Disclaimer - Most unfortunately, Tales of Symphonia does not belong to me. Let it be known that if it did, Colloyd would have happened (would have happened clearly, I should say) and Sheena would have maintained a somewhat-too-obvious appreciation for handsome, redheaded, hero-worshipped playboys. Or at least one in particular.

Author - Chibi

Notes - Oh, I should start off by saying that this fic isn't really AU, but it does take place years before the game play starts (in which I've heard Lloyd is seventeen, Colette is sixteen, and Genis is twelve years old). I'm trying to mold this into a prelude to a certain side-quest of the game, and if you can figure out what that side-quest is, you get a really big cookie in the flavor of your choice! Lol.

Please read and review honestly, but not too harshly.

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Characters / Ages

Lloyd / 13

Colette / 12

Genis / 8

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Title - "Just Imagine" (- Part Three)

Summary - Lloyd had never imagined a time when he wouldn't be able to protect Colette. Colette had never imagined a time when she and Genis would be kissing. Colloyd. Ish.

Dedication - Heh; to Silvie-chan! Because I brainwashed you into buying ToS and supporting Colloyd, too (though it wasn't that hard). And it's all worth it to have someone to talk to about it. Lol.

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The rest of the journey back to the village was a quiet, peaceful one. Lloyd could now say that he understood Colette and her position as the Chosen just a bit better. She was doing it for people who didn't deserve to fear for their lives when walking between cities or traveling across the sea for importing, exporting, or tourist purposes. She was someone who approved of a happy environment, something enriching for everyone to have a part in. And Lloyd thought maybe it was more than just that.

Colette was an honest-to-Martel good person, but she was also very. . . er. . . glass-footed. She spent a lot of her time caring about other people and not nearly enough caring about herself. She wouldn't let anyone worry about her and, instead, chose only to worry about others - even when she'd been in a near-death experience.

She was just that kind of person, and Lloyd wondered now how that might have effected her gaining her special position. Was she a good person because she was the Chosen, or was she the Chosen because she was a good person? Did the whole process, this journey, have anything to do with the person Colette was becoming?

". . . No; no way. . ." He murmured. The three kids were walking towards the front gate now.

"Lloyd, what is it?" Colette asked innocently, glancing curiously in his direction.

"Oh, nothing, really. . . I just didn't think we'd reach town so fast is all."

"Yeah, time really flies when you're enjoying yourself. At least, that's what I've heard all these years. . . and now I can say it's true, I think!"

Lloyd didn't take Colette's comment to heart. He knew what she meant.

"Uh. . . yeah," Lloyd wasn't even thinking about it when he continued his statement, but he sighed and gulped and suddenly the words had flown from his mouth. "You're the best person I know, and you should always be the way you are now because it's. . . just who you are. I thought you should know that." He wasn't even looking at her as he said it, but he knew she must have heard.

". . . Thanks, Lloyd; you're the best person I know, too, okay?" She said and he was sure she had one of her brightest smiles on.

The closer they got to the village gate the louder the voices got until the three children finally realized that they were hearing their own names being called by the inhabitants of their hometown.

"Why do you think they're looking for us?" Lloyd whispered to Genis, suddenly unsure of whether or not he wanted to be seen by the people seeking him out.

"Gee, Lloyd, maybe it's 'cause of the fact that we ran off to swim even though we weren't supposed to go anywhere?"

"But. . . I thought the Professor would take care of that." He admitted sheepishly, and Genis scoffed.

"She could pretend she didn't know anything but, when it comes down to it, she can't lie to the Mayor, especially not all day." He replied, shrugging. "We're lucky, though; they didn't chase us down to where we were. . . Maybe my sister didn't tell them anything. . ." He finished in wonder.

Lloyd grinned; it was good that, while the Professor wouldn't lie, she was privy to not telling the complete truth, either - and especially when it benefited him and his friends.

"C'mon, guys; we'd better get back. Before they do try and chase us down. . ." He sighed, but with a glimmer of acceptence towards his fate. He turned and offered a hand to Colette and she smiled at him, too, before both headed back.

When the guards at the villiage gates noticed the shadows appearing in the dimming firelight of the flames lighting the Iselia border, they grew curious, and wary. But when those shadows were finally recognized as those belonging to Lloyd, Colette, and Genis - especially Colette, though - they were not the only ones to run out onto the path to greet - and scold - the three of them.

Indeed, half of the town seemed to immediately gather around them, and Lloyd suddenly felt a bit suffocated. He had liked it much better when it was just him and his friends, enjoying themselves as earnestly as they could.

"Where have you been? Colette, you know you're supposed to stay in the village at all times, unless you're given explicit permission to visit Dirk's house." The Mayor shouted in a tone that demanded both respect, and an explanation.

"I'm sorry, sir. I. . . we. . ."

"Me, too, Mayor. We just needed to cool down from the weather, and. . . well. . . I didn't think it was fair that we all couldn't go and have some fun. So it was my fault." Lloyd cleared his throat, trying to avoid staring too much at the Professor, who he noticed standing about three people away from him. He wanted to avoid her getting questioned any further than was necessary, because it wouldn't be a good thing if one of the most responsible adults of Iselia were to be discovered as a liar, let alone one who disobeyed the law of the Priests of the Chosen.

"I'm sure it was," the man scoffed worse than Genis had a few minutes ago, crossing his arms. "No offense, Lloyd Irving, but you've never been the best example of how to follow the rules, have you?"

"Hey, that's not fair! It's not like I tried to stop him!" Genis said in defense of his best friend. Lloyd suddenly thought that the elf's shadow, flickering in and out and changing shape rapidly as he jumped forward and raised his voice, was the most interesting thing in the world.

"Yes, well. . . I know you well enough, Mr. Sage, to acknowledge you as someone who listens to what he's told. But Mr. Irving here never minds finding a loophole, a way out."

"Look, Mayor, they all came back safely, right? So there's really no harm done, is there?" Professor Raine suddenly spoke up, but her words were unheeded.

"Professor Sage, you may be a respectable member of this town, and your brother our greatest over-achiever, but you need to know your place. It doesn't matter that they came back safely when we all think about what could have happened, right?" He was glancing in the direction of theĀ  general audience now, as though asking for agreement. "Do not forget just how much Colette means to this village, let alone the world of Sylvarant in a whole. And what she took part in today. . ." He broke off, and had already immediately convinced more than half of the people there.

"Those rules are set for a reason, aren't they?" One person happened to ask another, and there was a nod in response.

"And Colette's not a very disobedient child, either; so it can't be her fault, at all. . ."

"She knows her responsibilites, so we could trust her. But. . . him. . . ? He's not even a true member of this village. . . !" The mutterings were becoming collective and, quite honestly, Lloyd wasn't sure how much more negativity he could stand being directed at him before he lashed back out at the people before him in his own defense.

Luckily, someone got there first.

"That's not true!" Colette yelled out, stepping up for the first time and stomping her foot in a way that suggested she was trying to make a point. "Lloyd and Genis are my friends and. . . and I wanted to go, too! They didn't trick me into leaving, and they didn't force me! And they didn't leave me alone the whole time! They made sure I was okay no matter where we were!" Her defiant tone softened, but still remained serious, "It's not right that they get blamed or punished unless. . . I do, too. And stop saying it's all Lloyd's fault! He's my best friend and he means a lot to me; he doesn't deserve it!"

The many voices that had been speaking distressedly against the double-blade-wielding boy finally simmered down and then disappeared all-together. Even the Mayor, while still the most influential person in town, didn't think he would have had much luck standing up against the Chosen, no matter how young she may have been. Her will, after all, decided the fate of the whole world, right?

"Why, yes, but. . ." He sputtered, not exactly keen at being overrun by a twelve year old girl. "I'm sorry, but I still say some action needs to be taken. . . However. . ." And here he turned to Professor Raine and nodded his head in her direction, "I daresay that I don't know how to handle it best. I don't know Dirk Irving's rule of consequence, and Genis is not my child to handle, nor is Colette. Therefore, I don't think I should be the one to lay out the punishment." A grin that was sickly enough to suggest he loved quite dearly not having to be someone else flitted across his elderly face, flickering creepily in the firelight. "Professor Sage and Mr. Brunel know you all far better, and should be able to take control of you." He grunted under his breath as the two adults he had addressed nodded silently at him and then turned back to re-enter the village.

Everyone else followed swiftly, the three children lining up behind the Professor and Colette's father, who remained silent until they'd entered the pathway heading towards the Sage home.

Colette seemed to be paying close attention to the fireflies floating on and off along the vines of ivy hanging from the walls next to the front door as they all entered, a vibrant hue colorinng her cheeks in the light barely glimmering around them. For whatever reason, Lloyd felt it only fair to respond to the expression on her face, and so his cheeks automatically glowed as well.

"You three really pressed your luck today, didn't you?" Raine asked them all, and Lloyd was wondering how to answer to the underlying tone before he realized that she had breathed a sigh of relief. "I didn't know how much longer we were going to be able to hold them off; we're just lucky the Mayor left it up to us to figure out what to do with you."

"Us?" Lloyd asked, and Genis' eyes widened, the elf turning to stare up at the man walking behind them all, single-file.

"You knew, too!"

"Of course he did," Raine admonished, but her expression was still calm. "You can't have really thought you would all be able to trample through his front door, screaming about changing clothes and Colette coming out wearing her bathing suit and a pair of shorts, and have him not notice, did you?"

Frank grinned at his daughter, leaning down and pulled her close, whispering in her ear.

"I'm glad you enjoyed yourself."

"Thank you, father!" She smiled up at him and Lloyd finally realized how close the two were. Just like a man and his only child.

They all sat at the small dining room table in the equally as small home and Raine started speaking again.

"You three really pushed it tonight. I mean, didn't you consider what we were jeopardizing when you all walked out of the village?" The three children stared up at her blankly and she sighed exasperatedly. "I didn't think so. . ."

"But, sis. . . ! Even I didn't think about it, so it's not anything that was on the top of our minds. . ." Genis excused them all.

"Even so, what I did for you all was a favor, and I'd have hoped you'd all return it by thinking more about the consequences of being out so late with the one person who will one day save us all from the Desians." She crossed her arms, her tone sharp, before she shut her eyes, breathed deep, and shook her head.

"But I guess. . . I never brought it up with you either. And you all are just lucky nothing happened while you were gone. The Mayor has no true justification to back up his hopes for punishment if you all went and returned with no harm done."

All three children seemed to stare at one another for just a moment, but Professor Raine and Mr. Brunel hadn't noticed.

"Because of this, I see no reason to actually punish you, especially seeing as I'm the one who permitted you access to the forest anyway. Next time, however. . . we must be more cautious."

It was the end of the lecture, it seemed, as they were finally allowed to get up from their seats and walk out of the house. Raine told them to at least look as though they'd been told off, though it was a bit hard to look at the Mayor as Lloyd ran for the pathway leading towards his own house, and not laugh at how he'd gotten off easy when the man had been hoping for something to happen. Genis stopped at the gate alongside Lloyd and Colette and the others and wished his best friend a farewell.

"You don't need me to come, right? You're good to go on your own?" The elf said and Lloyd nodded in response.

"Yeah, you guys go home, and be happy that the Professor didn't do or say worse to us." He gave a small laugh under his breath, his whisper almost being cut off before having been finished.

"Hm, but I think she only says those things because she cares about us. It's kind of nice to know that so many people feel that way for you, doesn't it?" And Colette turned to stare at her father and Raine for a few seconds before facing her best friends again.

". . . Yeah, maybe you're right Colette. Anyway, goodnight guys, and--" This time he was cut off, though it wasn't from a laugh or someone else's words. . .

. . . Colette had kissed him on the cheek. And when she pulled away and he continued to stare at her as though seeing her for the first time, she giggled nervously but didn't look as though she regretted it too much.

". . . I'm sorry. It was just, earlier. . . you looked like you were left out. I thought that would make it better."

"C - Colette. . ." He was caught halfway between utter embarrassment (Genis was right beside him, trying his hardest not to laugh, and the Professor and Frank were standing back patiently and smiling in a strange way) and flattery. But had he really looked earlier like he wanted a kiss, too? It was news to him as much as the rest of them.

"I'm sorry! Oh, I guess it was a bad idea. . . but I won't do it again because you don't want me to. I just wanted you to go back to how you were before what happened tonight."

"N - no, no. . . it's okay I guess. I mean, yeah, but it was just a shock so. . . Uh, th - thanks, Colette. And you don't have to apologize about it, okay?" He sighed exasperatedly, his personal feelings towards the gesture she'd just made towards him finally dispersing.

"O - oh, right, don't apologize. . . sorry, Lloyd. Oh, wait! Sorry I said sorry. . ." She fumbled a few times and he could only sigh again. That was just how Colette was, and it was going to be a lot harder to change that than to simply tell her that certain things she said and did weren't necessary.

"It's okay. I'm gonna go now, though. I'll see you guys later, okay?"

"Okay; goodnight!" And Colette turned back towards her father, a red tinge to her cheeks.

"Yeah, see you tomorrow in class!" And Genis, too, ran to his sister's side.

"Right. . . class. . ." Raine spoke up for the first time in ten minutes. "Lloyd, be sure to do that homework I assigned a couple days ago! It's due tomorrow and I'm tired of your excuses, alright?" She finished in a shout, because he was already zipping towards the Iselia woods in the direction of his home, acting as though he couldn't hear her.

He raised a hand up into the air, even with his back turned, as though to give a final farewell, and something dawned on Colette's face as the Professor gave up and she and Genis began walking in the opposite direction of the rest of them.

"Oh, wait! Thanks, Lloyd, for helping to save my life tonight!" Lloyd halted right there in his fifty meter dash, afraid to even turn around. "And you too, Genis; I owe you two a lot, don't I?" But Genis was shaking his head rapidly as though telling her to stop speaking and she didn't understand.

"Why are you looking like that? What's wrong?"

". . . What happened that you haven't told us?" Raine asked with a tight-lipped smile, her grip on her younger sibling's shoulder tightening as she did so. Genis himself felt the world grow a lot smaller as he sensed the waves from his sister's rage.

And even now Colette didn't seem to understand what she'd said that was wrong.

So the Professor chased Lloyd down before he could make it back home (actually, before he could even make it into the woods) and pulled him towards the village, holding him by the scruff of his neck the entire time. There, she forced all three of them back to her house and really told them off so that afterwards, Lloyd wasn't faking in the slightest the gaunt and deathly expression on his face after she had finished.

It was reported to Dirk what had happened and he was given a beating. Genis was almost limping as he walked into class the next day, saying something about how books were no longer his friends and mentioning how he had been grounded for a few months, and Colette wasn't seen for almost a week.

Lloyd was upset that the elf seemed to have been hurt (although he could have been the one to tell him that books had never been friends of anyone), but he was more-so scared when he realized it had been a long while since he'd seen his other friend. What had happened? The Church of Martel now knew what had transpired at the watering hole, so where was Colette? Had the priests done something? Where was she this entire time?

He had asked Raine a few times but all she'd done was say that Colette was being kept busy with her Chosen duties and that she'd be back soon. She never really looked him in the eye.

And yet, not until almost half a month later did Colette finally show up again, looking tired, but otherwise okay.

"I'm sorry you had to worry, guys. Grandma Phaidra was upset about what happened at the lake awhile ago and she pulled me from school to refine my angelic language and my physical training. I'm pretty good with those chakrams now!" She giggled, but it was half-hearted. ". . . It's my fault. . . I'm sorry. Are you two okay?"

Both of the boys had been covered in bruises for the first week back in class, but had recovered all the while and now looked healthy. Knowing Colette would take their injuries to heart, they chanced a glance at one another and brushed it off, acting as though nothing had been done to them at all.

"I see; well, I'm really happy for you, then!" And her smile was a little stronger this time. She glanced around the class wistfully before her eyes landed on her seat in the middle of the room. "I missed this place; I'm glad things didn't change while I was gone. They won't, will they?" She asked, turning to look at her friends as though they would know the answer.

"Um. . ." Lloyd tried to sound as confident as any hero might, and he tried to sound like Mithos. "Of course not, Colette! I'll make sure that things are always the same here, so that it's something you can come back to and believe in when you're done whatever you need to do to save the world!" He clenched a fist, suddenly believing his own riot.

". . . Thanks, Lloyd. I'm sorry if it's a bother. I'm going to miss you guys, though. I can only be here for today."

"Huh? Why? The day of Prophecy hasn't come yet, has it?" Genis asked, and he seemed to be trying to remember the thousands of notes and facts stored in his head, hoping to find the one that would remind him when that day actually was.

"No, no; not yet. . . but the priests want me to train more, to get stronger and to learn more about my heretage and my journey. It's not now, but before we know it, it'll be here. And I have to be ready. That's what they say. Sorry." She said, bowing slightly.

". . . Oh. That's what's going on." Suddenly, Lloyd's world seemed smaller, too. He didn't know what else to say, but somehow felt it might be his turn to apologize to her. It just seemed to be the case, more than anything. "So how often will you be missing class then?"

"Um. . ." Colette was unsure as her index finger trailed her chin in thought, "maybe two weeks at a time? The priests and grandma can't help it; they say I need to be strong and quick-witted. . . though I'm not sure what they mean. They're afraid for me because the last Chosen failed during their journey and I've already shown that I need help to regenerate the world. But I'll make sure they let me come back a few times to see you guys in class, and I'll trainĀ  as hard as possible so that - maybe - they'll say I'm strong enough and let me rejoin class permanently!" After reaching this exclamation, her tone suddenly dropped a few notches and became more modest, "I - I mean, if that's okay."

"What are you saying?" Genis asked incredulously.

"Yeah, Colette; of course it's okay!" Lloyd continued. As he finished his statement, Professor Raine happened to enter the classroom and they were forced to put their discussion on hold. She glanced at her three pupils warily as she walked up to her desk, signaling they should take their seats as well, but not before Lloyd added one more thing to his statement.

"Make us proud, Colette!"

She nodded with a bright smile and they all turned away, Genis approaching the front and Lloyd heading to the back. The blond Chosen walked two desks over and sat straight in the center of the room. It was enough of a distance so that she didn't hear her best friend's final words, a mutter under his breath.

". . . And I swear that I'll make you proud, too."

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Notes - WooT! It's finished! And I managed to steal my best friend's used-to-be-catch-phrase for my notes! HAH! Anyway, I'm so happy this is done. I hope that the ending of this chapter helped everyone to assume that what happened to Colette the one time she was able to escape Iselia is the reason she had no freedom afterwards (basically how it was told in the game). In case no one's figured it out, the side-quest I used to reference to this entire thing was the Altameria one, where you find the four children and earn a day at the beach. Come to think of it, I played that part of the game again recently and it sounds like Colette never even got out of Iselia once, so I guess the plot here is moot. Unless you like it anyway. That makes it all worthwhile for me. Yay!

Anyway, I have an idea for another, kind of more serious, fic. . . but I don't know if I can make it work. I could turn it into a drabble about Colloyd from Cruxis' point of view, or I can weave it a little longer so that Lloyd and Colette will wonder about their identities and relationship with one another. Hm, which one sounds the most appealing? If you want, you can let me know in your reviews!