Jealousy is Unbecoming
By Queenie Z

There were three things in this world that could make Lloyd Irving's stomach turn at the sight of. The first was the suffering of others. The second was tomatoes. As for the third...

"Oh, thank you, Kratos! I thought I was done for back there!"

"There's no need to thank me, Chosen."

...Watching the high and mighty Kratos Aurion steal his thunder in front of Colette.

The young swordsman gritted his teeth. Just hearing her thank that grumpy, stuck-up show-off was enough to set him off. Wasn't he the one who was supposed to protect her? It wasn't like that jerk even cared about her like he, her best friend, did! He was just a stupid mercenary that was in it for the money!

...And now he was offering her his hand to help her up. Great.

"Try to watch your step next time," said Kratos. "It could mean the difference between life and death."

Colette giggled. "I know. You're right. I'm sorry."

Oh, how Lloyd hated it when she giggled at him. Kratos wasn't even funny, let alone charming - in fact, he was about as charming as a brick wall in Lloyd's eyes - so how come she always did that girlish giggle around him? Was it his dark, brooding, enigmatic aura or whatever? Or was it --

"I'm so glad you're traveling with us," said Colette with a smile as she clasped her hands in front of her. "I don't know what we'd do without you!"

The mercenary simply let out a "Heh," before walking over to cast First Aid on a sore and whining Genis.

Now this was just too much. Lloyd crossed his arms and let out an aggravated sigh. Colette turned.

"Lloyd?" she asked, "Is something wrong?"

"I just hate that guy sometimes," he replied.

"Don't say that!" she cried. "Kratos is a very kind person! And he's been so helpful on our journey --"

"He's a show-off," spat Lloyd with a grimace. "A self-righteous show-off who thinks he knows everything!"

An angry look crept over Colette's face (which was more of a cute pout, really). "Lloyd, that's not nice to say at all!"

Lloyd simply grunted. He didn't feel like being nice, especially not when that guy had been busy sweeping Colette off of her feet like some kind of knight in shining armor. However, the last thing he wanted was to make Colette angry.

"...Whatever," he grumbled, defeated, as he wandered off into the forest to steam.

---

Normally, it didn't take much for Lloyd to calm down after a bout of stress or anger. Usually he would get distracted by something else and completely forget about what made him mad in the first place, or he'd cool off after thinking long and hard about the situation over a block of wood and a carving knife - which was just what he was trying to do as he sat on the roots of a thick tree in a woodland clearing.

However, try as he might, he just couldn't get over his feelings of... anger? No, that wasn't right - he was jealous. Jealous of all the attention Colette had poured onto Kratos, who never even deserved it in the first place. Just because he was a better swordsman - smarter - hell, just because he can use magic when no normal human should be able to...!

Lloyd could feel the increased pressure he was applying to his knife as he carved. Of course Kratos was better than him! He was better at everything! No wonder she'd pay more attention to him - and more than anything, it aggravated him that he couldn't receive that attention himself. It wasn't fair! He was the one who cared about her, not that lousy, self-centered, wise-ass --

"Ow!!"

The boy dropped his tools and looked at his thumb. He knew he should have worn his gloves - a good chunk of skin had been sliced right off and he was bleeding like crazy. Cursing to himself, he reached into his bag for something to wrap it in, when he suddenly felt a hand gently grab his wrist.

"First Aid."

Oh, hell.

"K-Kratos!!" Lloyd stammered, yanking his hand away. "What the hell are you doing here!?"

"Making sure you don't end up with one less finger."

Lloyd turned a deep red, steam practically coming out of his ears. "I'm fine!" he cried, "Why don't you just go away and rescue Colette again!? I'm sure she'd go ga-ga over that!!"

Kratos simply raised an eyebrow. "I've no intention of impressing the Chosen, if that is what you're implying."

"Oh, sure, it's 'just your job' and all that - that's exactly what's wrong with you!!" Lloyd clenched his fists together, glaring. "You don't even care about her!! You don't even call her by her name!! Why should you be the one who gets to protect her when you don't even know her!? Huh!?"

A long silence followed, the older swordsman's gaze unfaltering. Then, finally, Kratos placed a hand to his face with a sigh.

"If you're truly in love with her," he said matter-of-factly, "should you not be making more of an effort to protect her yourself?"

Oh, dammit, he said the "l" word, didn't he? ...Well, he wasn't going to deny it, but that didn't stop Lloyd's face from turning even redder than it was before.

"Y-You --" He looked over to the side. "What would you know about that!?"

"Would you become this irrationally jealous over someone you had no feelings for?"

"Th-That's not what I'm saying!!" huffed Lloyd. "You're saying I'm not strong enough to protect her, aren't you?"

The same hand that healed him earlier was now laying on Lloyd's shoulder. Surprised, he glanced up at Kratos, who simply looked back with his usual stern expression.

"There's no reason," he said, "for you not to become strong enough."

Lloyd blinked. "Huh...?"

"You have more than enough motivation to do so. The only thing stopping you from doing it is yourself."

...He had a point, the more he thought about it. Getting angry and jealous of Kratos wasn't going to get Colette's attention, nor was it going to keep her safe. He'd have to work hard and improve himself, not worry about what she thought of other people.

"...So I guess that means I've still got more training to do, huh?"

Kratos nodded. "We could resume after dinner, if you wish."

Lloyd smiled a little. "I think I'd like that." He then turned away, scratching his nose, a small blush still lingering on his cheeks. "You know, you're the last person I ever thought would give me advice on... that kind of thing."

The mercenary crossed his arms with a small smirk. "I was simply restating what I've already told you in a way that would motivate you."

"W-wait, so this was just a way to get me to train more!?"

Kratos sighed once again.