*MAJOR SPOILERS* If you have not yet beat this game, I ask that you hold off on reading this fic because it will spoil some of the best plot twists. It's like telling someone just starting off playing ToS, "Oh yeah that guy Kratos? He betrays you. And he's Lloyd's daddy. And he's like four-thousand years old because he was from the time before the two worlds – oh by the way there are two worlds – split, and he actually works for the main bad guy, but he helps you out later."

Seriously, I cannot emphasize how spoil-riffic this is. Don't read if you don't like spoilers.

Don't do it.

Now then, as I'm pretty sure that deferred nobody from reading, don't say I didn't warn you.

Also a very special THANK YOU to Twilight Scribe, for despite not wanting to write stories for this game, the reason this category even exists for us now is largely in part to Scribe's doing. Kudos!

And most unfortunately, my name is not "Bandai," so nothing has changed from the last game: I own no rights to this franchise. On a related note, some of the dialogue in this comes directly from the game itself, so don't give me credit for some of the better words of wisdom hehe.

"Well that was… probably the most interesting meal I've ever eaten." Marta said uncertainly, still debating whether or not that really qualified as "food."

Emil said nothing. He only examined the large, unpeeled potato he'd found in his bowl and thinking of how even this "stew" had tasted better than most of Marta's cooking so far on this journey.

"It's been so long since we've had Dwarven Pot Luck Surprise! I was so excited when you came back, because I knew you were going to make it again, Lloyd!" Colette exclaimed happily, using her napkin to clean the hand crafted necklace she'd found in her dish.

The group was settled around a small campfire a short distance away from the great tree, right now little more than a tall sapling surrounded by the calm stream on its small grass covered island. While at first the sight of this peaceful green inlet set into the mountainside took them by surprise – they would have missed it through all the fog covering the cliffs if Lloyd hadn't been guiding them – the adventurers had gotten used to the calm atmosphere and serene sounds of flowing water that filled the air around them.

After they'd met with Yuan, he and Lloyd explained everything about Ratatosk and the Centurion's cores. Though by that time the sun was beginning to set, and rather than going out to find a place to stay for the night the group decided to set up camp here near the great tree. No monsters could enter the area and the fog hid it from anyone who didn't already know the exact location. It was the perfect sanctuary.

"Hehe, thanks Colette. It's good to know that the cooking is what people missed most about me." Lloyd said, pretending to be hurt by her words. "I'm only joking!" he laughed, watching her stammer out protests. In truth he had missed all his friends terribly over the past two years. They would never know the pain it caused him to act the way he did whenever he came face to face with them during Marta and Emil's journey. But they were reunited now; all in for the cause of helping Emil complete his mission.

"Yeah, 'cause your cooking would definitely not be the reason I stood up for you all those times." Zelos grumbled as he stopped chewing abruptly. Reaching into his mouth, he pulled out a small rock. He looked at it, then to Lloyd. "Why?"

Lloyd shrugged, smiling cheerfully. "Wasn't that surprising?"

Emil shared in the laughter as Zelos chucked the pebble at Lloyd. As everyone began cleaning their dishes his eyes fell on Lloyd, the man he had blamed for his parents death ever since the Purge of Blood. Even though he knew it was impossible for him to be able to tell otherwise, he still felt guilty about judging the person he didn't even know despite the claims of all the friends he'd made – Lloyd's friends – that he was innocent. 'He really is as great as everyone says he is…' Emil thought to himself, envying the amount of trust Lloyd had earned amongst his companions.

"Are you feeling alright, Emil?" Tenebrae asked, appearing next to him and floating near his shoulder. "Was the meal not to your liking?"

"Oh, no it was fine, hehe." Emil said chuckled lightly. "I was just thinking about how great it must be to have people who trust you, no matter what others say or think. To know there's that much faith in you, y'know?" By now everyone had cleared the campfire, separating into groups and exploring the area, so Emil was able to speak normally and not have to worry about being overheard.

"Ah, you're speaking of Lloyd." Tenebrae said, catlike eyes catching the bright red jacket of their newest group member as he leaned on a tree talking to Genis by the entrance of the enclosure. "He isn't that much different from you, Emil. Even if you don't think so, the others have grown to trust you as just as much a friend as Lloyd."

"Maybe you're right… Thanks Tenebrae." Emil said, smiling at the Centurion.

"And if you still have concerns about your previous vendetta, you can always talk to Lloyd himself." Tenebrae commented, nodding towards the entrance across the clearing where Genis had just left Lloyd standing alone, looking out over the cliffs. And with that Tenebrae left the boy and walked over to where Marta sat with the other women at the top of the small waterfall feeding the stream around the tree.

Emil thought for a moment, then decided to take his advice and approached Lloyd.

"Hey, Lloyd?" He called hesitantly. It wasn't until earlier today that Emil came to be on speaking terms with him, and he wanted to be sure there weren't any hard feelings about all the times he'd attacked the swordsman.

"Yeah? What's up Emil?" Lloyd answered, turning. He wore a confident smile Emil had yet to see him without since they'd joined forces, and Emil supposed it came naturally with a strong personality he'd heard so much about.

"I…I wanted to say that I was sorry… For all the things I said or thought about you, even though none of it-" He began, trying to make eye contact but finding it difficult to match Lloyd's intense gaze.

"Emil don't worry about that. You had no way of knowing, and I blame myself for never giving my side of the story to anyone." Lloyd said, shaking his head. "I let you continue to hold the grudge against me, and for that I'm sorry."

Emil nodded for a second, then caught himself. "No wait, I came to apologize to you…"

"And I said you didn't need to." Lloyd said, putting a hand on his shoulder. "You didn't do anything anyone else wouldn't do."

"That still doesn't make it right…" Emil muttered, casting his eyes downward.

"But it makes it understandable. And we don't need another Colette, apologizing all the time for everything that isn't her fault." Lloyd said, smiling and looking back to where the girls were laughing and giggling at something apparently very funny about Tenebrae, who was looking indignant as he floated over to where Zelos, Regal and Genis were seated around the roots of a large tree.

Emil looked at him. The face of the statue at Luin's fountain he'd hated for as long as he lived there seemed so much different in person. Softer, kinder, less glorified, perhaps it was the matter of seeing a living idol in the flesh – just as human as he was. Lloyd hadn't asked for the statue to be built, he was just trying to help. Just like he was doing now. Emil felt guiltier than ever. "You're strong Lloyd…"

"What?" Lloyd said, turning his attention from his female friends back to the blonde boy in front of him.

"You're strong, just like everyone says. I really hope that I will be able to be like you when I'm older." Emil said, not feeling all that hopeful about it.

"I hear that a lot." Lloyd said, closing his eyes. "But if I am, it's only because of my friends around me, always there when I need them." He smiled, turning to Emil. "And if that's the case, you're just as strong as I am, because all your friends are here too, ready to give their support whenever you need it."

Emil was speechless. Words couldn't describe the person Lloyd was, even from his friends. He was the type of person you had to meet firsthand and hear speak with your own ears to really understand, and even then you'd be taken by surprise. "Lloyd… Thanks." It wasn't much, but it was all he could manage.

Lloyd just nodded, clasping a hand to his shoulder. "We're all in this together, Emil. Don't forget that, okay?"

Emil jumped slightly at the contact, but met Lloyd's eyes and felt the strength he had spoken of pouring into him. He nodded in response, smile spreading across his face as he looked around the clearing at all the members of their group and knew Lloyd spoke the truth. 'I am lucky… When I began this journey I had no friends, but now I have the greatest anyone could ask for..'

"Hey, Lloyd?" A girl's voice called. They turned to see Marta walking to join them. "The others wanted you," She said, pointing over to where everyone else was gathered around the waterfall and waving for Lloyd to join them. "I think they wanted to talk… It's been awhile and all."

Lloyd sighed, "Too long." He grinned, "Thanks Marta. Keep Emil company for me." He said jokingly as he passed her on the way to the waterfall.

She promptly took Lloyd's place by Emil and put her arm around his. "Can do!" She chirped, watching the older boy make his way back to his friends who looked very pleased their unofficial leader had returned to their side.

While Emil had gotten used to Marta putting him in positions like this, he still felt a slight warmth rise in his cheeks whenever she did so. "They look happy to have him back." He noted, seeing Zelos throw an arm around Lloyd and continuing their conversation.

"Oh shoot! I was going to ask him about something…" Marta muttered to herself, seeing both Sheena and Colette attempting to hug Lloyd at the same time.

"Whatever it was, there will probably be time for it later." Emil said. "But right now I think we should let them talk. It's been two years without seeing each other for most of them and this is the first time we've been able to all rest as a single group in a safe place. They'd probably like to catch up."

"Yeah… I guess." Marta admitted, sounding unsatisfied.

A few moments of uncomfortable silence later, Emil recognized the sign that she had something on her mind. He sighed. "What was it?"

Marta spoke the instant the words left his mouth, "Okay, so we know they like Lloyd, but who do you think he…"

Emil closed his eyes, listening to Marta play out her romantic scenarios. 'How do I keep getting myself into these? I don't think anyone else thinks about these things half as much as she does…'

"So just to clarify, those two are an item right?" Lloyd asked in a hushed voice, making a vague gesture back towards the entrance.

"Our boy Emil is just a bit shy about going public about it." Zelos chuckled, casting an eye over to where Marta was making swooning motions around Emil who looked like he was trying hard to think about other things. "I haven't worked with him on how it's done yet."

"I think he'll do fine on his own." Colette commented, smiling as she saw the two sit down against a tree to rest for the night, Marta's head on Emil's shoulder.

Though darkness had fallen, the area they were in was illuminated by a dim blue light given off by the water around the great tree. The result was truly enchanting for anyone who looked out over the grassy haven. In such a peaceful atmosphere, it was impossible not to relax after all that had happened over the past few days.

They spent several hours talking about everything that had happened over the time they'd been separate – The hunt for exspheres, the quest to end discrimination, the unveiling of the newly rebuilt Ozette. It was as though they'd only been apart for a short time, for while the world itself had changed, nothing would be able to separate the bonds that had been built between them.

Lloyd let out a sigh of contentment as he found a suitable spot on the ground to sleep. The others were quick to find places nearby, all centered around him.

"Heh, it reminds me of our last journey…" Genis yawned, turning on his side to look around at his friends.

"Yeah, it feels like it too." Lloyd muttered, closing his eyes and putting his hands behind his head.

"It's good to have you back, Lloyd…" Sheena said quietly, and everyone voiced their agreement.

Lloyd's heart swelled. It felt great to have so many people caring about him. "Thanks everyone… It's good to be back."

And there you have it. A short and sweet fic focused around Lloyd coming back into the fold and resolving Emil's issues (I didn't feel the game did an all-that-dramatic job of it, so I stepped in). Also to kick start the Dawn of the New World story flow – don't be afraid to contribute!

(Like it's going to stop anyone who read this far) *SPOILER ALERT* I was so happy I didn't have to kill him. Partly because… C'mon, he's Lloyd!

But mostly because he morphs into some God of War in battle. Apparently one of the endings is based on whether or not you can beat him at the end of the game, I'm thinking "Pff, yeah – good luck trying to get that ending."

Hope you enjoyed the fic and that it didn't spoil anything for you. See you next fic!