A/N: Thanks to my wonderful beta, Rane (-Nightly Halo-). Thank you to Heart of Shou, Lynuko, Emily, wender, and Bathony for your reviews, and thanks to everyone who's been reading this. Sorry I took so long to get this chapter done! Thanks to AschTheHated for the game script; as always, I've taken liberties with it.
Yes! I got this done! Going on vacation until next Thurs, expect the next chapter after that (I'll be working on it, but lacking wireless for my laptop). And, for everyone who's stuck through the last eight chapters, a useless fact about me: I watch Gummi Bears while writing a lot of this. Stay tuned for further info!
Rane: I'm sadistic. I like biting gummi bears' heads off then laughing and dipping them in juice….dontjudgeme…..Anyways, yay! I'm on spring break too! And AschTheHated, I use your script as a guideline to the story while playing the Japanese ToS so I don't get lost x3 and umm…huzzah! I'm on vacation too! w00t spring break!
Warnings: Yaoi. Disc 2 spoilers. Limes make me smile!
Rane but lemon's are cheaper Renee!
Disclaimer: Don't own it. I'd be depressed about that, but who has time for that when there's fanfic to write?
Rane I still say you should let me –censor- them..…-muttermutter-
Chapter 9: Frustration
"Zelos?" Lloyd breathed in the scent of citrus as the older man wrapped him in his arms. Zelos smiled at him, kissing his lips and running hands over the swordsman's body.
Where are my clothes? I know I had pants on earlier…
"Are you not mad anymore?" Lloyd tried to remember why they'd been fighting, but it seemed so trivial with Zelos' soft skin beneath his hands. The Chosen just smiled at him without saying a word.
I should be worried… someone could see us…
When Zelos kissed his way down to Lloyd's chest, the younger man looked around. The two were alone in the misty camp.
Where is everyone? I know they were here earlier—
An explosion woke him suddenly. Raine was standing by the fire, black smoke billowing from the pot she was stirring. Lloyd sat up, blinking in confusion.
"Lloyd! You're the first up. Come have breakfast!" Raine started spooning blue porridge into a bowl.
"Uh, thanks Professor, but I'm not hungry. I'm gonna go take a bath."
Lloyd left his clothes on the bank of the river and waded out waist-deep in the water. The cold shocked him to full alertness, clearing his head.
If I don't make up with Zelos soon, I'm gonna go crazy. Maybe I should just apologize. If he does, too.
As if his thoughts had summoned the redhead, Zelos appeared. The Chosen pinned his long hair on top of his head and walked gingerly into the water, hissing at the cold. His skin gleamed in the early morning light. Watching him, Lloyd couldn't help remembering his dream.
Thank goodness for cold rivers. This'll probably be my best chance to talk to him today…
"Zelos!" he called, starting to wade to the other man. Just as he reached Zelos, the current knocked Lloyd off balance. He fell, instinctively reaching out to catch himself. He succeeded in pulling Zelos down with him.
They came up sputtering.
"You know, Lloyd, if you don't like me you can just say so. You don't have to try to drown me."
"I…" Lloyd trailed off, mesmerized by the water that dripped from the redhead's hair, running down his neck and over his chest.
"And if you don't want to sleep in our tent anymore," Zelos continued, ignoring the slight interruption, "you should just talk to Raine. I'm sure she'd be happy to put you with Genis. And then—"
"I don't want to sleep with Genis!" Lloyd shouted. "I want us to stop fighting."
"Well, I don't know about that. It's kinda hard not to fight with someone who's completely irrational."
"Irrational?" Lloyd gaped at Zelos.
What have I ever done that's irrational? If you don't count overreacting back in Heimdall, or running ahead and getting attacked by monsters, or getting Iselia attacked by the Desians, or… Okay, maybe he has a point. But still!
"Irrational. It means you don't use sense. Look it up sometime."
"I knew that. The only irrational thing I've done today is try to apologize to you."
Before Zelos had a chance to respond, Genis came running up to the river's edge. "Are you two fighting again? We have to go get Zelos' Cruxis Crystal and track down the zircon. Come on!"
Zelos watched Lloyd leave with Genis. He'd been on edge since he'd realized they'd have to get his crystal from Seles.
I wonder if she still hates me?
His dreams hadn't helped any. Lloyd featured prominently, every night. And when the swordsman had dragged him down into the water, slippery and naked and wet… He shook his head to clear the image.
Everyone I care about hates me eventually. You'd think I'd have learned that by now.
Someone getting mad at him, or rejecting him, had never been a worry before. On the very rare occasions when it happened, there were always scores of admirers to turn to.
I suppose there still are. I'm just not interested now. He's changed me…
He waded out of the water, wringing his hair out, and quickly dressed. Back in the camp, everyone was almost finished packing up to leave. Raine was trying to get Noishe to eat the leftover porridge. Zelos smiled when he saw Lloyd try to save his pet.
I should make up with him. He tried to apologize at the river; I was stupid not to listen.
His mood lightened as he thought about where the day could end.
The Lezareno Company might have the zircon at their headquarters; we could stay in Altamira. Or, if they don't have it, we'll go to wherever it is and get it. The only people who could need it are the researchers in Meltokio or Sybak, which means we'll end up somewhere with real beds. And real walls. And if Lloyd's done being mad at me…
Riding the Rheairds to the abbey Seles was living in, Zelos concentrated on his plans for the young swordsman. It was much more pleasant than thinking about his sister.
Seles treated him as she always had; insulting him and refusing to call him "brother."
She used to be so cute. Another case of my reputation coming back to hurt me…
"What do you think?" he said as they left the abbey. He tossed the crimson gem casually from hand to hand. "I'm well-loved, aren't I?"
"She's certainly not very friendly," Lloyd said.
Zelos glanced over at the younger man. "Don't be too hard on her. Our childhood was… not exactly normal."
Her mother constantly telling her that she should have been Chosen didn't help. If I die, she'll get what she's always wanted…
"As you left, she said, 'Please take care,'" Colette said quietly.
Take care? Why does she care?
"… Oh. Well, anyways, we should get going. To Altamira, right?" Seeing an opening he slung an arm around Lloyd, ignoring the swordsman's squawk of protest. "Let's go, bud! To the Rheairds!"
The flight to Altamira was quick, but not quick enough for Lloyd.
I don't get him. I thought he was still mad at me? Or was I mad at him? Or… are we even still fighting? And he calls me irrational!
What could he be thinking?
The redhead caught up to him as they raced through Altamira, claiming the seat next to him on the elemental railway to the company headquarters. He leaned back, hands behind his head, whistling happily.
How is he in such a good mood?
Finally, frustrated, Lloyd asked, "What's got you so happy?"
Zelos smiled at him, the same smile the redhead had worn in his dreams.
Ah! Stop it; this is not the time to be thinking of dreams!
"It's simple, bud. We get to sleep in a real bed tonight. Should be fun."
"What's fun about that?"
Zelos' chuckle sent a shiver down his spine. "I could tell you, but I'm not sure you want to hear it now." The redhead glanced pointedly at the others.
Lloyd blushed. Is he thinking—
"If anything interrupts tonight, I'll kill it," the Chosen muttered.
He is. Lloyd started to panic. I don't know what to do! I don't know if I'm ready. What if I don't do it right?
Is it okay for us to do this? Colette's still sick, and there's so much to do… And he hasn't even said sorry for any of the stupid things he's said. I think I'm still mad at him for that! I need to keep my head.
In the Lezareno Company offices, Regal showed them to the archives on the second floor. The records were kept carefully organized, and they found the information they needed quickly. Lloyd held the document, looking at it blankly.
Do I want to sleep with Zelos? Stupid question, of course I do. But… how does he feel about me? I don't want to just be convenient to him—
"Lloyd!" Sheena got his attention. Everyone was staring at him.
"Sorry." Lloyd glanced over the document in his hands. "The last zircon shipment was…"
The paper was snatched from his hands.
"Well, well. What have we here?" Kuchinawa held the documents triumphantly.
What? But Vharley and the Pope are finished! Why is he still working against us?
"Kuchinawa…" Sheena's voice was quiet. "This is about me, isn't it?"
"Of course!" The ninja sneered. "Because of you, my parents and countless members of our village died. The Chief has not awoken from his coma for ten years!"
He still blames her for that? Sheena was just a child when that happened! How could anyone expect a child to form a pact? We've had enough trouble, and we're all powerful fighters!
"If I'm the one you hate, let's have a one-on-one duel, as dictated be village custom."
"… Do you really think you can defeat me alone?" Kuchinawa regarded Sheena scornfully. "You do well enough with these outsiders backing you up. You've grown weak."
"I won't fail. Do you accept my challenge?"
"… Very well. Do you want to do it here and now?"
"We'll follow the village custom and fight on the Isle of Decision." Sheena turned to Lloyd. "Is that all right with all of you?"
She looks so… resolved. I don't think we have the right to stop her.
"… I guess. But we don't have time—"
"Thanks, Lloyd," Sheena said. She turned back to Kuchinawa. "I'll meet you there. I give you my word."
"Then I'll be waiting for you on the Isle of Decision." The ninja turned to leave.
"Wait!" Sheena cried. "Give us back that document."
"This?" Kuchinawa waved the paper in his hand. "It's proof of your promise to fight. You'll get it back when you defeat me."
No! We need that! Why couldn't I have read it faster?
Before he could try to take it back, Sheena stepped forward.
"Colette may die if we don't have that! If you need proof of my promise, I'll give you this." She held out a small bell on a red ribbon. Lloyd recognized it immediately as Corrine's bell.
"Sheena, you can't give that up!" Colette tried to stop the Summoner, but Kuchinawa had already taken the bell.
"If you do not come, I will grind this bell to dust," he said. He dropped the document on the floor, and disappeared in a burst of smoke.
"Sheena… I'm sorry," Colette said. "I know how important that was to you."
"It's okay. All I have to do is defeat him. I'm… not going to run away anymore. Anyway, we have to get the zircon." Sheena knelt and picked up the paper. "It says that the last shipment went to the Imperial Research Academy in Sybak."
"Okay," Lloyd said. "Let's get going."
The last two stops had taken most of the day. When they reached Sybak, the sun was just sinking under the horizon. The story of the angel who protected the Chosen had grown. The researchers were only too happy to give Zelos whatever he required.
With any luck, Raine will insist everyone get to sleep early, since there's so much to do tomorrow.
Zelos hung back from the rest of the group. There was one small errand he had to take care of before going to the inn. Lloyd had obviously been off-balance all day, and seeing the younger man get flustered whenever he looked at him was unexpectedly fun.
Zelos snuck into the library, and took a seat in a secluded corner.
Just a little while, and I can get back to Lloyd. I wish Yuan would hurry up.
The air in front of him shimmered, and the blue-haired half-elf appeared.
"Your report, Zelos?"
"You know, that stuff you had me drink burned."
"It was necessary. I want to know where Lloyd is going next."
If I tell him, will he stop us?
"We're going to get the last component for the Rune Crest."
Yuan was silent for a long moment. Just when Zelos was starting to think he'd been forgotten, the half-elf spoke. "So you're going to Welgaia. I suppose it can't be helped. We can't have you telling them about Yggdrasill's plan…" He trailed off, lost in thought.
Of course not. If I tell them, I have to come clean about spying on them, and then I won't be of use to him anymore.
"Lord Yuan? I should get back soon."
"I need you to get them to an information booth in Welgaia. Their curiosity should do the rest. Do you understand?"
"Yes, my lord. Is there anything else?"
"I want to know what Kratos was doing in Heimdall."
Zelos's breath caught in his throat. Does he know I'm working with Kratos, too?
"I don't know, Lord Yuan. He didn't see fit to confide in us."
"What did he say?"
"All I heard was: 'There's no time.' And he told us to hurry."
"Very well. Get back to your friends, and don't forget your orders."
"As you wish, sir."
As Zelos left the library, he heard Yuan murmuring to himself.
"Kratos… are you really okay using Lloyd like this?"