My Father's Eyes

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"…as my soul slides down to die.
How could I lose him?
What did I try?
Bit by bit, I've realizedthat he was here with me;
I looked into my father's eyes…"

- "My Father's Eyes" - Eric Clapton

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He looked like his mother, his dwarven father told him, except for his eyes. His hair was a rich spectrum of brown, sparkling gold in afternoon sunlight, nearly black beneath the night sky. His skin was lightly baked and his hands had long ago become permanently blistered and coarse by warm summers spent tolling in the yard when there was no school, no textbooks to read, nor chalk board brushes to receive in the forehead when he'd nodded off.

His stupidity, he hated to claim, was entirely his own. His mother was once a merchant, selling lace from a rickety wooden stand while travellers wandered by with satchels laden with gold, and his father, well, truth be told he didn't really know his father. He was killed, Dirk said, in the same confrontation that had left his mother fatally wounded, and him, Lloyd, ultimately an orphan. He liked to think of his father as someone great; a warrior or sorts. Someone to whom fear had no control, for that is what his eyes spoke of when they sparked scarlet in anger or excitement.

Those were the only things he had inherited from his father: his eyes. Unlike many boys his age, there was no position as a stonemason or mayor waiting for him to come of age. No expectations to meet, or honour to possibly fracture. Dirk remained fairly isolated from the little town - a smear on the map between "Where are we?" and "Where exactly was it we were going?" - therefore Lloyd's antics had little effect on the village's thoughts of him.

And Lloyd loved him deeply, of that he was sure. But, if he were going to be honest with himself, though any good son would never admit it, he knew that the orphan inside him continued to call into the dark, awaiting the moment when the man whose eyes stared at his reflection in the mirror, that dulled at the thought of losing someone dear to him, and flared when threatened, would come to his rescue.

Before Lloyd could elaborate any more on his unsettling thoughts, he was shoved aside by a fairly large figure from behind. "Continue walking. You're lagging."

Lloyd's expression was blank for a second before it registered as to who the owner of that voice had been. If it was Genis, he likely could have laughed it off, smacking the short boy with an empty glove. Even the professor he could have handled. But not him. "I wasn't lagging! This how I walk."

It was as though Kratos could feel Lloyd's anger like a heat wave from Efreet, for he stopped and turned to him, standing over him like a tree above a flower. "Then return home. Had I not made it clear? This journey is not a vacation. It is for the sake of the world. We can waste no time on your dilly-dallying. If you wish to remain by the Chosen's side, you must learn to keep up."

Then, with an air of someone who'd just achieved a great victory, the fiery-haired mercenary spun around and walked close to Colette. A little too close if Lloyd had anything to say about it. It almost appeared as though Kratos took some perverse pleasure in not only scolding Lloyd, but doing so in front of Colette, intensifying the feeling of humiliation.

Eye twitching and hands curling into fists, Lloyd bit down on his bottom lip like a child and darted in front of Kratos, so close that the two stumbled over one another. Ever the graceful one, Kratos merely found his footing again while Lloyd's toes latched around the other ankle and he tumbled, face first, into dirt that was a fair bit wet from the rain earlier, prompting unbridled laughter from Genis.

"Shut up, Genis!" shouted Lloyd as he clawed at the mud on his face that was quickly drying. He glared at the fair-haired boy, and then at Kratos, who was growing smaller up ahead as he continued on as if nothing had happened. "Ow, I think I hurt my ankle."

Kratos glanced over his shoulder at Lloyd who was cradling his ankle and rocking back and forth. He stopped walking. "Raine, can you heal him?"

The professor's brows shot up. "Such a simple injury? Why would I waste my energy on that?"

With a spark, Kratos' eyes grew narrow, threatening. "I asked if it was possible to heal him."

"Well, yes. Of course."

"Then do so. He'll slow us down otherwise."

He'd clearly overstepped his boundaries - just because he was guarding Colette, who had appointed him the leader? - and Raine was defiant. "With all due respect, casting a spell requires a great release of energy. You must realize, as a spell-caster yourself. It would be more beneficial to rest here for the evening."

Kratos relented with a small nod of his head. "Very well, then that is what we shall do. There is a clearing a little ways up ahead we can use for our campsite."

Within the hour, their bags were piled in a small heap and a fire was blazing, it's mesmerising orange flames dancing in the darkness. Genis prepared supper, again - no one would trust Raine anymore after last night's mystery stew - and once the sun had calmly set, bathing the forest in impenetrable darkness and silence, their full stomachs and aching feet were enough to send them to sleep.

Only Kratos remained unnaturally alert. Lloyd too was unable to fall asleep due to the pain in his leg. He mused that he must have sprained it worse than he thought, though he'd been screaming so loud in his own head, hearing a crack was impossible to remember.

Unbearably bored, Lloyd picked up a long stick that had broken from the branches above and began to poke at the fire, sending sparks into the starry sky. He glanced over his shoulder from time to time, curious as to what Kratos was up to, and at the same time wondering what he was thinking about. That man was so full of mysteries and changing demeanours it was difficult for him to decided whether he liked or hated him.

"What is that?" Lloyd asked finally, gesturing with the smoking stick end to the small object Kratos had been so intently staring at.

"N-nothing." Kratos closed his hand and stuffed whatever he'd been holding into his shirt. Lloyd's face split into a cat-with-canary grin and he limped around the fire, reaching for the collar of Kratos' shirt. It wasn't every day that anyone, much less him - the one Kratos was always reprimanding - got the opportunity to see him so flustered.

"Come on. Let me see it. You wouldn't have brought it out if you intended to keep it a secret."

Kratos placed one hand on Lloyd's chest, enough to keep him away, but not enough to inflict any damage, and the other against his chest with an expression on his face that any insolent four-year-old would be proud of. "It's personal. Mind your own business."

"Show me!" Lloyd succeeded in twisting the hand that held him around so Kratos' elbow was at an awkward angle, and pulled at the gold chain around the swordsman's neck. He laughed at his own victory and dangled the locket in front of Kratos' face. "You never struck me as the type of man that wore jewellery. So, whose picture is in here?"

As Lloyd wedged his thumbnail into the crease between the covers to pry it open, Kratos' eyes grew large.

"Lloyd! No!" He lunged at Lloyd with more speed and strength than a lion on an antelope, smacking the locket away so that it clattered along the dirt. Though the image of him atop Lloyd, clutching his wrists and pinning his thighs with his own was most certainly awkward - both briefly praying that no one was roused by the sounds of their scuffling - neither moved for what felt like hours, but was in fact only seconds.

"Who was that?" came his soft whisper at last. "Who are those people?"

Kratos sat back and climbed off Lloyd, retrieving his locket. Unable to look the boy in the face, he hung his head and let his shoulders fall. "They were my family; my wife and our son."

"Were?"

He swallowed hard, careful as to how he answered. As it stood, Lloyd had not seen the image long enough to recognize himself as the child Anna was carrying. Best not to ruin that. "Yes. Both of them died many years ago."

Lloyd grew quiet, upset with himself for teasing Kratos earlier. "Oh. She was pretty, you know? Your wife. I only saw her for a moment, but she was."

He watched as the corners of Kratos' mouth turned up in a small smile. "Thank you. I always thought so."

"How did she die?"

Kratos hesitated before speaking. He wasn't sure just how much Lloyd knew about Anna's death, and he didn't want to reveal anything that would spark the connection between them. "She was killed, both of them were, by Desians."

He nodded, as though that were the obvious response. "My parents were killed by Desians too. That's why I hate them so much." With the kindest of smiles, Lloyd's hand took Kratos' and gave it a firm squeeze.

"Thank you, Lloyd. Now, you should try to get some sleep. You were injured, and I probably made it worse. I'm sorry. Rest now so you can fight tomorrow."

With another slight nod, Lloyd walked off, resuming his place by the fire. After he'd fallen asleep with the others, Kratos opened the locket again for a moment. Once he'd replaced it safely around his neck, he sat down on a moss-covered tree stump and pressed his face into his hands, allowing tears, for the first time in years, to fall from his eyes.

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Disclaimer: Kratos Aurion and Lloyd Irving are property of Namco.