Kratos watched the sky where the rheairds had disappeared, the first colors of the sunset beginning to appear. He was standing in Dirk's yard, his sword hilt empty and a pain in his side that still lingered from his fight with Lloyd in front of Origin's seal. But he stayed standing despite that pain, until the last rheaird left his sight.
Lloyd. This was the final battle. Either Lloyd and his group would defeat Mithos and rejoin the worlds, or Mithos would win and he would never see his son again. He couldn't help but feel nervous. Everything was riding on this. This was the end of the world as he knew it...
Suddenly a hand slapped down hard onto his shoulder. He nearly fell over, it was so unexpected. Who…?
"Ye know what Kratos? Ye look like ye could use a drink!"
Kratos stared down, shocked. The dwarf had a huge grin on his face, big enough to practically hide his eyes. So that where Lloyd gets that…
"Dirk, I'm not sure this is really the time for such a thing. We should be ready to help in case-"
"Dwarven vow number seventeen!" Dirk bellowed over him. Kratos flinched. "'When life stops ye at every turn, ye must turn t' the drink!' We're in a hard place, Kratos, and there's no sense t' be frettin' about it here and now. Let's get a pint, or we'll be worryin ourselves t' death for hours."
Kratos lowered his head as he prepared himself to argue, but he never got the chance to say anything. Dirk's arm fell around his neck, the force bending him over and cutting off anything he was going to say. "Noishe! Come along here and help me get this one t' town!"
Noishe came bounding across the yard and began to push Kratos from behind, yipping and dancing playfully. Kratos, trapped and defenseless, began to yell and flail, his anger starting to rise.
"Noishe! Stop this at once! Dirk, I insist! Lloyd is out fighting for us! We can't just-! Noishe, I swear-! Dirk!"
Everyone stopped and stared as they walked into town, and Kratos could imagine why. Dirk was whistling, that same damn grin on his face. Noishe hadn't stopped at the gate as he usually did, but followed them in, constantly either running away from them in bursts of excitement or running in his own tight circles, barking all the while. Kratos wasn't even trying to resist anymore. He had stopped trying about halfway through the forest. Nevertheless he still hung from Dirk's grasp around his neck, his arms swinging pointlessly below him. This is ridiculous.
Finally they reached the village inn. Kratos fell onto a stool at the bar with a groan, his back and side aching. Dirk jumped up on the stool next to him and immediately ordered two tankards of ale. Kratos glared at Dirk until they arrived, but when they did he sat up straight and slowly grasped the handle in front of him.
"Drink up, Kratos! There's plenty more where that came from! I brought enough gald here t' last us all night!"
"Very well, Dirk, you have me here. But I don't wish to stay long. We have no way of knowing how long Lloyd will be gone. And I suppose I should warn you, being an angel, I don't get drunk. If that was your aim, I suggest we retire immediately."
Dirk's grin turned devilish and Kratos could swear he saw one of those small eyes wink. "Aye, course ye don't Kratos. Course ye don't."
Kratos's mug slammed down on the bar, his face hidden behind his hair and his shoulders shaking violently.
Dirk pounded the bar with his free hand loudly, his deep throated guffaws filling the inn. "And then…and then…" he struggled to finish his story around his hiccupping and laughing. "And then he took th' lot, and dumped it all over 'imself! The whole thing! I swear that poor boy didn't know what hit 'im!"
Kratos jerked and shook even harder, spluttering slightly. He couldn't talk, could hardly even breathe. He clutched his side, which was now aching less from Lloyd's wound and more from the laughter he couldn't find a way to stop. Whatever he was drinking (Dwarf Whiskey, Dirk called it?) was affecting him more than any other drink had in four thousand years.
"You know…you know what Dirk?" Kratos said after regaining his breath. He was surprised to hear the way his own words slurred together. He'd deal with that later. Dirk turned towards him, still chuckling sporadically. "Lloyd may be a fool sometimes," he stopped as they both chuckled at how true that was, "but he's a good kid. You did a fine job raising him."
Dirk chuckled a bit more to himself, before simply smiling at Kratos. His eyes shone with a bit of fatherly pride as a kind of a lull settled on them. "Aye, he's a decent lad. He's stubborn at times but what can ye do about that? He has the right ideas 'bout the world. But I've seen the way ye made 'im grow, too. Ye helped 'im become strong the way he wanted to, and I'm grateful t' ye." He raised his mug in the air. "To our son, eh Kratos?"
Kratos chuckled and raised his mug, clinking the two together. "To our son."
They drank deeply, gasping as they both finished the last drop.
The sat in silence for a moment, content with each other's company, but it wasn't long before Dirk began to chuckle under his breath. Kratos chuckled too, unintentionally. He didn't even know what Dirk was thinking about, but damn it was just so funny.
"I was just thinkin, yer right about him bein a bit thick headed sometimes! Why, I remember a time when I asked 'im to help me fix a part'a the porch, and…"
Kratos once again had to grip his sides as Dirk's story continued. His son was so absent minded sometimes! That brought up fresh memories, and he couldn't resist countering Dirk's story with one of his own from the journey, trying to speak coherently. He had no idea if Dirk even understood a word he said, but he must have understood at least some of it if the roaring laughter was anything to go by. They began to compete to see who could come up with the worst story, poor Lloyd usually being the brunt of their jokes.
They couldn't stop! Maybe it was their blood types, one dwarven, the other angel, neither quite human, that allowed them to continue, but for whatever reason Kratos and Dirk went on for hours, competing, singing, and laughing nonstop. They saluted Lloyd again, or more accurately, Lloyd's potential luck with Colette, and bought a whole round of drinks for all of the three people still in the bar, including the bartender. Kratos was sure they looked like idiots, but honestly, who cared?
That's how Lloyd found them later that night. After frantically searching Dirk's house, first for a note, then for a sign of struggle, he finally ran to the town to try to get some information about his missing parents. Noishe met him at the gate, leading him straight to the inn.
Lloyd couldn't understand what he heard as he approached. He could hear pounding, as if someone was banging their hand on a table, and laughter. Why would Dirk and Kratos, especially Kratos, be in a place that sounded so…happy?
The sounds of merrymaking grew louder as he pushed the door open tentatively, not sure what to expect. "Dad? Kratos?"
"TO LLOYD!" Everyone shouted. Lloyd nearly fell over from shock.
"What-" Lloyd gaped.
The small crowd around the bar all had their glasses raised, smiles on their faces, before everyone took a gulp of their drinks. Dirk stood in front of them, his own mug raised the highest. He laughed heartily before downing his entire drink, not yet noticing Lloyd at the door. Kratos still sat on his stool, not facing the group, but he smiled and raised his own mug. Something caught his attention just as he took a sip, something red, and he turned, curious.
He spluttered immediately and choked on his drink, totally caught off guard. He began to cough, his eyes wide.
Lloyd continued to stare.
Dirk eventually noticed Kratos having convulsions next to him and slapped him heartily on the back, causing Kratos to slam into the bar and cough even harder, unable to catch his breath. "Ye've got t' be careful there Kratos! The drink isn't goin anywhere!" He chuckled lightly before finally noticing Lloyd. "Oh, Lloyd! Yer here! I'm assumin' that means ye've won the fight! Well done boyo!"
Kratos finally was able to catch his breath, mostly because Dirk was no longer beating it out of him. He straightened up as soon as he could and began to brush imaginary dirt off of himself, trying desperately to maintain some kind of dignity. Unfortunately, his intoxicated body couldn't keep up with his racing thoughts. His body continued to move backwards, and he didn't even realize it until it was much too late.
"Llo-AGH!" He cried out suddenly when his stool unexpectedly tipped beneath him. After a small pause in which he teetered on the corner of a leg, he crashed to the ground in a tangled heap, destroying any hope of gaining control of the situation.
"Kratos!" Lloyd rushed over and knelt down. "Dad, what is going on?" He looked up a Dirk, but he shouldn't have tried.
Dirk was practically dying next to him. He gripped the bar for balance has he bent over, laughing uncontrollably. Kratos lay on his back, stunned for a minute, until the alcohol and laughter once again began to take effect. He smiled up a Dirk, then chuckled, then finally did the one thing he hadn't done the entire night: he laughed out loud. His deeper voice made a laugh that came from deep in his throat and filled the bar.
Lloyd blinked. Kratos…was…laughing. He'd seen the smirk. He'd seen the pleased smile. He'd even seen an amused smile. But this laugh was so free, so open, it stunned him.
"Ll-lloyd!" Kratos tried to speak around his amusement. "Come-come to join the party Lloyd? We were just t-talking about you." And he cracked up again as he remembered their stories, Dirk joining in with renewed vigor.
Lloyd shook his head and stood up. "You know what, I don't even want to know. I'll just ask you guys later. Right now, we're going home."
Kratos chuckled and took the hand Lloyd offered him. "Right. Right of course." Kratos still chuckled, but the open laughter was gone again. "Come along, Dirk. I think this night is over."
"Aye I suppose yer right," Dirk wiped the tears from his eyes. He turned to the group. "Alright everyone. Thank ye for yer time. Have another round of drinks on me." He flipped the bartender another coin before following Lloyd and a stumbling Kratos out the door. Lloyd put Kratos's arm around his shoulder as they headed through the forest, still unable to comprehend this new side of his father. As for Dirk, his singing could still be heard in the village far after they had left.