Based after ToS, two people have fears which they can't overcome alone...so can they overcome them together? Kraine rating may change..and no this isn't smut, despite what the title conveys.
Bare Fear, Bare Flesh
Sunlight filtered down, warming barely covered bodies as they moved under the sun’s gaze. The faintest breeze caught the tips of waves, knocking off the tops as a child would knock down a sand castle. Water whispered, gathered up, furled and released in a gentle cascade. Sand slid under bare feet. Voices cried out in laughter. Light-heartedness…happiness.
Kratos’ eyes flicked open, adjusting to the brightness of the sunlight that was beaming down onto the beach he was sat on and he shifted slightly, allowing his other heightened senses to fade back into normality as his eyesight took precedent again. He smiled slightly, barely more than a slight curve of lips, at the sight in front of him.
The Symphonia crew, as Lloyd had named them, were gathered on the beach of a tropical island, enjoying each others company for the short time they were together, before they had to return to everyday life. It had been a year or so since they had defeated Mithos, re-united the worlds and then gone their separate ways. So now, after a year, they were having a reunion of their own. So far, it was turning out pretty well. Everyone was here for a start. Lloyd and Zelos had made very sure of that, pestering everyone (except Kratos) for months, in the form of letters, messengers or quick visits, all to ensure that they could all get together for this one week. Kratos himself had not borne witness to this pestering, or been subjected to it himself. Largely because he had only returned to earth about 3 days ago and only then because Derris-Kharlan seemed to be caught in the earth’s gravitational pull again and didn’t seem entirely keen on moving off any time soon. A fact which Kratos had been assured of many times, was mere coincidence, and had nothing whatsoever to do with ‘a-certain-summoner-requesting-a-large-gravitational-pull-from-a-certain-summon-spirit-on-a-certain-floating-mass-of-mana-at-the-request-of-a-certain-18-year-old-boy-whose-father-happened-to-be-inhabiting-said-chunk-of-mana.’ He didn’t care. The exspheres on Derris-Kharlan had been discarded into space in a relatively short amount of time, and the ‘holy ground’ was taking care of the problem of its own existence – it was gradually breaking down having been floating in space for so long, and all the mana it was comprised of had been drawn to the nearest planet. Earth. Plus side to this was that Earth was now receiving all the mana that was slowly siphoning off.
Thus the planet was basking in its golden days.
There was plenty of mana, peace, and discrimination between the races was slowly being eradicated. After all, change is inevitable.
The attitude of the group of warriors gathered on the beach was proof of that.
Lloyd, Colette and Genis were involved in a furious game of tag, the older two easily keeping away from Genis who was, unfortunately, ‘it’. Despite the growth spurt that the young half-elf had gone through in the year that had passed, he was still the shortest male of the group.
Presea was wading through the shallows of the sprawling ocean laid out before them, picking off occasional bits of seaweed that decided to attach itself to her pale blue swimming costume.
Sheena was lying face down on a towel in the middle of the beach, sleeping, sunbathing contentedly, completely unaware of the menace creeping up on her.
Said menace was the former Chosen of Tethe’alla, Zelos, sneaking up on the ninja as she slept (wearing only his tiny purple Speedos - Kratos noticed with a shudder – 2cm less of material and the swimsuit would be a thong) with the intention of untying the bow that held her rather skimpy red bikini top on.
He was suddenly pulled away, however, by a mildly irritated looking Regal, who had noticed the red-head, and was now dragging him away from the oblivious sleeper.
And then there was Raine.
Perched on a rock that over looked the sea at the far end of the beach, pouring intently through her book – her new obsession – and ignoring the sea below her.
It would have been quite a beautiful sight, if it were not for the rope that was tied around her waist, anchoring her to the rock that she sat on.
Kratos shook his head, wondering why she would sit so close to a body of liquid which she was terrified of.
“That would be quite a perfect sight if only she would remove that rope.”
Kratos turned to the owner of the voice. Regal. He had approached the seraph, having instructed Zelos to go and cook dinner, and was now gazing in the same direction as Kratos had been formerly.
The mercenary nodded his agreement.
“May I join you?”
Kratos nodded again, shifting over slightly to allow the larger man to sit down beside him.
“I would have thought she would wish to get over her fear of water, considering the marine life that she wishes to study,” Kratos commented “But she doesn’t believe anyone can help her conquer her fear.”
“Perhaps you could assist her in that.”
Regal looked to the angel. “You have more experience than anyone here in life and I imagine you’d be aware of how to help her.”
“I’m afraid I don’t really agree with you. I’ve never been good at conquering my own fears. I would be hypocritical to try and help her.”
Kratos smiled slightly and shook his head, indicating that he wasn’t going to share.
“Then yes, you are a hypocrite…in that you deny that you have fears.”
“True….but humans are flawed.”
“That’s not an excuse.”
“No...it isn’t…I will conquer my fears one day…if the right person should choose to help me.” He turned his gaze back to Raine.
Regal made a noise of thought as he watched Kratos, smiling as he read the seraph’s face.
“Perhaps you should go and keep her company. I’m certain she wouldn’t object.”
“I shall do.” The auburn haired mercenary stood up, brushing the sand off the back of his dark pants.
“Dinner’s in an hour!” Regal called after the man. Kratos raised a hand in acknowledgement as he walked away.
The blue haired man shook his head at his friend’s behaviour, knowing that he wanted to be with Raine, but understanding his only fear.
What to say
Lloyd flopped down onto the soft sand with a muffled ‘thud’ finally worn out from the game of tag he, Colette and Genis had been playing for the last 45 minutes. The aforementioned blonde girl joined him soon after, sitting beside him, her breathing as laboured as his.
The brunet pushed himself up opening his eyes to see Genis stalking over to them.
“Sorry Genis,” he grinned “but hey, think of it this way…it’s training. You do enough running and pretty soon you’ll be as athletic as me!”
The half-elf muttered something about preferring to ‘exercise the mind’ and collapsed, face first, into the white sand, sending up a cloud of gritty dust around him.
Lloyd coughed, waving his arm trying to get the sand away from his face.
“So…I wonder when dinner is?”
“In roughly an hour, assuming that Zelos doesn’t burn it.” Regal informed the young man from his position beneath the palm tree.
Lloyd turned and looked at him “An hour…that long? And Zelos…come on; he only ever makes pasta…”
“I like his food.” Colette piped up, perpetual smile on her face.
Lloyd groaned “But it’s only ever pasta. Pasta, pasta, pasta. It’s always spaghetti, or lasagne or….uh….spaghetti bolognaise and….” He trailed off, realising he couldn’t name anymore pasta dishes.
“I believe he’s making jambalaya today, Lloyd.”
Genis took this opportunity to sit up. “No, Lloyd,” he corrected “Jambalaya is made with rice and lots of spices.”
“I’ve never had that before! Sounds good…is it good, Regal?” the blonde girl asked, Colette asked, joining in with the conversation.
“It is if you like spices…and as Zelos has a habit of going somewhat overboard with the spices, you better had like them.”
“Colette, it’ll probably blow your mouth off, knowing Zelos.” Genis commented, brushing sand off his bare chest on onto his pale blue swimming shorts.
“But it’ll be nice. It sounds it.”
Genis rolled his eyes at Colette’s faith in Zelos’ cooking, knowing that they’d probably all be gulping down water by the gallon, after taking a bite of dinner.
“Yeah. Sounds nice…and I can handle a little heat.” Lloyd stated “C’mon Genis…Zelos’ isn’t that bad really…at least it’s not Raine that’s making dinner.”
Genis snorted a laugh into his hands. “Yeah, that’s true…you remember the time she baked that cake for Colette’s birthday and spread curry powder on the top, ‘cos she thought it was strawberry?!” he laughed.
Lloyd and Colette joined in laughing. “Or when she buttered the chicken that she put on the sandwiches instead of the bread?!” Lloyd suggested.
Colette sat beside the two boys, giggling. “Hey…come on, she can’t help it.”
“Nah….but it’s still funny!” Genis exclaimed, rolling onto his back, kicking his feet into the air as he laughed.
“Where is the professor, anyway?” Lloyd asked, looking around in case she was close enough to overhear and then slap him for the comments.
Regal pointed to the rock at the far end of the beach. “She’s over there…as she has been since she came out of the house this morning.”
“She’s been there all day?” Genis asked, sobering.
“Is she OK?” Colette asked, clasping her hands together in a concerned manner.
“She is fine, I’m sure, she merely wants time to read. Besides, Kratos has gone over to keep her company.” Regal answered
The group looked over to the out cropping of rock, seeing Raine sitting on it. About 10 metres away was Kratos, slowly walking towards her, still dressed in his full black outfit, minus the small cloak that usually covered his shoulders.
“Geez, you’d think he’d be hot, dressed like that.” Lloyd observed, watching his father approach his former teacher.
“He can’t be. He’d...umm take his shirt off, if he was too hot, wouldn’t he?” Colette blushed at the idea of seeing Kratos shirtless. He was usually so…well, demure wasn’t the right word, but Colette had only ever seen the skin of Kratos’ upper arms, shoulders, fingers and face. Everything else remained covered at all times…even his forearms and neck never got bared. At least, they never had been when she had seen Kratos’ on a regular basis. Even in the Triet desert, when it had been blisteringly hot, and everyone else had pulled off layers to keep cool, he hadn’t. It’d been strange, almost surreal.
Genis had pulled off the light blue jacket he wore, so that he only had the dark blue t-shirt on, Lloyd had stripped to down to the white sleeveless shirt he wore under his thick red coat….even the professor had been forced to take off her orange coat and wear only the cream silk blouse she wore underneath it. Kratos, though, had remained fully dressed, save for the shoulder cape, which he had grudgingly removed, even when the sun was as its highest and he was drenched in sweat, he hadn’t even pulled off his gloves. And he hadn’t complained either. Not once.
“I suppose so…maybe he’s just old fashioned and doesn’t believe in showing off much skin?” Lloyd suggested “I mean…he was raised four thousand years ago.”
“Well, maybe,” Genis answered “But he’s adapted his behaviour to suit the times he’s lived in…I mean, aside from the slightly weird lack of emotions, Kratos acts in pretty normal ways, to fit in.”
“So he really isn’t hot like that? After all, we know he can feel hot and cold and everything.”
“I wouldn’t spend too much energy dwelling on that trail of thought,” Regal advised “It’s hardly a pressing concern. I’m sure that if Kratos was uncomfortable, he’d do something to alleviate it.”
Lloyd frowned at Regal. “What’s ‘alleviate’ mean?”
Raine glanced up from her book, blinking, and stretched slightly, staring out at the vast, blue monster laid out in front of her.
She had been sitting on the rock, hunched over her book, reading, for several hours now and her back was stiff and sore. Still, the setting was nice and she had got much of the book read. It was fascinating and would help her research into trans-mana hybridisation of the monsters of Symphonia no end. Maybe if she finished it soon, she could start writing her research paper…finally.
The sound of quiet footsteps on soft sand caught her attention, abruptly pulling her from her train of thought.
Listening, she identified the steps as Kratos. No-one, not even Presea, the smallest and lightest of the groups had steps as light as those of the seraphim.
The man stopped just behind her, glancing over her shoulder to the book as she turned and looked at him. His dark eyes scanned the text quickly and he turned his gaze on her, meeting her eyes squarely as the context of the book became apparent to him.
“I thought the point of meeting up with old friends on a tropical island was to get away from work.” He commented, raising an eyebrow at the complex book.
She smiled lightly. “True…but this isn’t work to me.”
“I believe that, quite possibly, you’re the only person I will ever meet who could say that about reading a book on monster species hybridisation…through changing mana signatures.”
The half-elf merely inclined her head. “Yes, that’s probably true…” she trailed off, realising that this topic was now worn out.
Kratos, sensing her slight unease at the silence, reached for a topic that would interest her and make her feel more at ease. He felt slightly ashamed of himself that he could not even hold a conversation with someone he truly thought of as a friend for more than a minute.
It was, however, Raine who started the conversation up again. She cleared her throat quietly, closing her book and settling it on her lap.
“If you don’t mind my asking, Kratos….why did you come over here?”
The seraph turned his attention to her, and then shrugged slightly, looking like an embarrassed teenage boy.
‘Looking very much like Lloyd,” Raine reflected.
“I thought that you might like some company, having spent the morning alone,” he looked down, scuffing his boots slightly “Although, I realise that I am hardly the most companionable of people.”
“Neither am I. Proven by the fact that I’ve spent all morning on my own, reading.”
He glanced at her.
“That’s a signal Kratos…I’m happy for you to join me.” As a show of this, she moved over on the boulder, making room for him.
A rarely seen smile formed on the mercenary’s face and he sat down on the rock, next to her, bracing his legs against the rough sides of it to keep himself from slipping into the water.
The two sat side by side in silence for a time, staring out at the sea in front of them, unsure of what to say to one another. Anyone watching would have thought the two were lovers, silently basking in each other’s company, so in tune with one another that they needn’t say anything.
Wrong. They sat together as friends and allies, both silently working up the courage to say something, both knowing that if either did, the conversation would probably end again soon.
Eventually, growing bored with the silence, Raine decided once again to try at conversation. But….what to say…
I’m not afraid!
“Do you think you’ll ever find love again?”
Kratos turned to the woman sitting beside him suddenly, almost slipping off the boulder the action was so fast.
Raine looked at Kratos, meeting his gaze, and dropped hers suddenly, caught off guard by the look of incredulity, pain, anger and ….hope? in his eyes.
“I…I’m sorry,” she stuttered “I wasn’t thinking…it was a careless thing to ask.”
She could feel the weight of his gaze on her even when she turned her head fully away in guilt and shame.
‘What a stupid thing to ask a man who lost his one and only long-term partner. The woman who gave birth to his son. The son he cherishes so much, because he’s so much like her. Because he’s all that he has left of her. Anna.
Kratos stared at the woman who sat by his side, unable to form any words in response. His first instinct was to say something cold and harsh, throw her off the scent of his weakness. Stop her from noticing that the question hurt him, cover it up with anger.
It was too late, he realised. She’d seen the hurt when she’d looked him dead in the eye, and though shouting at her would make her back away and never bring up the subject again…he didn’t want to. The half-elf knew that she had made a mistake. She hung her head, turned her face away, went completely tense…he could see it in the muscles of her bare back, the skin just as tense as her muscles.
Not quite believing that he was going to let it slide, he exhaled slowly.
“Why do you ask?” he questioned, his voice quiet, slightly uneven.
Raine started in surprise at the tremor in the usually silken voice…and moreso at the fact he wasn’t shouting at her…wasn’t telling her that it wasn’t her business…wasn’t glaring. Nothing. Just calmly (well, sort of) inquiring as to why she had asked.
“I don’t know…I’ve just….it doesn’t matter. It’s not the sort of thing I want to burden you with. Just foolish female sentiments.”
Kratos tilted his head slightly, his curiosity aroused at the last comment ‘Foolish female sentiments?...the rational Raine Sage is brooding over her marital status?’
“Raine...I don’t claim to be an expert in…love or courting or anything of that vein. My relationship with Anna was nothing short of a miracle, in the fact that it occurred…so I can’t say that if you tell me your problems that I can solve them all…but I am willing to listen.”
He finished his little speech, looked at the woman who sat beside him and was surprised to find that his anger was gone. Not because what she had asked hadn’t hurt and flustered him….but because it was her who had asked.
Raine sighed. “I just…” she choked, “I’ve spent a lot of time on my own and…I come here, and I see Lloyd and Colette together. I see Genis trying to woo Presea, I see Zelos flirting with Sheena. I see Regal, mourning for Alicia but happy….because he had her…” she paused again, looking down at her hands as they fidgeted nervously in her lap, not quite believing that she was thinking these thoughts, and feeling them…much less saying them out loud. To Kratos Aurion of all people. “Who do I have? Who have I had?”
She laughed suddenly at her almost total lack of love life. “Everyone around me has love, or has loved and been loved in return.”
Kratos snorted “I wouldn’t call what Sheena and Zelos are sharing ‘love’…or what Presea and Genis have.”
“It’s a start.”
“It doesn’t mean anything. Raine, we don’t fall in love with the one member of the opposite gender that we spend the most time, based purely on the fact that we spend a lot of time with them.”
“They have something though…”
“They have a platonic relationship…although I’m not sure the term ‘platonic’ can be used in reference to Zelos.”
She laughed again. Softer this time though, not the harsh bark that she had directed at herself before.
“I suppose that’s true enough.”
“You know it is.”
“We’re feeling confident aren’t we?”
The auburn haired man drew himself up to his full height, exaggeratedly puffing out his chest before proclaiming:
“This is one of the subjects in life that you should never doubt me on.”
Raine raised her eyebrows in surprise at the strangely light-hearted display that Kratos had just put on, having never seen any sort of real sense of humour from him before.
The half-elf glanced up at her companion, randomly noting that his attire was the same as usual. Black and almost completely concealing…in this heat.
“Something wrong?” the voice snapped Raine out of her thought.
“Umm…no, I just….aren’t you hot?”
Kratos raised an eyebrow. “Not particularly.”
“And you noticed this because?”
She shrugged. “I merely noticed, that’s all…if you’re hot, why don’t you….um…change into something a little less…concealing?”
It was Kratos’ turn to shrug. “I’m not overly uncomfortable…and, that aside, I merely choose not to.”
The dark red-head turned to her. “You don’t believe me?”
“I find it difficult to believe that even an angel who is resistant to temperature can be comfortable dressed like that in this heat.”
“No, Kratos, that’s not it…I find you very attractive and I want you to strip off.” She snapped sarcastically.
Kratos shifted slightly, feeling uneasy at both the subject and Raine’s foul mood.
When the woman got into a bad mood, she was singly the most terrifying thing that he had ever seen, as he had witnessed during the ‘world regeneration’ journey when she had caught a couple of rebellious teenagers in the act of trying to vandalize the Balacruf Mausoleum’s writings that were carved into the walls.
Each youth had been holding a paintbrush and were doing a fairly decent job of creating accurate paintings of ‘indecent’ body parts on the tablets.
He hadn’t seen what Raine had done to the two boys, and he was partly glad that he hadn’t. All he knew was that by the time the professor had finished with them, the boys weren’t so rebellious anymore. In fact, they had bowed low to the group, and apologised for their ‘sins’.
At this point, Kratos, along with the rest of the group, had backed away from the silver haired half-elf as she reappeared from around the corner, wearing a very disturbing smile.
Meanwhile, back in the real world, which Kratos noticed his consciousness had not been participating in:
“No response?” Raine mocked
“I don’t think there is anything I could say to that which could promote a decent conversation.”
“Depends what your definition of decent is.”
“Not a conversation based on my fear of disrobing.”
Raine turned her head to him slowly, an incredulous look playing across her face at Kratos’ wording.
“Incorrect expression,” he explained, quickly. A little too quickly, the woman noticed. “I meant to say, dislike.”
“Right, right…of course.”
That sat in silent for a few moments, until Raine absolutely had to pursue that train of thought.
“So why are you afraid of undressing?”
“Sorry, let me rephrase,” she gathered her thoughts while seraph stared at her “why are you afraid of being semi-naked in front of other people.”
“Did you have a bad experience as a child or teenager? Because I would’ve thought four thousand years would be enough to get over it.”
“Seriously, isn’t it long enough?”
“Raine,” the angel repeated, his voice dropping to a growl.
“Well, come on…share…”
“Raine! This is not up for discussion.” He dropped his voice from the shout it had turned into, his breathing heavy. “I have my reasons.”
Raine opened her mouth to reply, but was cut short by a shout from the other side of the beach.
“I suppose we better had head over there.” The half-elf murmured, still shaken by her companion’s outburst.
Kratos nodded his agreement and slid off the rock smoothly, stretching his slightly stiff legs, then turned to watch Raine as she gathered up her various books and slid off the rock…only to be yanked unceremoniously back by the rope that tied her to the boulder.
“On the subject of strange habits,” the human commented, trying to dispel his anger and return his demeanour to normal “why do you insist on tying yourself to a rock?…could you not just sit farther away from the water…or try and overcome your fear?”
Raine shot him a dark glare, and he quickly closed his mouth to refrain from saying anything further, opting to silently watch her untie herself instead.
Her task completed, Raine folded the rope up neatly, held her head high and strolled past him, coolly informing him that;
“I’m not afraid.”
Zelos sniffed at the air triumphantly, letting the wonderful aroma of his perfect cooking wash over him. The dish, his Jambalaya, was a veritable masterpiece. One that would cause the brat kid, Genis much suffering for his earlier cruel comments about the red-head’s precious ‘hunnies’. Of course, it helped that Zelos was going to slip in a little extra spice for Genis, without the kid knowing it.
“Let’s see those smart-ass comments come out when his mouth is on fire,” Zelos muttered, snickering to himself in what Regal described as his ‘disturbing laugh’.
Slapping a portion onto a plate (and mixing in enough peppers –and chilli which is not exactly a traditional ingredient – to be deemed cruel), Zelos pushed the plate aside, before screaming:
“DINNER!” at the top of his lungs and moving to the window to watch his friends walk back to the cabin they were staying in.
Lloyd, he noticed, had jumped up and was already racing towards the house, Colette and Genis in tow. Regal, Presea and Sheena strolled behind at a slightly more leisurely pace, and there, in the distance, were the unmistakable figures of Raine and Kratos.
Zelos smirked. Everyone knew that Kratos was totally ‘into’ Raine, as the ex-chosen put it. Everyone except Raine, that was.
The ‘ultra-cool-beauty’ seemed oblivious to the man’s affection for her. She could genuinely be, but then again, she could also be fully aware and not interested.
‘He should put the moves on her, Zelos thought as he dished out the rest of the food ‘but it’s not exactly Mr ’play-it-cool’s’ style is it?’
His thoughts about the situation of the two were interrupted suddenly, however, by Lloyd bursting in through the kitchen door. The teen was jumping around like an over excited child.
“Finally! I’m starving. Can we eat already?” he looked over to the plates of food on the table
“Um…shouldn’t we wait for everyone else, first?” Colette suggested, filing in behind Lloyd, alongside Genis.
“But I’m hungry!”
“It’s good manners, Lloyd. It’s rude to start eating without the others.” Genis informed, looking out through the window Zelos had been looking out of only moments ago.
“But you saw how far away the professor and Kratos were….they’ll take ages to get here.” Lloyd whined.
Zelos rolled his eyes “Go, sit in the dining room, bud. They’ll get here soon enough.”
Lloyd grudgingly nodded, then shuffled through the door to the dining room, scuffing the floor as he went with his feet. Colette followed and Zelos could hear her speaking to Lloyd, trying to cheer him up about the lack of food no doubt.
“You think they’re ever gonna get together?” Genis asked suddenly, and it took a moment for Zelos to figure out what he was talking about.
“Huh…oh, you mean Kratos and Raine?”
“Um…maybe,” Zelos replied, scratching his head, wondering why the brat-kid was asking him about this. Specifically him.
Genis turned to look at him, a white eyebrow raised. “Ok, you’re actually speechless, for once…what’s the deal?”
“Umm, nothing…” the door to the kitchen opened and Sheena and Regal walked in “ah! Look! Sheena, Presea and Regal! Look Genis, it’s Sheena, Presea and Regal!”
The aforementioned trio gave the ex-chosen a look that clearly stated that they thought he was acting oddly.
“Um, yes, it’s us. What’s so special about that?” Sheena asked, glancing between him and Genis.
“Oh, nothing,” Zelos stated before scuttling into the dining room to escape his companion’s gazes.
“OK…that was odd,” Sheena commented “What was that about?”
The white haired boy shrugged “Not sure. I just asked him what he thought the chances of Raine and Kratos getting together were.”
He shrugged again “Dunno”
“I sense that Zelos was uncomfortable with your question.” Presea explained, gesturing to the doorway which the Speedo-clad man had just exited through.
“Why’s he uncomfortable? I’m the one asking the uncomfortable questions.”
“More importantly,” Regal interrupted “why were you asking?”
“I just…I wanted to know what he thought about it, that’s all.”
The trio shifted slightly, uncomfortable.
“You’re uneasy with the thought of them being together.” It wasn’t a question.
“No! I..I want Raine to be happy, but…”
“But?” Lloyd asked, walking into the kitchen, clearly having been eavesdropping.
“But it’s Kratos,” Genis continued, looking down at the floor and squirming restlessly under the scrutiny of his friends. “It’d be weird,” he explained “Kratos would be like…my step-dad.”
Lloyd shrugged “He is my dad.”
“Genis, relax, it’s not like he’s gonna try and act like your Dad or anything. Besides, think of it this way…if Kratos and the Professor get together, we’ll be brothers.”
Lloyd’s comment seemed to do the job of reassuring the teen, because he looked from the floor and smiled.
“Yeah, that’s true…plus it’d be pretty cool to have you as a big brother.”
The brunet grinned at his younger friend. “You know it…”
“It’ll still be weird though,” the magician mumbled, looking out the window at the approaching figures again.
“Yeah,” Lloyd agreed, following his friend’s gaze “But it’ll be weird for me too. Think about it, Raine’ll be like my step-mom and my step-sister.”
“Ew, that’s creepy.”
“You know,” Sheena whispered to Regal and Presea, so the two boys couldn’t hear “Lloyd’s being surprisingly mature about this.”
Regal nodded. “I wonder how long it’ll last.”
The brunet suddenly turned and glared at them.
“OK, I don’t know what you just said, but I know you’re talking about me, since you’re whispering….and I really don’t have a problem with Kratos and Raine getting together. Come on, my Dad can’t mourn my Mom forever…I don’t think she’d want him too.”
Lloyd glanced out the window as he spoke, noting how close the couple were now.
“Damn. They got here quick.”
“So much for ‘they’ll take ages to get here’ huh, Lloyd?” Genis smirked.
The older boy merely stuck his tongue out at his friend.
“Fascinating as this topic is,” Sheena interjected, diverting the argument that was about to occur between the teenage boys “we probably shouldn’t speak about it when they’re around. If it’s going to happen, it’ll happen. They’ll work it out for themselves.”
“I agree,” Regal…agreed “they can sort this out without any help from us.”
“If Kratos ever makes a move!” Zelos shouted from the dining room.
“Just because he’s not as perverted and as forward as you!” the ninja yelled back.
Genis rolled his eyes and grabbed a dish of jambalaya, walking into the dining room “whatever. Let’s just eat and not mention this at dinner.”
Lloyd followed suit, grabbing another bowl of jambalaya and followed the younger Sage into the dining room.
“Yo! Sheena, grab a dish for me, yeah!?” The red-head shouted.
Sheena muttered something under her breath, going to pick up a second bowl when a Colette’s cheery voice stopped her.
“Hang on Sheena, I’ll get it!”
The former chosen suddenly ran into the kitchen, grabbed two bowls of jambalaya, conveniently grabbing the plate set off to the side that Zelos had intended for Genis to have. He had, however, completely forgotten about his prank.
The blonde girl returned to the dining room a few moments later, setting the meal in front of the other ex-chosen, whilst the remaining people in the house trickled in with their respective meals.
Lloyd glared sullenly at his food, before proclaiming “See! Kratos and Raine are going to take ages know that we’ve sat down and are ready to eat! Screw etiquette or whatever, I’m starting without them.” He snatched up a fork from the table, aiming it at a particularly juicy looking bit of meat.
“Whilst I’m impressed that you are aware not only of the fact that the word ‘etiquette’ exists, but also that you managed to use it correctly, Lloyd,” Kratos stated, appearing behind his son “That is not an appropriate attitude.”
Lloyd turned slowly, looking guiltily at his father. “Uh…hey Dad.”
The older man merely shrugged and took his seat, which was, most bizarrely, directly opposite where Raine was sitting.
“Footsie!” Zelos coughed, eliciting stares, glares and sniggers from the other members of the party at the table.
Raine swiftly reached over and smacked him upside the head.
Still sniggering, despite the pain that was now radiating from the back of his head, Zelos grabbed his fork and took a bite of his dinner….
And promptly burst into metaphorical flames.
Sheena, who was sitting opposite Zelos, stared at the chosen as his face turned the same colour as his hair, and silently offered him a glass of water, which he declined before calmly sliding out of his chair and leaving the room casually.
The group who remained seated at the table waited in silence, before hearing a torrent of water crash onto the kitchen floor, followed by a loud and way-too-high-pitched squeak from the man who had just left the room.
“Ooookkkk?” Lloyd questioned, staring at the doorway to the kitchen.
“I believe Zelos’ meal was too spicy for him.” Presea answered, responding to the stunned looks of the diners.
The aforementioned ‘philanderer’ chose that moment to re-enter the room, shivering, water dripping from his hair and body, face still the colour of a beetroot. He said nothing as he crossed the room, calmly took his seat and continued eating his meal, without so much as a hint of discomfort over the heat of the food.
“So…uh…” Sheena started, casting around for a topic which they could discuss to break the stunned silence “...Raine, Kratos, how’s it going with you two?”
“What do you mean?” Raine asked, apparently not noticing as Kratos choked on his meal at the topic.
“Well…uh, I just mean, we haven’t spoken much, you know? Had a chance to catch up or anything? All of us, I mean, not just you and Kratos. Not that there’d be anything wrong with just you and Kratos catching up. You’re both adults and you don’t need us telling you whether you can…um…talk or anything you know, especially as Kratos is over 4000 years old. But age isn’t a problem is it? It’s not like it should stop people being friends, or more….or, or, just acquaintances…not that you’re just acquaintances anyway, well, you might be but you know each other too well, or maybe you don’t, but that’s your choice, but you could get to know each other better, it’s not like there’s...uh, anything to…stop….uh….you” the ninja trailed off, heaving in breaths at her long, babbled monologue.
Raine, for once, didn’t look like she had a clue what was going on, and chose to look at Kratos for any sort of idea.
The mercenary merely shrugged and took another bite of his dinner, studiously looking out the window and anywhere but Raine’s eyes.
Stymied by the lack of response from anyone over Sheena’s random monologue, Raine merely replied with a curt, not to mention patronising; “Yes, Sheena.”
The former assassin blushed a shade similar to that of Zelos’ face after just taking a bite of his meal, and she promptly dropped her head.
The rest of the meal was spent in various silences, brought on by embarrassment and tension in equal amounts.
It was finally Kratos who broke the pervasive silence with the suggestion that, following the protocol of washing up the dishes, the entire group should engage in some sort of amusing activity as a whole, thereby ridding them of the tension, and the problem of, as Lloyd put it ‘what the hell are we gonna do for the rest of the day?’.
“I veto anything that involves water.” Raine replied sharply to Genis’ suggestion.
“Ooohhh, I wonder why that is…are you maybe….scare..OW!”
“I am NOT afraid of water,” Raine informed Genis (and the rest of the group) coolly, whilst rubbing her now red hand that was sore from the blow she had just dealt her brother.
“So why not go swimming, my ultra cool beauty?” Zelos questioned, not missing the warning look that Kratos sent him but Raine, apparently, missed.
“We’ll sunburn so badly.”
“Water acts as a magnifying lens, Zelos, it focuses the sun’s rays so you’ll burn more.”
“Plus it would mean that Kratos would have to show some skin, and we can’t have that,” Sheena quipped, winking at the mercenary and exaggeratedly trawling her eyes down his body (Lloyd gags at this point).
A quiet, unamused “humph” was the only response Sheena received from the stoic man, aside from a slight glare.
“How about volleyball?” Colette suggested meekly.
“Yeah! I second that,” Zelos replied, a little too enthusiastically, a wide grin on his face.
Raine just about caught the words ‘bouncing’ and ‘chests’ from him, and subsequently, the idea was quickly squashed.
A brief discussion (for discussion, read ‘argument’) erased any chance of sand-castle building, treasure hunting and pretty much anything else you could think of doing on a beach.
“The only other thing we can do together is talk,” Lloyd commented, flopping down listlessly onto the sand.
“That is not true,” Presea stated
“So what’re we gonna do?”
“Perhaps we could spar….after all, we are all fighters.”
Regal nodded in agreement at the idea. “Presea is right. It should keep us entertained for a good amount of time, and it seems fitting that we should essentially relive our journey together through this.”
“Well, since all talking seems to do at the moment is start arguments, I believe sparring is probably the best option we have right now.” Kratos murmured, looking out towards the ocean.
“Alright!” shouted Genis, “I have waited so long to show you this new attack!”
With that stated, the youngest member of the group sprinted into the cottage to retrieve his kendama. Everyone else quickly followed suit, walking back to the house to retrieve their weapons.
Raine groaned quietly, swapping over onto her left side to stare out through the open doors that led onto her bedroom’s balcony, wishing that it wasn’t so damn hot. The daytime was bad enough, but the night….it was making the air close, sticky…generally oppressive (a bit like the silences that had been appearing between her and Kratos, she mused.).
The group had sparred well into the evening, out on the beach, until they were all tired, hot and getting slightly irritable. They had quickly decided to retreat to their rooms, hoping that the encroaching evening would bring some relief from the heat.
It hadn’t worked.
The half-elf flipped over onto her back, staring up at the blank ceiling, too restless to fall asleep.
She rolled over onto her right side, facing the door, and eventually decided that swapping positions constantly wasn’t going to achieve anything.
With a dejected sigh she rolled out of the bed, gladly leaving behind the suffocatingly heavy, sweaty sheets and walked over to the window, out onto the small balcony overlooking the meagre garden at the back of the house. She was glad of the balcony purely because it acted as a perch where she could reach fresh air, and the light breeze that was blowing her hair into her face.
Relaxing against the railings and revelling in the cool breeze that blew across her body, she closed her eyes, contemplating, listening to the sounds of this island at night.
In the distance she could make out the sounds of an animal rustling around in the undergrowth, the occasional tweet of a bird that hadn’t quite fallen asleep, the serene slosh of water against sand…and a door being quietly closed somewhere down the hall.
Curious, Raine turned back to go inside, listening intently to the quiet footsteps as she crept over to her door, pressing her ear against it.
Soft footsteps padded lightly down the carpeted stairs, stopped for a moment then continued to the direction of the front door.
Risking a peek, the half-elf opened her door a fraction, peering out into the semi-darkness at the tall, male figure of…Kratos, who was opening the outer door.
‘Where the hell?...I know Kratos has a history of disappearing in the middle of the night…but on a journey, not on a vacation’
Quickly considering the option of going back to bed, so she could twist and turn in a vain attempt to get to sleep, she dismissed it and grabbed the light summer dress thrown at the end of the bed, slipping it on over the underwear she had chosen to sleep in.
Opening the door to check that Kratos had fully left, Raine crept slowly out of her room, shutting the door quietly before making her way downstairs silently, wincing when a wooden floorboard creaked loudly.
No-one responded and she hurried on to the front door.
The air outside was still stiflingly warm as she stepped outside the cottage, but that same breeze that had cooled her as she stood on the balcony was still blowing gently, cooling her to a bearable degree.
Taking a deep breath of the air she glanced down at the sand in front of the wooden steps of the house, noting a dip in the sand where a foot had been.
Glancing around at her surroundings, Raine stepped off the porch of the house into the still-warm sand and started to follow the indentations in the sand, hoping that Kratos hadn’t wandered too far away already.
‘Then again,’ she thought as she walked, only just realizing what she was doing ‘what am I going to do if I do catch up to him? It’s not like he’s doing anything wrong.’
It’s not like she could accuse him of anything, other than being unable to sleep, just like her. ‘Perhaps we can just hang out until we’re both tired enough to sleep….did I just use the term ‘hang out’…oh, lord.’
She didn’t have another option now anyway….well, not one that looked appealing at least. Sleep was out of the question, and work should always be done with a clear, fresh, objectionable state of mind.
Which she wasn’t in, considering the fact that she was following her friend, deep into a tropical forest, without him noticing, in the middle of the night, dressed in only a thin summer dress…without any form of defence, should there be wild animals around.
And, it was deep into a tropical forest, or at least, into a forest, she noticed, as she strode past a number of sparse, green plants that were rapidly increasing in number, becoming a dense mass of green.
‘Why on earth is he wandering into a forest in the dead of night?’
She suddenly breached the line of palm trees that marked the border of the forest, and noticed that the rumble of the sea’s waves had become distinctly quieter.
Slowing her pace, the half-elf checked the sand in front of her for more footprints, looking for a sign that she was at least going the right direction. She was, but the indentations were become obscured by the leaves of low plants.
Despite her judgement, however, she forged ahead, determined to find out where the seraph was wandering off to so late at night.
She walked for what must have been at least half an hour, then stopped for a break, noticing how out of shape she was getting since she had stopped walking long distances with the team. Suddenly, she realised, as a pang of loneliness and nostalgia hit her, she had no idea where she was.
The trees and plants of the forest were creating thick walls around her, and there were no footprints any longer, save her own.
But at least that meant she could follow her trail back out….except that the wind had picked up and was blowing the sand, erasing her own footprints as well as that of the man she was following.
Beginning to panic Raine looked desperately back at the way she came and pushed her way through the foliage, looking for an odd shaped tree, an interesting plant….anything that she recognised that she could use to find her way back.
There was nothing.
No twisted or gnarled tree, no bright flowers, no markings on the bark of a tree where an animal had scratched against it. Everything looked the same. Every stone, every plant…even the sky couldn’t help her by following the North Star, or something, obscured as it was by the towering, waxy leaved palms trees.
Breathing heavily now, the ex-professor guessed at the way she had come, and started walking, unconsciously picking up speed as she made her way through a maze of pliable walls that were all bottle green and coconut brown. She swiped her forearm across her forehead, wiping away the thin sheen of sweat that had broken out upon it in her exertion and panic.
The half-elf suddenly stopped, dropped to her knees in the soft sand, and sat quietly, hoping that, somehow, she could find her way back.
She panted heavily, wiped her hair out of her face, and sat back on her haunches and stared up at the canopy high above her, before closing her eyes and trying to relax.
A quiet, continuous roar echoed in the air around her, and her eyes snapped open. She clambered to her feet as quickly as possible, and ran for the noise. Never before in her life had she been so glad to hear the crashing noises of the ocean.
She was running at full speed now, and the noise was growing louder, but to her dismay the flora was not thinning, and there was still only the faint shaft of moonlight trickling down through the tall canopy of leaves.
Nevertheless, she kept on running, her heart pounding now, and, suddenly, wonderfully the roar was upon her.
Raine burst through the leaves in front of her, a thick oppressive wall, and broke out onto the beach.
Except it wasn’t a beach. It was just a clearing.
A perfectly round clearing, with a cliff face dominating a quarter of the outer arc, a waterfall roiling down the surface into a large pool.
Moonlight beamed down onto the clearing, emphasising its serene, picturesque quality, like something that had come straight out of bad romance novel.
However, for all its serene beauty, its silver surfaced pool and golden sands, and all its haven like qualities, it wasn’t.
It wasn’t safe, it wasn’t home, it wasn’t where her friends were.
…Until she turned to look at a flicker of movement that she had caught in the corner of her eye.
There, sitting on a rock like she had earlier today, watching her with sharp eagle eyes, but a concerned expression, was Kratos.
Raine gaped, panted; fell to her knees, gasping for breath as relief washed over her. He was here, she had found him, and he could lead her out.
She had never been so happy to see the man…never found him more attractive at that point in time.
‘If only I didn’t look so pathetic’ she thought sourly, still struggling for breath, but watching his every movement as he slid gracefully off the rock and approached her.
“Raine? Are you alright?”
She coughed quietly in response, before managing to sputter out the words:
“I’m fine, fine. I just got a bit….flustered when I thought I was lost.”
He nodded in understanding as he knelt in front of her, an action that the half-elf found both reassuring and deeply patronising.
“Why did you come out here?” his voice was soft, concerned.
“I was following you,” she hissed, anger quickly replacing the relief she had just felt “you and your stupid midnight wanderings! I could have got lost, been missing for days.”
The angel looked completely taken aback, and he lent backwards, as if it would protect him from the woman’s ire.
“I didn’t ask you to follow me.”
“No, but I had to didn’t I?”
“Of course I did. One of my friends is going off on midnight rambles!” she stood up abruptly, refusing to have him crouch in front of her like she was a child any longer “I had to know why….there had better be a good reason for this.”
He stood, walked away to stand by the edge of the pool. “There isn’t. I merely couldn’t sleep, and I wished to find a peaceful place where I could think alone for a while.”
He nodded to her over his shoulder.
“And why couldn’t you just think in your room?”
“I tend to do a lot of pacing when I’m thinking about…” he trailed off into a different train of thought before completing what he was saying “I didn’t wish to disturb anyone….but it seems that I wasn’t the only one who couldn’t sleep.”
“Thinking about what?”
He turned to her, casting her a strange look.
“What do you mean?”
“You said ‘when I’m thinking about…’ and then you trailed off.”
The seraph cleared his throat, before straightening his shoulders, but said nothing.
“And you never pace,” she continued “unless you’re pondering over a particularly personal matter, one that you’re uncomfortable with.”
Raine tilted her head as she watched him shift from foot to foot, her anger was gone, replaced with curiosity, and she realised that she was suddenly very tired.
Kratos seemed to notice this.
“You seem tired….you should return to the house.”
“A, I can’t get out of here without a guide or a machete, and B, I’m not going anywhere until you answer me.”
“Why do you think the answer concerns you?”
“I never said it does.”
“But you do think that.”
“OK, let me sum it up for you,” she took a step forward, balled her right hand into a fist and held it up “One, you didn’t shout at me even when I over-stepped my bounds earlier today,” she flicked her little finger up to mark the number “two, Sheena asked how it’s going with ‘us two’” another finger flicked up “three, Zelos, despite the fact that he always makes sexual references to me, he never makes them about you, yet he included you in his comment of ‘footsie’, four, everyone seems intent on getting us to spend more time together, and five, everyone seems to know what’s going on except me…as if they’re afraid to spoil something for me, or give something away which isn’t theirs to give.”
Kratos smiled at her monologue, the scientific way of telling him that she thinks he’s interested in her. As if it were easy to make a subject as convoluted as love clear cut and scientific.
“And you keep smiling at me! You never smile!”
“I do for those I care for.”
“So you do care for me?”
“So this personal problem of yours is, in fact…me?”
He nodded “Although I’m not sure ‘problem’ is the term I would use.”
He cleared his throat, looked up at the moon for a moment “I was…pondering the question you asked earlier.”
“About….about the love thing?”
Another nod, accompanied by averted eyes.
The seraph stared at her incredulously, amazed that a woman so intelligent could be so dense.
Realisation dawned on her, and a look of shock painted itself across her face, her mouth hanging open in a less than dignified, intelligent and ladylike manner.
“You…” she didn’t seem to be able to find the words.
“I…I care about you, Raine.”
The look of shock on her face dropped away “Is that all….just…caring about me?”
“I care about you…” he repeated, stumbling over his words “I care for you.”
The statement didn’t seem to be enough for the woman and she turned away from him.
“So do Regal, and Zelos, and Sheena…and, well, everyone in our group. Simply caring isn’t enough, Kratos. I thought….I thought you felt more than just that for me…”
She walked away from him, heading for the line of trees that marked the boundary between the clearing and the dark, suffocating forest.
She kept walking.
‘Sorry Kratos, but I need more than just care from you….I thought you…’ she shook her head as she walked, her thoughts seeming like that of a love-struck teenage girl to her. The kind of girl that follows a handsome man, swoons if he gives her so much as half a glance, flirts and giggles and waits patiently in the belief that one day he will realise he loves her.
‘He obviously doesn’t…..’ even in her mind, she had difficulty with the word, it’s massive implications ‘..love me.’
“Raine!” there was suddenly a hand on her arm, and then Kratos was in front of her, a look of sheer exasperation on his face as he looked at her.
“Gods! I always thought you were intuitive enough to pick up on what people feel about you.”
Raine stopped, looked down at his hand, holding her arm “What’s that supposed to mean?”
“Exactly what I said! I…”
“You what, care about me?” she mocked “I told you, all my friends care about me, for me…”
He let go of her arm and stood back, pursing his lips as he thought the situation through, before sighing as he conceded her point.
“Fine…they do all care about and for you,” He slowly, hesitantly reached down to grasp her hand, stepping towards her and bending his head to whisper in her ear.
“But. would they do this for you? Is this an act of merely caring?”
He pulled back slightly, taking a moment to stare into the pale, questioning blue eyes, then hooked his free hand behind her head, drawing her body towards his and gently, ever so gently and slowly brushing his lips against hers.
Raine tensed against him, not expecting this reaction, and her hand slipped from his grasp. Her mind was too rushed with thoughts to control her body, to make it respond to him, to do…anything other than just stand there, numbly, really.
His body moved away from hers and she glanced up, his movements jerking her mind back into reality, her body remained paralysed with the force of her thoughts however.
The seraph’s head was well and truly down, his face shadowed by his slightly too long hair. His body language screamed disappointment, rejection…hurt.
She watched, frozen, stunned, as he began to move away from her, head hanging, mouth opening to form an apology.
“I apologise, it was too forward of me to….”
He didn’t get to finish the rest of the sentence; his lips crushed by the silver haired half-elf’s, who had just thrown herself against him, her lips pressed insistently against his.
Breaking away a few seconds later, Raine looked up at him and replied “Shut up.” before pushing her lips against his again.
Staggering a few steps back at the force of her body being pushed so insistently against his, Kratos wrapped an arm around the woman’s slender waist, the other returning to the back of her head as they kissed.
He smiled to himself when he felt her slim arms slide around him, one encircling his waist, the other pressed against his upper back, her lips still pushed against his and moving slightly now, encouraging him to kiss her more fully.
‘Forgive me, Anna, for I have found another whom I love as I did you’
Tightening his already firm grip on her, the seraph pulled his new found love closer to him so their bodies were flush, her soft curves pressed against the hard muscle of his torso.
The professor made a quiet noise of contentment as she was drawn further into his embrace, revelling in the feeling of finally being in somebody’s arms, in a grip that was more than just a friendly hug or a familial expression of compassion.
‘This isn’t just ‘somebody’ though. This is Kratos….and this is really happening’
Completing that thought, she pulled away from his mouth in a bid to bring more air into her lungs and she let her head fall against his shoulder as she breathed in deeply, trying to saturate her lungs with oxygen.
Leaning against him like that, she could feel the low rumble of his chuckle at her actions vibrating through his chest, and she rolled her eyes.
“It’s fine for you, isn’t it? You don’t have to breathe.”
He said nothing in response, just ran his hands up and down her back in a way that made Raine completely melt against him…as if that kiss wasn’t enough.
She cleared her throat as she leant against him “So…does this mean…” she trailed off, not wanting to finish her sentence, still not sure if this situation was what it seemed to be.
“That I love you?” Kratos finished the sentence for her, smiling at her when she raised her head and met his eyes. “It does.”
“I wouldn’t lie to you about something like this, Raine. I’m not that cruel.”
She smiled softly and lowered her head again to rest it on his shoulder once more “I know.”
“And I do have to breathe.”
The she-elf merely gave him a quizzical glance before murmuring “Really? Well…shall we see how long you can hold your breath for?”
He grinned at her statement, a full, true smile, the likes of which she had never seen before. It made her heart swell with affection and pride that he would choose her to bestow that smile upon.
Standing up on the very tips of her toes, Raine pulled his head down and brushed her lips over his in a mirror movement of his actions before.
They met slowly, light, butterfly wing strokes against each others mouths, their kisses becoming heavier, less precise as time trickled by, until they were forcing their lips together, arms crushing their bodies to each other, hands tangled in hair.
Then suddenly, that barrier of lips collapsed and their mouths were open against each other. Hot and hungry and wonderfully wet as tongues slid together, fighting to be further inside that wet heat.
Her hands were everywhere, Kratos’ mind registered distantly, tangling in his hair, trailing about his neck, scratching at his back, kneading his shoulders and chest, wandering further down to tease his taut abdomen before pulling up teasingly and sliding around his waist to grip his ass playfully before returning to his chest and shoulders, repeating the stimulating motions all over again.
And Anna had never, never been like this. Never taken the initiative, or had the courage to test out what had pleased him.
Her touches had been warm, naïve and shy and so girlishly innocent that he hadn’t minded. But this was what he wanted now. Spirit. Fire. Passion. Strength of will and courage and experience and knowledge and initiative and the one-thousand-and-one other things that this other woman was using to drive him insane, pushing his body to the limits and then dragging him back again, over and over, making him desperate for it.
He had never felt so uncontrolled before, so free to actually engage in this act.
Then her hands were under his cape, sliding the heavy black cloth from his shoulders. It hit the floor with a muffled thud, crumpling into a black puddle as she ran her hands over the pale, exposed flesh of his shoulders and upper arms, relishing the feel of that somehow smooth, unmarked skin.
Her lips had slid away from his mouth and were trailing down his jaw, his neck, nipping at the patches of skin exposed by the diamond gap as his collarbones, in the centre of his chest. Her hands came up to follow the motions, running over the edge of the gaps while her mouth pressed against his once more, her fingers working at his collar to open it, pulling the cloth apart to slide her hands against the freshly exposed skin before moving downwards to release the catch that held the cloth over his chest closed.
Then his hands were coming up, unbidden, unwanted, grasping hers, pulling them away as his lips were pulled back from hers.
She looked up at him, confused, her hands held between his, hovering in front of his chest and the slightly parted material.
Kratos met Raine’s eyes, bemused and suspicious now, searching for if she had any idea of why he’d stopped. Apparently, she didn’t.
This was going to be fun to explain.
She licked her lips as she gazed up at him “Did…did I do something wrong?”
The seraph sighed, dropping her hands.
“No, you didn’t, it’s…it’s me, I’m sorry.”
“What you have a problem with what we’re doing?...Is it because we’re not married?”
He smiled in a grim, miserable way “No,”
“Then..do you not find me attractive?”
Kratos flicked his eyes up to hers, surprised that she would think something like that. He stepped forwards, tilting his head up with his fingers under her chin so he could meet her eyes.
“You’re the most beautiful creature I’ve ever seen.”
She blushed, then dropped her head. “It’s Anna, isn’t it?”
He thought about that, considered the possibility that it was actually that. Which would be so much more understandable, so much more meaningful than the pathetic reason that he didn’t want to sleep with her. Not that he didn’t….he did, but that involved the action of disrobing, and that was a considerably larger problem.
Briefly, he toyed with the idea of telling her that it was Anna, that he felt guilty about this and that was why he couldn’t. But that was a lie, so he couldn’t tell Raine that, because she deserved the truth, no matter how pathetic the truth may be.
Besides, maybe this was the time to get over his fears and he thought back to the conversation he had had with her earlier that day:
“I will conquer my fears one day…if the right person should choose to help me.”
He sighed heavily again, bracing himself to answer her.
“It’s not Anna. It’s me, Raine,”
“Then what is it?”
“It’s…it’s quite ridiculous, really,”
“I’m uncomfortable about….uh, my body,”
She stared at him incredulously and he laughed self-consciously “I sound like a teenage girl, I know.”
“Um….there’s nothing wrong with it, from what I can see.” Raine trailed her eyes down the length of his torso, analytically now.
“From what you can see,” he repeated, and she took the hint, slid a hand around the back of his neck.
Hesitantly, he took her hands in his again, his movements unsure for what had to be the first time in a hundred years.
He slowly guided her hands to his chest, and she took the initiative, sliding her hands under the slightly parted cloth, pushing it away to reveal the flesh of his chest, glancing at his face to gauge his reaction so often that she initially didn’t see why he was uncomfortable.
Her hands continued to peel away cloth and she looked down to his chest, suddenly seeing the reason and gasping at the severity of it, making him flinch.
The pale skin of his chest was covered in an abstract painting of long-since-healed scars, testaments to a multitude of agonizing, life threatening wounds.
Stark white lines, somehow paler than the fair, colourless flesh of surrounding tissue were picked out by the silver moonlight that was bleaching the area of colour, interlaced with similar marks of dark, angry red and tender pinks.
The result was a bizarre piece of modern art; distorting the natural contours of muscle and sinew like an optical illusion that no-one could actually see.
Raine ran a finger down the centre of his chest, feeling the ridges of the scars underneath the tip, trailing it down towards his abdomen, and opening the rest of his shirt before slowly pushing it off, until he was standing completely bare-chested in front of her.
His stomach had faired no better than his chest, pitted and lined with scars of battles fought centuries ago.
The half-elf traced a particularly long scar that arched down over his waist to his hip-bone, highlighting the natural curve of his body.
“This is what you were worried about? That I’d find you repulsive?”
He shrugged awkwardly “Not exactly. The appearance is not a problem…it’s what they mean and what they show about me.”
“That you’re a warrior…or a glutton for punishment? Kratos, I already knew that.”
Shaking his head, he pulled her hand up to a particular scar, located directly over his heart. A tiny white line, two centimetres long at most, and about the thickness of the very tip of a sword…and she realised what he had meant. Trembling, she examined a scar on his neck, a decisive mark, made with a knife, clearly intended to kill.
He shifted slightly as he stood in front of her, raising his arms slightly to indicate that she look there.
She did so, hesitantly grabbing the hem of one of the long gloves and pulling it down his arm, not entirely sure that she wanted to see the marks underneath. It seemed important to him though, so she continued to pull the cloth down to his elbow, revealing nothing but smooth, flawless skin.
And then they appeared all at once. More heavy scars adorning his forearms, crammed together, overlaying each other. A gallery of different sizes and colours and positions with one common cause. His suicide.
She hurriedly pulled off the other glove to reveal a similar sight. Line after line after line covered his forearms, most centred on his wrists, clearly intended to sever the fragile arteries under his skin.
Raine grasped his hands and pulled them up in front of him, examining each one to find only the odd scar here and there. A sharp line across his left palm and fingers, where he appeared to have grabbed a sword and the small circular burn from where his exsphere fused to his skin on the back of his right hand were the only marks that seemed anything more than ordinary.
She turned his hands over again, analysing them now, instead of the scars, taking the rare moment to learn as much about him as possible whilst he was laid bare, be it literally or emotionally.
Long, pale, calloused fingers wrapped about her own as she traced his palms, finding herself reading his love-line. It wavered for a small portion at the beginning, then solidified and forged on strongly, curving upwards and disappearing between fore and index fingers.
Smiling, she turned their hands over and rubbed her thumbs along the back of his, stroking the surprisingly clear blue veins under his almost pure white skin., before lowering her head to kiss gently at the back of his left hand, then his fingers, then moving to repeat the motions on his right hand.
His fingers uncurled from around hers and brushed her cheek as she kissed the fingers of his right hand, causing her to look up at him.
“You tried to commit suicide.” She stated, looking directly into those mahogany eyes.
He nodded once, miserably.
Raine glanced away looking at the surrounding area before turning her attention back to him.
“I don’t judge you for it. You lost not one, but two people whom you loved dearly…anybody else would have done the same.”
“I should have been stronger,” he sighed, his voice wavering “I should have coped with her death better and searched for Lloyd more thoroughly. Instead I ran back to Cruxis like a coward.”
“We’re all wiser after the events have taken place. You can’t be blamed for what you did; you thought your son was dead, with no chance of survival. How many people would honestly believe that their three year old son fell down a cliff and survived? And people have tried to end their lives after something far less dire….most importantly, you didn’t go through with it.”
He snorted “I would have, given the chance. Look at how many times I tried…Yuan is the only reason I lived through that period. I spent years shut up in my chambers, cutting myself, plotting my own death…”
“But you’re here now, alive, with me and Lloyd, and all your friends.” She gently tried to lift his hanging head by the chin, so he might look into her eyes as she spoke to him, but he silently turned his head away from her grasp.
“Kratos, look at me,” she pleaded, but he didn’t respond.
“Look at me,” the professor tried again, succeeding in getting him to raise his eyes to hers for a moment.
“Look at me or I leave.”
The threat accomplished the task of getting him to meet her eyes and actually hold the gaze whilst she prepared to make her pitch.
“You’re not to blame for what happened,” she started “Nor could you change it, so you had to deal with it…and you perhaps chose the wrong way of coping in the beginning.” She shook her head to emphasize her next point “We make mistakes. Humans, elves, half-elves….non of us are infallible. It’s OK to make mistakes.”
“My mistake cost her life,” he pointed out, interrupting Raine.
“And you paid for it…you were punished for it, and you punished yourself for it…for far too long. The fact that you’ve suffered for it doesn’t make it right, I know, but if you don’t learn from it…then it’s all meaningless. You were once told by your own son that it’s OK to make mistakes, as long as you learn from them, right? So why don’t you take his advice?
You’ve lost your love, you’ve mourned her and you’ve punished yourself. Now all you have to do is learn from your mistake. Suicide is not the way out; you know that now…that’s all that matters.”
A light seemed to switch on behind his eyes, and he finally raised his head to look at her fully.
“You’re right, once again, Raine. Forgive me for my actions, please, so that I may finally move on.”
She tilted her head in slight bemusement at the request “I’m not sure that you need forgiving, but, if it’s what you need, then all is forgiven.”
He smiled at her, gently “Thank you.”
Do you trust me?
The moon was directly above them when Kratos and Raine finally moved from their positions, pressed together as they stood in the clearing.
It was Raine who pulled away first, stretching her stiff muscles after being cuddled up against her angel for so long.
She wandered idly away from him, over to the rock he’d been sitting on earlier and pulled herself onto it, reclining slightly once she was safely perched on it, regarding him silently.
“So, what now?” she asked as he picked his shirt up from the floor.
“Well, I would hazard a guess that a relationship would be the appropriate action…assuming both parties are interested in the prospect.”
“Ok, did the kiss mean nothing?”
The seraph smiled as he walked over to the rock she was sitting on, dropping his shirt by it before walking to the pool and splashing water over his face and shoulders.
“It did. It’s not a commitment though.”
“You want to marry?”
“No….not yet, anyway.” He dropped onto his back, right arm idly trailing through the water “Give me time, woman.” He joked.
She snorted in amusement, then dropped her head, studying her hands. “I do too, you know.”
“I love you too.”
Kratos smiled at her again, watching her as she meandered over to him and dropped down to lie beside him on her side, supported by her elbow.
He reached up and gently traced a finger tip along her jaw up to the very tip of her ear, his thumb brushing along the same trail shortly after.
“Does it bother you?” she asked suddenly, watching as his eyes followed his finger and thumb.
“Does what bother me?”
“That I’m a half-elf. Do you really want to get into a relationship that people are going to despise you for?”
He stared at her incredulously, but he appeared to be thinking deeply about the question and how to answer as he did.
“Raine,” he started “Personally, I’m more concerned that you wouldn’t want to be with me on account of my age.”
The mercenary raised a digit against her lips quickly as she opened them to answer.
“I’m 4000 years old. Older than that actually…but that is part of my answer. I’ve spent over 4000 years working for an organisation of which every member was a half-elf save for me, and I’ve been fighting for their rights for all that time too.
Do you know who my closest friend is?”
“Exactly…and he is…what race?”
“Ok, Ok, I get it.”
“It doesn’t matter to me about race, or religion or social status or what region of the world you’re from. Love is a rare enough thing for me that I’ve learnt to accept what I’m given, in that vein.
Besides, do you think I would’ve been with Anna if I cared about that?”
“But Anna was human. You’re the same race.”
He nodded “That’s true enough…but I’m a lord, supposedly, a mercenary and more importantly, an angel. She was a peasant, a prisoner of cruxis…and mortal.
Intimate relations between an angel and a…non-angel, are incredibly blasphemous. For that matter, an angel having intimate relations at all would probably be considered sacrilege.
I didn’t particularly care when I was with her. It’s the same now.”
“I’ve never thought about that,” Raine admitted quietly “I’ve never thought about that fact that you’re a symbol of sanctity, a saviour.”
He quietly scoffed as she lay her head on his chest “Some holy creature, I am.”
“Being holy is highly overrated.”
“Some sins are fun,” she snickered, tracing her fingers across some of the scars on his chest, a cluster of parallel lines, each a few inches apart. Her gaze wandered over them for a moment, scrutinising them.
“Anna,” Kratos explained “When she turned into a monster, she attacked me, as well as Lloyd.”
Raine nodded, her fingers not examining the scars quite so heavily now.
“Raine, don’t think that she’s going to be hanging over this relationship. She’s gone, I know that, and I’ve moved on. There’s nothing to get in the way anymore.”
The scholar smiled, pleased that this seemingly cold man was so in tune with her thoughts now.
Swinging her leg over his, she clambered to sit atop him, straddling his waist and running her hands up his hard, ridged torso to curl over each shoulder.
He responded by bringing his hands up to rest on her pale thighs, trimmed and toned by walking, largely uncovered by her short summer dress sliding up as she kneeled over him.
She crouched lower over him, arching her back as she leant over to nip at his lips, coaxing him into returning to their former activities.
The man reacted immediately, sliding his hands up onto her hips, rubbing his thumbs in circles against her flesh, barred only by a thin sheet of satin, whilst she pressed her lips more firmly against his, succeeding in gaining access to the inside of his mouth moments later.
They lost themselves in each other once more, the sensations of being with each other making them completely oblivious to their surroundings.
Which is probably why when the two rolled over, so that Kratos might be on top, they were surprised to find themselves plunging into the deceptively deep pool they had been lying next to.
Kratos gasped as he broke through the surface of the water, gulping in air, kicking his feet to keep himself aloft. Turning slowly in a circle, he began to search for Raine, knowing her ‘lack’ of hydrophobia would be causing her to panic by now.
He was, unfortunately, right.
Seconds later, a loud splash erupted behind him, sending a small tsunami towards him as the aforementioned half-elf surfaced, kicking desperately and flailing in an attempt to stay above the water.
Needless to say, a frenzied slapping at the water was not going to achieve the desired effect, as it wasn’t quite ‘swimming’ per say. Instead, Raine was slipping under the now choppy surface of the pool frequently, and only occasionally breaking through the surface for oxygen.
Figuring that it was probably a better option to rescue his lover, as opposed to seeing if this forced her to learn to swim, lest she drown, Kratos swam over to the sinking half-elf and dove as she slipped under the water again.
He wrapped an arm firmly around her waist, and, angling himself at the surface, kicked until he reached the target before making for the shore, pulling her with him as he clambered out.
As he pulled her further onto the white sand, Kratos could feel the woman’s arms wrapping around him in a death grip that was damn-near cutting off his breathing, her breathing heavy and laboured, interrupted by wet, hacking coughs as she tried to expel water from her lungs.
Crouching on the sand, the seraph held the shaking, soaked figure, pulling his right arm from around her waist to pull her wet hair out of her face and rub her back soothingly, leaving his left arm to take her weight.
A rough cough was the only response he got.
Deciding to let her recover for a few minutes, he gently turned her in his arms so he could sit with her resting against him in a position that wouldn’t result in him being covered in regurgitated water if she coughed again. Despite loving her, fluids that were erupting from her stomach were not on high on his list of things to be covered in.
Kratos sat quietly as Raine recuperated from her ordeal, wondering idly how on earth he was going to get her to admit that she had a fear, and, more importantly, why.
“My father tried to drown me.”
He started at the sound of her voice, not expecting her to speak for another few minutes, never mind telling him that.
She leant back, turning her head to look at him, ice blue eyes meeting his.
“When I was a child. My father got my mother pregnant and disappeared for a couple of months. He came back to find my mother pregnant….and he was happy, or so I was told. I don’t think he understood the ramifications of having a half-elf child at that point.”
Kratos tilted his head slightly, intrigued as to why she was so open about this now, but motioned for her to continue.
She cleared her throat “He disappeared again and didn’t come back for six years…when he saw me he just….I don’t know… ‘freaked out’ is the only way I can describe it.
He grabbed me and just dragged me out to the lake, muttering something about being a filthy half-elf, that he’d have to ‘purify’ me.”
The mercenary tightened his arms around the woman in his arms in an attempt to comfort her. Her slender frame was trembling at the memories, her breathing still heavy but moreso from terror over the memories rather than the ordeal now.
Holding her so close to him, watching the typically calm, collected, reserved half-elf displaying such an uncharacteristic weakness, Kratos felt his heart wrench at the thought of her in that situation. A fragile little girl, only five, six years old at most, being dragged away from her mother by a strange man who she had never known. A man who had created her, forced her to exist, and then terrified her into a state where she wished she didn’t.
The auburn haired man wondered if her father was still alive, if he knew how much damaged he had inflicted upon his daughter, or if he was still wandering around the world, creating more half-elves who would suffer because some idiot couldn’t control his urges, oblivious to the harm he had caused, or was going to cause.
Shaking her head, Raine looked up at him, interrupting his thoughts. “Pathetic, isn’t it?”
He furrowed his brow, not sure as to what she was referring to.
“Being afraid of water after all these years.” She explained.
“No,” he stated “It’s perfectly understandable. You were a young child, and such ordeals always leave a mark…pathetic isn’t the right word to describe you in any way.”
“I let him conquer me,” she murmured, pressing her head to his shoulder.
“Then overcome your fear and don’t let him have any effect on you anymore,”
“It’s not that simple. I can’t!”
“Because?” he asked, quietly challenging her
“What? Because, I….”
He raised an eyebrow at her as she looked up at him.
“Because every time I see water I’m terrified! I’ve never even admitted it before because I had to show everyone that I’m strong, that I was qualified to be on the journey of world regeneration…and that was only a year ago!”
“So, let me help you. No-one has to know why you suddenly started going in the water.”
“They’ll know I was scared.”
“Raine….they’ve already worked that out. As I recall, the trip over to Thoda Geyser on the wash-tubs was a good indication, not to mention your refusal to go near deep water at any point.”
“Wonderful. So they know I’m a coward.”
“Having a rational fear is not cowardice.”
She rolled her eyes at him and pushed away, standing up and pacing about in front of the water, eyeing it suspiciously. Glancing between the pool and Kratos, Raine stopped suddenly and looked at him thoughtfully.
“You’ll help me?” she asked
“Of course. You helped me.”
Sighing heavily and giving the water one last dubious glance she made her decision.
“Alright….I’ll do it.”
Smiling, Kratos climbed to his feet.
“Good. Let’s get started.”
Raine stared at him “What?! Now?!”
He shrugged “May as well.”
“But…I haven’t got a bathing suit with me,” she garbled, trying to find an excuse to get out of it.
Kratos, for his part, looked pointedly at the already soaked dress she was wearing.
Raine glanced down at herself “No way! I’ll freeze.”
“You were complaining about how hot it as at night here a few days ago. And you’re not showing any signs of being cold now. Don’t try and get out of it.”
Shoulders slumping she gave in. “Fine.”
Kratos nodded his approval and walked over to the boulder he had dropped his shirt by, sitting on it as he began to remove his lower apparel until he had stripped down to a pair of rather tight black shorts. Raine watched the strip-tease with an ever growing smirk, fully appreciating the skin that was being uncovered.
As he stood, pushing the pile of clothing to one side with his foot, the seraph quirked an eyebrow at her, practically able to feel her gaze as it dragged over his lower body. He walked over to her quickly, and stood in front of her, before fleetingly pulling her into his arms and kissing her forehead. He stepped back a moment later and walked to the edge of the pool.
“You don’t have many scars on your legs,” Raine observed.
“Legs generally aren’t a main point of attack, unless you want to bring an opponent to their knees. And unless I’m mistaken, the only well to kill yourself using your legs is to either walk off a cliff or cutting one so you bleed to death.”
“Fair point,” she commented, watching as he picked out a section of the pool that sloped gradually, examining his back as he turned it to her, letting her gaze wander lower until his voice jerked her back into reality.
“Care to join me?” he called, from the other side of the pool.
Nodding hesitantly, she followed him around to the far side of the pool, glancing at the water with apprehension when she’d reached the other side.
Kratos in turn walked backwards into the water until it had reached mid thigh. Distracting her gaze from the water to him he asked her the most prominent question all night.
“Do you trust me?”
She looked to the water again, and Kratos had to observe that she had never looked more her rather tender age of 24 years than she did now.
Raine commanded such an air of superiority, had such an aura of strength, knowledge, confidence and maturity that one tended to forget that she hadn’t even been in the world for 2 and a half decades. He guessed that having the responsibility of a brother 12 years your junior did tend to make one more responsible, forcing you to grow up that much faster, and he remembered idly that Anna had been a similar age when he had first met her. Four years later, that relationship had ended in tragedy.
The single word told him everything he needed to know about this woman. She would last an eternity, were she not mortal, but the impression she made upon the people who knew and loved her, would last forever.
Kratos nodded and took a few steps into shallower water, stretching his hand towards her in an invitation.
The half-elf stared at his hand uncertainly for a moment, before cautiously stepping into the water that was lapping softly at her toes.
Slowly, she walked over to her angel, her gaze flicking between his hand and the deepening water that she was wading into.
Eventually, as seconds crawled by painfully slowly as she stepped further into the warm, clear water, she was close enough to take Kratos’ hand. The water that was just below mid-thigh on him was now just about at her hips and she noticed the difference in height between them, just how tall he was. At her petite size, she only just came level with his chin.
Shaking her head and saving the thoughts for another time, she waded through the couple of inches separating them.
As soon as she reached him, he pulled her fully against him, wrapping his arms around her and kissing her forehead, before kissing a trail down to her mouth, ‘rewarding’ her for her supposed bravery in getting into the water.
But she was only half way there. Not even out of her depth yet, so she still had the rest of her task to complete.
“It’s a little soon to be rewarding me,” she commented, leaning back so she could see him and he smiled, brushing his lips against her forehead once more.
“One step at a time. I don’t expect you to be fully comfortable with just tonight’s session.”
“Really? I’m disappointed. I was expecting to be able to swim by the end of tonight…”
“The end of tonight will actually be this morning. Do you really want to go all that time without sleeping?”
“I was being sarcastic, you know.”
“As was I,” Kratos paused, craning his head up to check the position of the moon in an attempt to gauge the time.
He brought his head down after he’d located it and continued “Do you want to continue?”
Raine merely nodded, grasping his hand tighter as he slowly took a few steps backwards, having no choice but to follow him as he gently tugged her hand, then stopped when she’d reached him again, the water sliding up her body by a few centimetres.
“Tell me as soon as you start to feel uncomfortable,” he instructed and walked backwards again.
The couple repeated the process over and over, each time edging a few centimetres deeper into the pool, until the water had reached the level of Raine’s chest. She stood next to Kratos, glancing at the water, able to see right down to the bottom of the pool and realising that the gradual slope they were on ended just a few centimetres away.
“I..I think we should stop now,” she stammered, all too aware of that drop.
“If you don’t feel ready, of course we can…” he turned to look at the far side of the pool, judging the distance, then turned to Raine. “But…we could attempt one last thing tonight…”
She tilted her head at him curiously, still holding his hands “Like?”
“Ever considered surfing?”
Letting go of her hands, he propelled himself into the deeper water then dived under the surface.
Raine watched him, subconsciously backing up into the shallower water, when she saw a shimmer of blue in the water behind the submerged figure of Kratos.
Seconds later he had flipped onto his back and was moving smoothly towards the surface without moving, or so it seemed.
Reaching the surface, he slid smoothly up so that he was lying on the surface, next to where Raine was standing, looking mildly perplexed.
“…You want me to use you as a surfboard?”
“Well you don’t have to stand on me, but...yes…”
The half-elf didn’t move for a minute, trying to make a judgement over whether she was about to drown or not if she did this.
“Alright,” she acquiesced. She took a couple of steps towards him, and then placed her hands on his torso, hoisting herself up to sit on his stomach.
To his credit, Kratos didn’t even flinch as she dropped suddenly onto his abdomen, merely extended his arms to help steady himself in the water.
“This is so…strange, but...yes, I suppose so.”
Nodding, the angel turned to face the opposite shore and with a few, shuddering motions was moving towards the other side of the pool at a surprisingly fast pace. Within a minute or so he had reached the other edge and, motioning for Raine to dismount her human surfboard, straightened up and clambered out of the water to join her on the sand.
“Well, that was a new experience.”
“I would assume that it was.” He bent over briefly to brush a string of seaweed like plant life of his leg, revealing a pair of soggy, blue wings.
“So that’s how you were moving the water without using your legs…” she stated, looking at the water logged clumps of feathers which weren’t usually visible.
“Yes…and I’m going to have to refrain from doing it again…when above the water anyway.”
“It seems that it puts a bit too much strain on them in that position. Also, getting them to dry out isn’t easy.”
He wandered over to the rock where Raine had now perched herself, flapping the sodden wings and creating a shower of water as he did.
In the meantime, Raine had gotten up and was circling around to his back. Once she stood behind him she gently placed her hands beneath his shoulder blades, using the tips of her fingers to massage the strained muscle, moving them up slowly to the base of his wings.
The seraph jerked slightly as she brushed the base and she quickly moved her hand away from the sensitive area.
“I apologise…I’m not used to people touching them,” he explained.
“It’s no problem…I have to admit though...I am curious.”
“You’ve examined Colette’s wings before now, have you not?”
“Yes, but only briefly. Yours seem different from hers though.”
“Colette never evolved to the level of Seraph, therefore, her wings are different, just as mine were different to Mithos’ and his were to Lloyds.”
“That’s true but yours seem…more substantial. Colette’s, even up close, seemed made completely of light…yours have a more solid quality.”
Kratos nodded “Yes, a newly fledged angel’s wings do appear more fragile.”
“I find it interesting that from a distance, all wings of angels’ seem immaterial, more like shards or panes of light than actually feathers….but they are actually solid…they even have a bone structure at the base where they sprout from the back.”
Unbeknownst to Raine, Kratos was now surpressing a chuckle, hearing the woman slipping into the infamous ‘Ruin mode’.
“Wings are consisted of mana,” he explained “The glow that the mana emits is reflected by the mana the feathers are created by…and the mana that creates the outer feathers is further from the body, so it appears more transparent…the fact that it fades towards the tips is what makes it look like they’re composed of light.”
“I see…fascinating…and, do angels see their wings the same as non-angels do?”
“I would assume so. We don’t see mana any differently…”
“Marvelous…” She circled around to the rock again, whilst Kratos reached behind him, squeezing a stream of water out of areas of the wings he could reach.
“But Remiel,” she continued “he had the stereotypical wings.”
“Which is why we chose him to be the oracle. Blonde hair, blue eyes, white, feathered wings…exactly what people expect an angel to look like.”
“Yes, I understand that…but why were his wings as the other angels were?”
“Because he was a low level angel. Colette’s Cruxis crystal took her straight to a level where she could evolve into a seraph, eventually. Remiel and the other angels, were never going to be that important, so they were all…bland. Usual.”
She nodded once, clearly too deep in thought to answer verbally. After a moment she looked up to the sky.
“We should probably get back to the house…I’m beginning to feel tired.”
Raine stood up and walked over to the forest in the direction she had entered the clearing, only to find that Kratos wasn’t following her.
She turned back to look at angel as he pulled his boots on over the pants he had just put on.
“Aren’t you coming?”
“Why bother walking? Flying would be quicker.”
Slowly, the professor turned on the spot to face him. “You’re not serious?”
“Are you afraid of heights?”
“Do you think I’d drop you?”
“Of course not. If I trust you to not let me drown, I definitely trust you not to let me fall from a great height.”
“So there’s a problem because….”
“Your wings are still wet. And…you took me by surprise that’s all…I didn’t think that flying with other people was a common activity for angels.”
“It’s not…but it has been necessary in the past, and, when Lloyd was a child, I used to take him flying.”
“When Anna wasn’t looking.”
She grinned “You have a bad boy streak, Lord Aurion.”
He said nothing merely rustled his wings in a manner that suggested he was amused by her statement, and motioned for her to walk over to him.
She did so, ducking as he beat his wings powerfully a few times to get rid of as much water as possible.
“Won’t the water stop you from flying?”
“No,” he shook his head “It’ll make it a little more difficult to take off, but the force of that should drive most of the water out.”
Wrapping her arms around his shoulders once she had reached him, she briefly kissed his still bare, wet neck, noting that he had tucked his shirt in the back of his belt.
“How d’you want me?” she asked, fully aware of her innuendo.
Again, Kratos didn’t reply, but smiled and turned her around so that her back was pressed against his chest.
“Keep yourself pressed against me as much as possible,” he advised, wrapping his arms firmly around her waist “It’ll be easier for me if you...ah, mould yourself to me.”
She pushed back against him slightly to emphasize her point, bending her legs as he did.
“Ready?” He asked
Nodding once, she placed her arms on his where they encircled her, feeling him bending his knees further, his muscles tensing in his legs, coiling like a snake that he might spring into the air.
And then he did.
The rush of wind past her bare, wet skin and even wetter dress froze her, but the feeling of everything else, of nothing but that hard body behind her and then nothing but air, as if she were herself, a part of the sky drowned it out.
It was terrifying; seeing, feeling the ground the drop away. It pushed the air from her lungs, forced her into Kratos’ warm body, but it was exhilarating.
They were slowing in their ascent now and at her back, the seraph was beating his wings languidly so that they might hang in the sky.
Raine looked around. There was nothing but velvet blue sky, dotted with the white specks of stars in her field of vision, the dark, exotic beauty of the gods’ domain.
Below, the clearing that she and Kratos had proclaimed their love for each other in was a white circle, a blue pool in its centre - an eye surrounded by the green skin of tropical trees. The beach a white strip meandering around the edge of the island in snail trail, interrupted with black speckles of boulders, rock pools, and a rough brown building that was currently their home.
To the right, the sea, stretching out to the horizon in an unbroken plain of inky water, reflecting a solitary disc of platinum in its centre.
“Gods,” Raine breathed, the word barely audible despite the utter silence of the night “This is…it’s amazing.”
“I thought you might like the view,” Kratos stated next to her ear, his breath warming the side of her neck. His body was moving slightly behind her as he beat his wings in slow, powerful strokes. The silence was so absolute that Raine could hear the air whispering through the luminous feathers, the sound only drowned out by the rustle of those starched wings.
The half-elf closed her eyes, losing herself in this total peace, wind ruffling her hair and clothes lightly as Kratos began to move again, slowly gaining more height and tilting so they were more horizontal.
Increasing wing beats made Raine open her eyes and she looked down to see the world below sliding behind them.
“Are you ok?”
The question startled Raine, breaking into her thoughts. She could only nod in response, still speechless at the thought that she was actually flying!
Well, not her, per say, but near as dammnit.
“Would you like to see what it’s really like to fly?”
She nodded, dumbly, again, too awed to answer verbally.
“Hang on then,” he warned.
Suddenly they lurched, angling straight up, clawing up further into the sky, so high that they were passing through clouds that couldn’t be seen from the land. The air was frigid and Raine trembled in Kratos’ arms, reminding him that she was wearing only a thin dress. He levelled off the flight so they were flying horizontally, wings pulling them through the air, labouring against the force of gravity now.
Keeping the altitude for a moment he instructed Raine to tuck her legs so that they were between his, and murmured to her that she could trust him, that she was fully safe and angled them towards the ground, tucked his wings flat to his back.
And they plummeted, passing through the layer of cloud and hurtling towards the land at an alarming speed, the earth defining itself far too quickly.
Raine blinked, and in that millisecond they had travelled far enough for her to make out the clearing they had stood in – an area that was invisible before she blinked.
Her breath caught in her throat with fear, her heart racing as solid land rushed up to meet them, reaching up far too fast to avoid a collision, surely.
Then behind her, a sharp snap as wings opened, catching air and pulling them upwards as they were centimetres from the ground.
In the air again, and they were swooping up in a great arc, curling back on themselves in a graceful loop and shooting out over the sea and repeating, using the momentum to carry their bodies upwards in another arc.
Over the ocean, travelling straight now, Raine stretched her arms out cautiously, skimming the tops of waves with her hand, knocking white foam off them, laughing as her bare toes brushed the water.
There was no fear, no worry of being dropped or the flight itself. No instinctive need to cling to the arms around her waist, or be carried back to shore. Trust for the man holding her was reigning supreme, the exhilaration of the flight coupling with it to drown out every other emotion but euphoria as they pulled up into the sky again, slowing to a pleasant sunday-drive pace, climbing steadily higher towards the moon and towards the land again.
Stretching her arms out to either side to fully experience the feel of wind rushing around her as they soared towards the moon, Raine turned her head, hoping to see the expression of the amazing creature that was bearing her to the silver disc.
He seemed to know what she wanted, for he moved his head to her shoulder, resting it there. She smiled, seeing the strangely peaceful look on his face, how much he looked the 28 years he was supposed to be.
The 4000 years of wisdom was still there, hovering beneath the surface of those ruby eyes, but the weariness and troubles that came with that lifespan had vanished with the act of taking into the air (or perhaps they had disappeared with the feeling of having the woman he loved in his arms).
Kratos slowed his flight, coming to hover in the air again, upright now, and Raine couldn’t figure out quite why he had chosen this spot to stop at. Until he turned them around in the air, bringing her to face the moon.
Closer to it than ever before, Raine studied it at this new vantage point. The silver surface wasn’t so much silver, as platinum, but it was even more beautiful for that.
“How do you ever bring yourself to land, when you can do this?” she whispered
“Necessity,” he responded.
“We really should get back now.”
“OK. I’ll take you back.”
He turned back to the direction of the cottage, and Raine looked at the sea and ground below them. They were stained a bright blue and streaked with veins of white, gold, purple, silver and a million different shades of blue that shimmered over the water and land, rippling, washing the landscape with dazzling colours.
Raine couldn’t quite understand what she was seeing. The flowing motion distorted everything, painting trees white and rocks blue. The house in the distance was covered with silver ivy, snaking its way over the worn surface.
And then it disappeared. The living colour vanished for a second before returning, making Raine realise that the colour beaming over the land was actually Kratos’ wings, being projected by the light of the moon.
The fact that he could affect the land in such a pleasing way made her smile and as he started to fly her back towards their temporary home, she pressed herself back into his strong, warm body, knowing she’d made the right choice.
To Kratos and Raine
Sunlight streamed into the room through delicate mesh curtains hung over the balcony doorway, filtered now into a pattering of thin rays that created delicate patterns on rumpled cotton sheets. The light was strong, however, and the material did little to keep the warm rays from falling across the occupant of the bed’s face.
She turned over, pressing her face into a pillow and mumbling incoherently in an attempt to get the light to leave her alone.
The sun does not obey the desires of one woman though, and moments later she flipped over onto her back, rubbing her eyes and stretching, yawning inelegantly.
Blinking owlishly, Raine surveyed her bedroom as though she’d never seen it before, her mind blank as she waited for her thoughts to catch up with her body. She felt great, more alive than ever and ready to start the day.
Throwing aside the covers, she stood up and stretched again, walking to the balcony. Before she had walked through the mesh curtain, however, she caught a glance of herself in the mirror by the bathroom door and she walked backwards to look in the mirror at her reflection.
Several things caught her attention as she looked at her reflection:
1) She looked as great as she felt, her eyes clear, bright and bluer than they had been in a long time. Her skin was as pale as ever, but had an attractive glow that made it seem she was emitting light and her hair, messed up it was, was shiny and sleek. Or it would be when she had brushed it.
2) She was naked (and how this had only just caught her attention was a complete mystery to her).
3) There was someone else in her bed.
At that second, the memories of last night came rushing back to her with such force that it almost gave her a headache. Not quite though, they were far too pleasant memories to cause her pain.
She recalled standing on the balcony, walking into the woods, getting lost and panicking. Then the relief as she saw Kratos, the arguments, the confession of love (and she flushed and smiled as she thought of this, with a sense of complete happiness engulfing her), the revelation of the scars that adorned Kratos’ body, the kissing and embracing, the swimming, the flying and then…oh my.
Raine put a hand to her mouth, giggling behind it like a school girl whose biggest crush had just smiled at her, using the fingers of her other hand to trace the hickey on her neck, just below her ear, then the light bite mark on her collar bone.
Still smiling she turned back to the bed, approaching it quietly so as not to disturb the remaining occupant, who still slumbered on peacefully. She pulled back the covers and slid underneath them, lying on her side, she propped herself up on her elbow to watch her lover as he slept.
That peaceful look he had worn last night as they flew to the moon was settled over his features again, not a hint of anxiety or his true age present. He looked as though he could be 18, and Raine wondered what he had been like as a boy, a young man, and then the man he was before 4000 years had taken their toll on his now battered mind, body and soul.
Kratos stirred, as if sensing that she was watching him, and he opened his eyes, raising them to meet hers the second they were focused. His awakening was so different from hers that it made Raine realise that he really was a different species. He was focused and alert immediately, but that look of bliss was still there, and it made her relax.
The angel smiled and stretched, arching his back and flexing his muscles in a way that alerted her to just how masculine he was.
Seconds later, Raine was on top of him, straddling his waist, her forearms crossed as she rested them on his marred chest.
“Good morning Ms. Sage,” he smiled, pulling himself into a sitting position with her still on top of him.
Raine leant forward and kissed him gently on the mouth in response.
“You’re gorgeous,” she informed him “Did I ever tell you that?”
“Not in those words precisely. Or in words at all, for that matter, but I got the message from last night,” he replied, raising an eyebrow in a pseudo-seductive manner.
She smacked him lightly on the chest, her lips pursed in a way that admitted she wasn’t really angry with him as he slipped his arms under hers, resting his hands on the warm skin of her back.
Raine shuffled, squaring her shoulders as she responded “It’s not my fault that…”
The door had burst open, revealing a Sheena who had drunk one cup of coffee too many this morning, now looking mortified as she stood in the doorway, red-faced, staring at the couple.
Raine quickly reached for the edge of the sheets, tugging them over her and Kratos, thankful that the position of his arms meant her bare chest wasn’t exposed completely, even if it was only to Sheena. It was fortunate that it was Sheena who was giving her the wake up call and not Zelos.
Almost as if there was someone in heaven who wanted to play a cruel joke on her and Kratos, the speedo clad red-head appeared in the doorway beside Sheena a second later.
Zelos stared at Raine, before his blue eyes slid over to Kratos.
“MAHAHAHAHHA! I KNEW I HEARD RUMPY-PUMPY GOING ON EARLIER THIS MORNING!” he exclaimed, bounding down the hall, singing.
“Raine and Kratos sitting in a tree, doing what they really should be, f-u-c-”
“ZELOS! QUIT IT WITH THE LANGUAGE!” Sheena yelled down the corridor. She turned back to Kratos and Raine momentarily. “Um..sorry, but, uh congrats, you know…um…I’ll leave you in peace.” She gushed, and then pulled the door shut.
Kratos and Raine remained quiet, listening to the thuds as Sheena ran after Zelos, who had now twisted the song into something so perverse that no-one, not even Colette, could mistake its meaning.
“Kratos and Raine, lying in a bed, they’ve been doing it all night and she’s been giving him he-”
The tune was cut off abruptly as a loud smacking sound reverberated around the house, telling them that Zelos had just been tripped over by the ninja.
“That’s…not quite how I was hoping for everyone to discover we’re together,” Kratos murmured, still looking at the now closed door.
“I think we should get up and repair any damage he’s done to our reputation,” Raine answered, rolling of him and lying beside him on the bed.
The angel murmured an agreement, then got up and disappeared into the bathroom whilst Raine got dressed and fixed the bed, humming to herself as she did.
She stopped halfway through a particularly bad rendition of ‘Why do birds suddenly appear’ when she hit an excruciating note, making herself wince. Instead, she crossed, silently, to the vanity dresser, brushing her hair and checking herself over.
“You don’t need to do that. You always look beautiful.” Kratos stated, walking out of the bathroom with only a towel wrapped around his waist. The skin that was on show was wet, water running down his body sensually, his dripping hair pulled back from his face for a change.
“Thank you.” She crossed over to him, giving him a peck on the lips before she wandered into the bathroom herself.
As she closed the door, she noticed Kratos tweaking at his wet hair, staring at his reflection in the mirror with a ridiculous expression of concentration.
Chuckling to herself, Raine walked over to the pail of warm water set beside the wash basin and poured it from one container into the other. She washed slowly, savouring the warm water, then dried off quickly, noticing that she had still managed to spend half an hour in there.
She wondered how Kratos had managed to tell everyone that they were together without a big fuss (considering that there had been no shouting from downstairs), but as she walked back into the bedroom, she realised he hadn’t; mainly from the fact that he was still in the bedroom.
The seraph was dressed now, in a long sleeved but considerably lighter outfit than usual, standing in front of the mirror and, with the precision of a lunar landing operation, was combing layers of hair into its usual style, and fixing the still damp hair with large amounts of wax and ‘style hold spray’.
“You’re still here….styling your hair.” Raine stated, with a tone that made it clear she couldn’t believe he could spend the best part of 30 minutes preening.
“So I am,” he tweaked a strand into place before standing back and turning his head so he could examine the style from various angles. “Done.” He stated.
“I’m so glad,” she snarked “I’m going to use this knowledge as blackmail against you if I need to.”
“Yeah, sorry, Yuan’s already taken that one. You’re going to have to find another flaw to use against me.”
“I don’t think they exist.”
Kratos lifted an eyebrow quizzically, then extended a hand to her “Shall we enter the arena?”
Raine smiled, nodded and took his hand.
Leaving the bedroom, they walked hand in hand down the stairs, with the intention of heading into the kitchen for breakfast.
Before they had even reached the bottom step however, a small crowd, consisting of the rest of the household, had formed at the bottom of the stairs, as if they were all proud parents watching their child going on a first date descending from their room.
The couple on the stairs stopped and glanced at each other, still hand in hand.
Lloyd and Genis were at the front of the apprehending party, both wearing looks of stern disapproval. The others, however, were fidgeting, seemingly unable to contain their apparent pleasure…whether that pleasure was caused by Raine and Kratos finally getting together, or a prank was about to be played, was anyone’s guess.
“OK,” Raine started, letting go of Kratos’ hand and taking a couple of steps further down “What’s going on?”
Lloyd took a couple of steps up so that he was at eye-level with her. Brown eyes, almost identical to those of his father, stared into ice blues, only glancing away to meet with his father’s for a split second. The youth stared at his teacher unwaveringly for what seemed like years, before shrugging his shoulders and proclaiming “Nothing!” and jumping down the stairs he had just walked up.
He landed lightly, turning back to the two adults and giving them an impish grin “Just one thing,” he stated.
“What is it?” Kratos asked, and though he used a tone that indicated he was annoyed with the boy, it was apparent that he was greatly relieved that his son didn’t begrudge his choice.
“If you’re going to, you know,” he whistled and made a vague motion with his hands “keep it down.”
“Yo, Lloyd, I think that would be a contradiction. I mean they can’t if -” Zelos quipped from somewhere near the back of the group.
“Stop right there!” Genis cried, holding his hands up. “I so do not wanna think about that.” He stared up at his sister, despite addressing his words to Zelos, and his gaze made it quite plain he was not completely happy with the idea of the two adults being together.
The grin on Lloyd’s face faded quickly, and the rest of the group took a few steps back from the younger half-elf.
The white haired boy continued to stare at his sister, then turned his cold glare onto the man standing behind her.
“I’m going outside,” he muttered, leaving the house and slamming the door behind him.
All eyes that had been on the door now turned back to Raine and Kratos, and all traces of excitement and happiness over the newly formed couple had disappeared with the youngest member of the party.
Kratos was the first to make any real movement, descending a few steps so that he stood directly behind Raine. He leaned forwards and murmured in her ear “Go after him,”
“He’s going to have to learn that I’m not pandering to him on this.”
“Raine. He’s your brother…Go talk to him,”
She turned back to look at her lover before nodding slowly and walking after her brother, giving her friends a grim smile as she left the house.
“I sense that Genis may fear that he will no longer have Raine’s attention.” Presea stated, looking up at Kratos.
“But…Raine’ll talk to him, and it’ll be OK, right?” Colette asked, ever optimistic.
“I would imagine that she will be able to make him understand,” Regal answered “Genis is young, and despite the fact that he can be very mature, he is still just a child. It is likely he believes, as you said, Presea, that with Kratos being in a relationship with her, he will no longer have her full attention.”
“Well, he won’t,” Zelos stated bluntly “But he can’t cling on to her forever. He has to grow up and let her have her own relationships.”
“Guys, let’s just leave it for now, yeah?” Lloyd suggested, heading for the kitchen “They’ll work it out I’m sure.”
The group murmured in concurrence, and dispersed. Zelos, Sheena and Regal headed outside, whilst Colette and Presea returned to the living room where Colette was, apparently, teaching Presea about flowering arranging.
Kratos, now left on his own, followed Lloyd into the kitchen. Making breakfast, the angel studiously avoided his son’s stare, until he sat down at the small table to eat and was forced to acknowledge the questioning gaze.
“Just?” Kratos repeated, sipping his coffee.
“This is gonna sound really sappy but….I’m, happy,” he stated, meeting his father’s eyes “for you two.”
“But…you still love mom, right?”
“Of course I do. There’s no question of that but…she’s gone. It probably seems strange that I can care for two people in that way.”
His son shrugged “Not really. I mean, you’re supposed to only have one true love or whatever but…well...that’s a bit dumb. There should be more than one person that you can love. Just in case.”
Kratos smiled behind the newspaper he was now flicking through “I suppose so.”
“You don’t agree?”
“I think that there are certain people in the world that go together well, I don’t necessarily think you should only love one person, but if you do, you should be loyal to that person.”
“Except for when they’re dead?”
“If your partner loves you enough, then they can accept the fact that if they pass away prematurely, you may find someone else.”
“Mom would be ok with you being with Raine. I know it.”
Kratos looked at his son, considering him “Yes, I think she would.”
“Plus, I have a full family now! I have 2 dads, a step-mom and a brother!”
“Uncle,” Kratos corrected, scanning the puzzle page.
“If Raine is your step-mother, and Genis is your step mother’s brother, then that makes him your uncle. You would, by law, be Genis’ nephew.”
“Crap. Don’t tell him that. He’ll start trying to boss me around,” Lloyd joked, devouring a slightly burnt pancake that was part of his breakfast. Or second breakfast to be exact.
“I imagine that Genis has worked that out already,”
“About him being my uncle?”
“That only applies if you and the professor get married though. Until then it’s all…whadd’ya call it? Metaphorical?”
“Don’t remind me. I’m waiting to see how long it takes Colette to mention that subject.”
The seraph nodded again, taking another sip of his coffee and half-heartedly filling in the cryptic crossword. It was clear that the complex clues didn’t tax even a small percent of his grey matter.
“You don’t wanna get married?” Lloyd asked.
“Not straight away. And not under a false religion.”
“Ah, that’s right. The church of Martel isn’t real, so the marriages don’t really count.”
“Is that why you and mom never married?”
“Yes, that’s right. Although I never told Anna that of course.”
“Didn’t she want to marry?”
“I think she may have one day. But at the time, we were far too preoccupied with running away from Cruxis, so it never really came up.”
“Gotcha.” Lloyd took another large bite out of the pancake, gazing out of the window thoughtfully as he chewed.
“How d’you think the professor’s doing with Genis?” he asked, turning to his father.
“No idea. I suppose we’ll find out in a while.”
Raine ran up the beach, following the tracks her brother had made in the sand, and having a strange sense of deja-vu as they headed towards a line of trees.
How much time of her life was she going to spend chasing males?
The tracks veered off to the left suddenly into a cluster of rocks that formed a semi-circle.
Slowing to a walk, Raine approached the arc from behind, looking down to see her brother hugging his knees to himself and staring blankly out at the sea.
It didn’t surprise her that he had chosen this mini-fortress like structure. He was trying to shelter, having been on the attack and just as he had done when he was younger, he had ran and found a secluded, secure place to defend himself.
Shaking her head and walking to the open front of the arc, she wondered what she was going to say to him.
The boy looked up at his sibling as she said his name, glancing up at her, then returning his attention to watching the tide without replying to her.
Raine sighed and sat in front of him, just outside the shadow that the fortress created, obscuring his view of the sea.
“Genis, look at me. I’m not leaving until this is resolved, so you may as well speak to me.”
“You’re gonna be waiting a long time here with me then.”
“Why? You’re not going to talk to me?”
“Oh, I am. Just we’re not going to ‘resolve’ this.” He muttered, squaring his shoulders as he said the word ‘resolve’ mocking it.
“Because I won’t accept him as part of my family.”
“Kratos? Why not? I thought you liked him. You always got along well with him when we were travelling together,” she raised a hand, cutting of the boy’s interruption “Even after he betrayed us. You got along with him better than Lloyd sometimes.”
“Doesn’t mean I have to like him now.”
“Genis, I know you’re 13 now, and officially a teenager, but don’t pull the hormone fuelled argument on me just yet.”
“Don’t treat me like a child,” he sulked
“Stop behaving like one then.”
“No? Being enraged over a decision of who I choose to have a relationship with and then refusing to tell me why isn’t being childish?”
The boy sniffed derisively.
“You’re usually so mature. What’s so bad about this?”
“It’s nothing. Go and snog your boyfriend.” He muttered, glaring at a stone between him and Raine, refusing to look at her.
Raine leant back from her brother, alarmed and angered at his comment. He was usually so placid, so laid back and this was extremely out of character for him, to such an extent that Raine was worried about him.
Ignoring his comment, Raine leant forwards, putting her hand out in front of her to support herself as she tried to look into her little brother’s eyes.
“Please, Genis, tell me what’s bothering you. I’m your sister…your family and I don’t want this to cause a problem.”
“Don’t go out with Kratos then.”
“No can do. Why are you so determined to separate me from someone I love? I’m an adult Genis, I need a relationship, I need someone to settle with. You will always be my brother, nothing will change that, but what’s going to change is the fact that you’ll grow up and you’ll go your own way. You’ll get your own partner, and I’ll be left alone because you made me choose…and that would be something that would come between us.”
“Say I decide that I don’t mind you being with Kratos…what then?”
“I…have a relationship with him.”
“And…how will that develop, Raine?”
“We’ll be together. What’s your point?”
“He’ll live with you.”
“Why is that a problem?”
“It’s a problem because, until I live in the academy’s dorms, as a proper student, which won’t happen until I’m 16, he’ll be living with the both of us. Or we’ll be living with him. Whichever.”
Raine gave him a look that clearly said she couldn’t see a problem with that.
“So we’ll be living together, like a family,” he explained “and he’ll start feeling like he should be all parental because he’ll essentially be my step-father and he’ll treat me like he did Lloyd when they first met!”
“You think he’s going to try to be a father to you? Be disciplinary and infringe on you?”
Genis shrugged “I don’t see why not. He did it to Lloyd.”
“Kratos was just looking out for his son…trying to get him to better himself. It benefited Lloyd. I don’t believe he’d be hard on you, or try to father you…and I don’t honestly believe that you do too…”
The younger half-elf fidgeted uncomfortably, informing Raine that she was right.
“OK…I know he wouldn’t…I talked to Lloyd about that.”
“What’s the real problem then?”
“It’s dumb…and I can’t believe I actually feel this because it’s irrational and I know, I know it’s not true but…”
He looked up into his sister’s eyes, the mirror of his own.
“I feel that…with Kratos in your life, there won’t be any room for me. You won’t have time for me, and I’ll get in the way, and you’ll be annoyed….I’m scared that he’ll cause us to drift apart…” He whispered the last part, trailing his fingers in circles on the small stone in front of him.
Raine sat back, her hands resting on her thighs as she stared at her younger brother, distressed at his fear of losing her.
“It’s just been you and me for so long,” Genis mumbled “that it doesn’t seem right for anyone else to be there.”
Reaching out, Raine placed her fingers beneath the boy’s chin and used them to tilt his head up so that he could see the sincerity in her eyes.
The immaturity in that confession had made her realise just how young he was. Like her, his mature attitude made him seem older than he actually was.
“Genis, I want you to listen to me as I say this, because this is more important than anything else. I will never, never push you away. There will never be a time when I don’t have time for you, or that you don’t matter to me. Kratos being around will not change that, ever.”
“So…do I have your blessing?” she joked and the boy in front of her cracked a smile.
“Yeah, I suppose so…just, like Lloyd said if you’re going to…” he coughed “ahem. You know…I don’t wanna know about it.”
“I don’t want you to know about it either, really.”
“I’m relieved about that.”
Smiling, Raine stood, brushing off the back of her sarong. “Well, now. It seems to be nearing midday and I haven’t had breakfast yet. Are you coming back to the house with me?”
Genis shrugged “Yeah. I need lunch anyway…wonder if Kratos and Lloyd are done with their whole ‘father-son’ talk?”
“They were having a father-son talk?”
The younger half-elf stood “Probably.”
“How…what does Lloyd think about me and Kratos?”
“Huh? Oh, he’s fine with it. I think he wants Kratos to be happy and get over Lloyd’s mom.”
Raine nodded. “That’s good.”
“Are we going back or not?” Genis asked Raine, seeing her staring out over the sea in thought. A smile curled her lips.
“Sure, let’s go.”
The boy and woman walked back along the beach together slowly, aware of just how important their relationship as siblings was, one comforted by the reassurance that he was not going to be abandoned, the other by the his acceptance of her choice.
In the corner of her eye, Raine could see Regal, Sheena and Zelos sitting near the water, clearly in deep discussion. When they noticed her and Genis approaching, they stopped, but, seeing the relaxed atmosphere between the two, started gossiping again, waving to the two as they passed.
Raine waved back before turning her attention back to Genis.
“You do know that Kratos won’t be moving in straight away?”
Raine nodded, not wanting to push the issue further and upset her brother again.
“I’m OK, with it.” The boy added “I mean…it’ll take a while to get used to but…it’s OK…for you two to be together.”
Stepping up to the front door of the house, Raine put her hand on the handle and turned back to him.
She pushed the door open, stepping into the hall and heading for the kitchen.
When she entered with the room, she was greeted with a plate of pancakes, set on the countertop ready for her. On her right, at the kitchen table, Kratos was seated, idly filling in the crossword. Lloyd sat opposite him, his feet on the table, whittling a figurine from a chunk of driftwood he had found the day before.
“Um, are these for me?” Raine asked, gesturing towards the pancakes.
Kratos looked up from the newspaper and nodded. Raine noticed a similar, but slightly depleted pile near the mercenaries elbow.
Lloyd also seemed to have noticed the unfinished stack, for he was staring at it.
“Are you going to finish those?” he asked his father, gesturing to the plate.
The seraph looked away from his newspaper to the plate and shook his head, pushing it over to his son. The latter pounced on it, immediately devouring the remaining pancakes.
“Wow Lloyd, that’s real nice,” Genis commented dryly, watching his friend stuffing food into his face.
“Genis is right; you really could do with some manners.” Raine advised, delicately cutting into her own stack of food and chewing slowly.
“See, mouth closed when you’re eating.” Genis, now nibbling an apple, pointed out his sister as an example.
“’L ea ‘ow I wna”
“Fascinating as this display of maturity is,” Kratos interjected, ending the argument and folding away his newspaper as he spoke “I’ll ask you to stop.”
He looked over to the elder teenager “And Lloyd, please, close your mouth. I don’t want to see masticated food rolling around in there…or anywhere, for that matter.”
Lloyd closed his mouth with an audible click of his teeth, chewed, swallowed, then asked “What does ‘masticated’ mean?”
“Chewed,” Raine answered.
“Ah, well,” Genis exclaimed “I’m gonna go see what Colette and Presea are doing. You coming Lloyd?”
The brunet, having an intuitive moment (not least caused by Genis’ glance between Kratos and Raine) nodded and followed the younger boy out of the room.
“I take it that everything went well then?” Kratos asked after a moment.
Raine nodded “Yes, it’s all sorted out now,” she reached for the cup of coffee on the table and drank a sip, before explaining “He felt that with you around, I wouldn’t have time for him anymore.”
“And you told him?”
“The truth. He’s my brother…the only blood I’ve ever had to associate with. Nothing will change between me and him just because I have a love life now.”
Kratos smiled “Well said.”
“Thank you…everything’s fine with you and Lloyd, isn’t it?”
The angel nodded at his lover “He was fine with it from the beginning.”
“He can be very mature sometimes,” Raine commented, standing up from the table and clearing away the dishes.
Raine smiled “What do you plan to do with the rest of the day?”
Kratos stood up, stretched and walked over to the window, looking out over the landscape.
“No idea, “he replied and turned to look back at her “care to help me find a way to pass the time?”
Smiling, the silver haired woman took her angel’s hand and pulled him out the house, onto the beach.
A week later
The orange glow of sunset played across the horizon and stretched up towards the heavens, spreading its warmth and turning light blue sky to dusky pink. The sun sank low in the sky, resting just above the great expanse of water.
Pink turned to orange and then brilliant, vibrant red, casting crimson light that turned the sea to wine as the sun gave its phoenix display.
Fire sparks flashed into the sky, while the main body of a bonfire writhed and danced, surrounded by the party that saved the world.
Colette sat by Lloyd, resting her head on his shoulder while the boy continued to whittle his figurine by the dying light.
Genis, edging slowly towards Presea in an attempt to strike up a conversation with her, looked briefly over to the couple, rolling his eyes.
Zelos stood behind the nearby barbeque, extinguishing the dying embers and throwing them onto the fire.
Regal and Sheena watched the chosen, amused, as he burnt himself on the still smouldering pieces of charcoal.
The former tethe’allan chosen then walked into the middle over the group, narrowly avoiding setting his hair aflame as he stood in front of the roaring fire. He clapped his hands, attracting the attention of everyone seated by the fire.
Kratos and Raine, sitting in a slightly secluded spot, stopped their conversation as one by one, the group turned their attention to Zelos.
“Ladies, Gentlemen, boys and girls. I would like to the opportunity, on this wondrous night lit by a dying sun, and where Sheena looks absolutely phenomenal in that skimpy red bikini,”
Sheena blushed and grabbed a picnic blanket that was lying nearby, wrapping it around herself and glaring at the red-head as he give her a smile that could blind a dead man.
“…to say a few, well chosen – see how I slipped the chosen joke in there, eh? – words.
The first of these words is to say that it has been a great week spent here, with you all, and especially you,” he looked at Sheena “I’d also like to give the very best of luck to you all, with uh…whatever it is you’re doing.
Now…I have a few things to say to all of you:
Sheena – thanks for looking so fantastic…your womanly beauty has kept this week entirely fruitful.
Regal – good job with the cooking.
Presea – carry on growing up, my hunny darling, ‘cos you are turning out to be damn fine.
Brat – You’re approaching an age where you’re going to start approaching girls…come to me if you need any help with that.” He gave Genis a sly wink, then flinched his head towards Presea slightly.
The half-elf immediately glared at the older male, turning a rather fetching shade of red.
“Lloyd and Colette – would you two hurry up and get together already? I mean, c’mon, the tension’s right there…you could cut it with a knife…go on Lloyd, ask her out, you know you want to.”
The aforementioned couple looked to each other, then at their positions, Colette still resting her head on Lloyd’s shoulder, his arm around her.
“Yeah, that’s right, you know what I’m talking about…
Now, finally the biggest piece of gossip, like, ever, Kratos and Raine.”
The couple, who had been trying to edge into the shadows so that they might have some privacy, looked up sheepishly, Raine sitting bolt upright and smoothing out the light blouse she was wearing. Kratos straightened himself out at a more leisurely pace, rising from the ground like a zombie.
“That’s the spirit!” Zelos exclaimed, dragging all the attention onto the duo “So, what I was gonna say was, truly, congratulations.
You have no idea how long we’ve been waiting for you two to get together, and I think that everyone here will agree, that there are no two people in the world who will make prettier children…except maybe Sheena and I…but seriously, you deserve each other…and Kratos…you don’t know how lucky you are.”
The seraph looked at his lover, and then turned back to Zelos, stating “You know, I think I do.”
“Yeah, yeah…just remember who’s organising your stag night when the two of you decide to get married.
All in all, I would like now, to make a toast to Raine and Kratos, may you love each other ‘til the end of your days…which’ll be a long time from now, so don’t ruin it kiddies.”
Zelos reached down to the floor, grabbing his drink of now warm champagne and holding it up, the others following suit.
“To Kratos and Raine,” he intoned, raising his glass further to the couple
“Kratos and Raine.”