Brother to Me
Long before I knew you,
We had seemed to form a bond
It didn't seem like much
Yet the thought wasn't wrong,
Though you pestered us all
From every town we went,
And seemed to always gripe and whine,
It wasn't what you meant.
Now that trail is over;
We started a new path.
Still the fighting and the horseplay
Had yet to meet its match.
That day had seemed alright,
Just you and me and Dad.
Who would have thought
In a flash it would go bad?
Now here you lie asleep,
Though I pray for you to wake
And answer me one question;
Was your action a mistake?
He sat there wondering and worrying over the redhead lying in bed. The events of the day just kept playing through his mind as he tried to find the exact point in time that the whole expedition for supplies had gone so very wrong. Idly, he picked up the roll of soft white gauze and set it down again on the table that held a myriad of other healing items.
"Why, Zelos? Idiot Chosen. Idiot everything!" Lloyd whispered to himself and looked back at his friend again. The redhead slept on, a faint expression of pain still flickering across his face every so often. Lloyd looked around the small room, the room he had built with the help of his father. In a corner was Zelos's pink vest, stained crimson with blood and torn by a small dagger.
Kratos was out helping local authorities search for the thief that had done this. Lloyd volunteered to stay behind on the small ship and look after Zelos, even though he figured that his father would have made him stay behind if he said otherwise. He ran his fingers through his hair and sighed heavily, hanging his head down as he slumped in his chair.
"Why? Why did you do such a stupid thing?" he continued berating the air, only half accusing the former Chosen. "You stupid jerk, you're worse than Dad!"
He could picture the scene again, running it over to try and think of how he could have changed the outcome. And every time, it was a slap to the face, because he knew there was nothing he could have done. Lloyd had been in the wrong place at the wrong time, facing the wrong direction. He thought of the day once more, the trip to Izoold to gather additional supplies for the continued trip, and once more wondered what had happened.
The ship had been only half finished, and Zelos was usually trying to worm his way out of helping build it, when Kratos just dropped in out of the blue. Lloyd nearly had a heart attack, Zelos merely tried to punch the angel for having put the brown-haired teenager through hell and wound up flat on his back for it.
"I thought you were on Derris-Kharlan! What are you doing here?" Lloyd yelled in shock. To have his father return was a great and miraculous surprise, but one he wouldn't have thought would occur so quickly. It had only been a few months since the worlds had united and the people of Sylvarant started poking around Tethe'alla's shores. Kratos only shrugged and picked up a hammer, shedding the mantle on his shoulders to avoid getting it soiled by the work.
With all three of them working, the ship was finished quickly and they set sail from the shores near Dirk's house to travel around the world, collecting Expheres. Throughout the venture, Zelos and Lloyd bickered and argued and teased while Kratos silently nominated himself referee, munching on a sandwich as the two of them horse-played and wrestled on the floor out of annoyance with each other, occasionally reaching out with his foot to kick them to the other side of the room.
The day eventually came when the Cruxis Seraphim opened the cupboard, scanned the nearly bare shelves, and announced that they would have to dock at Izoold and restock supplies. Lloyd could hear the annoyed declaration from below deck as he counted the number of Expheres collected and stored in crates. Zelos, manning the wheel on deck, rolled his eyes and spun it around, steering them off course towards the town.
"Lloyd, your dad's being an ass again." he grumbled once the teenager was on deck to point out exactly where Izoold was located. "He shows up without saying a word, then starts to tag along as if he'd been invited!"
"I heard that." Kratos shot back, fluttering down from the crow's nest on shimmering blue wings, "I was invited aboard before you were!" Lloyd sighed and put up his hands, trying to keep the two glaring at each other from getting into a fight.
"Calm down, you guys! Zelos, I told Dad he could come on my boat with me when the world was at peace back when we were starting the world regeneration journey. As I recall, you were the one who invited yourself." he pointed out, "And Dad, you could do us a bit of a favor and let us know why exactly you're here. I thought you were traveling space and setting Expheres free there."
"I'm so hurt! You mean you didn't want me to come along?" Zelos whimpered, making a great show of having one fat tear roll down his cheek as he clutched the front of his vest, "I thought we'd be the best of pals, traveling the world to collect Expheres and pick up hunnies!"
"We're not turning this boat into a love cruise for you and your hunnies!" Lloyd yelled, "We've been through this a hundred times already!" The ship nearly ran ashore on Izoold before Kratos cleared his throat and jerked his thumb towards the town.
"You may want to start steering this thing before you smash yourselves into several pieces." he pointed out dryly. Lloyd shoved Zelos aside, ignoring the yelps of surprise as he grabbed the wheel.
"Get the sail down, Zelos! Hurry up!" he barked out and watched irritably as the Chosen promptly tripped over a pile of rope and landed on his face. "Dad, help him out before he kills himself."
"If he did that, would it be a tragedy or charity?" Kratos muttered under his breath as he marched down, hefted the redhead up by the waist and continued on to lower the sail on the mast.
Izoold was bustling with activity as the three wandered the shops, purchasing bread, rice, and various other ingredients for cooking, along with fabrics, needles, thread, medicinal herbs and bandages, and kegs of water. Kratos made a point of resupplying the limes and lemons, then stared as Zelos rolled a barrel of wine towards them, a huge grin on his face.
"Dude! Didn't think this place would have something like this! I'll show you how to drink a man's drink, Lloyd! It'll loosen you up when it comes time to pick up some Sylvarant beauties!" he remarked with a laugh, "If they don't all flock to my sexiness first, that is!" Lloyd groaned and slapped his hand over his face.
"Goddess give me strength. Zelos, put that back!" he griped, but it had already been added to the wagon-load of goods going to the docks. The redhead grinned wider.
"Aw, come on! You don't wanna be a boring dude forever, right?" he asked, "Live a little! I bet the old man hasn't had a good taste of wine in centuries!" Lloyd hurriedly sent Kratos back into the shop for another basket of dried meat before the Seraphim could draw his sword in irritation.
"If you don't shut up, you won't live to be one!" the angel grumbled under his breath as he left. Lloyd just shook his head and picked up a basket of dried fruit as the crowd around him suddenly parted to let someone run by. He loaded it onto the wagon as several more people raced by.
Someone let out a scream of surprise and Lloyd jerked his head up.
"Lloyd! Down!" he heard Zelos call out and a heavy weight suddenly slammed against him before falling away. He spun in surprise, saw the receding back of some thief, then gazed down. Color drained from his face as he caught sight of Zelos lying on his side on the dusty street. His long hair covered his face, spread in the sand as a pool of deep red began forming beneath him, soaking into the soil as a dagger with a crude, dirty handle protruded from his back.
"DAD!" Lloyd shrieked out as he dropped down and lifted his friend up, clutching him tightly and willing him to stay alive. Kratos burst out of the shop, a bag of bread in one arm. He took in the scene, then dashed forward on small, quick steps.
"Healing Stream!" the angel declared, a swirl of magical energy rushing around the trio and flooding them with restorative mana, "Lloyd, get the dagger out!" His son swallowed hard as he grabbed the hilt of the knife and pulled. He dropped the bloodied blade in disgust and pressed his hand against the wound.
"Zelos! Can you hear me?" he urged and bent to try and listen for him. The Chosen uttered a shaky gasp, but didn't answer or move. Kratos checked him for additional injuries, then stared evenly at his son.
"Lloyd, who did this?" he questioned. The teen fought back a sob and looked up at him.
"I don't know, I saw some thief guy running away and some other guys chasing him, but I didn't see anything. Zelos just told me to get down and when I turned around, he was... he was..." he blubbered. The seraphim stood and scanned the crowd of people, many of whom were scattering into homes quickly as others stared at them in fear, concern and shock.
"He needs to go back to the ship to recover." he finally said and bent to lift the unconscious Chosen. Lloyd followed silently, absently taking note of how light the redhead had become as he subconsciously held his blood-stained hand away from him.
"Idiot." Lloyd whispered again, gently tugging on a lock of Zelos's hair. "You could have just pushed me out of the way, not take the blow for me." He leaned down and sobbed softly. "Stupid, stupid, stupid! If you die, I'll hate you forever! You're like the brother I never knew I wanted!"
"All those days of messing with each other's heads, and all that time we spent on our quest, and I don't get it until now how much you mean to me?" Lloyd yelled, "You trying to teach me how to be more like you and me trying to teach you how to be more down to earth, we're just like brothers! Wake up! Please!" He lifted his tear-stained face and studied Zelos intently. For a moment, the other man's eyelashes fluttered and his heart nearly stopped. He held his breath, willing another motion, and felt his whole being soar with joy as Zelos finally opened his eyes, if only part-way. He hadn't known how much he had missed the deep sapphire color until then.
"Dude, keep it down. Need my beauty sleep." Zelos muttered in a hoarse voice. Lloyd grabbed his hand and held it tightly, crying happily.
"You're awake! You're alive! Zelos, how do you feel?" he pressed. The Chosen looked around a bit, then took on a confused expression.
"Bud, what am I doing here? And I feel like hell, what do you think? I took a knife to the back; it wasn't exactly a pleasant experience." he grumbled, looking back at him with half-lidded eyes. "I thought I heard you say something about brothers."
"Ah..." Lloyd stammered, turning red with embarrassment, "About that... what I meant was... uh..." Zelos just grinned and closed his eyes again.
"It's okay, Bro. You just beat me to what I was thinking back in that messed up town. Man, I hope that stupid dagger doesn't leave a scar." he went on softly. "So, how are you? You okay? I didn't really have time to come up with a plan on how to keep that thing from hitting you."
"Why'd you do it?" Lloyd pressed. Zelos gave him an annoyed look.
"Twerp. That guy who ran by us was trying to use you as a distraction for those cops chasing him. He chucked the dagger, I saw it all." he growled, "But at your height, it would have hit your neck. You would've died."
"You told me to get down."
"Yeah, and you didn't, like the dumbass you are. So I did the only thing I could think of in that split second."
"You could've died yourself, you know."
"Psh, yeah, right. I was gonna get back up and kick his ass, but you kinda went and grabbed me."
"Liar." Lloyd jeered lightly as Kratos appeared in the doorway. He raised an eyebrow at them, then unceremoniously flopped into a chair before letting out a long exhalation. "Dad? What's up?"
"The authorities have that thief in custody now, charged with burglary and attempted murder. He'll be taken to New Palmacosta for trial and judgment." Kratos replied and frowned as Zelos struggled to sit up. Lloyd gave up trying to coerce him back down and propped him up with additional pillows. "Now, would you care to tell us what happened?" The former Chosen rolled his eyes and relayed the story again, then winced as he tried to fold his arms over his chest, the black undershirt all he wore until Lloyd got around to washing and mending his vest.
"He was just being dumb again." Lloyd wrapped up, earning a venomous glare from the redhead. Kratos shrugged and stood up, making his way to the kitchen.
"He'll need to rest for the next few days and not use his right arm for much labor until the muscles have healed completely. We'll divide his work load between us." he added over his shoulder. Lloyd groaned as Zelos snickered and rubbed his knuckles affectionately into his hair. "Sometimes I feel like I have two sons." Kratos added under his breath as he left.
"Hey, Lloyd." Zelos remarked as the teen picked up the vest and headed out to repair it, "You meant what you said earlier, right? You weren't messing with my head again, right?"
"That? You figure it out, Bro." Lloyd shot back with a smile.
I fixed it up a little, and I like the way the poem goes. Kratos may seem a little undignified, but that's because, without Cruxis around to breathe down his neck, I think he can afford to loosen up now.