So it had been like forever since I've updated anything. Apologies to everyone. Been...stressful for the past few weeks dealing with one job and cut hours, quitting it and getting settled into my new one and preparing for University in the fall. Summer is just too short. Anyway, I hope you enjoy the chapter, I'll try to be more frequent with the next one. Thank you for your patience.

Chapter 57:

She closed her fingers about his hand, holding it tightly, trying to keep a grip on him. He seemed distant again and she was afraid.


He drew a breath and his eyes flickered to hers. They seemed empty, cold again, like that day he tried to take her to Cruxis. Defeated.

"Lloyd, I'm fine-...I'm okay right now. I'm not in any pain. It's just a bit of a...I don't know what it is, but I'm okay."

"No you're not." Cold flat voice silenced her.

She hesitated, wanting to remove her hand, but instead tightening her grip. "Yes, I am. I'm here, talking to you, thinking, breathing. We don't know what this is but-"

"The Cruxis Crystal is consuming you."

She froze, staring at him. He knew. He knew what this...thing was. She could feel the stiffness on her shoulder, the way the crystal crust would rub together. The constant itch and pull against the skin it touched.

"It's a slow process." He continued, sitting back in the chair, his hand on her lap still gripped in her hand. He stared off unseeing. "It'll spread across your skin, and into your body, shutting down organs until you die."

She took a breath, shaky. "How long?"

He closed his eyes, shaking his head, his free hand rubbing his face.

"Lloyd, how long-"

"Weeks...maybe months. I don't know."

She steeled herself, keeping her emotions at bay. "Is there a cure?"

Then his hand slammed down on the table beside them, pulling free from her, standing to his feet and knocking his chair back. "Damn it. Damn it!" he shouted.

She flinched staring up at him.

"Why you?! Out of all the chances. Out of all the chosens in the past. Why did it have to be you?!"


"Do you know who is the only other person that has ever had this illness? Martel! Only one other person!"

Colette's eyes widen staring. "Martel? But how-"

Lloyd clenched his hands, moving to the window, slamming his fist against the frame, causing it to splinter.

Colette didn't move, staring at his back before looking down at her hands. Why her indeed...

"It's silly, isn't it?" She spoke softly. "I was so ready to die. So ready to die for this world, for everyone...and now, I don't want to. That's so selfish isn't it?" She frowned. "I want to live because of you, because of Leon and everyone. I want to see my baby grow. I want to see him-... " She smiled weakly. "It's so silly."

Then he was there, grabbing her, pulling her up into his arms, his face buried into her shoulder. She stiffened, knowing he'd feel it against his face, but he didn't move, didn't speak of it or change his position. He only held her tighter.

His voice shook and choked and she could feel dampness against her neck as he tried to speak, tried to form words.

"I will cure you, Colette. You will get to see our son grow up. I promise. I'll get you the cure. Please don't die. I can't lose you again. Not again."

She smiled, blinking away her own tears, staring up at the ceiling, remembering a certain night when one of her secrets had been discovered, losing her humanity, and a young boy in red had cried in her place. But now she could cry. She could cry with him.

"You will have the most luck with the library in Meltokio, since we no longer have access to the ones in Welgaia." Kratos frowned. "I know the materials needed, but the amounts and way to form the crest is beyond my expertise."

"Aye, Lad. I don't know if I'd be able to help ya. But I'll do what I can if there are some sort of text about that could aid in it."

Lloyd frowned deeply, frustrated by the lack of information. Why the hell didn't he read more during his time there. All those years and he just skipped over this particular piece of history.

"Alright. I'll take Colette to Meltokio then and we'll find the information we need."

"Are you sure you'll be okay with watching Leon?" Colette asked quietly, looking at her young son in her lap as he played with paper and colored pencils. He repeatedly paused in his art work to look up at his mother to ensure she was watching him before resuming his task.

"He'll be fine, Colette." Frank smiled gently. "I may not be young anymore, but with Kratos and Dirk's help, between the three of us, we should be able to keep him safe."

"I could've done that on my own, but if it makes ya feel better, Colette, I'll work with them both." Dirk nodded, passing Leon another pencil just out of the toddler's reach.

"Indeed, Leon will be safe with us."

Lloyd stared at his son, torn between desiring to take Leon with them and leaving him behind. He hated both choices, but knew the latter was better for the child. He would be safe and spoiled and hopefully not afraid. Lloyd knew the boy would be able to handle his disappearance for a time, as he was often leaving and returning, but he wasn't sure how Leon would cope with Colette leaving.

He slowly got up and slipped his hands under Leon's arms, scooping him up into his own. Colette looked up at him curiously, but Leon giggled clutching onto his father excitedly. "Up Daddy, up."

Lloyd smiled gently and then looked at Colette. "I'm just going to take Leon out to do a bit" He hesitated on the last word, ignoring the smirks from the older men and his wife's knowing smile. She just nodded, sitting back in the chair.

Lloyd carried the happy boy outside into the Brunel's back yard. They had privacy there and he crouched down, settling the toddler on the grass, looking at his son intently.

Leon grinned, looking up at his father, holding his arm firmly looking around. "Daddy, are we pwaying?"

"We are training, Leon. Remember?"

"Twaining." Leon struggled with the word.

Lloyd chuckled and ruffled his hair and reached over to one of the bushes breaking off two sticks. He held one out to his son who giggle and took it, immediately swinging the tiny twig around. "Sword!"

"That's right Leon. I have one too."

Leon grinned and immediately wildly waved the stick towards his father's. Lloyd held the stick steadily, nodding each time it made contact with the other. Leon was giggling and shouting excitedly, dancing on his feet.

"I fwighting! I hit it!"

"Keep going. Keep trying to hit it." Lloyd, said. He wished he could tell Leon to attack him, but Colette had gotten angry the last time he had said that, and he knew she would be watching from the window, so he was content with Leon merely attacking full force on the stick, moving it this way and that.

He wasn't fooling himself into thinking it was true training. His son had no sense of coordination besides waving his hand, but the sight of it made Lloyd smile. To see his son, waving the stick as if he really was wielding a sword, it made him feel... better, more insured. It was a foolish security. The boy would be helpless in danger, but at least he could feel important, not afraid but strong, brave.


Lloyd looked up sharply at the tone of his father's voice, watching Kratos take a few hurried steps out of the house.

"What is it?"

"Lloyd, Palmacosta has been attacked."

"Where is she?" His voice was low, but laced with anxiety. He hadn't seen her at all since she had been swept up into the army of Desians that had swarm the city. His face hurt, his cheek swollen from the hilt of a sword knocking him out. Now that he was awake and dragged into this room before this strange woman.

"Oh, you don't have to worry about her. We are taking good care of her. Wouldn't want to hurt a little hair on her pretty pink head now do we. Dumbo Decus is with her right now, making sure she is all cozy in her cell."

"I want to see her!" Genis snapped and then immediately the tip of her whip slapped against the bottom of his jaw, causing his teeth to clatter shut, sending hot pain across his skin where the tip struck.

"Now now, Genius Genis. You are a Genius right? A smart half-elf like myself. You should know better than to demand anything from your captor." She smiled so sweetly he felt ill. She was enjoying this. Was this the new Grand Cardinal? He thought Lloyd had killed them all. Where did Yggdrasill find this one?

She giggled at his silence and removed her whip, strutting about him with a little skip in her step. Her short dress skirt brushed against her legs, small cords dangling from a belt, bobbing and twirling with her movements.

"What do you want?"

He spoke firmly after she had made a second walk about him. He felt the sting of the crop on the back of his neck, making him jerk up with a hiss.

"I want you to listen. But you were doing so well I suppose I will answer your question." She came about in front and did a quick spin on her toe, seating herself before him, level with him as he knelt, his hands bound behind him. "I don't want anything from you, my genius. I have just acquired you for someone else. A friend and ally, if you must know."


She smiled, flashing her teeth at him and slowly leaned back, swinging her crop gently by her side. "I knew you were swift. But that was an easy one. Do you know why he wants you?"

Genis frowned, realizing he was playing into her sick little games. But he needed information and maybe she was careless enough to give it to him. "He's been chasing us for years."

She laughed, head tilted back. "Oh, you think he's after you? You think highly of yourself. I suppose you are a half-elf. All of us deserve a bit of arrogance once in a while. But, no, he's not after you at all. But I'm sure you can guess who he is after."

He must have paled, judging from her gleeful expression and he quickly tried to cover it with a shrug, but she was already on her feet towering over him and seizing his jaw in her hand.

"You know, don't you? And you know where he is. Lord Yggie may not have gotten it from you, but I can sense it, I can see it in your frightened, terrified eyes. You know where he is, and you know he'll come for you." She tapped his nose with a finger. " And he'll fall right into our waiting arms."

"He won't-"

"Oh but he will, Genius Genis. He will, because even if he manages to get to you. Poor Pinkie will be just out of reach."

"Lloyd! Lloyd please calm down-"

"We destroyed them! We killed them all! I killed them! Where did they come from?!" He was shouting now. His composure forgotten, his face heated.

"Yuan claims it must be from the old Palmacosta Ranch. It's so secluded in the mountain range that any activity would go unnoticed-"

"What the hell does he do then? He's a Renegade? Does he just sit on his ass all day at his desk?! Is he planning anything?"

Kratos sighed and shook his head slowly.

Lloyd stared at his father and then at the house where Leon was peering through the window, Dirk and Frank behind. His eyes were large and brown and anxious. Lloyd took a deep breath, feeling Colette's hand grasping his arm.

"I'm not abandoning them there-"

"Lloyd, that's exactly what he wants-"

"I'm not abandoning him again!" Lloyd snapped, but his voice firm and low. "Of course that's what Yggdrasill wants. I'm not stupid. But he thinks I'm smarter than that now. That I'm not as brash. That'll I'll take my time and plan."

Colette nodded gripping his arm. "We go now."

He looked at her, at her hard but determined expression and nodded in return. "Once Genis and Presea are safe, I'll take you to Meltokio." He knew better than to tell her to stay here. He knew better than to try and make her stay home. And he was worried. What if Yggdrasill wanted them separated? But could they really just leave Leon alone like this-Yes, it was better this way. Pronyma was the only one that knew about him and she never had the chance to tell anyone else.

He looked over at his son, who sat with damp cheeks on Frank's lap, the old man reading him a story from one of Colette's old books. Lloyd knew his yelling had frightened the boy and guilt swept over him and he walked over, kneeling before the boy. Leon immediately looked up and strained to go into Lloyd's arms, but Lloyd simply smiled and placed a hand on his son's head. "Is Grandpa Frank reading you a story?"

"Daddy." He whimpered, holding his father's arm.

Lloyd smiled gently. "You are a big boy, Leon. You can sit with Grandpa Frank and read the story."

Leon shook his head, his chin quivering. It tore at Lloyd, for once unable to find the words to explain to his son that he was going to leave him. Something he didn't want and neither did Leon. But not only that, his mother would be leaving as well. He sat there staring at his boy, until Colette slipped up and picked up their son, giving him a big hug and a nipping kiss on his neck, causing the boy to giggle and hug his mother.


"Yes, I'm here, Leon. But Daddy and I are going to go out for a little bit okay? But you get to play with Grandpa Frank, Dirk and Kratos all day. Isn't that fun?" She tickled him a bit making the boy giggle and kissed his cheek before lowering him back down to Frank's lap.

Lloyd already distance himself to the door, waiting for his wife. He couldn't do it. He didn't know how to say it like she did. Like she was just stepping outside for only a second and not for days at a time.

Dirk had already swooped in to take his place in distracting the young boy as Colette backed away, her face strained but a forced smile on it as she walked away from her son, grabbing her bag. Lloyd glanced to the side as Kratos stepped forward.

"I'd rather go with you."

"I'd rather you stay here and protect Leon." Lloyd responded firmly.

He nodded and looked towards Leon as Colette walked past them both and out the door. Lloyd gave his son one last glance, practically hidden behind Dirk's stout body, before walking out, shutting the door behind him.

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