A/N: Hello everyone!
Sword: Merry Christmas!
Pen: *bonks her* It isn't time for that yet.
This is our entry for K.S. Reynard's and Emile The Watcher's contest of a StarFox one-shot. All characters and related material belong to Nintendo. The story, Sword, and Pen belong to me.
Sword: *comes out dressed like an elf* So without further ado, let's get started!
Fork in the Road
You can do this. You can do this. Fox got down on one knee and took the small case from his pocket. He cracked it open, revealing the golden band topped with a glittering white diamond like dozens of snowflakes packed together in a jagged ball. He held it out further and asked, "We've known each other for a long while. Will you marry me?"
His reflection in the mirror only answered with his hopeful, yet anxious expression. Sweat was pouring through his burnt orange fur. His green eyes dropped down to the ring and his shifted to his other knee. "No, no. Hey, Krys, let's get hitched. No. You're the most beautiful woman in the universe and I want to spend my life with you. Better, but not quite." He tilted his head from side to side. "Hey, I'm a fox, you're a foxy vixen- No, who am I? Panther?"
An intercom on the restroom's wall buzzed. "Fox, R.O.B. says we're almost there."
He pushed a button underneath the intercom's speaker. "Alright. I'll be right there." He stood up and gripped the sink. He looked at the ring again. Is this the right time? He wasn't sure. Giving her the ring at this point might be inappropriate.
As he pocketed the ring and left the restroom, he tossed the idea back and forth like he had for the past couple of weeks. With the holidays fast approaching, he had thought it the perfect time to ask her. Although he had no exact plan on how to do it. But after she asked to go on this trip, he was wondering if he should continue with his original idea. This trip was for Krystal and had already been emotional for her as it was. He didn't want to push something like this on her right now. Besides, now Christmas was here, only several hours away. He still had no plan and didn't know what to do.
Fox cursed himself for even bringing the ring onboard the ship. It had become a natural habit since he bought the ring to pocket it every morning, afraid Krystal might find it before he was ready.
He scratched his head, his mind a whirlwind of confusion. He entered the lounge where a few sofas surrounded a coffee table. In the corner was a plastic Christmas tree, lit and decorated with red, blue, green, and yellow baubles and ornaments, and topped with a deep golden star. A row of windows stretched from the left side of the room to the right. Krystal was standing on the other side from him in her violet flight suit, gazing out into space.
Fox walked over to her. "See it yet?"
She shook her head. "Not yet." Her brows were knitted and she was biting her lip. She was playing with her fingers, scrunching them into fists and her turquoise blue eyes flitted from one edge of the window to the other.
He slipped his hand in hers and squeezed. Krystal tore her eyes from the window and smiled. She leaned over and pecked his lips. As the stars outside continued to drift by, she laid her head on his shoulder and held his hand in both of hers. "Thank you again," she said. "I know it was a last minute thing."
"I told you before that it's alright. Not like I had any major plans." He fingered the box in his pocket. "Besides, it's nice to get away from the group once in a while. Seems like it's been years since we've done this."
"Well, we have been busy," she said.
"Approaching destination," R.O.B. said over the intercom. Krystal pressed her face against the window. Both of them scanned the dark recesses of space. "Cerinia space on the port side." They moved over to the left windows.
"Where is it R.O.B?" Fox asked. Several red lines appeared on the window and converged into a circle, highlighting an empty space. He turned to Krystal. "Does it look familiar?"
She tilted her head up and down, and side to side. "The stars," she said. "I think I remember these stars. Yes, there!" She pointed to one cluster in a pentagon shape. "That was called Guin Shrah. I used to always see it from my window." She let go of his hand and touched the window, stroking her fingertips across the circle. "This was Cerinia."
Fox headed to the intercom and whispered to R.O.B, "Set the ship to standby and then take a break, okay?"
"Copy. Setting to standby." The Great Fox's engines died down and the ship came to a halt. "Great Fox is now on standby. R.O.B. unit shutting down."
He slipped off his jacket and tossed it on one of the sofas. "I'm going to make some dinner. Do you want anything in particular?" he asked.
"No, thank you." She didn't even turn to him. Her eyes were fixed on the highlighted spot.
"Alright," he said. Then he left her alone.
Although she checked the Great Fox's coordinates a while later to make sure, Krystal still couldn't believe that she was flying beside where her planet used to be. It was hard to tell. Andross' attack had been swift, as had her escape via her parents, and she had been so very young. For the longest time, she had searched for this area. It was only until a few weeks ago that a source had reached out to her, assuring her that Cerinia once stood here.
She had dared to hope, but braced herself for disappointment, as she had come across many dead ends during her search. Yet the constellations she picked out so easily and a deep longing in her heart convinced her that this was the place. This had once been her home.
She traced the red lines on the window, imagining the planet as it once was. The oceans separated by great big landmasses and smaller islands. A wonderful speckled jewel floating in space. Certainly a rare sight to any space explorer.
Her fingers lingered on the window and she frowned. A rare sight indeed. One that only she had, possibly locked in her memory since her escape. That maniacal tyrant had snatched her entire life away in the blink of an eye: her family, friends, and her race all gone. And for what? She had often posed that question to the long nights when she dwelled on the issue. Her people had not been any threat.
Fox had once said that was just Andross' way. That he was a merciless monster, ready to slaughter thousands upon thousands in his twisted reign. She pounded the window. Even though Andross was gone, he still haunted the present.
She turned to the intercom and answered it. "Yes?"
"Just letting you know dinner will be done in about fifteen minutes," Fox said.
"Alright. I'll be up in a bit." She smiled at the intercom. Fox certainly had made things easier for her, being there every step of the way. Helping her accommodate to this different, but stable life and comforting her during those times when she missed her people the most. He had stayed by her, offering himself until she had come to rely on him during those moments, sharing herself with him as he did with her. Just to be held by his strong arms was soothing and she had joked that it was one of the reasons they were together.
Krystal was happy to have him. Who else would leave their friends for her to go chasing a lead for a lost planet? Sure, Falco had already opted to spend the holiday with Katt and Slippy was enduring a visit to Amanda's parents' house. But Fox had left Corneria for her all the same.
Yet she had picked up a hint of unease when he agreed to the trip. A mixture of worry and doubt that she couldn't quite place. During their trip, it was constantly there. She asked Fox about it on a few occasions, but he always said it was nothing. Krystal sensed he was lying.
She left the lounge and headed to the lift. If Fox wanted to tell her his troubles, he would. So, she would let him have his secret. Her stomach rumbled, famished for food as she pressed the button for the first floor.
Fox stirred the corn chowder and sniffed it. Satisfied, he dumped the whole pot into two separate bowls. The oven beeped and he pulled out a tray of dinner rolls. "Okay," he said aloud. "Chowder, rolls, and the pie." He opened the refrigerator and took out a blueberry pie—Krystal's favorite.
He carried the food to the dining room adjacent to the kitchen. He set out the dinner on the small, square table and went back for silverware. As he dug out the spoons, forks, and knives, he returned to the issue of the ring. It yearned to break free of his pocket.
No, no. You saw her in there. He grabbed the handful of silverware. It's not the right time.
It would make her happy.
Or it might not. This expedition is for her, he argued as he set the table. I don't want to impose on her. He knew that if anyone had thrust a large decision onto him after his father died with no regard to his grief, he would've felt the same. He didn't want to try to take the place of her old life, overriding it and its importance. Especially not now.
You're not trying to. You're adding something new. It's a decision that affects her too.
She doesn't need me shoving anything onto her. He folded the napkins into triangles. What would she say? How might she react? She might think I don't care about this excursion, which I do. I don't want to do that to her.
She already knows anyway.
Not exactly. Why would she keep asking about it otherwise? He had a small victory there. I-I'll just do it another time.
No, I'm not. Truthfully, he was and that was part of the reason he was holding back. Who wouldn't be nervous? He had been intimidated when asking her out on their first date. He might collapse during a proposal.
Fox had no other time to debate the issue. The violet vixen walked into the dining room just he finished. Then he lit a candelabra in the center and pulled out her chair. "Dinner is served."
"Looks delicious," she said, sitting down. He pushed in her chair. "And so nice. You'd almost think there was a special occasion."
He froze. "What?"
"Christmas, of course. Hope you didn't forget what you got me," she teased, narrowing her eyes as if trying to peer through his skull.
He tapped his temple. "Sorry, but nothing's getting through here. And you promised you wouldn't do that." He held his hands over his head as if keeping her out.
"I won't. Promise," she said, holding up a hand and winking. Fox sat down next to her and they ate their chowder, talking off and on throughout the meal about their teammates and upcoming plans after the holidays. Fox kept trying to forget about the boxy lump pressing against his thigh.
"Slippy called this morning," Krystal said. "He was pretty pale."
"The visit's going that bad?"
"Oh, no. He assured me it's going better than expected." She rested her chin on her fist. "Then again, I think Amanda's father was nearby. Maybe he was trying to speak in code."
"Blink once for 'Yes,' two for 'No,' three for 'Get me outta here'?" She chuckled and he wiped off his mouth. "By the way, Lucy wanted us all to come visit her," Fox said, spooning the last of his food. "She has some new prototype for the Arwings she wants to test out and—Krystal?" She was staring at him. Those deep blue-green eyes of hers were studying him, curious and intrigued. It was as if—
Krystal shook her head. "Sorry, spaced out there for a moment."
He didn't believe her. He didn't sense himself being probed at all. Krystal had taught him a couple of tricks and rarely used that ability on him. Fox supposed she could probably just tell. Anyone could. He had been acting odd during the whole trip and right now, he was sure his armpits and brow were stained heavily in sweat.
Pushing his fear aside, he sliced the pie for them and continued talking about the prototype. When they finished, Krystal stood up and sat in his lap. "Thanks for the meal," she said, draping her arms around his neck.
"You're welcome. Glad you liked it." He smiled and held her by the waist. Krystal leaned in and tilted her head to the side, melding her lips against his. They opened wide for one another and their tongues immediately met and embraced like old lovers. He stroked her cheek and she scooted further into him.
When they broke apart, she leaned her forehead against his. "Thanks again. For all of this."
His desire to propose burned in his throat. She could surely feel the ring as she sat on him. He could present it now, but his counterpoints flared up quickly. Before he could decide, R.O.B. shattered his thoughts. "Fox. There is a malfunction with the hanger bay doors."
"Excellent timing as always, R.O.B." Reluctantly, he let Krystal slide off his lap, but not without one more kiss.
"I'll take care of the dishes," Krystal offered.
"No, no. I'll do it. This shouldn't take too long." He walked her to the door. "Go and relax. I'll be up there in a bit." Then he gathered the dishes and rinsed them out in the sink.
You could've done it.
No, I couldn't. But he stared back at the dining room. Could he? She had seemed fine during dinner. They hadn't discussed Cerinia, but she could be hiding any pain deep within her. Unlike her, he had to rely solely on his own intuition. He could read enemy flight movements, see where a fist was aiming for before it's thrown, and instantly know where to break through a blockade. But when it came to Krystal, it was like basic training all over again and he was a complete novice. He had gotten better over the past couple of years, but it was still difficult.
He put the dishes in the dishwasher and took the lift down to the hanger. Maybe some work would clear his mind, help him stop worrying. R.O.B. was already waiting at the intercom whenever he arrived.
"Alright, R.O.B. What's the problem?"
Definitely strange. That was Krystal's assessment of Fox's behavior tonight. Not overly weird or outlandishly crazy. But strange. It was subtle and she may not have caught onto it if he hadn't been doing the exact same thing day after day. And it had increased with rapid frequency.
She wished he would tell her what was wrong. He put her on edge when he acted that way and refused to share his troubles. Then again, the entire team lived on edge with stress as their roommate. They resided there, what with the assignments and battles they took on. One of the downsides to an exciting adventurous life. Nowhere near as harrowing as life on Cerinia.
Krystal gazed out the longue window again, pinpointing Cerinia's space. She didn't know what she should be feeling at the moment. There was a hollow spot in her chest, a longing for her family, friends, and her world that grew greater when she thought of the planet still floating there. She also missed parts of her old life: playing games with the other children, listening to her father tell legends and myths meant to guide her in life, and helping her mother with work were some aspects she wanted back. Krystal especially thought she could use her mother's advice on Fox. After all, there was no matter Krystal ever brought before her that she couldn't advise on with her sage wisdom.
Yet for all the parts she missed and the loss she felt, she wasn't sad by how her current life had turned out. She didn't yearn for anything other than her race to still be alive and her planet to still be there, desires she had always held anyway. Krystal enjoyed her life as part of Star Fox. She only wished the circumstances leading up to her joining had been better.
Krystal dimmed the lights so that the only brightness came from the multi-colored lights of the tree, casting exploding, soft hue shapes against the walls. As she sat down on the sofa, she wondered if she should be feeling anything else. She wondered how Fox would feel. But Fox only lost his dad. Not Corneria, she thought. Not that his loss wasn't awful, but they were different situations. With the many years since its destruction and its destroyer long gone thanks to their efforts, she supposed this was how she should feel. There wasn't exactly any sort of guide on this. During her search for where Cerinia had been, she had never been sure what would be running through her when she found it.
Now that she was looking at the spot, she was only relieved to have found it and missed her race like always. If there was more to this, she didn't know what it was. Krystal decided it didn't matter anyway. After all, who knew what she should feel better than Krystal herself?
Fox entered the longue and sat beside Krystal. "Are the doors okay?" she asked, curling up beside him and pulling her legs onto the sofa.
"Yeah, just a quick fix," he said. Fox leaned into the crook of the sofa, pulling Krystal with him so she lay against his chest. She intertwined her hands with his and he played with her fingers, rubbing them slowly. For a long while, he simply stared at her fingers.
"Just tell me," she said. He stopped and she tilted her head up to his. "What is it? And don't say 'It's nothing'."
"It's not important," he said.
"It's important enough to distract you nonstop. Is it about an assignment?"
"Is it about one of us? Falco? Slippy?" He shook his head. "Me?" His lips tightened for a second and she caught it. "What is it? What about me? Did I do something wrong? Is someone after me?"
He sat up straighter. "No, no. Nothing like that."
"Then what is it?"
She held a finger to his nose. "Don't you dare say it."
"But it is," he said. He guided her head back to his chest and they relaxed on the sofa. "It's just something I had in mind. Something I thought you might be interested in and wanted to ask you. But it's not pressing. It can wait until we get back to Corneria, okay?"
She rested her chin on his chest. "Why not ask me now?"
"It's not the best time," he said. "I'll tell you later. Honest."
She sighed and nodded. "Alright. I'll hold you to that." A clock nearby beeped midnight. She pecked the corner of his mouth. "Good night. Merry Christmas."
Krystal closed her eyes and tried to sleep, but Fox's anxiety had infested her. Her mind continued to brim with what sort of question would worry him so much and why he couldn't ask her now. Was somebody dying? Was it about their relationship? Her place on the team? All these and more were viable, but none stuck out. She added to the pile of possibilities until she was too tired and fell into a fitful slumber.
Fox breathed easier when he felt small puffs of air against his shirt after an hour. Krystal was asleep at last and he had maneuvered out of the situation. However, he did notice that Krystal took too long to fall asleep, turning in his hold. It wasn't normal for her and he assumed it was a result of what he had said.
Great. Now I got her worried. Ever so carefully, he slipped the box out of his pocket and held it between his fingers, studying it. I can give it to her now and that would alleviate it, but… He studied Krystal and saw her eyes squinted and unease on her face. Between being insensitive or making her worry, he chose the former. Krystal being upset at him would be easier than compounding her loss and what should be a pleasant holiday with tension. Until then, he needed to choose a better hiding place than his pants.
He lifted his arms off Krystal, checking that she didn't wake up. Then he lifted himself up the sofa's arm, sliding his legs out from under her. Her head plopped onto the cushions and he landed on the floor. Fox held his hand in front of her mouth. The little puffs tickled his palm.
Several presents, wrapped and waiting to be torn into, sat around the Christmas tree. Fox considered hiding the box among them. But he didn't want Krystal to find it. So he pushed aside some of the tree's branches and tucked the box into the center, beside the trunk and resting atop a thick bundle of branches.
Before he could take his hand out, he had the sensation that he was being watched. He glanced over his shoulder and saw nothing unusual. Krystal had turned on the sofa, but nothing else had changed.
He peered closer at the vixen and crept over to her. He held his hand in front of her mouth. The small puffs had turned into deep exhales.
"Light problems or were you hiding a present?" she asked, cracking open an eye.
"I guess you could say the latter," he said, shrugging. Just go back to sleep.
"In the tree itself?" She propped herself up on her elbow and rubbed her eyes. She squinted at the clock. "This late?"
She stared at him and yawned. "Does it have something to do with what you were talking about earlier?"
He was at an impasse. Lying wouldn't help, as she always saw through him. So his only option was to just come out with it. He walked back to the tree with weary resignation to his fate, grabbed the box, and plopped down on the sofa. She was fully awake now and sitting up. "Fox?"
Might as well do this right. He pushed off the sofa and bowed on one knee. Then he held the box, covering it with his hands. "I wanted to wait until tomorrow to do this. But since you're up, well…" he trailed off, scratching his head furiously and hanging his head. "I don't really have anything prepared." His heart was knocking into his ribs, refusing to slow down. His breathing came out in quick pants and his fingers felt like they were coated in butter, unable to hold the box. "So I'm going to come out and say this as best as I can."
"Fox, I…" There was a knowing look in her eye. He had to hurry and hope his explanation would help him.
"I meant to give you this before I knew about the trip. Honest. Then I accidentally brought it onboard. I didn't mean to, since this is all for you and I didn't know what to do when we came here. But I didn't want you to worry either, thinking it was something you did." He cracked open the box, his fingers slipping. In the light of the tree, the diamond absorbed the various colors, becoming a vibrant container.
"I know this is a time for you and what happened to your world. I'm not trying to replace that or take it over. It's just that I love you and well," he held the box out further, "I want to show you that every day for the rest of our lives." He waited for the oncoming storm. He grimaced when she stood up, but was surprised as she took his head in her hands, leaned down, and kissed him.
Fox slid his hands up her back and pulled her down to his level. He caressed the back of her head, pushing her mouth harder against his own. Her tongue licked his and she ran her hands up and down his back. Her soft moans were matched by his hungry grunts, each pressing themselves against the other.
When they pulled away from one another, her eyes were wet and she was blinking rapidly. His eyes welled up as well, but he shook it off as best as he could. "So, yes?"
"Yes, of course," she said. She held out her hand and he slipped the ring onto her slender finger. She held it up to the tree's light, covering her mouth and half-hiccupping, half-giggling.
"I'm glad you're not mad."
"Why would I be?" she asked.
"Because it seemed like an inappropriate time," he said. "You're dealing with the life that was stolen from you and I didn't want to intrude on it. Not when you were mourning."
"Fox," she said, raising a hand to his cheek. He leaned into it and held the hand there. "This is my life. My life on the team and the one on Cerinia are one and the same, not separate. You're not intruding on it because you're a part of it."
He grinned. "I like that. But still, you should have some time to mourn."
She waved her hand. "I mourned enough when it happened. And you helped me with that. So, why wouldn't I want you here now?" When he had no answer, she continued. "Anyway, I'm not sure what I should be feeling. I'm glad I found this place, but it doesn't really change anything. No scars are reopened nor did it heal me. It's more like," she chewed her lip, rocking her head side to side, "like now everything is finally closed. Everything's already finished and over and done with while this was just a small, tiny conclusion. What happened and the mourning was one fork in the road I passed long ago and this is another one."
They kissed once more and slowly made their way back onto the sofa. Krystal curled up against Fox's chest and they locked their hands together. Neither talked, marveling at the new change for them. Before he fell asleep, he locked lips with her for a long time. Then he was out like a light, a contented smile on his face.
Krystal stayed up for a bit after Fox was out. She twisted the ring back and forth, enjoying the little spectacle as the captured colors morphed to encompass the ring and fade away. Then she turned to the stars and smiled. There was a satisfied peace in her chest that soothed her whole body. Combined with Fox's hold, she grew limp and joined Fox in his slumber.
A/N: And there's our entry. Hope everyone enjoyed it. We were a bit unsure about the problems Fox and Krystal had while writing it, but please, let us know what you think.
Sword: C'mon, Pen! Dress up as Santa and let's go to the mall!
Sword: Do it!
Pen: Fine. I could stand to destroy some children's notions of Santa. Mostly that he's not real.
Sword: *gasps* Not while I'm around. *pulls out a candycane sword* En garde!