A Tales of Symphonia fan fiction by Hitokiri-san
A/N: Like many ToS fans, I'm utterly captured by the oyako fluff between Lloyd and Kratos. I am of the opinion that the game simply does not give them any time for interaction at all. So I decided to give them some.
This piece is born because I think it is an awful, awful thing to know that you are absent from your son's life; that he is standing in front of you, but you will never be able to be his father. Kratos may be good at putting up a stoic face, but even he has his limits.
Kratos listened absently as Lloyd shuffled over to the campfire behind him, feeding it with an armful of branches. The night was exceptionally cold in the countryside; keeping the fire burning throughout the night would probably prevent anyone from getting a chill.
It was originally Kratos' job, seeing that he was on night watch tonight, but the mercenary suspected that Lloyd was merely occupying himself with the idle task.
It had become some sort of a ritual, how the boy would rise from his makeshift bed in the dead of the night, unable to sleep. Kratos had always known that Lloyd's life had been littered with tragic experiences since the start of the Regeneration journey – something that he deeply regretted - but the boy never had trouble with sleeping during the earlier part of their trip. It might have been the stress, steadily building up like a tower, that had finally caused Lloyd's insomnia.
No one had ever seemed to notice Lloyd's sleeplessness, save for him and the Chosen. Him, because he had the night watch for the majority of the time – it would hardly do to have women and children staying awake through the night for long periods of time. And in any event, Kratos didn't even need to sleep, even though he could in practice.
Her, because she could no longer sleep as a result of the angel transformation. She didn't confront Lloyd about it, though. Colette obviously knew that Lloyd would get worked up over her worrying over his insomnia, and opted instead to cheer him up during the day.
Feeling the urge to calm his sleepless son, Kratos had asked Lloyd to explain what was on his mind.
"If your worries are preventing you from getting some much needed rest, then it is better to share it with someone," He'd said. Lloyd had given him an odd look, tentative about opening up. While Kratos was someone he trusted and respected greatly, his thoughts were of a personal nature and he'd been hesitant to share it.
When he did decide to share his thoughts with Kratos, however, the mercenary began to regret his decision. Sometimes, Lloyd's words would cut so close to home it took Kratos all of his willpower simply not to react. His own lack of control was something that concerned him – having lived for four millennia, there was little that could move him anymore. Lloyd, however, was always exceptional in this aspect.
Once, Lloyd had talked about Anna.
"…I would've given anything to see Mom again," the dual swordsman had told him in the middle of their conversation, auburn eyes downcast as they set upon the Exsphere showing through the red gloves. Then, as if realizing what he was saying, a bright grin snapped to his face. It was too false, too abrupt, a mutated version of his usual carefree grin. "Sorry. I shouldn't have said something so stupid. Heh."
Kratos had felt the dam falling apart then, and desperately fought to suppress his emotions.
"Don't apologize. Wishing to see your family can never be said to be something stupid." He'd told his son, barely managing to sound neutral, and walked off in the guise of tending to Noishe. Lloyd had watched him thoughtfully, before accepting that the conversation was over and returned to the warmth of the campfire in another attempt to sleep. The boy – oddly insensitive in certain aspects - didn't seem to have caught his slip in emotions, this time.
Kratos wasn't so sure about next time.
Next time, it turned out, had come sooner than he'd ever thought. Honestly, Kratos should have simply refused when Lloyd came to him again to talk. There should be no next time, no chance for needless mistakes. Yet some part of him – some part of him that was human enough to deem itself Lloyd's father – wanted to listen as the boy spilled out his secrets, wanted to guide him through this damning journey with as little harm as possible. These were sentiments he could not indulge, and Kratos knew it very well.
The boy was walking towards him now, his steps muted and careful, not wanting to disturb their companions' sleep. Kratos sighed imperceptibly; if he wanted to turn Lloyd away, it should be now.
The boy stopped in his tracks, as though he was surprised that Kratos had caught him coming up from behind. He should know much better than that. How many times had Kratos told the brunet not to sneak up on him?
"Oh. H-hi, Kratos." Lloyd muttered quietly behind him, and Kratos could envision the boy rubbing the back of his head sheepishly even without looking. It was Lloyd's standard way of expressing embarrassment; and if Kratos was true to himself, he found it quite an endearing trait.
The mercenary turned around slightly, just enough to catch the boy on the edge of his vision. "You should be resting like the others. Tomorrow will be a long day, and it would be most unwise to travel while you are tired."
"I can't sleep …and you know it. I just want to talk for a bit; maybe it'll help me sleep or something." Lloyd returned quickly, moving to settle himself on an outlying root to Kratos' side.
It wasn't completely true – Lloyd had fallen asleep, only to be awakened by violent images of swords and blood and great heights. The dual swordsman had jerked upright, nearly shouting out in fear. The dream was, as well as Lloyd could remember, one that had often plagued his earlier childhood. He had tried to dismiss it as products of his restless mind, and – since he couldn't go back to sleep anyway – got up to speak with the person he'd termed as "big bro", no matter how the term had exasperated Kratos for some reason.
The mercenary only studied him out of the corner of his eyes, before turning back to his supposed task. "I am on night watch tonight, Lloyd. It would be difficult for me to ensure the safety of the group if you are constantly distracting me."
"I can do the watch with you. Between the two of us, no monster is gonna get through!" Lloyd chirped, with a kind of cheerfulness that didn't quite reach his chocolate eyes. Kratos resisted the urge to bury his face in his hand, his resolve quickly crumbling as his son looked at him in a way that was half hopeful, half apprehensive. As though he thought Kratos was going to boot him off the spot at any moment.
"…Hmph, fine. What do you want to talk to me about?"
"Um…nothing in particular? I mean," Lloyd hastily added as Kratos raised his brows, "we can talk about anything at all. Anything."
"I…see. Why don't you tell me about your dream, then? You seemed bothered by it earlier on."
"Bothered" was somewhat of a huge understatement. Kratos was actually surprised that no one – even the keen-eared ninja girl – had woken up at the ruckus Lloyd was causing. But then again, having angelic hearing for over four thousand years tended to make him forget a normal human's (or half-elf's, even) perception of sound. He had immediately glanced over, prepared to see yet another monster emerging from the underbrush, and blinked when he saw Lloyd spring up from his bedroll.
A bad dream, he would assume. Kratos was not a stranger to nightmares – the ghosts of his past still haunted his dreams incessantly - and could recognize one when he saw it.
He had turned away, pretending not to notice. It was no longer his place to stay by Lloyd's side and console him when he needed it. He had lost his right as a father the moment he gave up on the boy.
"I didn't dream of anything!" Lloyd's denial was instantaneous. He quailed at Kratos' steady look – It reminded him much of Dirk's chastising glare whenever he'd done something wrong. However, while Dirk tended to give him an earful when Lloyd had done something out of line, Kratos always gave him silent looks that reeked of displeasure. They always managed to make the dual swordsman guilty. "…okay, so I did have a nightmare. Sorry."
"Do you wish to tell me about your dream? If this is what you desire, of course."
"I…uh. This is just a stupid dream. More of some vague impressions than a dream, actually," Lloyd started, tugging on his flyaway bang in a show of self-consciousness, "It's uh, like swords are flashing around me, and there's a sudden spurt of blood that took over my whole vision…and then I'm falling off some really tall place, like a cliff or a rooftop or something. It's always the same every time it happened, so I'm, uh, sort of used to it." And it still managed to scare me awake. Damn that stupid dream.
Kratos studied him, auburn eyes unreadable. "You have this dream often?"
"Uh, I always did when I was small and less when I grew up. But after Kvar…after we met him, I started having it again. For some reason. The Professor said it was childhood…drama or something."
"Childhood trauma." Kratos' voice was strangely intense, bereft of the exasperation it usually carried when Lloyd came up with a word that was blatantly wrong.
"Yea, she said it's trauma…uh, are you alright, Kratos? You're staring at me all weird…"
"It…It is nothing." Kratos looked away. He knew what the dream was about, now – images of his son screaming in fear as he fell off the cliff emerged uninvited from the sea of his memories. It had been the worst moment of his four thousand years of life; and unlike Lloyd's dream, the images were painfully clear.
How could he ever forget it, the sight of his son falling to certain death?
"It must have been a frightening dream." He told Lloyd, his voice neutral – emotionless facade kicking in as emotions started to bubble up. Lloyd did not need to know what the dream meant; he should just forget it and move on with life.
And Kratos should pull out of this conversation before his emotions got the better of him and he did something he would regret later. He knew the consequence of a misstep too well to risk it.
He stood up slowly, intending to fetch his sharpening stone from the travelling bag and immerse himself in the task of sharpening his weapon.
But there were times when simply knowing was not enough.
Kratos missed it as Lloyd's brows turned down in a sad frown, but caught the expression in his tone anyway. It was the tone, ultimately, that gave him pause.
"To tell the truth, the dream…it always frightened me. I don't know why it is so frightening…it just is. Dad told me that it's my mind sending me images of…terrible things that happened in the past, and that I should try to move on and not let it affect my life."
He gave a weak chuckle, glancing sideways at the still mercenary. "But I think…I think some part of me want to remember. A face, a feeling, anything. Even though it is frightening and terrible. Because it is the only memory of my parents I'm going to get. So even if it is a nightmare, I'm sort of glad too."
The conversation had progressed to a level of sheer danger, and Kratos had to extract himself from it now, now, before it was too late. But he was already snared; his body wouldn't obey him, and he could only watch as the situation spiraled steadily out of his control.
"…Why are you telling me this?"
"I-I don't know. I don't even know why I'm saying so much all in a sudden. Heh." Lloyd's hand listlessly fluttered in front of him as he tried to find his words, "I…just think it'd be alright to tell you. And I think…I think you'd understand - you said you had a family once."
"I did. Once."
Once was the word. He'd lost his family fourteen years ago; the teenager in front of him was not the dead toddler that haunted his dreams. Another man had taken his place, raised his son to be the strong, gentle person who stood before him. The truth was that his existence had been completely erased from his son's life. But despite this, despite anything, he wanted to protect Lloyd – even if he could no longer be his father.
"I do not presume to know your parents' will, but I do agree with your foster father that you should try to put this dream behind you. You told me that there are people you would like to protect, dreams you would like to realize." He stopped to survey the sleeping group spread out around the campfire, before tilting his head at Lloyd.
"You want grow strong so as to protect the Chosen; you want to be a blacksmith and sail around the world. At least, it was what you told me. Do you still have time to grasp at the bygone past when the present calls to you?"
Lloyd lowered his head, not mollified by Kratos' words. "Not being able to part with the past…is it wrong?"
"No. But you should not carry the past in such a way that will blind you to the present."
"You speak like it's from experience," Lloyd's voice was slightly bitter as chocolate eyes snapped up to meet the mercenary's, "tell me, have you moved on from the past at all?"
How ironic indeed, to have the question flung back at him. Time had stood still for him when Anna died; he himself had never moved on at all. Who was he to tell Lloyd to move on, when he had failed spectacularly in doing so?
He had always been a hypocrite of the worst kind, he realized now.
Kratos turned away, mind reeling. He shouldhave ended the conversation where it was still safe. He knewit so well that it shocked him to the core when he did not heed his own sense.
A tug at the end of his cape stopped him from any further movement. Lloyd's face looked up at him, wide-eyed and remorseful.
"I…I'm very sorry. I didn't mean to remind you of your family. You are not angry, are you?"
Perhaps it was the Lloyd's expression that did it. It was a look that his toddler son would have given him when reprimanded, and it never failed to render him helpless.
Perhaps this was why the image of the teenager before him had overlapped with that of the toddler who had called him "daddy", once, and Kratos was suddenly struck with a clear awareness that this was his son before him – once dead and returned to him through some unknown miracle.
Perhaps this was why he was ruffling Lloyd's hair fondly, his expression openly gentle for once in their entire conversation. When Kratos realized what he was doing, it was too late – though Lloyd made no move to stop him, his gaze was now bordering on confusion and wonderment. Kratos retracted his hand as if burnt.
"…I apologize. I should not have overstepped my bounds…"
"I take it that you aren't angry, then?" Lloyd's sudden question caught the mercenary off guard.
"Huh?" Despite four millennia of interacting with people, this was the only reply that Kratos managed.
"That's a 'yes', then?" The boy's face lit up, stretching his arms animatedly into the air. The insensitivity the boy displayed was almost miraculous. "Yay! I know my Big Bro won't be angry at me!"
After a moment of shocked silence, Kratos buried his face in his palm. Between the pain burning in his heart and the smile tugging at his lips, he couldn't decide what he was feeling at the moment.
"Go to sleep, Lloyd."
The boy stopped in his antics. "Eh? But I promised to take the watch with you."
"You need your rest. Now go." Kratos deadpanned, half-glaring at the boy now. Lloyd made a disgruntled noise, but the mercenary's glare was all-powerful; with Kratos' glare on his back, the dual swordsman was soon burying himself under a blanket.
"Well, goodnight then, Big Bro."
As always, Kratos tried to ignore the nickname. Red-brown eyes rested on the boy, and he gave a little nod as acknowledgement.
"Rest well then, Lloyd. I will watch over…the group for the remainder of this night."
Lloyd soon fell into a peaceful sleep, and Kratos watched him, his mind drifting to their earlier conversation.
He had erred. He had revealed too much, displayed emotions that should be well hidden. The worst part about it all was that he knew it would happen, but chose to proceed with the conversation anyway. Talking with Lloyd about the past would uncannily cause his emotions to waver, but he just couldn't resist.
He knew he would be unlikely to err again. They were nearing the Tower of Salvation; and once they reached there, there would be no midnight conversation anymore. The fragile mirage would break; and if Lloyd were ever to approach him, it would be to kill him, not seek his company.
Gaze resting on the sleeping boy, Kratos wondered if it was this knowledge that spurred him to make deliberate mistakes one after another.
And if they were indeed mistakes, he found that he didn't regret making them after all.