Heart of A Child

Ch 1

The past comes up

Each night and day;

Not since childhood

Did I ever play.

I can't see me

With a grin or smile;

I've lived too long

Through many a trial.

I'd like to laugh

Just like my sons,

But I just can't feel

Those light emotions.

My heart too cold,

Perhaps like stone,

Deadened by time

And years alone.

I make my wish

To the stars above

To relive my youth

And know a child's love.

The day was sunny and hot as Kratos, Zelos and Lloyd wandered the beach of Altamira's resort for a good spot to camp. A month had passed since their last great adventure and the ship was safely moored in the dock, the cargo of Exspheres locked away until the time came to cast them into space. The group decided to get some rest and relaxation before resuming their quest and stayed at the resort longer.

"Here's a spot!" Lloyd declared and set up the umbrella for shade. He was dressed in his beach clothes, shorts and snorkel with flippers. Zelos set out the chairs and stretched, grinning as he watched the boy run for the ocean. His hair, once burned to nearly his ears, had grown to reach below his shoulders. It would take another month to return to its original length.

"Yeah, this'll be good. Hey, Dad, why not change out of that stuffy outfit into a swimsuit? Bet I can dive deeper than you!" he exclaimed a challenge. Kratos, still dressed in the dark violet mercenary uniform of the Kharlan War days, shook his head.

"No, I'll be fine. Go ahead and play. I'll merely rest here and watch you both." he answered, "Stay out of trouble. Both of you." Zelos momentarily looked disappointed, then smiled and shrugged.

"Your loss, old man!" he cried and ran off before Kratos could throw a book at him. Settling into a chair, the seraphim sighed and opened it up, reading the pages within. The sounds of the ocean alone would have been relaxing for him, but he had to contend with the sounds of screaming children and gabby surfers.

"Hey, mister!" a small voice called and Kratos looked around in brief confusion before laying eyes on a small girl in pigtails blinking up at him, a ring of melted ice cream around her mouth as she held the treat in one hand. He mentally cringed at the sight, wondering what it was she wanted.

"Yes?" he asked warily. The girl took another lick of her ice cream cone, still staring at him, before continuing.

"Whatcha doin'?" she asked. Kratos looked around the area. Where was the child's mother? Did no one care that this girl had walked up to and spoke to a complete stranger?

"I... was reading." he answered carefully. The girl blinked at him, not noticing her ice cream melting in her hand.

"Reading what?" she went on. Kratos frowned, this was growing tiresome. The child took no notice of his growing irritation.

"A book. Where is your mother? Shouldn't you be with her?" he answered curtly. The girl held out the rapidly melting treat, catching him by surprise. He barely was able to jerk himself and the book away, staring at the child in disbelief.

"You want some ice cweam?" she asked, offering him the treat. Kratos was spared from answering when the child's mother finally arrived and took her hand.

"No, Cathy! You're not supposed to do that! Come on! Leave the nice man alone!" she scolded and smiled at him in embarrassment, "I'm sorry, she tends to run off on me like that in places like this. Was she a bother?"

"No, not at all." Kratos lied, thanking Martel and every other god or goddess that existed for sparing him. "Just be sure she learns not to speak with strangers. Not all of them are harmless."

"I will." the woman assured him, then paused and seemed to study him, an appraising look in her eyes. "You know a lot about raising children, it seems. Your wife must be a very good mother." she added. Alarms of all types were ringing loudly in Kratos's mind and he took a figurative defensive stance.

"I have two sons, yes, but I am a widower." he responded as a test. The light of apparent victory shone in the woman's eyes, confirming his fears. "However, I will not dishonor my wife by seeking a new bride. I'm sure you understand how I feel towards the loss of a loved one. I'm also sure your husband would honor your memory the same way if you should pass on before your time." he added. The woman's face twisted slightly in an expression of annoyance, obviously at having been found out and rejected so quickly.

"I'm sure. Come on, Cathy. Let's not bother the miser any longer." she grumbled and stormed off with the child in tow. Kratos growled under his breath at the remark and set the book aside. His mood for light reading was thoroughly spoiled.

Soon after, Lloyd came running up to him with a shell in one hand, laughing with excitement as he showed it off to him.

"Dad! Check this out! Isn't it cool? I'm gonna use it to decorate a present for Colette!" he blurted. The seraphim raised an eyebrow at the shell and managed a smiled for his son.

"It is rather lovely." he admitted, "Are you ready to go back to the hotel? Where's your brother?" Here Lloyd sighed in exasperation and jerked his thumb over his shoulder. Kratos looked around him and frowned at the scene before him. A small mob of young women were gathered behind Zelos, who sat before a sand castle in a hunched and highly displeased stature. Deciding to come to his rescue so that he could finally get back indoors, Kratos got up and strode over to the redhead and his 'fans'. "What's going on?" he demanded.

"It's the Chosen! The Chosen is here! Oh! Master Zelos, look at me! Come and visit me, Chosen One!" the girls chattered in excited high-pitched squeals. Zelos was glaring darkly at the castle he had been building with Lloyd, his sunglasses perched on top of his head.

"There is no Chosen, the institution was abolished." Kratos growled at them, his patience with the venture wearing incredibly thin, "He very obviously doesn't wish to speak with you, much less look at you, so please leave him be and go on with your own business." The girls glared at him.

"Who are you to tell us what to do? Beat it, old man!" they snapped at him. Zelos stood abruptly at that and whirled around to face them.

"Dad, close your eyes!" he ordered and held his hand up to the girls, moving it slowly back and forth. The women followed it in confusion. Kratos did as he was told, torn between teaching the women to respect him and respecting Lloyd's wishes for a peaceful time. "Okay, girls, take a look at me. Keep your eyes on me. Yes, that's right, pretty girls. Lovely girls." Zelos began to murmur in a rhythmic voice to match his hand movements, "Pretty girls, lovely girls. Sleep, sleep, pretty girls. Sleep, sleep." The women closed their eyes and hung their heads in soft sighs. "When you awaken, you will wonder why you were so attracted to me. After all, I'm just another man. You will pass me over and seek out worthier men for yourselves. I'm not one for you to ensnare." Zelos told them in an even voice and snapped his fingers suddenly. Kratos opened his eyes and looked at him in confusion as the girls snapped awake and shook their heads.

"Oh, hello, Chosen One. Good day." the girls remarked idly as they began to drift away, eyes looking him over briefly, then moving on to other potential mates. Kratos watched them leave and returned to staring at the redhead.

"Like I said, hypnotism was part of my healing techniques and I used it on girls to make them think one way or another." Zelos muttered an explanation and smiled brightly, "So, who wants ice cream?!"

"I do!" Lloyd shouted from the beach chairs. Kratos groaned almost inaudibly as the two ran off to get the treats.

The amusement park was swarming with visitors as the three of them wandered through it in search of rides and fun. They stopped at the hotel to dress in normal clothes again, Lloyd in his usual red dwarven outfit and Zelos in the violet clothes made for him from Kratos's hand-me-downs and Lloyd's additions. Kratos followed the two 'boys' as they dashed for the Ferris wheel and got in line.

"Dad, come with us!" Lloyd called out as they neared the boarding station. The seraphim eyed the contraption and shook his head. "Come on! Have some fun!"

"I'll let you have the fun for me." he answered. Zelos stuck his tongue out at him.

"Don't be so stuffy! Relax and loosen up! That's what we're here for!" he declared. Again Kratos shook his head; he just couldn't see himself in the ride, having fun. The idea seemed too foreign for him. "Man, you're boring today."

The Ferris wheel started up with Lloyd and Zelos in one of the carriages, waving down at him in laughter. Kratos waved back and sighed as he sat down in a bench and gazed out at the ocean. The island resort was a little on the gaudy side for his tastes, but the boys were enjoying themselves, so who was he to complain? And why did they keep trying to get him involved in their play? Couldn't they see that their level of goofing off was too alien for him now? For centuries he'd been sealing away his emotions and making himself out to be a perfect Cruxis Seraphim, a soldier, a mercenary. With Anna, part of his true self came free and he was able to play a little, mostly with her, then with the infant Lloyd. With her death and Lloyd's disappearance that part of him sealed itself away tightly once more. He was sure he'd never be that open again. Even when retaliating against Zelos's jabs at him, Kratos kept tight lids on his emotions. Playing, truly playing like a child, like a free spirit, was a luxury he had lost long ago.

Cries of shock and terror caught his attention and he jerked his head up, watching as the roller coaster that passed over the park came to a halt in a dangerously twisted position that could drop people to their deaths if the harnesses came loose. Kratos looked around almost helplessly, hoping someone could remedy the situation so he wouldn't have to fly on his own to save them. When all he could see were pointing fingers and horrified masses, he sighed and revealed his wings, flying up to the roller coaster.

"Look! An angel! An angel of heaven is saving them!" someone cried and the crowd cheered as Kratos carefully pulled the visitors from the broken ride one by one, setting them down on the ground. Cries of praise to Martel and her angels continued, more so when they saw Zelos squirm out of the Ferris wheel carriage and fall a few feet before spanning his own wings and soaring out to help him. Working together, Kratos and Zelos had everyone on the roller coaster safely on the ground. The Ferris wheel finished its turns and Lloyd hurried out to meet with his father and brother as they were swarmed by people thanking them profusely, touching their clothes and crying out that they be blessed in their names.

"Hey! Stop it! Leave them alone!" Lloyd yelled as both angels quickly took to the air again to stay out of reach. Kratos shot a look at Zelos, who seemed surprised by the reactions.

"Had enough fun?" he asked icily. The redhead smiled sheepishly at him, laughing hesitantly.

The hotel was still relatively safe for them, and the three swordsmen collapsed in various spots around their room in relief. Lloyd flopped out on the sofa and sighed happily. The day had been a grand outing. He couldn't wait for the night time activities to start!

Zelos sat back in a soft chair and propped his feet up, grinning. He was already thinking of the casinos that opened in the evening and wondered how far his luck and angelic senses would take him. After all, they could use the money in restocking the ship's supplies.

Kratos decided to crawl into bed and not get out until another four millennia had passed. He ignored the sounds of his sons bustling about some few minutes later, getting ready for the night's play. He'd had enough of Altamira and wondered when they'd finally get bored of it and decide to leave. Someone started to shake his shoulder and he cracked open an eye, glaring out at whoever it was that dared wake him up.

"Dad, don't you wanna come with us? I'm gonna go see the play and Zelos is gonna goof off in the casino." Lloyd told him. Kratos groaned and pulled the blanket over his head. "Dad?"

"Let him be, Lloyd. He just wants to sleep the night away like all good old dudes. Let's you and me have a blast!" Zelos remarked with a grin and led the boy out to have a night on the town. Kratos mentally made note to get him back for that remark and wondered briefly as he drifted to sleep if maybe he really was feeling far too old for his 'age'.

The next day, the swordsmen checked out of the hotel and made their way back to the ship, setting sail for Sybak to make the trek to the warp point for Derris-Kharlan. Zelos and Lloyd chatted happily about all the fun they had as Kratos set the wheel on course and locked it in place. He listened to their talk and sighed again. The nagging feeling that he was out of place returned. Altamira didn't relax him at all, just wound him up with doubts, fears and a renewed irritation at humanity in general.

"I'm going to take a small rest. I expect you two to maintain course and do your chores." Kratos told his sons as he headed below decks. They groaned as he left and he could hear a complaint as well.

"Man, Lloyd, Dad's getting to be more of a stick in the mud every day. Is he allergic to fun or something?" Zelos griped.

"He does seem to be kinda...." Lloyd trailed, leaving the sentence hanging as the sound of sweeping began. Kratos paused, a downcast expression on his face. Maybe he was too serious and boring. But it wasn't entirely his fault; he had to grow up faster than they did to survive long ago, and Mithos certainly didn't give him time to play around during the four thousand years they lived on Derris-Kharlan. He headed for his room and closed the door behind him. Stretching out on his bed, Kratos sighed and gazed out the porthole at the ocean.

"Goddess Martel, I wish I could relive my youth as my sons did. I wish I could have 'fun'. Maybe then I would understand them better." he murmured and closed his eyes, allowing sleep to come to him.

Only when he was deep in dreams did a shimmer appear in the room, forming the image of a woman dressed in shades of green and white. Martel, Guardian of the Yggdrasill Tree and Goddess of Symphonia, gazed at the dark clad figure before her. In her hand was the winged staff she carried as a symbol of her status and duties.

"Kratos Aurion, you have not truly lived life in all the years you have walked the earth and sky. Your wish is for a chance to see the world through a child's eyes and experience life as only a child can." she murmured and closed her eyes, holding her staff before her, the head pointed at the sleeping seraphim. "To this end, I shall grant your wish. You shall experience life as you desire, and return to who you are step by step as you learn of its light-hearted joys." she went on and began her spell, "Turn back time for thee alone. Be now a child, no longer grown. Age shall come as days go by. Learn to laugh and play and cry." The woman shimmered and vanished as her voice chanted on, fading as the figure before her lit up in a soft blue glow and began reflecting the words of the spell.

Know what's weird? Without an end of chapter poem, this page feels incomplete. Oh well. I know there are already fics of a 'Chibi Kratos' and all that, but I still want to give it a shot and see what I can do with the idea. Who knows? Maybe I'll bring Seles and Caleb back, though I kinda doubt it. Oh and I usually have Colette with Item Getter, since I use her Item Thief and Item Rover techniques so much. What is Resilience anyway? I'm curious....