Disclaimers: I don't own Suikoden II.

Author's Note: I named the hero: Rand. This is the first part of a two part series.

Love and Compromise

Chapter One: Love

By Delphine Pryde

They stare at me, as if those eyes will turn me into the hero that is so desperately needed. I say yes, I will become the leader of this small army. With such a promise have I truly turned traitor to my homeland of Highland? Who among this old castle would blame me when you consider what my own prince had done? Joei might see it as a betrayal against him, but wasn't it he who betrayed me?

"Lord Rand?" It was Shu. The dark-haired man must have been calling my name for a while for there was a slight hint of worry on his face.

"Sorry...I was thinking. What did you want?"

"We were trying to decide what to name the castle, North Window doesn't seem to fit it anymore." That was Viktor. The bear of a man had been the first to show me that the Jowston City-States weren't just another enemy to fight against. He and Flik had introduced me to Anabelle, Mayor of Muse. It was Anabelle who had shown me what it meant to be a leader. It is she who should have been made the leader if Joei hadn't cut her life short.

Joei...it all comes back to him. Why must everything remind me of him? He haunts my thoughts as sure as he haunts my heart. Heh, I sound like a love sick puppy.

I have to wonder if Joei might have chosen differently if I had had the courage to admit that I loved him. But I was afraid of rejection. Some brave hero I am.

"Anabelle," I finally said. "Anabelle Castle."

Apple nodded. "The soldiers from Muse will appreciate you naming the castle after their former mayor."

"And boost morale. Good thinking, Lord Rand," praised Shu, nodding.

That wasn't really why, but I wasn't going to say that to them. They didn't need to know that I was using her name to remind me of my failures, so I wouldn't make the same mistakes. At least I hoped.

"Leave here," Joei pleaded with me. "Take Nanami and run as far away as you can."

Here in the woods of Greenhill was the last place I expected to see my former best friend. But here he was, asking me to leave the Dragon Army leaderless. I closed my eyes briefly before staring into his blue eyes with my brown ones. "I can't," I told him, regret in my voice.

"Then we're enemies." His voice sounded pained.

"We don't have to be." I told him the story of Grandpa and his friend Han.

"We're not them," he told me sadly.

"I see." I felt a pang within my heart. It was Muse all over again. I was going to lose him again. No not this time, I wouldn't allow it to happen. Before Joei had time to even blink I crushed our lips together. I put everything I felt for him into that kiss.

To my relief Joei kissed back with almost bruising force. It felt as if he was trying to possess me, body and soul, with just his mouth. It ended, leaving a tingling sensation on my lips and me gasping for air.

"You realize that you have just seriously screwed up this situation," he said, his voice filled with raw emotion.

"How can loving you mess this war up any more then it already is?" I asked.

"You love me?" he sounded stunned. "Even after what I've done?"

I pulled him into a close hug. "Yes, of course."

He gave a shaky laugh and wiped away the beginning of tears. "You're the leader of the Dragon Army and I'm a Highland general. I'm not suppose to love you, but I do. I've loved you for such a long time, but was never able to tell you."

I was stunned. I had never imagined he was hiding his feelings for me like I hid my feelings for him.

"What do we do?" I asked.

"We go our separate ways."

"But-" He placed his fingers over my lips, halting any protest.

"Just for now. I have a plan, trust me."

"I will."

My ears picked up people shouting out "Rand" and "Lord Rand."

Joei gave a wry grin. "Better go before they find us here together." He gave me a quick kiss on the lips before I left. As I lost sight of him, I wondered if we ever would be together again.