Minfilia watched the crust of the pastry brown before her eyes in the oven, and her eyes sparkled.
If it wasn't for the stiff breeze coming in off of Vesper Bay, the sun would be strong enough to bleach the colour from their clothes. Cats walked around on their tip-toes as the sandstone and brick roads turned to skillets under their paws. And Minfilia had spent an hour in this room with the oven glowing like molten lava. She was more sweat than person at this point.
But it was all worth it. Months spent waiting for these apples to come into season again, baking time perfected, served with custard... She couldn't wait to show everyone. They'd all been working so hard, they deserved a treat.
With reverence like she was handling a holy text, she opened the oven, prepared herself for the wave of heat, and then removed the precious apple pie. She rested it on the hob, before taking a knife and checking it was cooked right through. The steam that plumed smelled of apples and cinnamon, and she smiled.
Now to rest it on the window, just like her grandfather used to. The oven mitts made her hands feel clumsy she picked it up and carefully, carefully turned...
And then she let out a blood-curdling scream.
The pie tin fell to the floor and shattered, startling the enormous bird head that had poked through the window. It banged its skull on the ceiling and flailed like a chicken.
Minfilia stood clutching her heart as she caught her breath, fear giving way to sorrow, and then -- as the bird spotted the splattered wreckage of her pie and started eating it off the floor -- incandescent rage.
"Whose chocobo is this?!"
Papalymo's tiny body tugged at the chocobo's barding but it wasn't for moving. "A little help please?" he gestured to the other Scions.
"I think it's your famous Warrior of Light's," Y'shtola smirked to Minfilia. "Where are they anyway?"
"On a duty," Minfilia said. Thancred had thrown a blanket around her for the shock -- as a joke -- and she hadn't bothered to remove it. "There's a primal loose in the Black Shroud."
"Well, we can't have a fully grown chocobo walking about the place. It's not a barn!" Papalymo said, leaning all of his weight against the reins but getting nowhere.
"I think it's cute," Yda cooed, scratching under its beak. "Calm down, Papalymo, you're gonna give yourself a hernia."
"Help me!" Papalymo said.
"I am ," she said, moving her scritches northward. The chocobo got up of its own accord, lifting Papalymo into the air by the reins. It clicked and chirruped, looking at them with its big inquisitive eyes. "D'awww!" Yda said. "What's your name, eh?"
"I think it's called Periperi," Minfilia said, finally realising she was overheating and throwing the blanket aside.
"What does that mean?"
Minfilia shrugged. "They call it Peepee for short."
Thancred snorted. Everyone looked at him. "What?" he said. "It's funny."
Most of Peepee's daycare ended up falling to Yda, because she seemed to be the only one that liked him. She took him for walks around the bay in between drills.
"Oh, fancy seeing you here," Thancred said, as she approached him at a stall. He was looking at a glamour prism in the light, as if he knew what he was doing. He eyed Peepee over her shoulder. "I see you're still dragging that big monster behind you, eh."
Peepee ruffled his feathers in anger.
"They should be back soon. We'll work something out," Yda said. She picked up a bushel of apples from the vendor and paid for it with a 10 gil piece.
"I hope you're getting reimbursed for that," Thancred said as she threw one in the air for Peepee to catch in his beak. He crunched it loudly, making happy chirping sounds.
A group of passing girls squealed. "He's so cute!" One of them shouted, squeezing her cheeks. "Is he yours?"
In an instant, Thancred stepped between them all and the bird. "Yup. My best friend in the whole world. Lovely to meet you ladies, I'm Thancr-- ow!" Peepee pinched him in the neck with his beak. "I think it drew blood!" he shouted, before turning bright red as he realised everyone was laughing at him.
Urianger emerged from his enclave wearing his monastic burlap sack, and approached the dinner table. "Might I pray borrow thee for one moment," he said to Yda.
"Sure, what's up?" Yda pushed her soup away and worried a piece of garnish out from between her teeth with her tongue.
Urianger beckoned wordlessly and led Yda back down the stairs. The smell of dusty old books and wax filled the space as it always did, but it had a distinct note of... barnyard over the top.
Peepee had constructed a nest in the corner, and was sitting staring innocently into space, unaware of the hundreds of irreplaceable books he'd ripped to shreds to turn into a cushion.
"Alas," Urianger said, summarising. "It hath defecated in mine own library."
Alphinaud’s presence was announced before his arrival in the library by the clicking of his expensive platform heels. Y’shtola looked up from her tome lazily before double-taking. “Wait. I thought you were with--”
“I got sent back,” he said. “We need information, from an -- oh,” he saw the mess Peepee had made in the corner with his nest. “Oh no.”
“Tell me that isn’t…”
“Oh yes,” Y’shtola purred. “It’s almost as if you should’ve taken him with you!”
“There was no time,” Alphinaud protested. “Besides, we can’t have him doing that in front of the Sultana herself, you know how bad he gets when he’s nervous…”
It was right then a familiar big bird head poked out from behind the bookshelves. His big, innocent eyes welled with heartbreak and betrayal.
“Oh, no! Peepee, I didn’t mean -- it’s not like --”
Peepee tore off at a breakneck pace up the stairs, knocking over a bookshelf in his haste.
Y’shtola snorted, then contained herself. “Sorry,” she muttered, though she was still smiling with her eyes closed. “You idiot.”
Alphinaud stamped his foot in the ground. “You knew he was still in here! You know how sensitive he is!”
“I didn’t think you’d jump straight into a rant,” Y’shtola said. “Looks like you’re going to have to explain to the famed Warrior of Light what happened to their precious chocobo…”
“No, I’m going to have to find him,” Alphinaud quickly scrawled down a note on a piece of parchment and pressed it into Y’shtola’s hands. “In the meantime, please, please , find me a copy of this book. That is, if he hasn’t ripped up the only copy in the bloody library.” And with that, he was off.
“Um, I don’t work for you?” Y’shtola called after him, before looking down at the page and sighing. She read the parchment before rolling her eyes. “I should go back to living in a cave.”
Peepee sat in an alleyway behind a building, curled in a ball, trying to cry quietly and failing. His enormous sobs were audible from streets away.
“Hey, you,” Alphinaud said, approaching.
Peepee looked at him, his whole face wibbling.
“I’m sorry about earlier. I heard what happened, it sounds like you’ve had quite the day.”
Peepee broke out into a new round of choked sobs, wailing into his wing.
Alphinaud nuzzled the chocobo’s face, before pulling one of Yda’s apples from his pocket. “Crying always makes me hungry,” he offered.
Peepee looked hesitant, but then his hunger got the best of him. He gobbled it down, crunching it in his beak.
Alphinaud sat, crowned in the bird’s plumage. “Listen, there’s going to be a lot going on for our friend. And I don’t always know how to help them. I think we’re quite similar in that regard.”
Peepee’s little lizard brain looked like it may have been considering this, or he might have just been watching Alphinaud’s mouth move and waiting for another apple.
“Both of us can only do our best, and we will fail sometimes. But so long as we get back up, so long we make sure the people we care about can continue on… it’ll all work out in the end.”
Peepee looked like he’d tired himself out crying, and rested his head in the crook of Alphinaud’s neck.
Alphinaud rubbed behind Peepee’s ears, and just considered the silence for the moment.
The Horizon aetheryte glowed as the Warrior of Light teleported in, landing with a shimmer in the plaza.
A moment of calm, a deep breath of relaxation after a difficult battle, and then... they were bowled over by an enormous avian shape tackling them to the ground.
They laughed as Peepee showered them with a million tiny bird kisses, before something blotted out the sun.
Yda was looking down on them. "Yeah... I love him, but you need to work on his house training."