In its "natural" state, it was a bunch of fake branches of iron with plastic green rectangular leaves of innumerable numbers and a four-pronged base with a tall stick of dark green plastic. In its full form, it did appear to be a pine tree that hid a dark secret within its leaves that certainly lacked the essence of life, as the aura expert in the home attested.
In its full glory, it was impressive. Trails of blinking lights spiraling upwards around the tree, hanging spheres of different colors that reflected the world in distorted shapes, candy canes hanging from the tip of several branches and placed far apart, and a large white star at the very tip that, as Lucario remembered, was the very last part they did and he remembered fondly, as the tree was 9 feet tall and barely out of his arm's reach. Though Chris was going to get a ladder to get to the top, Lucario used his strength to hold Chris up by his waist so he could place the star at a straight angle.
Lucario had been so proud of finishing the decoration, holding the human up, that they held that position for half a minute until he came to when Chris looked down at him and asked, "U-um, you can put me down now." It was embarrassing at first, but Lucario telling smile said he liked it, and Chris's aura had spiked with exciting feelings he couldn't help picking up, especially at close proximity.
Back in the present, Lucario turned his attention down under the tree's branches, where a Christmas rug covered the base around the tree, with a dozen of attention-grabbing boxes of different colors, different-colored wrappers, and ribbons of all sizes. The gifts had been delivered to home by Chris's parents, who had tried to actually get back home but, as Chris expected, failed, but not because of work, but because they had picked a bad time to take a flight to Los Angeles all the way from New York where a snowstorm had canceled all flights since three days ago, effectively putting a stop to the promise. Unlike last time, at least Chris was much less impulsive by not reacting so harshly on them. That gave Lucario a big sigh of relief.
All things considered, when he had embraced Chris with an arm, Chris embraced him from the side and thanked him for the vote of support.
The door to the bathroom on the second floor opened and Chris came out from the steamy room, having taken a shower before opening the gifts. Wearing a red sweater and white sweatpants, he neared the tree where Lucario was taking a sip of his hot chocolate. Lucario had to admit that it was refreshing to taste chocolate at a high temperature during a cold season, especially when sitting on the couch. "Done taking a shower. Time for the best part of the day!" Chris said, sitting on his knees close to Lucario, reaching out for the gifts.
Like Lucario remembered, Christmas Day was apparently a special day celebrating the birth of "a special person" Chris told him, though the teen decided not to elaborate much on that to Lucario to prevent him from getting too much into religious inquiries. With that in mind, people around the world prepared for the holiday by buying presents to family and friends, in what looked like a second birthday that was shared with everyone without question (except certain groups that, again, Chris did not want to explain much about).
Of course, at least people had the advantage of going out and buy gifts for others; something Lucario realized early in the tale regarding his unfortunate shut-in situation that prevented him from seeking a gift for Chris…and the fact he was basically moneyless. He lamented not being able to secure a gift for the human, especially when the act of giving was better than receiving.
And speaking of receiving, a gift wrapped in blue with black ribbons was now sitting on his lap, snapping him out from his long stare at Chris opening gifts. The truth was the gift was put on his lap before Chris even tried to open a gift himself. "What the…? Lucario stared down at the present. A sticker with a tag on the top read, "From: Chris" and "To: Lucario."
"It's for you," Chris said, smiling. "I…bought that for you two weeks ago." He blushed, looking away.
"So this is…" Lucario had recalled a few weeks earlier how Chris had gotten home with several items to put into presents. That time was also when Lucario was taught how to wrap up presents himself, and Chris had to admit that, for having large hands and three large, stubby fingers, Lucario was very adept with delicate tasks. Using a fork had been a preview of what Lucario could do if he put his mind into it.
The question now was how Chris managed to sneak in wrapping up the gift Lucario hadn't seen before.
"I wrapped that up one day while you were taking shower," Chris said, chuckling. "It was the best time for me to get to work and put it down under the tree without you noticing."
Lucario, satisfied, chuckled. "You're one sneaky person, trying to get past my aura senses," he said.
"It's not like you have your senses on all the time. Open it!"
The Aura Pokémon started to tear the wrapping apart rather easily - disappointed that the present didn't give him a challenge - until he left it bare as a normal box with tape sealing the top. Looking at the spikes on his wrists, Lucario found them a use and tore the tape in two, opening the top of the box and looking inside at a red item he grasped in his hand and pulled it out.
It was a long, fluffy red scarf that remained connected to the box even though he had pulled it out a bit. His mouth hung open a bit, curiously running a hand on the fabric, feeling its inviting softness. Pulling it out more, he discovered the tail end of the scarf had his name stitched in blue with a black outline; the word in the same soft fabric as the rest of the scarf.
"A scarf?" Lucario said. "With…my name on it?"
"M-Merry Christmas!" Chris awkwardly said, even with open palms. "I had that scarf customized by an online retailer and had it done like that for you. Mind you, it was hard to think of a present for you. I was thinking of gym equipment, but with the strength you have, it'd be very redundant. And if I ordered the big stuff…that'd raise a lot of eyebrows in my family…" As he saw Lucario stare at the shape of the scarf, worry settled in. "Do…you like it?"
Lucario blinked, realizing he was probably staring at his gift blankly for too long. Like he had seen others wear scarves, he took out the scarf from the box and wrapped it around his furred neck until it was all neatly wrapped under his head, with the tail end with his name hanging to the right of his chest spike. He got up and walked to a mirror hanging on the wall to the right of the hallway leading to the bathroom, seeing his reflection.
A grin formed in his lips as he admired his look. The red scarf, to him, complemented his blue looks well. He twisted his body a bit, unaware that he was posing for the mirror by putting his left hand on his hip. In his head, somehow, the inner Riolu had a similar scarf, except with "Riolu" written on the tail end. He pushed the fabric to his chin, tail wagging furiously, gushing with delight.
Seeing Lucario doing that in front of the mirror, Chris blinked. "(Wow. I never took him for a model,)" he thought.
"It's great," Lucario said, before turning back to Chris. "I don't feel the cold much, but I like how it looks…and how it feels." Like his inner Riolu did, he pushed the fabric up to his chin. If it hadn't been a scarf, it would have been a thin but comfy blanket. The grunt he made sounded pleased.
Relieved, Chris smiled anew. "Oh, that's a relief! I'm so glad you like it!" he said. "I really thought it wasn't going to be good enough for you…"
"It came from you. It's more than enough."
Lucario opened his shocked eyes and looked away, unaware that his chin was still engulfed by the scarf he was pushing up. Chris, for his part, looked away as well, both embarrassed.
"…Um…thank you," Lucario said, breaking the silence, eyes still drifting away. "I just…I just wished I could've gotten you a gift for Christmas…" He let go of the scarf, looking guilty at Chris, who looked back towards his direction with worry in his expression. "I feel so ashamed, Chris. You've given me so much ever since I got to this world, but there's no way for me to repay you back during Christmas, at least with a present…and this is supposed to be a huge day for humans." He clutched the tail end of his scarf with both hands as he looked down at his feet. "Please…forgive me. You…you mean a lot to me, and yet I came up short today. It's inexcusable…"
The teen stood up from the floor and walked to Lucario, standing in front of him. Lucario just barely missed seeing Chris wiping a few tears away with his arm, though Chris's eyes were a bit red, as if telling he was trying hard to suppress more tears from leaking. "D-don't be silly," Chris said, almost choking up. "I knew you wouldn't be able to get me a gift for Christmas, but I didn't blame you one bit, you know…"
"You…didn't?" Lucario asked.
"I understood that when I was getting you that scarf," Chris said. "I knew getting a gift from you was impossible because you can't go out of here. I always…always feel guilty you're forced to be a shut-in so no one tries to take you away from here…from…me…" he muttered the last part, forcing a twitching smile. "But then…I feel guilty myself, y-you know? Guilty that having you here makes me happy, which makes me feel so selfish, trying to take advantage of you just because I think…I think you're amazing…"
The Aura Pokémon's heart ached seeing the teen unable to stop the tears from coming. He was moved by Chris's words, never once believing the human was being selfish. Lucario didn't even use his aura to make sure Chris was telling the truth. Somehow, Lucario felt like he adopted an alleged seventh sense on top of his obvious sixth sense; the sense of accurately guessing a person's character. Perhaps the sense was developed in secret thanks to Chris's nurturing. Perhaps it had been dormant in Lucario's psyche for a long while now. Perhaps it was a combination of the previous two points that brought it forth.
And right now, seeing the human bury his face on his hands prompted Lucario to pull Chris to his side and embrace him, resting his chin on Chris's hair. "Right now," Lucario began as Chris noticed what was going on, "what do you wish me to give you for Christmas?"
Chris sobbed quietly, removing his hands from his face and hugging the tall Pokémon for comfort. "I-I don't know…" Chris lamented. "I can't just say anything…"
"Very well. Anything it is."
Chris could only blink, utterly confused. "B-but…you can't…"
"If it was up to me, I'd get you anything, Chris." As Lucario embraced Chris tighter, his aura manifested, his head appendages floating up, crimson eyes turning yellow, completely engulfing the two like a large torch that wouldn't burn them into ashes, lighting up the second floor. Somehow, Chris felt a warming feeling that felt familiar. The familiar feeling heavily resembled…or was the same feeling he felt back when Lucario had accidentally intertwined their auras back when Lucario had learned Aura Sphere. His own aura was brought out into the open, mixing together with Lucario's powerful own. Unlike last time, Lucario was not going to let it vanish, as he felt incredible emotional power. "I know it's impossible right now. I know my own limitations in this world. I know there is so much I could do if the world would be ready to accept me. But…I also know there is no way I'll rest easy knowing you're ashamed for thinking you're taking advantage of me. Hell, I could say the same thing, don't you think? Like I said before, you've given me so much it looks like I'm the one taking advantage of you, not the other way around."
"B-but…" Chris sobbed, his aura welling up with negative feelings of sadness. "But that's not true…"
"Exactly." Lucario's powerful aura soothed Chris's aura, suppressing the negative feelings slowly. At that point, Lucario shut his eyes, tears leaking. "I guess…my gift to you for Christmas is…my fervent desire to be by your side when you feel down, because my day is not complete until I make damn sure you had a great day."
"…I-I don't…" Chris sniffed, "I don't think…that's good for you. It makes me look more selfish…"
Lucario chuckled. "Chris, please. After all we've gone through, was there ever a time you gained more than I did? The way I saw it, we both benefitted equally. Incredibly enough, while you enjoy my company, I get even stronger, not just physically, but mentally and emotionally. Every day is gift for the two of us I don't wish to end…which, let me tell you…" he growled, embracing arms holding Chris in a protective stance, "no one will be able to stop, no one. If anyone dares to threaten our way of living…our happiness…I'll tear them apart, limb by limb, bone by bone. That I promise you."
After listening to Lucario's words and feeling their auras mingling in harmony, Chris was frozen in place, trying to understand the feelings behind those words.
Thinking he may gone overboard at the last part, Lucario stuttered. "…Uh…perhaps I sounded a bit violent near the end, but…you…get what I mean. Sorry. I got carried away…" Lucario apologized.
"…Lucario…" Chris muttered.
"…" Chris giggled, his face leaning into Lucario's chest. "You're…you're pretty good at giving Christmas gifts with words alone…"
The Aura Pokémon grimaced. "That, uh, was not the point… I got so lost…" He sensed Chris's aura sparking with positive feelings of happiness that he received in full with his senses on overdrive. "Chris…your aura…it's…it's radiating with positive energy."
"I-is it? Well…that's because I'm obviously happy, then… But seriously…" Chris hugged Lucario tighter. "…Hearing you say all that is such an invaluable Christmas gift only you could come up with. And all I gave you was a scarf…"
Lucario gasped, opening his glowing eyes. "Wait, no! This scarf is incredible! D-don't think I don't think it's bad or anything! If you want, I can wear it all summer, even!" he said, panicking, his aura turning into a wild panicked flame.
Though hearing Chris laugh calmed Lucario down as the teen looked up to him, tears avoiding the smile on his face. "It's fine. It's fine! Seriously, you're even more amazing than I thought you were!" Chris expressed happily. "To think…to think you'd go to great lengths for me…even for a Christmas gift…" He sobbed again. "…You don't need to give me a gift, Lucario, at least not after hearing you say all that… You clearly would do it."
"…Well…of course," Lucario said, smiling down at him. "…Is this…the part where I say…?"
"…Merry Christmas, Chris." Lucario chuckled, the teen leaning his face next to the chest spike. Lucario, growling, embraced Chris more, their mixed auras shining bright thanks to their combined happy feelings they used for comfort. "…It's funny. Your name almost sounds like Christmas."
"Is…my name good?" Chris asked.
"You're so sweet, Lucario…"
"I know… You know why? Because you said so, and you only say the truth."
"Well…in that case, you're so strong."
"Come on. Don't leave me hanging."
"Grrr. You're holding back."
"And very smart!"
"Damn it, Chris, I want MORE! Say it like it is!"
"You can totally make Mt. Everest your lifting weight!"
"Child's play! Stop undermining my true strength!"
"O-okay! You can kick the moon out of the solar system!"
"Dial it back, because your words are making my gift look unimpressive…even if the moon is just waiting for me to kick it out. Maybe I can grow gigantic and you could hitch a ride on my shoulder to watch the show…but if so, at that size, I'd be even stronger that I could rule the galaxy... Hmm..."
Their laughs filled the room as they kept embracing each other, their spirits high. Outside, it started to snow, which they noticed from their position. Thinking that it was a good sign, Lucario made their auras fade away before they went to the doors of the terrace and looked up into the cloudy sky to see the snowy particles falling down softly onto the ground around the neighborhood. To Lucario, it was the first time he saw snow, all the previous days of December being just chilly without a sign of snow. Wordlessly, he pulled Chris to his side by his left shoulder, the teen being a bit surprised until the side glance the smiling Lucario gave him made him smile back and slip his right arm behind Lucario's high shoulders. They watched the snow fall, until soon it would all turn into a winter wonderland by noon. Chris would leave later to celebrate Christmas with his relatives to get more gifts, leaving Lucario alone in the house. Lucario, however, was fine with it, because he would simply use his aura senses to accompany Chris in soul. Literally. He was never going to leave Chris's side…
Except for the times Chris went to the bathroom, that is.
Meanwhile, the inner Riolu barked nonstop, happy that his older self had done so much for the troubled human. True to the season, Christmas was a magical time, when the act of giving was far more important than receiving…though, in this case, Lucario thought that what he gave to Chris, and what Chris gave to him, made the act of receiving all the more enjoyable, only because giving was the trigger.
Soon, it would be New Year's eve…a day that would bring one final challenge only Lucario could take and overcome that would shape his future, whether that future would have Chris or not…
Originally, in the making of this chapter, Chris's parents were going to show up during Christmas, but I scrapped that because the story is almost finished at this point. Bringing them in now would prolong things further that I'd want, and I'm not open to the shenanigans of stuffing Lucario in a closet for hiding every day.
Well! As implied in the narration and here, the story is almost reaching its end. Although the answer is probably obvious, I believe it's important to show how the answer was reached in the first place, just like trying to avoid making the point moot if you just wrote down the answer to a hard math question without bothering to use the right steps to get there. Only two chapters remain! Don't think too hard why we're ending things on number 19. It just happened.
…I'm disturbed this ended up longer than the previous chapter… Oh well. Passion makes miracles.
Please do review, and make sure it's not entirely about asking things not related to this story. It's rather depressing to come back here and see "reviews" of that kind pop up.