Like Father, Like Son
Summary: Lloyd wanted to believe it. He wanted so desperately to believe with the facts before him that every word was the truth. But this fabrication was so thin that even as a child he could see right through it. Lloyd was not an orphan. He was... abandoned.
Spoilers: Don't read unless you have beaten the game.
A/N: No, I'm not making a fanfiction comeback. This has just been sitting in my mind for too long. And I needed to write something, even of this mediocre quality.
Lloyd hated that word. It was for children whose parents both died, usually in some selfless or heroic effort to save their child.
Lloyd… was not an orphan.
He had been told growing up that both his parents had died in an accident—that somehow he alone was spared from this tragedy. No details were known, no explanations were given; all he knew was that his mother, Anna, and his father perished when he was three.
Lloyd wanted to believe that. He wanted so desperately to believe with the facts before him that every word was the truth—nothing more, nothing less. But this fabrication was so thin that even as a child he could see right through it.
Lloyd didn't have a clear memory at only three years, but he knew he had a mother and a father. He knew that his mother was kind but stubborn, and loved him very much. He knew that his father was stern but gentle, and cared for him.
Why was he never told how his parents died?—besides "by accident"… gracious, it's not like they'd planned on it. Why, if he had been with them, did he not get killed in the "accident" as well? Why, if both his parents died, did he only have a grave to honor his mother?
Lloyd knew his father was not dead.
Shards of memories that had all but faded from his mind told him his father could not have died in this "accident". And if he had, he would have wanted to be with Lloyd's mother in death. None of it made sense to him. He refused to be spoon-fed lies any longer, and when he was seven, he learned a word to describe his situation.
Lloyd was abandoned—torn from his mother and left for dead by his father: That was his conclusion after years of frustrating confusion.
Despite how much hurt, how much anger, and how much ire it brought to the forefront of his mind whenever he thought about it, he never wanted to burden anyone else with his thoughts. No one in his position enjoyed it or enjoyed talking about it, and anyone not in his position probably didn't need to know the cruel feeling of abandonment only to have it floating around in their minds like a piranha amidst goldfish.
Little by little, he stopped thinking about it all together. He spent more time focusing on the present, and less time dwelling in the past. Anyone even slightly versed in psychology would call it 'bottling up his feelings', and those more knowledgeable still might call it 'repression'—both terms for an unhealthy way to deal with one's emotions. He would shake his head with a laugh, rebutting, "Nah, I just don't think about it too much. In time I'll just forget all about it. S'no big deal, really."
Not that anyone ever asked. Lloyd never had any major qualms with his adoptive father, so no questions were ever raised.
And, if anything, it had helped him grow into a kind hearted young man. It gave him compassion and a sense of empathy uncommon for someone his age. He felt a sort of kinship in those who had lost their way, and so strove to help them back onto the right path, just as Dirk had done for him. In that way, his friendship with Genis blossomed, and, sharing a common compassion for helping others, Colette drew to him like a magnet. Soon enough he was surrounded by people he cared for and who cared about him.
Whatever had happened in the past was in the past. Lloyd lived for the present and the future, where he would never be alone.
Of course, not long into the Journey of Regeneration, his past began to resurface, bit by bit. He did his best to push it away—he didn't want to deal with it, thought he had put it behind him.
When he slept, anger would flare up inside him and loneliness would freeze him to the core and he would suddenly awaken in the darkest of the night with his mind racing, heart pounding and hot tears nipping at his eyes. His body ached from the constant clenching and unclenching of his muscles as his dreams invoked within him painful sensations he thought he had long ago released. He often awoke in the dead silence of the night disoriented and hysterical as the visions before his eyes refused to fade into the darkness around him. His eyes burned, his chest cramped… he never slept well.
But those things weren't normal. And Lloyd wanted to be normal. He desperately wanted to be normal. So he did whatever any other normally fated person might do in his scenario.
He ignored it. Made the best of what little uninterrupted sleep he was allowed, gave his all whenever his body would allow—and even when it didn't. He smiled, he laughed; he was at peace by day.
To most, his charade went undetected, just as it had for most of his life, but it began to crack little by little as Colette furthered her transformation into an angel. The nightly pains were getting stronger and harder to contain, leaving his body and mind alike in a mangled state as the sun rose to start the cycle anew. He could feel the word jumping around on his tongue, begging to be muttered aloud.
It was the night before they were to head to the Tower of Salvation, where Colette would undergo her final transformation into an angel and regenerate the world of Sylvarant. It was a night where tensions ran high, but tones were mellow and somber. It was a particularly dark night as the stars of the mountainous gathering shone only dimly behind a thick blanket of clouds; not even the light of the moon, Tethe'alla, could penetrate the foggy curtain.
It was his last chance.
Lloyd lay motionless in bed, directing his thoughts on the day ahead, keeping them from wandering. Breathing steadily, he kept his eyes wide open in the darkness, though it really made no difference either way. He sighed gently, rolling onto his side. There was nothing he could to; it was already beginning.
Kratos lay on the cot across from the troubled teen, eyes wide open and seeing through the shadows. He saw the boy lay motionless, eyes open yet unseeing, every thought that ran through his head seemingly projected through his dimmed brown eyes.
It was his last chance. He knew what tomorrow would bring. He hoped he didn't, but his hope against the will and whim of an obdurate demi-god stood feebly as a mouse before a lion. Besides, he was one who had given up on hope, just as it had given up on him, in his eyes.
"Lloyd," he murmured, stirring from his position to place his feet firmly on the ground. "Come outside."
Startled, the boy nearly fell flat on his face. But, as not to wake Genis, he rose and quietly, curiously followed Kratos until they stood outside the door to the inn. Lloyd spoke first, no longer restrained by the respectful expectation to be hushed. "You knew I was awake?"
"You're awake during much more of the night than you should be,"
Lloyd sighed, rolled his eyes. "If you took me out here to tell me that, then I don't really see the point…"
"That would be foolish, wouldn't it." He agreed dully. He took a half-step towards the eastern path, looking back at Lloyd. "Come with me; I need you to answer some questions."
He grumbled, "Questions? I don't like where this is going…"
Ignoring the younger boy's griping, Kratos led him up the winding path to the cliff. Keeping his eyes ahead, he asked, "Lloyd… why did you choose to accompany the Chosen on her Journey of Regeneration?"
"Colette's my best friend," Lloyd replied adamantly. "And Genis, and Raine, too." He looked down at the ground, "Besides, it's not like I could stay in Iselia…"
He nodded, "Fair enough… but what do you plan to do once the journey is over?"
Lloyd paused, humming in thought. "Colette 'n Raine'll probably want to return to Iselia, at least so Colette can see her parents and grandma again and Raine can… I dunno if she'll keep teaching or not. Anyway, I'll probably—" travel the world, searching for my father along the way so I can ask him why. "—probably… just… see the rest of Sylvarant. Regenerated and beautiful. Hopefully with Colette 'n Genis 'n Raine if they wanna come along, too."
Kratos hesitated. "Lloyd, surely you're aware by now…"
He blinked in response. "Aware of what?"
The mercenary paused, shook his head. "Nothing. Never mind."
They reached the peak of the cliff in silence. The night sky was clear and alit with twinkling stars, illuminating the horizon and everything before it in a dim, glittering glow. The Tower of Salvation stood out darkly in the horizon, dividing the land with its immense, dark shadow.
Kratos gazed broodingly at the colossal Tower. He almost seemed startled when Lloyd spoke.
"What about you?" Lloyd turned his head to look at him, eyes unblinking with interest, tone level and light.
"I'm a traveling mercenary. I go where I'm needed." Kratos provided simply, looking back at the Tower. "The sky is completely clear… even so, can you see the top of the Tower of Salvation?"
Craning his neck to try and follow the trail of tile as it climbed higher into the heavens, Lloyd said, "Nope." He looked back at Kratos incredulously. "…Why, can you?"
"Of course not." Kratos replied still as the structure of their interest. He paused, "The Chosen… Colette's going to have to ascend the Tower if she's going to regenerate the world."
Lloyd gaped. "Are you kidding?" he frowned, mouth hanging as he looked back over the horizon. "Even with her angel wings, that'd take forever!"
He nodded slightly, murmuring, "Forever… yes, that's about right."
Lloyd tilted his head, running his hand through his hair absently. "Oh man," he sighed. "If that's the case, our journey's never gonna end, is it? I'm sticking with Colette until the end—I wanna see her regenerate the world with my own eyes. I just hope they have an teleport pad… or an elevator, at least."
"I'm afraid you won't be able to make that leg of the Journey." Kratos replied evenly, "That is something Colette must brave on her own. …Just like how you must learn to brave being able to let her go, you realize."
"What, why?" he whirled to fully face him, fists clenched at his side and frowning. "I mean, yeah, I realize that and all, but what the hell are you talking about all of a sudden? You're talking about it like she'll never return!" his words became sharp with anger. "She's going to turn into an angel and she's going to Regenerate the World! And then she's going to be part of it! She's going to be able to enjoy the new and thriving world she will have helped save!"
"No!" he shouted, "If you're asking me to give up on her, then I'm never giving up on her! Do you hear me? I'm never going to give up on Colette, not Genis, not Raine, not anyone!" he huffed, turning away from Kratos. He took a few paces down the trail, staring restlessly at the night sky. Kratos watched the boy, wary and silent.
Lloyd finally turned around, and, looking him in the eye, something inside him had changed.
"I don't care how many people give up on her, or me, or any of us!"
Something had been released.
"There's no way I could ever… there's no possible way I could…"
Something had snapped.
"I could ever… abandon them."
His last words were no louder than a choked whisper. He was shaking his head, his eyes tightly shut. He put one hand over them and wiped them dry. He finally said, "I hate that word. I hate that word. It's what happened to me, and I'll be damned before I let it happen to anyone else."
Kratos' voice replied strongly and firmly, "Your parents died in an accident. They didn't—"
"Shut up and stop trying to… to feed me these lies!" He spat vehemently. "How stupid do you think I am?! Mom was killed by Desians! And if my dad was killed by Desians, too, then why the hell is there only one grave?! Or, or why doesn't it say, 'Anna and… whoever, Rest in Peace'?!" Lloyd looked the auburn man in the eyes. "Because he gave up on me and mom! He abandoned us! The bastard either let mom be killed by Desians, or wasn't even there in the first place!"
With great difficulty, he took in Lloyd's words, waiting patiently for the boy to calm down. He spoke gently, choosing his words carefully. "So… you believe your father is still alive somewhere? Naturally you would want to find him and confront him… and then what? What good would it do?"
Lloyd snorted, stubbornly crossing his arms over his chest. "I don't know. Maybe find out how well he'd sleep knowing his 'lost cause' is alive, but still lost to him." He muttered, "If he even cared."
Before he could reply, Lloyd said, "Agh, what does this all mean to you, anyway." He began walking down the path towards the inn with a sigh. "Just forget everything you've heard."
"No, it does mean something. Hopefully, that you were able to share this: something that's clearly bothering you, to say the least," Kratos corrected, approaching him with hard, unreadable eyes. "It means something to you as well."
Lloyd paused, eyes focused on the ground beneath his bare feet. He could feel his exhaustion slowly slithering through his limbs, and his mind began to haze over with lethargy. "Yeah, I guess so." He murmured. "But what would mean more… You're not going to give up on us, are you? You won't…?"
He froze. He needed to tell him what he needed to hear. "I won't abandon you, Lloyd." Even if he couldn't keep his word.
Kratos could see a ghost of a smile on his son's face. "Thanks,"
He didn't have the heart to respond. It was what Lloyd needed to hear, nothing more, nothing less.
It was what Lloyd needed to hear if he was to bear what tomorrow would bring.