"Christmas?" Hibiki, Bart and Duelo all asked at once.
Pixy nodded, "Yep it was a special holiday back on Earth. The way people celebrated it was different around the world, but it was the same idea all around. A special day you get to spend with family, friends…people you really care about and love. Nice to see something survived from the old days".
"Well I sure don't get it that's for sure" Hibiki said looking at all the women flooding through the garden section, putting up decorations for the holiday.
"Trust me kid" Pixy said to him as he slapped him on the shoulder, "Its going to be a fun day, now if you'll excuse me". Pixy left the three men to observe what was going on below, clearly they had never seen a celebration like this, but they were definitely interested.
Below the bridge, Cipher was sitting on the bench in the crowded garden section watching as everyone set up the decorations for the holiday, "I guess we deserve a day to ourselves after everything we've gone through" she muttered before two large decorations were dangled in front of her.
Ezra was holding two large ornaments, a bell and a star she asked Cipher if she preferred one over the other, but the mercenary sighed as she got up, "It doesn't really matter does it?" she asked the bridge bunny trying to sound friendly, but her voice still sounded cold and distant. "It'll still be Christmas without all the fancy decorations everywhere. I think it's a waste of energy".
Ezra gasped, "Oh sorry I didn't mean to".
Cipher exhaled, "No I didn't mean it like that" she said, "I just…I've never been one to hang around large crowds I…I just don't feel comfortable right now, go with the star there was some old story about some old guys following a star or something I don't know".
Cipher walked away before Ezra could say anything else, leaving the garden section to find somewhere quieter.
Cipher returned to her room in the brig, she would never openly admit it, but she was happy to see everyone having a good time.
"You're not planning on sleeping on a day like this are you?" the captain's voice asked her as Cipher sat on her bed.
Cipher looked over the captain standing in the doorway to her cell, "I was going to rest for a while".
The captain walked over to her and sat down next to her, "Come now my dear, you can't be all alone on Christmas there's just no sense in that. Besides you're still young, you should go out and enjoy life while you still can".
"Christmas just isn't something that's for me captain" Cipher told her, "Large groups of people only mean more potential threats, someone else tailing you and too many blind spots you can be attacked from".
"Fiona" the captain said, her voice becoming stern, "We're all part of the same crew on this ship; no one here is going to attack you".
"I know that" Cipher replied, "It's just a part of my training I can't switch off. I'm a mercenary captain; we're considered disposable to the people who hire us, even though Ustio realized they needed us to win against Belka the simple fact is I was still a mercenary, an expendable soldier".
The captain narrowed her eyes, "Well you're not to me. You are part of my crew now Cipher, my family and I take care of my family" the captain stood up, "I have an idea. Since you don't feel comfortable around larger crowds why don't you come with me, Santa Claus could use a bodyguard".
"Wasn't that a man?" Cipher asked her.
The captain smiled, "Yes, but they don't need to know that, it would probably ruin the holiday for them".
Cipher followed the captain out of her cell and toward the elevator, "So Santa where are we going to first?" she asked trying her best to sound enthusiastic even though it made her feel weird.
The captain smiled after summoning the elevator, "To my room. I need to change for the special event plus I think some tea would be nice and it would give the two of us a chance to finally talk".
Cipher hid her hesitance of the idea, "I don't really feel like talking though".
When the elevator arrived, Pixy stepped out and immediately greeted the captain, "Hello captain".
"Ah Pixy perfect timing" the captain smiled, "I could use someone to go through some of the storage closest in the older part of the ship and find us some Christmas lights. Think you could do that for me?"
"Uh sure" Pixy nodded before looking at Cipher, "Hey Cipher…actually never mind it's not that important".
The three stepped onto the elevator and went up a few decks before Pixy got off, "See ya later captain, Cipher".
Seeing Pixy walk away, Cipher felt like she wanted to run after him, but her legs wouldn't move. "What's wrong with me" she yelled in her head, "Why do I feel this way…I can't…I don't want to".
"Well then, shall we continue?" the captain asked Cipher who slowly nodded in response.
The elevator doors closed once more, taking its two occupants up to the quarters deck and then up one more floor to the officers deck where the captain's room was.
Cipher followed the captain to her room, "Have a seat my dear I'll bring us some tea" the captain told her.
Cipher took a seat in one of the chairs next to a small round table while the captain walked over to a large cabinet. Cipher slowly scanned around the room looking at every detail. The only other time she had seen a room like this was almost six years ago. The man who brought her into the mercenary world, Jimmy Vanderwall was contracted by the Kingdom of Sapin to save a hijacked Cruise ship.
The operation was largely successful with only a few of the ship's passengers getting injured and no fatalities other than those who hijacked the vessel. The captain of the cruise liner was being held in his quarters by the leader of the hijackers, a large, glamorous room with many decorations that radiated elegance and expensive tastes.
"Something about my room you like Cipher?" the captain's voice asked, bringing Cipher out of her memory.
"Oh no" Cipher quickly replied, "It just reminds me of a job I was on about six years ago".
The captain set the pot of tea on the table along with two small cups, "Now then" she said after pouring both of them some tea, "Why don't you tell me what it is that's bothering you".
"With respect captain" Cipher began with a semi cold look in her eyes, "It's something I don't really wish to discuss".
The captain took a sip from her tea before looking at Cipher, "I'm going to be honest. I brought you here so it would just be the two of us. There's no one else here so you don't have to act so tough. I want you to open yourself up a bit Cipher, allow others to get closer to you. There's a lot fighting going on in your heart, I can see it. You're screaming for someone to be close to, but you're too afraid to open up because you don't want to be rejected".
"Captain I really don't want to talk about personal matters" Cipher told her one again, but the captain wouldn't let up.
"I've seen it before my dear. In Meia, she was much the same as you and still is in a way, but she's slowly learning to open up to those around her. The two of you a very similar, you've also lost something important to you, but you're too afraid to show your fear or sadness on the matter because you don't want to appear weak".
Cipher immediately stood up and walked away, "We're done here" she said before leaving the captain's room.
On the bridge deck, Dita, Hibiki, Bart and Duelo were going through a storage room to try and find decorations for the celebration that night. "I didn't know about this room" Dita said before hearing someone behind her.
"There are a lot of secrets to this ship it seems".
Dita, Duelo and Bart turned around to see Pixy standing behind them, "Oh Mr. Pixy what are you doing here?" Dita asked him.
"The captain asked me to help find some decorations and I didn't really have anything else worth doing" Pixy told her just as a crashing sound echoed from inside the storage room.
Looking inside the room, they saw Hibiki lying on the floor, the wall behind him caved in.
"Can you do anything that doesn't cause trouble?" Pixy joked before helping him up, "Another secret room huh?" he said looking around the concealed room.
"What is all this stuff?" Hibiki wondered as Duelo walked over to an object covered in dust and ran his finger across it.
"They appear to be items from the colonization era" he said after seeing the layers of dust that rubbed onto his finger.
"The colonization era?" Hibiki asked him.
"So basically these things have been here for a hundred years?" Pixy asked, "That means their fair game for us right?" Stepping over to Duelo, Pixy narrowed his eyes and ran his hand across the object in front of the young doctor, "How about that?" he muttered after the dust was cleared away, "An old fashioned canvas".
"A canvas?" Bart repeated.
"For paintings" Pixy told him, "You said you came from a highly respected family back on Tarak right?" Pixy asked him, "Didn't your family have paintings n their homes?"
Bart chuckled sheepishly as he rubbed the back of his head.
"Hey!" Dita gasped as she pulled something from a box, "What do you think this is?" she asked them holding up what looked like a really old VHS tape labeled X-Mas with family.
"A video tape" Pixy told her, "Back in the old days families would tape their holiday get togethers".
"That sounds kinda strange" Dita giggled before looking at the tape, "So there's a video on this then? I wonder if Parfet has of way of playing it".
"Let's try this instead" Pixy said after looking in the box Dita was digging through and pulling out a tape player, "Just find something to plug this into and you can watch it".
Dita immediately left, dragging Hibiki with her, leaving Duelo and Bart with Pixy.
"Well I don't see any decorations in here so my work is done" Pixy said before leaving as well. Once again returning to the brig, Pixy saw Cipher standing in the middle of the hall with a screen in front of her playing a video of a woman sitting on a couch holding an infant and a younger girl sitting next to her.
Is this the video Dita found?" Pixy wondered just as a man walked into the view of the camera and sat next to the girl and woman, "And cue the riots on this ship" he joked in his head as the small girl hugged the man. Pixy was about to ask Cipher if she enjoyed the show, but the female mercenary clenched her fists and began trembling and most surprising, it sounded like she was crying.
"Dammit" Cipher muttered before Pixy placed his hand on her shoulder, surprising her.
Feeling the hand on her shoulder, Cipher immediately whipped around smacking Pixy's arm away and throwing him against the wall before slamming her forearm against his chest and rearing her fist back.
"Cipher wait!" Pixy yelled, snapping her back to reality.
Hearing Pixy's voice Cipher realized who it was that she had pinned to the wall and slowly lowered her arms as she backed away from him.
"Cipher what's wrong?" Pixy asked her when he saw the fearful look in her eyes.
Cipher immediately looked away from him, but it was too late, Pixy had seen the tears in her eyes and knew something was bothering her and she knew that he was going to ask her to tell him why.
"Cipher are you" Pixy began before Cipher's breaking voice cut him off.
"I want to go home" she said, her voice breaking halfway through her words, "Back to Earth. Before all of this…I just want to go back home. I can't take this anymore…"
The ship rocked slightly making Cipher stumbled backwards into Pixy, "An enemy attack?" Pixy thought, but the alarm didn't go off.
Cipher felt Pixy's hands on both of her shoulders and tensed up, "I don't want to be here anymore I just want to go back home…"
"Cipher" Pixy muttered softly, completely surprised by his wingman's sudden breakdown. He took a few seconds to think of what he should do, knowing that Cipher was different from a lot of people he was worried that she might break down even more if he made the wrong move.
Gently he tried to turn Cipher around to face him, Cipher resisted the first pull, but quickly caved and let him turn her.
Cipher was still hiding her face from him, but Pixy still asked her, "Cipher, tell me what's bothering you. You said you were ready to start trusting me again right? I want to help you, but you have to tell me what's wrong".
Pixy could feel Cipher's muscles tensing under her skin and for a second he thought she was going to take a swing at him, but to his surprise she dropped her head against his chest and began crying.
"I want to go back; I want to see my mother again. I don't want to fight anymore I just want to go home". She raised her fist and lightly dropped it against Pixy's shoulder, "Dammit, why now" she cried, "Why is this happening now".
"Cipher look at me" Pixy said trying to push her chin up, but once again she resisted him, "Look at me" he said softly trying again to get her to look at him, but she still resisted. "Cipher…Fiona listen, I don't know how painful this is for you, but I want to help you through it. We can't go back, as much as we may want to we can't".
Cipher tried to pull away from him, but Pixy wouldn't let her, he held her against him, not letting her go.
"Let me go" she told him.
"No" Pixy said back to her in a sad tone.
"Let go of me" Cipher said again pulling back, but Pixy wrapped his arms behind her holding her against him, "I said let me go Larry!" she tried to yell, but once again her voice broke halfway through.
"I can't!" Pixy told her, "I can't let you go while you're like this…I don't care if you hate me for it, but I'm not letting you go until this is over" he told her, "I want you to let it all out, its ok to. Just let it out now".
"I'm going to kill you" Cipher cried trying to struggle out of his arms.
"I'll give you every chance to do that later" he told her, "But for now I need you to let it all out, I'm not going to think any less of you Fiona. I…I just want to be here for you, I don't know about you, but I still think of us as friends so I'm going to stay here until I'm sure you'll be ok".
Cipher wasn't fighting against Pixy, she was fighting against herself. Part of her wanted to get as far away from him and everyone else as possible, but the other part just wanted to submit and stay in his arms.
She couldn't hold herself back anymore, Cipher finally gave up and dropped her head against his chest again, crying as she reached up and grabbed his shoulder, tightly clinging to him.
The two of them stayed that way holding onto each other for what felt like days, but Pixy stayed true to his words refusing to let go of Cipher until she had calmed down. She had stopped crying, but she was still tense, refusing to relax.
BC's voice echoed from the speakers across the ship announcing that there were only a few moments before the Christmas parade began.
Pixy looked down at Cipher and loosened his arms from around her, "Why don't we go check it out? We don't have to get to close, just watch it from the bridge".
Cipher didn't answer him leaving Pixy to gently push her toward the elevator, thankfully this time she didn't resist him, she just followed his lead without saying a word.
Returning to the bridge, Pixy led Cipher past BC who was distracted by Bart and to the end of the bridge the second the giant clock hanging above the garden hit midnight and the celebration began for the crew below.
"Look at them" Pixy said, "They're not home either, but they're not letting it get to them. They're all down there having fun".
"It's not the same as us Larry" Cipher said, lowering her head to the side, "This ship is like a home to them and eventually they'll make it back to their world, but for us…our world is a hundred years in the past…there's no way for us to go back".
"Then we'll make a new home here" Pixy told her, "Look Cipher I don't know if you'll ever see us as friends again, but I still do. And I want us to remain that way. I want us to stay in each other's lives to keep being there if the other need it I mean that's what friends do isn't it?"
"You never learn do you?" Cipher muttered with a small smile before she slowly leaned her head against his shoulder, "I still plan on kill you…or at the very least hitting you again".
"If it'll make you feel better I'll let you" Pixy said just as the comet flying above the Nirvana exploded, leaving a massive dispersed trail of white ice as the ship flew past it.
"Now would you look at that" Pixy muttered with a small smile of his own, "Even in space it can snow".
The two mercenaries spotted something flying toward the Nirvana, at first they thought it was a lone enemy, but it turned out to be Vandread Meia flying away from the comet.
"Now what do you suppose they were doing?" Pixy wondered as the fighter separated and the Vanguard fell against the Nirvana's canopy waving a giant block of ice in its hands.
"Well you gotta give him credit for that one" Pixy said, "It's definitely a new one". Pixy looked down at Cipher who was still trying to hide her face, but he could just make out the edge of her smiling just as something started falling around them.
"The hell?" he muttered before realizing it was artificial snow and it was falling everywhere, "They really went all out for this huh?" he thought to himself.
Cipher slowly pulled away from him and started to leave, "Hey Cipher" he called after her.
"I'm alright now" she said in a soft voice while still hiding her face from him, "Merry Christmas Larry".
Pixy watched Cipher walk away as he muttered to himself, "Merry Christmas to you buddy…no Fiona". He looked back at the flashing Christmas lights and the falling artificial snow, the sounds of the crew below echoing across the garden section and up to the bridge.
Cipher returned to the hangar just in time to see an exhausted Hibiki hold his hand out to Dita, dropping a small piece of ice into her hand that quickly melted away leaving a seed that immediately began blooming into a glistening flower.
"Oh it's so wonderful" Dita gasped upon seeing it before gently holding it against her heart, "I love it. Thank you Mr. Alien" she said before realizing Hibiki had passed out.
Cipher could feel herself smiling along with a single tear in her eye as she turned around, "Home" she muttered to herself, "Were Larry and I meant to come here?" she wondered before leaving to return to her room in the brig.
When she arrived she was surprised to see the captain waiting for her, "Ah there you are" the aged pirate said, "I do hope you decided to attend the parade, what did you think?" she asked her with a smile.
Cipher looked away from the captain, "I'm sorry captain…for earlier".
The captain chuckled lightly, "Nonsense my dear. I understand how you feel trust me. Our circumstances may be different, but we've both been through the same thing. I just wanted you to know that there are many people on this ship who will help you whenever you need it and not a single one of them would turn their back on you".
The captain smiled as she walked by Cipher, "Merry Christmas to both you and Larry my dear, I left you both a little something in your rooms".
With that the captain left, leaving Cipher wondering what it is that she left her. Entering her room, Cipher noticed a new set of clothes on her bed and a small open box that contained a silver chain and a pendant of the Galm team emblem along with a note next to it.
"I had this and a matching one specially made for you and Pixy, I hope you like it".
"Thank you captain" Cipher said quietly before setting the pendant and clothes on top of the chest at the foot of her bed and then lying down, "Larry…we are friends" she smiled, "But I think I…"
A/N. As the Emerald's Edge would say. "I'M BACK BABY!"
I spent most of my free time either writing my Sailor Moon fic or playing RE6 on my PS3, but recently I've turned out 3 chapters over the course of a week.
Ah its good to be the Queen.