Worth Waiting For
Beta read by: k3ybl4d3, JadedSilk, YanaQuNozerith on Y!Gallery, and leichan0767 here on FFnet
Disclaimer: Tales of Symphonia and all of its characters belongs to Namco, not me.
Running to where Zelos had fallen, Lloyd immediately knelt by the red-haired swordsman's side. Zelos' face was drawn and deathly white with pain and blood loss, a parallel set of deep gashes painting his front a bloody crimson. The lighter wound carved deep through his chest; Lloyd choked back bile as he realized that he could distinguish the yellow of the shattered and gouged bone beneath the mutilated flesh. Even so, this wound was nothing compared to the gruesome mess of Zelos' lower abdomen, courtesy of the dragon's serrated claws. Belly wounds like this were almost always fatal due to infection from the spreading filth of the ruptured innards… Zelos had pressed his left hand tightly against the wound, blocking the worst from Lloyd's view, but it wasn't hard to imagine what lay beneath. They had messed up, and badly. In addition to the two gashes, Zelos' right palm and some of the fingers had been slashed. There were also some small cuts and a nasty puncture wound on the swordsman's shoulder caused by the Night Raid that had snuck up from behind.
"Zelos!" Lloyd cried, frantically covering Zelos' hand with his own, applying pressure to the redhead's wounded abdomen. Zelos opened his mouth to speak but choked instead on the blood beginning to fill his lungs, a thick stream welling up and spilling over his alarmingly white lips to trickle down his chin. Lloyd blinked away moisture from his eyes and began digging in his pockets for a gel he might have missed. Damn, but this was a horrible time to have run out! Zelos squeezed his eyes shut tightly, shuddering uncontrollably as a soft whimper escaped his lips. Sick with pain, he turned his head away from Lloyd and hacked up a mixture of blood and vomit. Coughing hard enough to bring tears to his eyes, Zelos finally found his lungs clear enough to speak between the coughs.
"Man… my beautiful… body… is ruined!" Zelos tried to force a grin, all mostly for Lloyd's sake. Lloyd shook his head as a determination flared in his eyes, his fingers closing around a solitary apple gel. He gently lifted Zelos' hand away from the wound, nearly retching when he saw the extent of the injury. Zelos hadn't been just trying to staunch the flow of blood- he'd been trying to keep his insides from spilling out… or, what was left of them. Without further hesitation, Lloyd poured the gel onto the gash, immediately taking Zelos' hand in his own and once again covering the wound. He braced himself with his left hand as he leaned over the redhead, waiting for some sign of recovery as time seemed to grind to a halt.
Zelos seemed to be growing paler by the second, dying by inches as time flew past. Finally, he reached up with a violently trembling right hand, brushing a tear from Lloyd's cheek with his knuckles and simultaneously smearing blood across the childlike face. "Lloyd…" he whispered. "Babe, don't bother. They… got me pretty good." Goddess, he could barely hear his own voice. He felt so weak.
Lloyd choked back a sob. Oh god, Zelos' voice was so faint. This wasn't happening. "But-!"
Zelos chuckled. "Lloyd. Don't be cruel, bud," he whispered. "…Are you okay?"
Lloyd nodded, tears running down his face unchecked. Zelos sighed with relief, blood bubbling in the corner of his mouth. Lloyd couldn't help but ask, "Does… it hurt real bad?"
Zelos smiled. "Not really. My chest burns like hell, but…" at Lloyd's disbelieving look, he turned his head away. "To tell you the truth… I can't really feel anything from the middle of my back and down. I think… something snapped inside me when I was flung against that boulder," he whispered, closing his eyes as tears finally leaked from them. "I can't use my mana to heal myself either, for some reason," he mumbled before looking down at his broken body. "Oh, goddess… I'm really gonna die, aren't I?"
Lloyd shook his head, flinging tears onto Zelos. "How," he faltered, voice cracking, "how can you expect me to answer that!?"
Zelos just smiled in response before letting his hand fall back to the blood-soaked soil beneath him. He had to stay strong, die with honor and all that jazz. And yet, as he caught sight of the naked anguish and horror in Lloyd's eyes, his smile began to waver. It was too much. Finally Zelos gasped, fresh tears forming and running down his cheeks as he let his walls crumble. Despite what Zelos had said in the past about how living tired him…
"I…" Zelos broke off, choking. He tried to prop himself upright with his right arm, but found himself far too weak. Seeing this, Lloyd shifted forward, lifting Zelos' upper torso with his right hand. Carefully, he held the fading swordsman with one hand on his ribs, the other still covering Zelos' as he pressed against the swordsman's abdomen, trying to stop the flow of blood.
Zelos let his head fall forward, hacking and sobbing for air as he tried to clear his lungs. Lloyd waited with grim silence, ignoring the blood splattering across his clothing.
Finally, Zelos fell silent, trembling as the world seemed to blur around him. After a few seconds, he tried to speak, only to find his throat closed tightly with tears. He lifted his hand to weakly grasp Lloyd's shoulder before attempting to speak again.
"I…" he whispered, so faintly that Lloyd had to lean down to hear. "I don't want to die," he finally said, trembling from the effort it took just to raise his head so he could look Lloyd in the eye. "I don't… want to die," he repeated, wonder evident in his voice as the realization hit him. His grip on Lloyd's shoulder was weakening, darkness bleeding in from the edges of his vision. "I… Goddess, Lloyd, I'm… scared," he finished, the last barely audible.
Lloyd just pulled Zelos closer so that the redhead fell against his chest, his head resting on Lloyd's shoulder. Lloyd couldn't help but nuzzle that Indian red hair, burying his face in the wild locks to hide his tears. "There's no shame in wanting to live," he whispered hoarsely in a muffled, tight voice. "You're not a coward, Zelos. You're not." His voice cracked.
Zelos suddenly went limp in his arms, snapping Lloyd out of his shocked daze. Zelos needed help immediately. With a glance to the sky, Lloyd realized that very little time had passed. After a moment's debate, Lloyd carefully shifted so that he could lift the alarmingly light swordsman in his arms after pulling out a wing pack and expanding it. Standing, he carried Zelos to the Rheiard, propping the limp swordsman in front of him so that Zelos leaned against his chest. As he ascended out of the forest, Lloyd realized that they were quite close to Heimdall's new location. Turning south, he flew at breakneck speed to Meltokio. Raine was currently spending some time at the elemental research laboratory, taking a brief rest from her mission to spread tolerance across the newly combined worlds. Glancing down at Zelos, he saw that the redhead had become alarmingly still, his chest barely rising as he breathed. His skin was paper-white, making his lashes stand out black on the drawn and bloodless face. The bleeding had slowed, but Lloyd had the sick feeling that this was more likely because there wasn't much blood left… not because the wounds were closing.
Finally spotting the city on the horizon, Lloyd descended until he touched down directly in front of Meltokio's gates. Fighting off the rising feeling of panic, he lifted Zelos, stowed the Rheiard, and sprinted through the gates into the city.
R&R, if you want to see what happens next!
Don't worry, there are at LEAST six more chapters already done, and I don't plan on ending this story too quickly. It might have a happy ending, for once! The more reviews I get, the sooner I'll post the next chapter. (Hint, hint!)