title: A Slow Bleed
fandom: Tales of Symphonia
characters/pairings: past Lloyd/Zelos, Kratos/Zelos, Sheena
rating: G/Teen
warnings: grief, sex, wings
summary: Zelos desires healing.
notes: for my darling Bryan, a sequel to Time to Grieve, and therefore also sorta of End of the Road.

He sat on the bed, naked. Kratos was in the bath. He held the sheet close to his body, nervous about being undressed. And about Kratos coming out of the bath.

This was his and Lloyd's bed. But he and Kratos had been sharing it ever since the day of the funeral.

He didn't know or care if that was right or wrong.

Kratos came into the bedroom, still drying his hair. He was wearing just sleeping pants, and Zelos turned away, feeling shy, embarrassed by his attraction. Kratos didn't notice his state of undress at first. They weren't in the habit of talking much, especially at night, so it wasn't until he sat down on the bed that he realized.

Zelos turned red, and slid down into bed, and pulled the sheet up over himself. "It's getting hot, and I hate sleeping in clothes, anyway. Just... stay on your side of the bed."

"A-ah, of course..." Kratos stammered, uncertain.

Kratos hadn't been touching Zelos of late, ever since Zelos stopped wearing clothes to bed. Zelos felt like a gulf had appeared between them, and he wasn't sure how to breach it... rather... he knew exactly what he needed to do, but...

He clung so desperately to his memories of Lloyd. He needed them. But day after day, his memories got colder and colder. And Kratos... Kratos was still there, still warm, still alive...

Still in love with him. Perhaps.

He was afraid that Kratos would want to leave him, so he decided.

He would be bolder.

The next time he waited in bed, naked, for Kratos, he pulled out his wings, and he didn't cling to the sheet quite so much. When Kratos came back in, he turned his face away.

"D-do you still... Do you... still find me... beautiful?"

He could hear Kratos breathing. His own heart was pounding. Maybe Kratos would refuse him, or berate him for forgetting Lloyd. But he never forgot about Lloyd. He was just so... lonely.

"Zelos. Think about what you are doing. If... If you take a step down this path, you might as well have taken twelve. Don't... don't taunt me..."

Zelos swallowed hard, several times, and then took a deep breath. "I... I know what I'm doing. Just... take it... take it slow..." He closed his eyes tightly, because he was still afraid of being rejected.

He shivered when Kratos' hands came to touch him. Kratos turned his face, and brushed his thumb over Zelos' lips. "Open your eyes."

"W-why?" Zelos trembled. He wanted to just throw himself into Kratos' arms, but he wasn't certain...

"Because. I want to see your conviction."

Kratos' voice always melted Zelos. He opened his eyes, but tears were already forming. Kratos pushed them out of the way, and kissed Zelos' mouth. "I can't replace my son."

"I know," Zelos sighed, his grief still bleeding. "I don't want a replacement Lloyd. I want..."

"Sh," Kratos said abruptly, and covered Zelos' mouth. Zelos submitted, let Kratos put his hands everywhere, on his wings, on his flesh, took Kratos' mana, and gave back his own.

He slept with his head on Kratos' chest, and felt warm.

She came and sat down next to him, bumping him with her shoulder as she did. She didn't say anything, though. He presumed there wasn't much to say. Lloyd was gone, and that left nothing else.

"Hey," she looked at Zelos from the corner of her eye. "Do you still come here every day?"

He shrugged. "Mostly. Sometimes I miss a day, for one reason or another."

Sheena nodded, and cleared her throat. "I was surprised to find out that Kratos was still staying with you. That guy... I didn't realize he and you... well...!" She blushed.

He narrowed his eyes, and leaned forward, wrapping his arms around his legs. "Mm. You probably think... how shameless, to be taking up with the father, while the son is barely cold."

"I...! No! Nothing like that! I know you wouldn't do that! I mean, everyone talks about how shameless you are and how you have no morals, but I know you loved Lloyd, and you still do, and... and I didn't mean it like that, anyway." She sighed, and put her face in her hand.

Zelos hunkered down, putting his chin on his knees. "But I am. I'm sleeping with him. I let him do whatever he wants to my body. We're... we're living together, like that."

She gasped, and Zelos grinned, masochistically. After a few moments of silence, she put her hand on his shoulder. "But I think... wouldn't Lloyd... want the two of you to be happy?"

He put his forehead on his knees, and shook.

Kratos was getting better at cooking, but he insisted on having Zelos with him for every attempt, and he fed Zelos his creations with his fingers. These culinary experiments tended to be a great deal of fun, and there wasn't much fun in Zelos' life anymore. It was supposed to be something very simple, just pancakes. Very little that could go wrong, really. Except that Kratos spilled all the flour, possibly on purpose, since he was hardly clumsy.

Then, he splattered batter all over the place when he flung the spoon out of the bowl, and even though Zelos warned him, he tried to lick the batter off of Zelos' face. Of course, it was bitter, not at all like cake batter, and he made a face.

It was so... unlike Kratos. So random and silly and it was the moment. Zelos laughed, lifting his hand limply to pretend to cover his chuckles.

Kratos smiled, a serious smile that expressed a deep sense of happiness.

Blushing, Zelos looked away. "Don't... don't look at me like that."

"Why not?" Zelos couldn't ignore the note of hurt in Kratos' voice. He shut his eyes tightly, though, and tried to turn his face away, but Kratos caught his chin in his fingers. "Do you want to pretend that I'm not here?"

"I-It's not that..." Zelos shut his eyes tightly, and felt them getting hot. He hated crying. All these stupid tears... He felt like he'd never be whole again. "I... I like... I like you being here..."

"Do you not want me to hold you?" Kratos pulled Zelos into his arms, as if as example. "What is it that you want from me? Would you like to pretend that it's just sex? I can't do that. I love you, Zelos."

Zelos threw himself at Kratos, and hide his face against Kratos' chest. "I still love him. I haven't forgotten him. Lloyd was my reason for living."

Kratos' arms came up to hold onto Zelos, too tightly, but Zelos wasn't about to complain. He cleared his throat before he spoke. "I know. I don't need... I don't need you to... love me back. But let me be with you, Zelos."

"But I do," Zelos sobbed, clutching at Kratos. "I love you. And I keep falling more in love with you... But I should love Lloyd. I was his only one... I should love only him..."

Kratos put his lips on the top of Zelos' head, and held him even tighter. He tangled his fingers in Zelos' hair. "Zelos..."

"I don't know what's wrong with me. I should love only him. But I keep hearing his voice... He's still so cheerful... He wants me to take care of you. He wants me to be happy, to live... I should love only him, though..." He was starting to break down again. He just didn't understand. What was wrong with him?

Kratos lifted his chin, and kissed him, softly, thoroughly. "Zelos... Zelos, if... if it had been you, if you had died. Would you have wanted Lloyd to pine for you for the rest of his days?" It sounded like Kratos was fighting with the words, like he wasn't sure what to say.

Kratos has been in love before, though. He had been forced to kill the person he loved the most.

He understood.

"But it's different. He was... better than me..." Zelos sighed. He had never deserved Lloyd. How could he be in love with Kratos, too?

"He loved you," Kratos smiled, touching his cheek. "I... know how he felt. It. Wasn't easy, watching the two of you together... but I loved you both, and I wanted you to be happy. I feel guilty, too. He was my son, and I'm taking advantage... But, I think he would approve. I think he wants us to keep going, to be strong..."

Zelos pulled away from Kratos just a bit. "I miss him. So much. I don't think this will ever stop hurting. I think it's wrong. I shouldn't be happy. I shouldn't be loved. But I'm selfish. I don't care if it is wrong. I don't want to be alone. It doesn't matter if Lloyd would approve or not; if you want me, I'm... I'm yours." He turned his face away, because he couldn't bear to see Kratos' disdain.

He could feel them, before he even felt the blue light against his eyelids. "Zelos. Open your eyes and face me." He was powerless against that voice. Kratos was glorious, so perfect... He put his hand on Zelos' cheek, and Zelos could feel the weight of importance of what Kratos was about to say. "There will never come a day when I don't want you. So you have to be with me, always."

The last flimsy shreds of Zelos' resistance crumbled, and he was in Kratos' arms, kissing him, clinging to him, and they were making love on the kitchen table, and he and Lloyd used to do this, too, but this was Kratos, now, and he was in love with Kratos, and Lloyd was dead, and that was just the way it was.

The next day they visited Lloyd's grave together, and Zelos asked Kratos to help him redecorate the house.