Cosmos was getting frustrated.
She'd been dropping hints for weeks now, to no avail. The Warrior of Light paid her no attention, never making any advances beyond vague proclamations of duty and shyly admitting to a fondness for the light. He was far too chivalrous for his own good.
But Cosmos had a plan.
It had been Golbez who'd given her the idea, albeit unwittingly. He'd appeared before her the other day, looking very apologetic (or as apologetic as a suit of armor could look, anyway), heaved a sigh, and dumped a box of booze at her feet.
"Jecht is… causing problems," he'd muttered. "I hope I may entrust you with guardianship of the rest of his collection."
"He can't be that bad…" Cosmos had protested. What was she going to do with a hundred and fifty bottles of tequila?
"I'm afraid it's worse than you might think," he'd said. "Jecht is not normally the friendliest of men, but under… certain influences… he can be most affectionate. The ladies of our party have grown most uncomfortable around him. Kuja in particular insisted we be rid of this." He'd nudged the box with a steel boot, and bowed. "I thank you, goddess, for your part in restoring harmony to the side of disorder." And he had hurried away before she could raise a further protest.
That was fine; because now, she had a means to her end.
"Let's play a game!" she said to her assembled warriors one night after dinner.
"I love games!" Bartz bounced excitedly in his seat.
Tidus grinned. "I'm for it."
Squall frowned. (Of course. What else would he do?) "I don't think we have time for games," he said. Cosmos was sure that scowl must be permanently etched onto his face.
To her dismay, the Warrior of Light nodded. "We should gather our strength, and return to our quest as swiftly as the light allows."
"This game is vital to your quest," Cosmos boomed. (She was using her "I'm a goddess, so you'd better obey or I'll do something horrible" voice.) The room quieted. "For you will never succeed until you have learned to trust one another. And trust…" She paused dramatically. (If only she had Cloud's gift for such pauses!) "…is necessary… for you to succeed."
Squall arched an eyebrow. "And how can a game help us trust one another?"
Just the opening she needed! "Trust grows from an understanding of your companions. This game will further your understanding of each other, and foster an unbreakable bond."
"So, it's like an icebreaker," Zidane suggested. His tail twitched excitedly.
More like something to melt the ice, she hoped. "I suppose you could call it that," the goddess pretended to muse.
"So… How do we play?" the Onion Knight asked.
"Each of you will take turns telling us about yourself, by telling us something you've never done." She started pouring out the tequila. "If any of you have done that thing, then you take a drink of this." She set ten shots in front of each person. (One advantage to being a goddess was the ability to pour drinks really fast. It had made her very popular at parties, before the eternal cycle had taken up most of her free time.) "The goal is to get everyone else to drink more than you. First person to ten—or whoever passes out first—loses, and the game is over. Oh, and to learn more about your companions," she added hastily. "You must love one another as a family."
"I thought you said it was about trust…?" Cecil asked.
"Um, yes, trust will follow from that."
Terra gawked and snatched the Onion Knight's hand away from a glass. "A-are you sure… this is a good idea?" she stammered.
"All I ask…" Cosmos said with another dramatic pause, "Is that you trust in me." And she knew she had them. Surely none of them would dare to suggest a lack of faith in their patron goddess?
"Very well," said her favorite Warrior after a pause of his own. "I shall give my all."
Cosmos felt like humming a victory theme. With a little luck, tonight he'd be too drunk to hold back, and the nameless warrior would be hers. (He wanted her, he really did! He just… didn't know it yet.)
"I'll start," Zidane said.
"But…" Terra protested. She was still holding the Onion Knight's hands. Cosmos strongly suspected the only reason he kept trying to take a glass was to keep Terra holding on to him.
"It's okay, Terra!" he piped up. "I'll outsmart them, and they'll fall first!"
Firion snickered at the idea of the boy outdrinking anyone.
"So…" Zidane continued, "I, uh… I have never cast Cure."
Cosmos's mood lifted as everyone but Zidane and Tidus raised a glass to their lips. The Warrior of Light took it in stride, but Terra seemed visibly affected; not enough, however, to prevent her from wrenching the Onion Knight's glass away and downing it herself.
"Okay," said Squall after a moment's pause. "I never played such a stupid game before."
Zidane and Tidus clinked their glasses together before draining them. Everyone else stayed still.
"I never got my tail caught in a zipper," Bartz said suddenly.
Zidane's face turned bright red. "That was one time!" he said. "And the rest of you don't even have tails!"
Tidus hastily put his glass back down, hoping no one had seen him lift it, and mumbled something about euphemisms.
"Drink up!" Bartz said happily. Zidane did so, a murderous glint in his eye.
"I've never ridden a flying chocobo," Terra offered, with a coy glance at the Onion Knight. Cecil, Bartz, and Zidane took resigned sips.
"I have never ridden upon a chocobo at all," the Warrior of Light said. Everyone else expressed mock surprise that they would have such a thing in common and took another drink, with Terra once again snatching away the Onion Knight's glass.
Cosmos frowned. By her count, Zidane was in the lead with four drinks, while the Warrior of Light had had only one. This wasn't going well at all.
Tidus grinned, two shots in. "I got one," he said. "I never had amnesia."
Squall glowered and picked up his glass. Cloud and Terra shared a worried glance before following suit. And, light be praised, the Warrior of Light finally drank his second shot!
"I've never worn a dress," said the Onion Knight, with a sly look at the girl next to him. She sighed and drank.
Bartz snickered as Zidane raised his glass. "Hey, I am a thespian!" the thief said, hand to his heart. "What's his excuse?" He pointed an accusing finger at Cloud, who froze with the tequila halfway to his lips.
"…I wanted to feel pretty." Cloud shrugged, downing the glass.
"Shouldn't you be drinking, too, Cosmos?" the blasted Onion Knight asked, innocently.
"Cecil, why don't you have a go?" she said loudly.
"I've never suffered a pirate to join my party," Cecil said, ignoring those still laughing at Cloud's expense. He sounded almost smug. Bartz and Firion frowned at the implied insult while they drank.
"Well, I've never had a ninja join my party," Firion shot back once he'd finished. Cecil looked rather affronted, but drained his glass without protest. Terra, though looking like she'd been suffering the effects of a particularly nasty Poison spell, put on a brave face and downed hers all the same. Cloud only rolled his eyes, muttering, "Not much of a ninja," as he emptied his fifth.
Bartz looked confused and leaned over to whisper with the Onion Knight. "No, he said join the party," the youth assured him. "So it doesn't count." Bartz nodded and sat back, relieved.
"Monks don't count either, right?" Zidane asked.
"'s not a contesht," Terra slurred, patting the thief on the back. He gave her an appraising look, ignoring the Onion Knight's murderous glare and curling his tail suggestively around her arm.
"Say, Terra," he said softly, "You ever been with someone with a tail?"
"Nooooo, no, oh no," she giggled. "I never—"
"Cloud's turn!" Firion said a little too loudly, his face suddenly pink. His voice seemed oddly strained. "It's… it's Cloud's turn."
"Is that right?" Cloud said. He thought for a bit. "I've never…" (Damn his dramatic pauses!) "…been to the moon." Cecil obligingly drank.
"…Or another planet," the soldier went on. (…Was that a mere addendum, or had his pause been so long it created another paragraph?) Zidane added a glass to his own count, but Bartz refused to mimic him.
"Okay, technically, they were the same planet," he protested.
"Yeah," said Tidus sarcastically, "And I never played blitzball before!"
Everyone stared expectantly. "Oh, come on!" he said. "You can't hold me to that!"
No, no, no! This wasn't going right at all. They were too busy ganging up on each other to bother noticing the one person Cosmos wanted them to attack! It was time for the goddess to embrace the divine art of subtlety.
"What's this?" Cosmos said as Tidus grudgingly drank his third. She pointed at the Warrior of Light. "Looks like the hero over there is winning! You should all gang up on him!"
They ignored her. "I've never been to space," Firion was saying.
"I've never been to a floating continent," Squall said immediately.
"I never been inna play!" Bartz shouted at Zidane.
"Well, I was never scared o' gettin' high!" Zidane shot back, looking rather sloshed. "Heights!" he amended, nowhere near quick enough. He raised his hands above his head, and shook them for added emphasis.
"I never knew my father," said the Onion Knight, still sober. Terra let a sob escape her; at seven shots plus the three she had taken from the mischievous youth, she was officially three sheets to the wind.
"Wish I didn't have to know him," Squall muttered angrily. Tidus nodded. Zidane just looked sad, cradling the glass between his fingers but refusing to take a drink.
"I never, uh… never ber… berzzz… berserked into… something pink. Aaaaand fuzzy," Cloud said, noting the thief's lack of participation. "Pink and fuzzy." (She couldn't decide: were his pauses getting more or less dramatic as he slipped further under the table?)
"I have never been so—incompetent as to be swallowed… by a leviathan," said Cecil, barely managing proper diction. Tidus considered that one, shrugged, and drank.
"Go to hell!" Firion said furiously after finishing his glass.
"Never been to hell," Terra whispered, then hiccupped. She swayed violently back and forth. Firion cursed again; Cecil chortled, evil villain-style, as his opponent drank once more.
Squall gazed around at his companions with a considering look, nodded, and drank. "Other people. Oh yeah, def'nitely hell," he muttered.
"I have never wasted hours playing silly games when I should be out saving the world," the Warrior of Light cut in, all seriousness.
An awkward silence followed. Definitely the longest awkward silence I've yet been through, Cosmos marveled. Firion was counting on his fingers, probably calculating the number of minutes they had spent drinking thus far. He must be trying to determine whether or not he qualified. (He didn't.) The other warriors fidgeted guiltily.
With red faces, Squall, Cloud, Tidus, and Zidane slowly lifted their glasses. (Though perhaps they were not ashamed so much as plastered.)
"Hey, look, look. Hey, look. That was important," Tidus said into the silence. "Look. The blitzing. Look. Hey. It was for stuff."
"Whatever," said Squall, waving his hand airily.
"But there was chocobos," Zidane insisted. His tail traced a figure-eight behind him. "Chocobos!"
"Lossa… lotsa feathers," Cloud agreed.
"Feathers is nice," Terra said. Either she had entered Trance at some point, or she was very, very pink.
Cosmos felt about ready to cry. Every one of her warriors, a drunken fool, except for the damned Warrior of Light! (And the Onion Knight, but Terra was covering for him.) Desperate for anything to prolong the game, she stealthily refilled a few of Zidane's empty glasses. (Nine? How had he had nine shots of tequila already?) "Anyone else?" she asked, trying to keep the note of panic from her voice.
"I flew an airship once," Cecil said helpfully.
"No, no, s'posed to be sumthin' you never do," mumbled Firion. "Idiot."
"Oh, oops. I drunk for that," Bartz said, sadness creeping through his voice.
Zidane squinted at the five full glasses in front of him. "Wait, I drinked more than this."
"No, it's sumthing you din't do!" Firion insisted again.
"Oh! I never used a gun… sword… thingy." Bartz pointed vaguely in Squall's direction.
"Tidus, no, don't you drink!" Firion cried, too late to stop him.
"I've never been drunk," the Onion Knight ventured. It was a bold move, as all but the Warrior of Light and the boy himself were forced to consume another shot. Cosmos was busy refilling Squall's glasses, but the game was just about over. Even with her blatant interference—subtle machinations, that is, subtle and delicate machinations—Cloud and Terra now stood only one glass away from finishing; and the Warrior of Light still hadn't had more than two!
"I…" Zidane started, swaying gently. His tail waved in lazy circles behind him. "I never never never… never never been in space."
"Firion has already said that," said Cosmos, knocking Cloud's glass away before he could drink and handing him two fresh ones.
"Oh. Well, I never knowed a guy named Firyon a'fore this." The thief sniggered. "~You gotta drink now~!" he sang.
"No, it's sposeda be sumthin' I didn't do!" Firion said again. Cecil growled, picked up the liegeman's glass, and forcibly poured it down the man's throat. Firion started coughing violently, as the rest of the warriors began to argue about whether it was possible for him to truly know himself, whether knowing a different Firion would qualify, and what exact definition of "know" Zidane had even intended in the first place.
As the fighting went on, Cosmos looked to her hero, her Warrior of Light, warrior of her heart, for help. He alone was silent, staring morosely into his glass, almost certainly brooding, seeking out some unknowable answer… (Well, that's just like him! Looking for warmth in a glass of tequila instead of in the arms of a very beautiful, very powerful, very willing—but under any circumstances most certainly not desperate—goddess! It would be easier to bed Exdeath! They could build an entire relationship on puns, if nothing else. Or maybe she should try her luck with Jecht? He would be willing, no doubt about that! Hell, even that narcissist of an emperor would pay her more attention than this!)
"Is there something… you wish to share?" she finally asked the hero, rather sourly. She was too busy considering her alternatives and wondering if there were any truth to the rumors about Kuja.
He didn't look up. "…I have never known my own name," the Warrior of Light said sadly.
No, this was definitely the longest awkward silence Cosmos had ever sat through.
The other warriors shifted uncomfortably, but didn't drink.
Finally, Tidus lifted his glass.
"I think you need this more than I do," he said, setting it down in front of the forlorn hero.
The Warrior of Light stared solemnly at the glass for a long, long moment. Then he reached out and downed it in one swift motion.
The other warriors pushed their drinks across the table. He smiled at the thirty-four shots before him, a radiant smile that revealed why he was called the Warrior of Light and not the Warrior of Squall's School for Frowners, and raised a glass. Cosmos's heart began to pound (YES! YES! FINALLY!), yet she remained completely and perfectly serene, as she had always and ever been… and ready to pounce as he brought the glass to his lips.
Then Terra passed out face-first onto the table.
The stunned silence that had settled over the room was broken only by the Onion Knight's sudden cheer. "Looks like I won!" No fanfare accompanied this proclamation.
"Erm, well," Cosmos said, rather disappointed. Her eye caught on a half-empty bottle Terra had knocked over, spinning slowly as its contents spilled out across the table. She began to smile. "Say, I've just thought of another game…"
After all, there were still a hundred and forty-three bottles of tequila left.
And one of them was spinning.