Disclaimer: I still don't own Tales of Symphonia. And I'm not planning on stealing the rights. It's the truth. I swear! Why are you looking at me like that?
Okay, anyway. I will remain a loyal Sheelos fan forever and ever and ever. I just randomly came up with this story. Even though I'm not really a fan of Zelette. Oh well. Even the best of us go crazy sometimes. Well, I was actually crazy to start with. Hm. What a dilemma. I was already crazy, but now I'm going even crazier. I wonder if there's a word for someone crazy going even crazier. Hm. Probably not. Oh, I'm rambling again, aren't I? That's okay. You don't have to read this. Just read the story. Stop reading this. Right now. I said stop reading! Ugh no one ever listens to me! I'm done. Good-bye. Ha. Now you have to stop reading this and start reading the story!
The tall redhead stood next to me in the destroyed city of Palmacosta. I looked at him shyly.
"Thanks for coming with me, Zelos." I said quietly. He smiled at me, just visible in the dying light.
"No need, angel. You know when a friend is in need, I'm there."
"Yeah. I just…needed to see it, y'know? Now that they've built their lives elsewhere. I guess…never mind." I'd been going to say I still blamed myself…but that would have upset him.
"You guess what?" Zelos asked. When I didn't answer, he pressed. "C'mon, Colette. You can trust me. I'm good at keeping secrets, remember?" The comment was impossible to ignore for what it was—he was mocking himself for betraying us a year earlier.
"No need to be bitter." I chided gently. "We all forgave you for that."
He didn't respond to my comments. He was right not to; I was insensitive. "Colette, just tell me what's bothering you."
I caved. "Alright. It's just…I destroyed this city. It was filled with happy people and I just ruined it. People died, Zelos." To my surprise and great shame, a tear dripped out of my eye. I'd thought I was done crying. "I'm sorry…" I muttered, embarrassed at the salty droplet.
"Hey! Don't cry. It's not your fault, it's the Desians' fault, and maybe the old governor's too, what was his name?" I could tell Zelos was trying to make me laugh. He hated seeing people cry. I supposed it was because of all his tears in the past.
"Governor-General Dorr. And I'm the one that caused it, really. It was my duty to protect the people, after all."
"I know what you mean." Zelos's voice was soft, and I looked at him in surprise. It was rare for him to reflect on his duty as the Chosen anymore. He hated thinking about it and the decisions it led him to make. I was shocked to see the tear on my face mirrored on his.
"It's gonna be okay, Zelos. Things are changing." I said.
"I'm just…I was such an idiot back then. I was worse, I was, I was…" It seemed he couldn't find words foul enough to describe himself, and before he got the chance (I'd heard his language when he was angry), I cut in.
"You were a confused man trying to figure out was right."
"No, I was…I was…" he gave up again. "I don't know. I'm scared."
"So am I." The words felt artificial and heavy, yet still had the ring of truth in them.
"No, you're not. You have nothing to be scared of." he mumbled bitterly.
I glared at him, though I knew he was just lashing out to protect himself. "Excuse me? Who says? I'm terrified that Genis or Raine will die on their journey. I'm terrified that my grandmother will die of old age. I'm terrified that you're going to die, because of all the people who hate us. I'm absolutely petrified that Lloyd will turn up dead somewhere, or that Sheena will suddenly go all depressed again and disappear off the face of the world. And I'm scared senseless that my father will turn into what he used to be!" I shouted, my voice echoing through the empty village. Then I realized what I'd said and turned away, shaking with fear and pain.
"What do you mean?" Zelos asked, his voice even and calming.
"N-nothing. Nothing." I stammered unconvincingly. Zelos grabbed my shoulder and I shrank away.
"Liar. What'd he do to you? What did he do?!?" he asked hotly. I was shocked by the protectiveness in his voice. I looked at him in awe.
"He just…it was a long time ago, okay? So, um, sorry, but don't get too…" I trailed off, unsure of how to end my sentence. Zelos took a deep breath, visibly calming himself.
"Alright. Go ahead. I'll be…good. Better, anyway." he said.
"Well, back when I was a little girl, he used to. Well. He used to…" And before I even began speaking, the memories came rolling back and I burst into tears. Zelos looked unsurprised at my crying, though.
"You can tell me." his face was gentle, his voice soothing. I looked at him, then wished I hadn't. It made it harder, seeing the sympathy and understanding his eyes.
"He…" the words got lost somewhere between my mind and my tongue. Zelos stayed silent, for which I was grateful. It made me wonder if he knew what it was like. Though that was stupid. Of course he knew what some of it was like.
I tried again. "He would…he used to…he'd come home and…" Each different approach seemd like it would help, but I'd get just as stuck. I sniffled, wiped my eyes, and steeled myself. I'd fought Mithos Yggdrassill. I could certainly say a few sentences.
The steeling didn't help. I couldn't say the terrible things.
"I'm sorry, Zelos. I'm trying. It's just, it's just hard." I finally mumbled.
"I know…trust me, I do. Let's go back to an inn or something. If we use the Rheairds we can reach Izoold fairly soon."
"Yeah…That might help, I guess. I really am sorry." I said again.
"Don't worry about it. I told you, I know how it is. I understand." he replied, laughing humorlessly.
I hoped he would.
We were sitting side-by-side on the beach at Izoold, looking out at the sea and the stars. I pulled my knees up to my chest and hugged them. He lounged with his legs straight out, supporting his weight on his arms. A deceitful position. His tenseness was evident by his words and tone. I wondered why I was taking the time to note these things, if I was just procrastinating or if it was something more.
"Alright. Just out with it, okay? I might sound harsh, but I just…it sucks to walk around with depressing stuff hanging over you. So, picture someone you l—care about, and it might help, and just say it." Zelos told me bracingly. I wondered why he'd stopped himself from saying 'love.'
But it didn't matter, right? I tried to hold Lloyd in my mind's eye. I'd been in love with him for the longest time. But every time I thought of him, I saw him first next to Sheena, who he'd gone on a journey with…even though we'd been planning on going together. Then, she'd disappear and his long brown hair would lengthen and turn red, and his face would become wiser, sadder, older.
I kept picturing Zelos. I told myself, It's because you've been talking a lot lately, of course. It's because you've spent the whole day with him. It's because he's pretty much you're best friend now that Lloyd's gone off with Sheena and Genis with Raine. It's because you've been talking a lot lately. So I let myself think of Zelos—after all, we were friends—and closed my eyes.
"When I was little, he'd sometimes come home from the village…with beer on his breath. He'd complain a lot, loud, y'know, and he'd…" I stopped to breathe deeply. "He'd start…he'd hit me. Not really bad. Just…enough that it hurt. Enough that I hurt for days afterward. Enough that I…" I stopped again. I closed my eyes tighter, and tried to calm myself.
"It's okay. Keep going." Zelos said softly.
"I…" I couldn't say the shameful words. Instead, I pulled up my sleeves. "Ever wonder why I never wore lighter clothes?" I said ruefully. Zelos gasped softly and traced the scars that ran up and down my arms, the scars that never quite came to the wrists. "I didn't want to be more of a coward. That's what he called me. A coward and an idiot."
"I see I wasn't the only one putting on a mask." he finally managed.
"I stopped, though, when I was…I don't know. When I was older. When I made friends with Lloyd. That wasn't until I was, I don't know, thirteen. Maybe twelve." I said softly, tugging my sleeves back down and feeling my face heat up.
"There's more, isn't there?" It wasn't really a question. I felt a tear slide down my cheek again and I wiped it away.
"I try not to…not to think about the rest of it. Those were the worst times. When he wasn't being mean and hurting me. When he was—" My breath caught in my throat. I couldn't finish. Zelos pulled me onto his shoulder and I sobbed silently in his fiery hair. He stroked my own blonde waves and let me ruin his clothes with tears and snot, resting his forehead on top of my head. I thought I felt tears from him, but I was too busy crying to pay attention. It'd been a long time since I really cried, or thought about my past. It was something I tried not to do.
"It's okay…It's all gonna be okay…" Zelos murmured softly, over and over again, and I found myself oddly grateful, oddly comforted. The tears gradually slowed and stopped, and I found myself sitting up and speaking in a detached voice.
"He would be drunk and crying and saying he missed my mother, that I killed her. Then he'd say how much I looked like her. He'd say I was his beautiful princess and that he loved me. He said I was his girl, no matter what, and he'd always love me forever. He'd say that he wanted me to be happy. That I should be happy that he was being so kind to me. Then he'd do things that are meant for a man and a woman to do when they love each other." I stopped then, the force of my words leaving me slightly winded, as though I'd just run a long race. I stood up and turned away. He stood up then and spun me to face him. I worried that I would see pity in his eyes, but determined to take it, I looked him full on in the face.
He was looking right back at me, a strange expression in his eyes. I blushed under his intense blue stare.
"If you don't want to talk to me anymore, I'll understand." I said proudly, remembering the cruel words of the few villagers who'd found out. But Zelos shook his head, looking a bit confused and shaken.
"That's just it, though. Half of me wants to go tear Frank apart for his cruelty, and the other half wants to stay here and hold you and tell you it'll all be alright." Then, uncharacteristically, he turned as red as his hair. "I mean…"
"What…what about Sheena?" I asked, embarrassed at my own forwardness. He bowed his head, looking sad. I felt bad immediately about asking.
"Last time she came to see me, she told me she didn't think we could be together because of the awkwardness between us. I asked her if it was actually someone else. She said she was sorry, but that yes, there was someone else that she was in love with. I asked if she cheated on me. She said no. She asked if I wanted to know who. I said, I'd rather not, because I might go beat him up. She left. But I know it was Orochi. I went and asked him the next day." His voice is low and raw with bitterness.
"I'm sorry I asked…I didn't mean to pry." I replied. He raised his head, eyes glinting.
"Well, what about you? You and Lloyd?" His voice was almost challenging.
"I…I don't know." I said truthfully. "I just…I don't connect with him anymore. He went off with Sheena. He's come back now and then to visit us all, but…it's as though he's not Lloyd anymore. He's changed from the old Lloyd, the one I fell in love with."
"So you were in love with him?"
"For the longest time. Weren't you in love with Sheena?"
"From the time I met her."
"So…what did you mean, then? When you said…"
"I just meant that I care about you. As my best friend." he said shiftily.
"Oh," I softly sighed. He looked at me, a strange, tender hope in his eyes.
"Do you mean that maybe you want to be, well, more than friends?"
Now this was just getting weird. My best friend of nearly a year was saying he wanted to be more than that even though I'd just found out he wasn't in love with my other friend because she'd broken up with him. Not to mention the fact that he was always smooth and cajoling with women, and here he was, stuttering and stumbling along the oldest pick-up line in the book, and oh, yeah, I was having unnerving feelings about him. Feelings that made me want to tell him yes.
So I did.
"Yes. I want to be more than friends. I think."
"You think?" He was hesitant, careful.
"I…I'm scared that this is just going to go away. I think I'm feeling something for you. But then I worry I'm just messing up and hurting someone else."
"You're not. I think." Then he laughed. "We sound like a couple of idiots, hey? I think this, I think that." I laughed too, and soon we were nearly crying with hysteria, even though it wasn't really funny. Maybe it was just the tension of the night, striving to release itself through synthetic joy. Maybe we were just stupid. I wasn't sure and I didn't care. The laughter felt good.
Eventually we quieted, though. "Why do you think this is? That we're feeling this." I said, softly, wondering honestly, worriedly.
Zelos took his time answering. "I think…I think these things just happen. That it just is. It is because it is."
I smiled at him. "I hope you're right. That this is right."
He took my hand and we walked back to the inn.