The Devil's Love Song

Chapter Ten: Awakening

--

When he opened his eyes, Lloyd found himself looking toward the sky above him. The sun hung lazily in the sky, surrounded by the still clouds that painted the heavens. There was no wind, no sound - simply a peaceful stillness that stretched from the cool, green grass on which he lay to beyond the clouds and into infinity.

He breathed deeply, taking in that familiar scent of oak trees, pine trees, and wildflowers that reminded him of home. Home... so that was where he was. Turning his head, he saw a large tree on a hill and a village in the distance. But was he really home this time? Or was this just...

"...Your memories," he heard a gentle voice say as a hand fell upon his forehead, "of where we used to play as children."

Lloyd tilted his head back to see Colette's smiling face looking down at him. He smiled back.

"Yeah," he replied. "We used to come here all the time - you, me, Genis..."

The girl nodded, stroking his hair affectionately. "This is your world... this is everything you've ever known, everything you've ever dreamed of. This is the place where the real "you" is born." She placed the boy's head in her lap and continued. "You've come a long way, Lloyd. You lost yourself to your fears. But now you can rebuild yourself - you can free yourself from who you used to be."

"I know." He replied, relaxing in her touch. "All of my life, there were people that I couldn't protect. My friends, my mother, my hometown... I always thought it was my fault that they left me alone. I thought I wasn't strong enough." He shut his eyes. "That's why I needed you. I needed to protect you. I needed to be your hero so you wouldn't leave me alone. But somewhere, I went wrong - I started believing lies about other people... about myself."

"You let your lies control you," added Colette, "and you lost sight of the truth."

Lloyd slowly nodded. "But now I know better. You and Mom and the others - you reminded me that I was never alone."

She shook her head, giggling. "That wasn't us, silly," she said, "you found the truth yourself; in your memories of us."

"My memories..." Yes, it was true - the truth he needed to free himself from his cycle of fear and madness had always been there in his heart, locked away by the pain of his past. Just when he thought he would lose himself forever, he recalled the love he had been given by the people in his life. It was his own memory of those who had loved him that summoned that life-changing realization - even through all of his failures and mistakes, he always had the ones he loved by his side. He grinned.

"...Yeah," he said. "I'm not afraid anymore. I know the truth now - that's what makes me strong."

"I guess you're more stubborn than I thought."

The other voice startled Lloyd. He jolted upright.

"Mithos..."

Before him stood his former enemy, his boyish face holding a bittersweet smile. He nodded.

"It was you, wasn't it?" asked Lloyd, "You were the one who told me those lies, weren't you? Why did you...?"

"Hmm," said the boy's spirit. "Lloyd... you and I are two different people. We each chose a different path. But when I give myself up to your exsphere, I realized that, in some ways, we are alike."

Lloyd thought about this. "We both had someone we wanted to protect..."

"...And we both went to great lengths to do so." Mithos looked over his old adversary, staring into the horizon. "I thought that maybe I could make you understand; that I could force you to see the world through my eyes. But, in the end, you stayed true to your path, just like I did."

Lloyd nodded. His words surprised the swordsman; however, he believed he understood what he had been trying to do. "I do understand," he said, "what it must have been like. But, like you said, I chose my own path." His eyes lit up with determination as he continued. "I chose to believe in this world rather than loose my faith. Maybe you can't understand - maybe you don't have a reason to understand - but this is my choice, and I choose to keep believing!"

Mithos chuckled. "I figured you would say that." He then turned towards the sky. "...Your friends are calling you."

"Yeah." Lloyd stood and looked upwards.

"Go. You've earned it." The other boy looked back at him. "Embrace your life. Make the most of it. You, at least, should enjoy the happiness you've attained."

A gust a wind suddenly disturbed the peaceful scenery. Lloyd quickly turned to see Mithos' spirit fading before his eyes.

"Mithos! Wait!"

"Under different circumstances, we could have been allies," said the specter, "I've accepted my loss. Now it's time for me to see my sister again."

"That's not it!" cried Lloyd. "Someday, when it's my turn to go... when we see each other again... you, me, and everyone who died because of us..." He made a fist over his heart, his familiar idealism laced in his words, "I swear it will all be all right between us! I promise...!"

Mithos was surprised by his enemy's promise. Nevertheless, he smiled.

"Yes. Perhaps, then, we can become friends." He vanished into thin air. "Farewell."

With that, Lloyd felt himself being swept off of his feet, tumbling towards the sun and through his consciousness...

--

Morning crept through the velvet curtains, casting a thin beam of sunlight into the room where Lloyd had been laying. It crawled up the side of the bed and towards the young girl who, while diligently watching over the boy she loved, had fallen asleep by his bedside. The warmth of the sun upon her face stirred Colette, who slowly opened her eyes and sat up, looking towards Lloyd's comatose form.

Still, nothing. She reached her hand to touch his face.

"Colette?"

Professor Sage stood in the doorway, a mug of warm coffee in her hand. She looked at Colette worryingly.

"O-oh, Professor," said the girl before a yawn escaped her lips.

Raine sighed. "...I should have expected you to be here," she said as she walked over to a nearby chair to examine Lloyd. "I know you're worried about him, but you need to get some rest. You look like you've been up all night!"

"I'm fine," answered Colette with another yawn, "really."

"Listen to yourself, you're exhausted. You should go back to -"

The conversation came to a dead halt when the two noticed Lloyd's hand twitching. Then, his face began to move, his eyes struggling to open.

"He's waking up...!"

"What!?" cried Genis, who, along with Zelos, came running into the room.

"He's waking up!" cried Colette. She gripped Lloyd's hand. "Lloyd! Lloyd! Please, open your eyes...!"

She then saw a set of rich, brown eyes staring back at her.

An uncontrollable smile formed on each of their faces. "Well, would you look at that?" laughed Zelos, "Good morning, Sunshine!"

Lloyd slowly sat up, rubbing his eyes. He smiled groggily. "Hey guys."

"Lloyd..." whispered Colette, tears forming in her eyes. "Lloyd!!" She suddenly tackled the boy, knocking him back onto the bed, weeping.

"C-Colette!" said Genis, "cut it out! You're gonna hurt him!"

"I'm sorry," she sobbed into his chest, "I'm so sorry... I couldn't even do anything to help you this time... even when you said you needed me... I-I couldn't...!"

Lloyd shook his head, lifting the girl off of him and sitting up again, wiping the tears from her face. "You're wrong," he said tenderly, "You were there for me. You never abandoned me. That was the greatest thing you could have done for me." He brushed her bangs back and gently kissed her on the forehead. "You saved me. Thank you."

Colette's cheeks glowed a bright red as she felt his lips touch her skin. Then, unable to contain her love, her joy, and everything she had ever felt for him, she kissed him back, passionately bringing her lips to his own. They suddenly heard a snicker behind them.

"Aww," chortled Zelos, "now isn't that just the cutest?"

"Ewww!" cried Genis, clearly embarrassed by the whole thing, "Get a room, you two!"

"Sh-shut up!" said Lloyd angrily.

Raine shook her head and stood up. "Honestly, all of you are acting like children," she said, herding the two troublemakers out of the room. "Let's leave them alone." As she stood be the door, she looked back at Colette and Lloyd with a smile. "I'm trusting you two to behave, now."

The two looked at each other as the door shut. "Wh-what do you think she meant by that?" asked Lloyd.

"I don't know," answered Colette. He took his left hand, on which his Exsphere had returned to its normal color. "But... you're back, right? The real you?"

He nodded. "Yeah. I'm back."

"Then..." she leaned in again. "Welcome home, Lloyd."

--

The Devil's Love Song

-End-

NOTICE: An alternate ending, based just after the events of Chapter Six, will be posted soon.