The Memory of This.
When he approaches the clearing where Dirk's house is - and it'll always be Dirk's house for him, never mind that the kind dwarf has been dead for decades -, Genis can't help but smile at the familiar sounds of swords clashing against each other, or of the cheerful, grave voice that gives them directions.
Noishe is the first to greet him, giving a content howl as he nuzzles his hand. Genis grins, glad that Noishe remains as he remembers from childhood rather than not. It's one of the few little comforts he gets these days.
"Uncle Genis!" The two boys that had been sparring drop their swords, running towards him and taking each one his hand. "Uncle Genis! We didn't know you were coming! Why are you here? From where are you coming? Did you brought presents?!"
Genis doesn't get any chance to answer any of those questions, and he just grins while he takes notice of the small changes that have already gone through their faces, the way Zelos is now taller than Kratos, the way Kratos' freckles go from ear to ear, giving a warm laugh as Noishe moves behind him, also trying to get some attention.
"Oi, Zelos, Kratos, give Genis a time to breath before you smother him with your questions, okay? And that's for you too, Noishe."
Genis can't stop his laugh at the chorus of 'Awww, grandpa!' even as Lloyd's two grandchildren stop firing question after question and slowly let go of his hands, pouting towards the older man.
He doesn't allow himself to think on how different Lloyd looks from the last time he saw him. Genis only takes notice of the children, glad to see them grow happy and healthy in this world they fought for. By the time he was twenty and he still looked twelve, he had stopped noticing the obvious changes in his friends and, instead, he focused on what wouldn't change, like Lloyd's smile.
"Oh, excuse me, old man," he greets with a grin, tilting his head. It's hard to believe he's finally as tall as Lloyd. "I'm searching for my friend, Lloyd. Know where I can find him?"
"You brat!" Lloyd laughs, not even pretending to be annoyed as he steps closer and hugs him tightly. It hasn't been that long since the last time he came home. Barely eight months at most, but still Genis hugs him too, taking comfort of the familiarity of the hug as he finally thinks he has come home. Lloyd breaks apart and looks at him with a slight frown that quickly becomes a grin. "You've gotten taller!"
"About time," with the world now filled with mana, even half elves reach a slow maturity. Raine hasn't noticeably aged in all the years that had gone since the Great Tree was reborn. "It was quite annoying to be the shortest."
"Really," even if now there are wrinkles moving over his face as he grins, Genis thinks he wouldn't trade that smile for anything. He doesn't mind as Lloyd puts his arm around his shoulders and starts walking him towards the bench. "Okay, boys. Go and tell your mom that her godfather is here for dinner and that he's staying here for a few days."
"You do know I have my own place, right, Lloyd?"
Lloyd winks. "As I said, tell your mom uncle Genis's staying here for a while."
"But..." Kratos and Zelos - aged seven and a half and ten - seem to shift from foot to foot, looking from their grandfather towards the travelbag that Genis carries. He pretends not to notice it for a while as he sits down, unbuttoning his traveling cloak and putting the - quite heavy - bag over the floor. Finally, he huffs in a very Raine-like way and shakes his head.
"I did brought presents," Genis says, watching the hopeful look change into radiant grins. "But I refuse to give you two anything until I've seen your school grades AND before I get some of your mom's tea and cookies."
He took the jubilous cry of 'yay' as his answer, watching the two boys run towards the house, wincing when something crashed and then Anna's voice asked, resigned, just how many times had she asked them not to run inside the house. There was a small comfort on how some things didn't change.
"So, Genis," Lloyd asks after he has retrieved the wooden practice swords his grandchildren forgot, leaving them gently by his side, stretching and flopping down on the bench. Genis smiled, glad that no matter what age was, Lloyd would always be the same. It was easier to believe himself twelve again with his young friend like that, laughing at Lloyd's impression while Colette giggled nearby. "Not that I mind, because, you know, I don't but... what are you doing back home? I thought you were as glad as possible in Palmacosta."
"I just thought it was time to come back home," Genis answers, not wanting to dampen the reunion by saying that a person he once knew had died. It had been bad enough when it had been Lloyd's wife, ten years ago, or Regal, three years ago, or the fact that he kept waiting to receive more bad news. Instead, he gives a sly grin. "See that you haven't completely rotten Zelos and Kratos. Especially Zelos. With that name, it'll just take a little push before everything goes downhill."
"Oi, that's not fair!" Lloyd tries to glare but he shakes his head, relaxed and content; with the way legends go, Genis has to bite his lip to refrain from laughing when he remembers what he has heard of Lloyd Irving Aurion, the Mythical Hero that Reunited the World; when he tries to fit it with the man sitting by his side, he has to pretend to cough.
There are days when he's still a little surprised that his best friend is a hero. And, in his low days, those days when he misses Mithos, he's just surprised at having a friend at all.
"And where's professor Sage? She stopped by a few months ago, to share some of her discoveries with Anna," Lloyd shakes his head. "Can you tell me how did I end with an archeologist for a daughter?"
"Of course," Genis says with a nod. "She took after her mom."
"Gee, Genis, thanks."
"Also, she had the great influence of her godfather."
"Okay, I get it."
"And of course -"
"OKAY!" Lloyd shakes his head but grinned, eyes warm and easygoing as ever. Genis smiles too, Lloyd's presence like a soothing potions that eases his fatigue and loneliness.
"And, as for Raine, she's fine. Very happy with her husband, still traveling all over the world, chasing after ruins one at the time. I hear they're making me an uncle soon... what's with the face?"
"No, nothing. Just... " Lloyd sniggered. "Your face just now. You so can't wait for that, right?"
Genis blushes a bit. "Well... perhaps."
"And what about you, man? When are you making me and the professor uncles?"
Genis gives a soft sigh and looks at his friend's house, the only place he ever things as home, despite the fact that he does own a place in Iselia, or the children he has known since they were born. He thinks of all the scents that are in this clearing, and the warmth of Lloyd's smile and eyes.
"I dunno," he says easily, not looking at Lloyd for fear that he gets one of his rare insightful moments, smiling as Kratos beats Zelos out the door and runs towards them. "One of these days."
"UncleGenisandgrandpamomsaysyou'renotgettinganythingeitheruntilshehugsuncleGenisfirst!" Zelos scowls as he gets closer, but Kratos just grins, triumphant.
"And she also says that dinner is almost ready, so you should come inside," Zelos says, taking his brother's hand and walking back inside; their banter is sweet and familiar, and Genis thinks for a moment that he would give everything he had to be that age again.
"Well, you heard 'em," Lloyd stands up and stretches, picks up the wooden swords with a hand and then stretches his other hand towards him. "C'mon, Genis. It'll be your welcome-home-dinner."
Genis smiles and takes his hand and squeezes softly. "Thank you, Lloyd. It's good to be back."