It was barely morning when Finn woke to the trickle of light through the overhead windows. With a loud yawn, he stretched out his arms above his head and kicked his legs out from under the sheets. What he wasn’t expecting was for something to kick back.
“Mmmgh,” mumbled a voice beside him, startling him into full waking. His eyes opened to find that those weren’t his windows that were spilling morning sun onto him, nor was it his bedding he was tangled in. This whole room belonged to the woman beside him.
He glanced over at the Corra who was blinking tiredly at him and the previous night all came back to him in a flash. The Dionysian, fresh off an unexpected victory in some raid against the Society, had met the Beacon in Genisi for a reprieve from rebel life and to celebrate Concordia with friends. Finn had agreed of course, though he hadn’t been prepared for the cavalcade of strange Ridellian traditions the Satierans had insisted upon. Fiearius and Cyrus were bad enough as is, but Addy apparently possessed an unmatched love for her home’s holiday rituals. Finn realized early on that there was no arguing about it. The Beacon would be celebrating Concordia Ridellian-style.
Still, he could hardly complain. Hours of candles and foul-smelling drinks and awful but catchy songs in a foreign language later, he had found himself happily intoxicated and laughing in the corner with Corra as Fiearius slurred his way through teaching Leta how to say something obscene in his native tongue.
Eventually, Fiearius and Leta left, presumably to stop talking about obscenities and start practicing them. Cyrus and Addy, probably privately considering their own obscenities, muttered awkward, drunken goodnights to one another. Alyx fell asleep in a chair. Daelen laid a blanket over her and politely excused himself. And then Finn and Corra had exited to the command deck where they promptly ended up in her bed.
Nope, Finn couldn’t complain at all.
“Joyful Concordia,” muttered the naked woman at his side through a wide, sleepy smile as she stretched out like a cat in a sunbeam.
“Same to you,” Finn agreed, wrapping his arm around her shoulders. She let out a pleased noise and curled against him, the warmth of her soft skin spreading down his side.
Her eyes were clamped shut when she asked, “What’re you still doin’ here?”
“Guess I fell asleep,” Finn admitted and then regarded her skeptically. “Are you kicking me out? On Concordia of all days? Harsh.”
Corra laughed and pushed herself up on her elbow. “What? No! Of course not.”
“Oh it’s alright, captain, I know what I am to you,” Finn despaired as dramatically as he could, throwing his hand across his forehead.
Corra just frowned. “Riley…”
“But a toy, an object to be used and thrown away like garbage,” he went on sadly.
“It matters not, my heart is used to the tragic pain of–”
Suddenly, Corra rolled on top of him, put her hands on either side of his head and planted a kiss on his lips, cutting him off. When she drew back, she tilted her head at him. “Do you want your present or not?”
Instantly, Finn’s tragedy turned to excitement. “Ooh, present?”
With a grin, Corra reached over to her nightstand and opened the drawer to retrieve a small package about the size of his fist. “You better like this,” she warned as she handed it to him. “It was damn hard to get a hold of.”
Finn laughed as he ripped open the paper. “Aw, you shouldn’t have.” But as the wrapping fell away and Finn realized what it was he was holding, his expression shifted from mocking amusement to genuine awe. “Just kidding,” he muttered as he stared at it. “You totally should have. Corra, this is–”
“The fighter ship you used to fly, I know,” she filled in for him with a grin. “I mean…a replica of course.” She watched as he held the model between two fingers and made a few passes around her head. “A really tiny replica. They’re collectibles apparently. And this little guy.” She poked the ship’s nose with her index finger. “Is a rare find, so I hear. I’ve been on the lookout for it since you pointed out the real thing on Carthis. Only managed to track one down last week.”
Finn was busy admiring the little ship (how could he not, for such a little replica, the resemblance to the real thing was astounding), but then he looked at her, her big brown eyes staring at him in anticipation and a grin broke out over his face. “You’re a mighty fine gift giver, cap’n.” He cupped her cheek in his hand and kissed her forehead. “I love it.”
“Good,” was Corra’s reply, returning the kiss with one on his nose. “And now–” She slid off of him and rolled off the side of the bed. “I am kicking you out.”
Finn sat up, the ship still clutched in his hand. “Wait, what?”
“It’s Concordia!” she declared, slipping on a pair of pants and a shirt. “I’ve got places to be.” Corra whirled across the room and opened the closet door which was, to his surprise, nearly filled with more brightly wrapped presents. Without hesitation, she scooped up as many as she could carry into her arms and before Finn could even get a word in, headed for the door.
“See you at the feast, Riley!” she called over her shoulder as the door onto the command deck open and she, piled of packages and all, disappeared, leaving Finn naked and alone in her bed. He watched the door for a moment. And then looked down at the model. And he smiled.
“I can’t believe you have a recording of this.”
Cyrus chuckled nervously as he cast Addy a sideways glanced. “Yeah, it’s a little weird,” he admitted, hoping, praying that she would disagree. He usually didn’t share his love of the Concordiarana parade in Paradiex with anyone. It had never been the coolest of things to enjoy, but Cyrus couldn’t help himself, he still got a thrill from all the lights and colors and pageantry that his city was known for on the holiday. Fiearius made fun of him for it every year. He’d only shown his recording of last year’s parade to Addy because she seemed to share his affection for silly Concordia traditions from back home.
But maybe he had misjudged.
“It’s totally weird,” she laughed, her eyes glued to the screen as the commentators discussed the merits of Toro Brand soap while marchers waved banners in the background.
“Yeah,” Cyrus said again, forcing his own laugh and reaching for the console to turn it off. “We don’t have to watch it.”
But she swiped his hand away. “Are you kidding? Of course we have to watch it. This is the year Bi Barton’s wig gets blown off in the wind. It’s fantastic!”
Cyrus tried not to turn bright red as she curled up next to him on the sofa, her shoulder touching his and her knee nudging his thigh. Usually he spent the morning of Concordia alone, feeling sorry for himself and missing Satieri. This? Cuddled up on a couch in a Beacon lounge with a beautiful girl that kind of maybe sort of liked him? This was vastly preferable.
“It’s funny, my mum always made me watch this with her growing up and I’d whine because I wanted to go out and play instead,” Cyrus muttered thoughtfully as the parade went on. “Now that I’m older, this is all I want to do.”
Addy chuckled. “My dad was the same way.” Mocking a deep, man’s voice, she went on, “It’s tradition! You’ll appreciate it when you’re older.” She laughed again and dropped the voice. “Who knew he’d be right? I am definitely gonna force my kids to watch this with me one day.”
Cyrus smirked. “Same.”
Suddenly another loud voice filled the room. One that didn’t belong to the woman on the screen. “There you two are!”
Cyrus felt his face grow suddenly warm as Corra bounded in, arms laden with gifts. Maybe he should shuffle away from this somewhat incriminating position he’d found himself in, he thought, maybe she wouldn’t say anything, maybe she wouldn’t even notice.
But it was too late, Corra was already smiling that knowing smile. And any moment she’d–
“Joyful Concordia!” she cheered, which was not the teasing remark he was anticipating. He looked at her, confused, but she was busy digging through her pile of gifts. “Or…what is it you guys say? Yeti Concordia?”
“Y’etah,” Addy corrected through a laugh, leaning forward on the seat and pausing the recording.
“Close enough.” Corra suddenly produced a large package that she held proudly in front of them. “This! Is for both of you.”
“Oh, captain, you didn’t have to–” Addy began, but Corra cut her off.
“Don’t you start with that,” she snapped. “Of course I didn’t have to, but I wanted to.” She shook the package. “Take it.”
Cyrus felt Addy glance at him unsurely, but she accepted the gift and carefully started to unwrap the paper. Cyrus straightened up to peer over her shoulder at what was inside. Which was–
“Starter Robotics Kit?” he read off the box, blanching. Addy pursed her lips and then opened them again, seeming to look for the right words of…gratitude? Confusion? For his part, Cyrus didn’t quite understand. Fortunately, Corra beat them to the explanation.
“I know, I know, it’s for kids,” she said hurriedly. “And really, what do two mechanical geniuses want with a toy, right? But! I was reading about it and apparently this kit comes with a lot of essential pieces to make any kind of robot. So I thought you guys could put your heads together and — what’s the term — strip it for parts and make something new.” She beamed and Cyrus couldn’t stop from beaming back.
Addy was too. “Aw, Corra, this is so sweet,” she cooed, placing the box aside and reaching forward to grab her captain in a hug. “And perfect.”
“Even if it’s for kids,” Cyrus added in agreement and Corra shot him a playfully annoyed glare.
“You wanna sit down and watch the rest of the parade with us?” Addy offered, patting the seat beside her. “It might be just your brand of awful.”
But Corra stepped back and shook her head. “I’d love to, but I’ve got a few more stops to make.”
One by one, she began piling the remainder of her packages in her arms again. “Enjoy the robot, you two!” she called as she hurried off into the ship.
Once they were alone again, Addy released a happy sigh and leaned back against Cyrus’ arm. She picked up the robotics box and looked it over. “So,” she mused. “Any ideas on what we should make?”
Cyrus scrunched his face in thought and looked around the room for inspiration. Finally, his eyes settled on the paused video screen in front of him where a frozen commentator was clutching desperately onto her huge blonde wig as the wind tried to carry it away.
“Android Bi Barton?” he suggested.
“Salt,” said Fiearius, holding out his hand.
“The blue one or the red one?” asked Leta who was stationed at the spice cabinet across the kitchen.
Fiearius glanced back at her and frowned. “The blue one since the red one is…y’know. Pepper.”
Leta turned the shakers around in the cabinet and grimaced. “How am I supposed to know that? They’re not even labeled.”
“The number of holes on top?” Fiearius suggested, eying her as she continued to look confused by this whole ordeal. “Let me guess, you had one of those guys with the pepper crackers do the seasoning for you every night growing up.”
“You only mock because you’re jealous,” she pointed out, handing him the salt shaker.
“Of course, my dear, your classy upbringing has always been the envy of my existence,” he agreed, shaking an ample amount of salt onto the large bird in front of him. “Actually, I need the red one too.”
This time, she joined him at his side as she plopped the red shaker on the counter beside him. “So once this is in the oven–”
“We go back to bed?” Fiearius suggested with a grin, tossing a few more seasonings onto the meat.
He felt a light tap from the back of her hand on his shoulder. “I was going to say we can exchange gifts.”
Fiearius looked over at her, his head tilted in perfect confusion. “That is your gift,” he said in absolute seriousness. “You wanted something else?”
Leta rolled her eyes. “In that case, I didn’t get you anything either.”
“Ouch,” Fiearius muttered as he opened the oven door and slid the pan inside.
“How long does that thing take to cook?” asked Leta suddenly.
Fiearius stood back from the oven, leaned against the opposite counter and shrugged. “Hours. I told the Beacon lot we ain’t eatin’ til tonight.”
“Good,” mused Leta as she sidled towards him. One of her hands rested on his hip, the other reached up to play with his hair. “Then we have plenty of time.”
Fiearius cocked a brow at her. “Thought you weren’t interested.”
“I said it didn’t count as a gift,” she corrected, leaning impossibly close to him so he could feel her warm breath on his neck. “I didn’t say I wasn’t interested.”
Good distinction, thought Fiearius before leaning down to close the distance between them entirely.
But just before he could manage, there was a loud “Ahem” from the kitchen doorway. Startled, Leta jumped back a few feet and Fiearius attempted to act natural.
Fortunately, Corra just laughed. “Old instincts die hard, huh?” she suggested over the mountain of presents she was carrying. “Seriously, you two have been at this for, what, a month or two now? You ain’t foolin’ anyone at this point.”
Leta looked up at Fiearius, half grimacing, half laughing and then said to Corra, “You need some help with those?”
“Just take yours, it’s the little red one.” She tilted her body at an odd angle to give Leta access to the package. “Yours is the green one next to it, cap’n.”
Careful not to cause the whole pile to crumble, Leta deftly plucked the two gifts from Corra’s arms and went about unwrapping hers at once. Fiearius didn’t get a good look at what was under the paper because the moment Leta saw what it was, her face turned as red as the paper and she hurriedly hid it from view. But it looked like a book.
“I saw you only had the first four in the series,” Corra explained in a hushed tone as though he wouldn’t be able to hear her. Despite standing four feet away. “The fifth one’s the best.” She nodded seriously. “Trust me.”
The red subsiding a little, Leta was still smiling a bit too wide as she said, “Thanks so much, Corra. I’ll–get right to reading it.” And then, perhaps eager to change the subject, she turned to Fiearius and ordered, “Open yours.”
Deciding he just wasn’t going to ask, Fiearius muttered, “Alright, alright,” and stripped off the paper of his own gift to reveal the fancy box beneath. And inside the box, a bit of shiny fabric. A long bit of shiny fabric.
Fiearius frowned. “Did you get me a tie?”
Corra, who had been on the verge of snickering through the whole unwrapping process, let it loose. “It was listed as the top gift for old men.”
His eyes narrowed. “Old?”
Leta, cruel as she was, had joined in the laughing. “She’s not wrong, Fiear, you’d look quite handsome in a tie.”
“Distinguished even,” Corra giggled in agreement.
“Definitely an improvement to whatever this is.” Leta plucked at the fabric of his shirt which, admittedly, he hadn’t changed out of in some thirty-six hours. But still.
“Thanks, princess,” he grumbled as the two women continued to laugh amongst themselves. But as Corra excused herself to continue her rampage of Concordia festivities, Fiearius absent-mindedly turned the thing over in its box and realized she hadn’t just given him a tie after all. Sitting beneath it were two day passes to one of the fanciest hot springs this side of the Span, along with a note in curly pink handwriting that read “Cuz you two deserve to relax sometime :)”.
As Corra was exiting the room, promising Leta she’d come by later, Fiearius caught her eye. She smiled widely and winked before disappearing as quickly as she’d come. He was still staring after her, feeling somewhat impressed, when Leta returned her attention to him.
“Yeah,” he answered at once, closing the box again and shoving it in his pocket for later. “I’m fine. Where were we?”
Leta turned to him fully and slid her hand up his chest. “I think we were about to go upstairs?”
“Right.” Fiearius nodded, but then narrowed his eyes at her seriously. “But first?” She raised a brow at him. “I gotta go tease my brother about a parade. It’s tradition.”