A/N: Yeah, yeah, I don't own them. Get over it.
To say that Lloyd had felt betrayed was an understatement.
Lloyd had his heart torn out, stomped on, cut into tiny pieces, and mutilated into odd, worm shaped little fragments, only to later be left out for the vultures.
It had come as a shock to him, then, when Zelos had appeared to them in the Tower of Salvation, proclaiming his fickleness by switching sides once more, forsaking Mithos for righteousness, purity, and all the crap that came along with it.
Lloyd supposed he should have felt relieved. He should have welcomed back Zelos with a heart of acceptance, and a mind of forgiveness. There should have been no hard feelings, no remorse, and definitely no malice towards the crimson haired Chosen.
Instead, Lloyd wanted to kill the bastard.
After escaping Mithos' grasp yet again, the group had begun the long trek towards Altessa's house, struggling to regain a sense of normalcy in walking and setting up camp instead of tiring out the Rheairds.
The entire time, Lloyd had wanted to wring Zelos' neck.
He couldn't begin to describe the intense hatred he felt toward Zelos. He realized that it was irrational and (mostly) undeserved, but the feeling stuck. Even when Zelos looked at him with soft, concerned eyes and touched his hand ever so slightly, Lloyd would move away and pretend not to notice the hurt in the Chosen's eyes.
Pretend not to care.
Zelos was well aware of Lloyd's newfound resentment towards him. He was far from stupid, despite the misconceptions surrounding him. He was possibly the most astute member of the party when it concerned human emotions. It was surprising what people would let you see when they thought you were too dim to understand.
He knew that the resentment was probably founded in his recent faux betrayal to Mithos. He knew that Lloyd was still reeling from the incidents concerning Kratos even after all this time, and was probably further reminded of his father's deeds by Zelos' own actions. Zelos found himself, therefore, in quite a predicament.
For the first time in his life, he had absolutely no clue how to fix something.
Not to say that he had never not known how to fix something. It was just that he had never cared enough to worry about it. Before, when he was mildly perturbed at something that wasn't going his way, he would just brush it aside until it naturally fixed itself. Considering that his issues usually concerned floozy showgirls with their minds in his pants (usually quite literally), this worked quite well for the crimson haired Chosen. They just couldn't help flocking back to him. He was just – irresistible.
But Lloyd – Lloyd was different.
Not that Zelos minded, most of the time.
This tension climaxed one starry night near the broken Ozette village. The party had set camp for the night and was planning to reach Altessa's house tomorrow morning. Lloyd sat near Colette and Genis, shying away from Zelos' efforts to conveniently position himself next to him. He had not spoken a word to him since leaving the Tower past simple sentences, mostly consisting of "watch where you point that sword" and "stop being a lazy bum and do something productive."
Zelos had found himself incredibly hungry on that warm night, and was nagging Regal to make dinner more quickly. Regal, ever the epitome of stoic patience, was steadily ignoring the man in order to stir his soup more effectively. Sheena, always the peacemaker of the group, was smacking Zelos on the head for being such a loudmouth. Raine was boisterously examining the crystal Zelos had procured from Mithos' grasp that would allow humans to hold the Eternal Sword, Colette looking on over her shoulder in mild curiosity. Genis was speaking loudly to Presea, trying to make her smile with gaudy jokes and clumsiness.
Zelos continued in his ceaseless whine. "But... Sheeeeeena... I'm... hungry..."
It was in this anxious atmosphere, then, that Lloyd finally snapped.
"Would you just – shut up, Zelos?" Lloyd exclaimed, standing up from the rock he was sitting on. Zelos' jaw dropped. "No one cares if you're hungry. We're all hungry. Pain is good; now suck it up and shut up!"
Lloyd suddenly found himself faced with the shocked looks of five of his companions. Presea, meanwhile, merely stared blankly at him while Regal continued to cook.
"Lloyd..." Sheena began. "Are you okay?"
"I'm fine. I'm always fine. Why wouldn't I be fine?" Lloyd spat, sitting himself back on his rock.
"Maybe because you've been acting a tad..." Sheena struggled as she tried to find the right words "...oddly ever since we left the Tower of Salvation."
"Whatever," Lloyd pouted, folding his arms across his chest and scowling.
The group looked on at him in concern and sadness. It was Zelos, however, that was the first to take the initiative.
"Lloyd. Can I speak with you?" His voice was calm and deadpan, a change from his usually loud, charismatic nature.
Lloyd wrinkled his nose. "No."
Zelos rolled his eyes. "Stop being such a brat and talk to me."
Lloyd's nostrils flared. "No."
"Why the hell not?" Zelos snapped, glowering. "All this frowning you're making me do is going to give me premature wrinkles. Not that I'd probably ever get wrinkles, but if I did, they would be sure to be because of you!"
Lloyd's eye twitched. "Shut up, Zelos."
"No!" Zelos exclaimed, shooting up from his seat to move towards Lloyd. "Tell me what exactly it is that's causing you to act like Sheena during those special times of the month, and then maybe I'll shut up. Just – maybe." Sheena's nostrils flared, but let it go in light of the moment.
"Gods, why do you have to be such an idiot all the time, Zelos? Just leave me alone!"
Lloyd turned away from the group to sulk towards the woods. The entire group turned to stare at him this time, even including the ever reclusive Regal and Presea.
"Lloyd..." Colette started quietly. "Whatever it is, we're your friends. We can help. All you have to do is believe in us."
The hurt in her voice subdued Lloyd. His featured softened to a mild frown, and his eyes lost their hot blaze of hatred. "It's nothing. I just don't want to talk about it."
A tangible silence blanketed the group heavily. It was only broken by the soft sounds of the crackling of the fire. It was again Zelos who broke the silence.
"Lloyd, we need to talk about this."
Lloyd turned his gaze towards the unusually somber man. "No, we don't."
"Do you really want me to have this conversation with you in front of them? Do you really want them to know?"
Lloyd flinched and turned away.
"Know what, Lloyd?" Genis asked, his frown already on his face deepening. "What is Zelos talking about?"
"Nothing," Lloyd replied evenly. "I don't know what he's talking about."
Zelos scowled. "Shut up, Lloyd. You haven't so much as spoke to me since we left the tower. I'd like to know what's going on," he demanded roughly, his eyes blazing in unison with the movement of the fire.
Lloyd gazed up solemnly at the fiery Chosen for a moment. Swallowing audibly, he turned his glance away.
"You can't even look at me anymore, Lloyd! Tell me what is wrong," Zelos pleaded, moving over to where Lloyd was sitting and kneeling down to face him.
Lloyd was silent for what seemed an eternity. Then –
"You hurt me," he began slowly.
Zelos pulled away slightly.
"You made me feel so – worn," Lloyd continued. "Like I was just something that you could – throw away. I hated you. I hated you and your stupid face, and your stupid hair, and your stupid eyes and smile and pink outfit. I hated you."
Zelos' frown deepened. "Lloyd... I didn't mean to - "
"No!" Lloyd cried. "Don't even try. You hurt me! I wanted to die! I felt like I couldn't breathe, or speak, or live! You know me! You know how important living is to me! For me, to feel this... this thing…" he broke off, staring at his hands wide eyed. He had forgotten that the rest of the group was staring at them, forgotten that they weren't supposed to see him like this, forgotten that he was the leader, the strong one, the impenetrable one.
All he saw now was his hands, and Zelos.
"Did I do something? Was it me that made you go and betray us?"
Zelos gave him a small smile. "Well. Indirectly, I suppose."
Lloyd eye's shot up to look at him. "What?"
"Well," Zelos began. "I betrayed you to help you. So I suppose, in essence, it was because of you. Not in the way you're thinking, obviously."
"I know, but... it still... hurts..." The younger boy looked away again.
Zelos grimaced, at a loss for words. Suddenly, a resolute look passed over his face. Rising to his feet, he cracked his knuckles. Lloyd barely had time to glace upwards before he felt a firm fist connect with his face. Reeling, he was sent backward to lie against the rock.
"What... the hell... is wrong with you?" Lloyd spat, rising up to face Zelos.
"I thought I would knock some sense into you."
"You call that knocking some sense into me?"
"You know how I love those literal definitions."
"First you betray us, and then you punch me?"
"Lloyd - "
"You make me feel like I'm nothing! When I'm with you, I feel like I'm dispensable! I've never felt that way before, do you understand? Even when I couldn't protect Colette from Cruxius, even when Kratos betrayed us, I never felt like this!"
"Lloyd - "
"And then you go prance around, flaunting yourself in front of everyone, pretending like you're not a traitor – Oh, fuck I'm crying. Fuck. How the fuck do you do this to me?"
"Lloyd – "
"No. Don't talk to me. I don't want to talk to you. Just stay away from me," Lloyd hissed as he stalked away from the campsite. He was almost out of hearing range when he heard a small, low noise come from Zelos' throat. "What did you say?" he asked sharply, turning towards the man, eyes ablaze.
Zelos flinched. "I said, at least you didn't have to pretend you liked them."
"What is that supposed to mean?"
"You wouldn't have said it if you had meant nothing by it. What, poor little Zelos had to flirt with some flunkies? Poor you. You were probably doing what you do best."
Zelos looked away, his lips clenched tightly and his forehead creased. "You're right. Of course, you're right. I guess it is what I do best... Never mind," he said bitterly.
Lloyd looked up at him pointedly, his expression quickly becoming one of a mixture of fading anger and growing confusion. "What are you talking about?"
"Nothing, Lloyd. Pretend I didn't even mention it."
"There's something you're not telling me, and I'd like to know what it is," Lloyd responded indignantly.
Zelos flared his nostrils as he scowled at him. "Leave it the fuck alone, Lloyd."
"I want to know what you meant by that."
"Well, you're not going to find out, so let it go. Please."
Lloyd nearly recoiled from the sheer force of the stillness of his voice. His words were quiet, worn, but possessed a certain type of power in them that Lloyd had never heard Zelos use. There was a true element of sadness in his words. It was raw, and tangible, and burning.
Lloyd slowly approached Zelos' slackened form. Eyes fixed on him, he looked pleadingly up at the older. "Please tell me what happened."
Zelos looked away. The silence was thick with pain and anguish until he spoke.
"I'm not going to tell you," he said slowly.
Lloyd blinked. "Why not?"
"Because," he replied languorously. "We all have our own pain. This is pain – which I don't want to share."
Lloyd gave a bitter snort. "That's rich."
"Excuse me, Mr. Zelos," a voice called softly.
The pair blinked in confusion.
"Uhm..." Their gazes found the source of the noise as they recognized Colette, sitting on a rock, staring at them. Both had entirely forgotten that anyone else was even there. "I think you should tell Lloyd. Maybe he could help you."
Zelos smiled sweetly at the young girl. "Thanks hunny, but I don't think he can."
"But you wanted him to tell you what was bothering him. You wanted to help him with his problems. How is this any different?" Colette asked quietly, her gaze intense and penetrating.
Zelos shook his head slightly. "Hunny, I wanted to know what was bothering him because it affected the relationship I had with him. This involves me. No one else."
"Not to butt in or anything," Sheena interrupted jarringly. Zelos raised a pointed eyebrow while Lloyd merely looked at her languidly. "But what kind of relationship do you two have, exactly?"
The two boys blanched.
Zelos blinked at Lloyd. "I say we just ignore her."
"I agree. Good plan."
"Hey!" Sheena interjected.
"We're ignoring her, right?" Zelos asked casually.
Lloyd twitched his nose. "I suppose. So you're back to calling me hunny?"
"You are my hunny," Zelos explained simply. "And I let go of things easily."
"So what, you're forgiving me?"
"Something like that."
"For what?" Lloyd spat.
"For being a prat. It was very non-hunny-like."
"So? You betrayed us!"
"Oh for Martel's sake, you're back on that again?"
"Well, I think I should be! You hurt me!"
"Lloyd... would you give it a rest?"
"No! You're a stuck up pig!"
"... I can live with that."
"And you have the worst taste in clothes! I mean, what self respecting guy wears that color pink!"
Zelos twitched. "I know you didn't just go there."
"And your hair! It's so... girly! And – shiny! I could go blind looking at it!"
"And you're always laughing! And smiling! And doing that thing with your finger... ah! You're doing it again! Show some angst!"
"I do think that I just did, a mere two minutes ago, my bipolar hunny."
"And that's another thing! You always call everyone hunny! Can't you think of something different?"
"And – and – why the hell am I crying? Again? Damnit! We didn't even resolve any of this! You really fucked me up!"
"Yeah, well you fucked me up too and you don't see me complaining," Zelos replied.
"I don't care! You don't count!"
"Shut up already!"
"No! I'm not donnn… Huhh – "
And finally, Lloyd did, indeed, shut up. Most would, when being kissed by Zelos Wilder, after all. An undeniable warmth seeped through him, starting at his lips, trickling down past his shoulders and chest, to his fingertips and the sides of his stomach, finally resting in his knees. The kiss was wet and salty from Lloyd's tears. His cheeks were gently being touched by Zelos' fingers, as his nails lightly ran patterns over his skin.
Raine, wide eyed, covered Genis' eyes with her hands.
Zelos broke away from the kiss painfully slowly, his breath heavy as he stared at Lloyd, who still hadn't opened his eyes.
"Lloyd," he said forcefully. The younger boy opened his eyes. "I will never, ever, betray you. I will do all I can never to hurt you. I didn't want to tell you what I was planning to do because I didn't know if I would be able to convince Mithos of my allegiance if you knew. I am sorry that I did what I did. Do you understand?"
Lloyd gazed at him, his face slack, his mouth and eyes still only partly open. Focusing on Zelos, a painful look crossed his face.
"Damn you," he began slowly. "Why can't I just hate you? Life would be easier if I could just hate people."
"I know, my freakishly pretty hunny. But where's the fun in that?"
Lloyd sniffed, scowling at the same time. "Fine," he said after a moment. "Okay."
"Good!" Zelos exclaimed, spinning around abruptly to face Regal. "Now. I'm starved. Where's that dinner you were cooking? It's been forever since I've eaten last. And I don't mean just food," he said slyly, turning his gaze towards Lloyd.
Lloyd merely grinned as the rest of the group gaped at them.
Colette giggled abruptly. "Oh good," she said giddily. "They're friends again!"
"Colette," Raine whispered. "I think... you took too much of your medicine again. What did I tell you about overdosing on those Angel toxicosis pills?"
"That they would make me silly?"
Raine blinked. "Silly... is one word for it."
"I took different ones today, though, Raine. Zelos gave them to me and said they were from you. They were smaller than usual! I think they're really... kicking... in... Did you know there were two of you, Raine? I love you, Raine!"
Raine, appalled, glared at Zelos as Colette tackle-hugged her.
"Erm... that's nice, hunny. Here, you need to lie down," Raine grunted as she pried Colette off her.
"Zelos..." Lloyd mumbled as Raine forced Colette down. "Which ones did you give her?"
"I thought they were the angel toxicosis ones... I guess I was wrong."
"Did you give her the large blue ones or the small blue ones?"
"Uhm. They were small."
"Well. You're an idiot."
"Seems like it."
"I think we should run. Now."
"Well, we're a team, aren't we?"
"Yeah. I guess we are." Zelos gave Lloyd a sideways grin.
"Zelos!" Raine shouted, getting up from her seat next to the prone Colette.
"Time to run," Lloyd said quickly.
"Hell yeah," Zelos replied.
"Zelos Wilder! You are DEAD! Giving that pill to a poor child! She could have died! I told you that you could do your drugs on your own, when you couldn't influence innocent children like this... and then you give it to COLETTE? WHAT– WERE – YOU – THINKING!
"You know we still have to talk about your issue with Cruxius and the whole friendly-ness thing," Lloyd panted, running at top speed through the forest.
"Meh. Whatever. Damn she's fast! Nice view of her tits bouncing up and down, though."
"I'm serious, you know," Lloyd responded, breathing heavily.
"I know," Zelos answered quietly, still running full speed ahead.
"When you're ready," Lloyd said soothingly.
"I'm not ready right now."
"I know. That's why we're waiting. And until you tell me, I'm just going to assume the worst and kick the unholy shit out of them at every chance I get."
"That's so sweet, Lloyd hunny!"
"Yeah, well, only the best for you, right?"
"ZELOS WILDER! LLOYD IRVING! YOU TWO GET BACK HERE NOW!"
"Uh oh. She's gaining."
"I know. Run faster!"
"GET BACK HERE NOOOOOOOOW!"
A/N: R&R, as usual kiddies. Much obliged.