Poker Face

Author's Notes: Tales of Symphonia, and all of it's characters, belong to Namco. I'm just borrowing them. Please don't sue me, I don't have much to sue for.

This vignette has SPOILERS. Don't read beyond this line if you haven't played the game and don't want it spoiled for you.


Dirk sat sullenly at the table over tea. He barely looked up when Lloyd, his foster-son, and his friend Colette walked past him and up the stairs to Lloyd's room. Normally he would have prevented them from doing so, little Casanova that Lloyd thought he was; however, he was just in too sour a mood to bother tonight. Besides, this being such a sad night, what with Colette and Raine leaving the next day, well, he might as well give the two some privacy. After all, it would be a very, very long time before they saw each other again, if ever.

His tea-sipping was interrupted by a heavy-handed knock on the door. Puzzled, Dirk stood. "Just a moment." Who of them would actually knock on the door? Genis, Raine and Colette were practically family. They knew they didn't have to knock.

Dirk opened the door and was confronted by the man he'd totally forgotten was there, the mercenary the kids picked up on the way to the Church of Martel earlier that day, Kratos. The man's expression was completely blank; even more so than when he'd been first introduced. Something was bothering him, clearly, although he was trying very hard not to show it. "May I speak with you for a moment?" Kratos asked him.

"Sure, sure, come in," Dirk acknowledged, backing from the door to let the mercenary past. "Have a seat at my table. Would you like some tea?"

"Please." Kratos seated himself stiffly; now that he was in the light, Dirk saw clearly that Kratos was very tense. Dirk poured the man a cup, then refilled his own and sat down again. "Something I can help you with?"

Kratos took a sip of the tea before answering. "Do you know if Lloyd's father is alive?"

Dirk shook his head. "If he is, he hasn't taken much interest in him." The dwarf was startled to see a flicker of emotion cross the mercenary's face, so momentary that he wondered if it was merely a trick of the light. "Why do you ask?"

Kratos stared at him for several moments. Say something. A blink, a stutter. NOW, damnit! "Just curious. I wasn't aware that he didn't live with his parents."

The dwarf was intrigued, the mercenary's answer struck him as odd. Very, very odd. He watched Kratos's face intently, now, as he spoke. "He never knew his natural family." A thoughtful pause. "His father may be alive; after all, it was only him and his mother when I found them."

"Found them?"

"On the cliffs overlooking the Human Ranch."

"I... see..."

Kratos's interest in his foster son was beginning to make a bit of sense. Dirk knew he had to tread with care, now, as he had the feeling that one wrong move, and the conversation was over. He had to be sure his guess was accurate, however; the mercenary's interest in Lloyd struck him as a bit creepy and he wasn't sure he was comfortable with it. Dirk shrugged slightly, and sat back. "I guess it's not fair to condemn his father for not being around. After all, he might not have a clue his son is alive himself."

A terse, "Indeed," was the only response he got.

Dirk sipped his tea a bit more, thoughtful. Yes, it was obvious, Kratos thought that he was Lloyd's father. Humans were so easy to read. "You know, I wonder if Lloyd wouldn't have a right to know that his natural father were alive, if he is and aware of him," Dirk said slowly.

Kratos shook his head. "He may have that right, but it might not be in his best interest." Dirk cocked his head at the mercenary, who explained further, "You are his family, as far as he's concerned. Discovering that his natural father is alive, and knows of him, would shake Lloyd's whole life. It would bring unnecessary grief for him."

"You have a point there." Dirk watched Kratos as he sipped his tea. Silence between them stretched for several moments. Kratos was deep in thought, and off-guard; here was Dirk's chance to put it in concrete. "He has your eyes, you know."

Kratos's head jerked up, the indifferent veneer shattered like glass falling to the ground. Dirk smiled. "If you're going to hide it from him, you're going to need a better poker face."

The startled expression vanished, replaced once again wit the blank, apathetic glare. "I don't know what you're talking about."

"Of course you don't, lad," Dirk replied kindly. "You're out of tea. Would you like some more?"

"No, no thank you." He stood. "I'm going to start back to Iselia. Tell Raine and the children to follow when they're finished here. I won't go too far ahead." With that, the man retreated, trying with all his might to hide just how hard he had just been shaken.