Locke and Celes are caught out in a blizzard and must find shelter. Perhaps they will also find pleasant companionship. Fluff, LockexCeles.
Ahead of her, barely visible through the dense curtain of swirling snow, Locke trudged forward. She tried to hurry so she could catch up to him, but her legs felt leaden; the best she could manage was a feeble burst of speed for three steps before her energy gave out, and it was back to the endless struggle of shuffling forward through the hip-deep snow.
She nearly ran into Locke before she realized he had stopped. She wondered dully where they were, and why he had stopped. If she stayed still for long, she feared she might become a part of the snow, frozen to the mountain. How ironic, the ice warrior reduced to an icy statue. "Locke?" Her voice cracked as she tried to make herself heard. "Can we stop somewhere? I need to rest." Admitting the weakness infuriated her, but she had been in the army long enough to know her body needed rest.
He bent close to her, shouting to be heard over the wind that moaned and screamed across the stony crags of the mountain. "All right. There's a cave here."
As she tried to answer, her scarf pulled painfully at her skin, nearly frozen to her face from the moisture of her breath. "Where?"
He took her arm and pulled her off to her left. They staggered into a stone passageway, stumbling on the uneven floor. The battering of the wind abated somewhat once they were safely in the passageway, though it continued to moan outside. Celes brushed feebly at the snow that coated her body completely. It felt strange to be so cold; as a Magitek Knight, with ice as her innate element, she could have walked nude through the Narshe snowfields in the depths of winter and not risked even taking a chill. Now that magic had faded from the world, the need for warm clothing in cold weather kept surprising her.
Locke gave her a hug, as best he could with both of them caked in masses of frozen snow and fur. "We'll just go far enough to get out of the weather."
She leaned against him and nodded. "I'm all right."
"Come on," Locke said hoarsely. "Should be wood for a fire farther in; the miners keep these caves stocked."
The faint grey light of the blizzard faded behind them as they headed deeper into the darkness of the tunnel. Ahead, Celes could barely pick out a dim yellowish glow that resembled torchlight. As they got closer, she was able to see open-topped glass containers bolted to the wall, filled with torch-bugs. The oddly luminescent, slimy yellow creatures were ubiquitous in the Narshean mines; miners used them for light when a torch would be too dangerous. She was grateful the things could survive on their own for long periods; stumbling down this passageway half-frozen and unable to see would have been even less pleasant than the current situation.
They shuffled slowly down the tunnel, which grew narrower the farther they went, until they could no longer walk side by side. They came to a massive oak door, set incongruously right in the middle of the brown stone passageway.
Locke gripped the handle in mittened hands and yanked. The door swung open slowly, creaking with protest. Celes smelled sulfur, and felt the brush of warmer air on her face.
She followed Locke through the door and found herself in a large, high-roofed chamber. There were more containers of the glowing torch-bugs, and vents in the sides of the cavern that belched forth a yellowish smoke, which flowed up the walls and out of vents that presumably led upward to fresher air. Along one wall of the cavern there were neat piles of kindling, sticks, and split logs, as well as oilskin-wrapped packets that reminded her of the rations they had carried in the army.
In the brighter light of this cavern, she was able to see Locke more clearly. Caked in snow and ice, he looked more like the massive sasquatch Umaro than his normal slightly-built self. He began stamping his feet and brushing at the snow, sending huge clumps of it crashing to the floor. A small mountain of snow was forming at his feet. Celes tried to brush the snow from her own head and shoulders, but she was shivering too hard and kept missing, clumsy in her layers of fur and snow. Her teeth were chattering so hard they hurt.
"Are you all right?" Locke seemed to be moving more easily now that they were in a slightly warmer place, and he lumbered over to help her get free of the snow that encased her.
"I'm f-f-f-f-fine." She clenched her teeth to stop their chattering and concentrated on ungluing her arms from her sides.
Locke finished removing the caked snow from her shoulders and gently unwound the scarf from around her head, trying to keep as much snow away from her skin as possible. She fumbled with the thick fur mittens that enveloped her hands, finally managing to loosen the thongs that bound them tightly in place on her forearms. Cold had made her muscles stiff and her hands were clumsy, but she was able to help Locke out of his heavily wrapped furs as well. It was warmer here, but she couldn't stop shivering.
Locke carefully unwrapped the garments that all but immobilized her and cuddled her close, rubbing her arms to warm her up. She leaned her head against his shoulder. "Are you all right?" he asked. After the violence of the storm outside, the cave seemed oddly quiet, and their voices echoed. She shivered and clung closer, unwilling to say she wasn't all right, but also unwilling to move away.
He cuddled her close. "We can stop for the night, if you need to," he offered quietly. "I didn't realize..." His voice trailed off and he turned his attention to rubbing his hands up and down her back, trying to impart some of his warmth.
Part of her wanted to insist she was fine and continue on, not wanting to seem weak. Her army training told her she desperately needed rest. Reluctantly, she decided to listen to her training. "I...that would be good. If you don't mind." Celes Chere, what happened to the tough-as-nails general? the acid voice in the back of her mind demanded. She ignored it and took a deep breath, bracing herself to move away from Locke's comforting warmth. They needed a fire, and it wouldn't get built if they stayed snuggled together.
Celes went to gather kindling from the pile against the wall. There was a depression in the center of the cavern that bore ancient soot-stains. She knelt down to build a fire, searching her belt pouch for flint and tinder. A few minutes later she was carefully adding splinters and fragments of wood to the first beginnings of a fire, patiently coaxing it into life. She could hear the scrape of bootheels on stone as Locke investigated their shelter.
"There's some dried meat and fruits in the oilskin," Locke said a few moments later, seating himself next to her. "I don't want to leave later visitors stranded, though."
"We have plenty of supplies, assuming we can thaw them out." Celes brushed back her hair, which was clinging wetly to the sides of her face as snow melted into it, and laid larger pieces of wood onto the fire, watching as flames bit into the dry logs and snapped merrily. "How did you know about this, anyway?"
"Well, they have to make some provisions for the miners who are up here in spring or fall and get caught in unexpected blizzards like we did." Locke shrugged.
"We should give the town elders some gold on our way out, to repay them for the supplies," Celes suggested.
Locke kissed her cheek lightly. "What, we can't just make off with them?" He stared at her with an expression of wide-eyed innocence that might have fooled her, had she not known better.
"Locke!" She poked his shoulder, hard, and couldn't hold back a smile when he clutched at his arm and fell over, feigning unconsciousness. He sat up a moment later, laughing.
"We should stay the night here, at least. I'm hoping the storm will blow over by morning."
"Yes, and whose idea was it anyway to come trekking up in the mountains to get caught in a storm?" Celes inquired with a hint of her usual asperity. The smile on her face as she turned toward him gave the lie to her tone.
"It's nearly summer," Locke retorted. "I didn't think there would be storms half this severe." He smiled at her regardless, and held out his arm invitingly. She cuddled against his side, resting her head on his shoulder and enjoying the warmth from the now happily crackling fire.
"What are we looking for up here, anyway?" she asked after a moment.
"Whatever we find." He brushed her hair back, toying with the ends of it. "Mog said Umaro found a series of caverns that were full of bits and pieces of ancient armour. Maybe some curiosities from the War of the Magi."
"But they wouldn't have any power, would they? Magic is gone." Celes looked down at the rune scars incised on her palms in thin, neat angular lines, merely a decorative pattern now instead of the means to absorb magic through her sword.
Locke traced the scars gently with the tip of his finger, making her shiver slightly. "Cold?" he murmured, and she could hear the smile in his voice.
"Not really." She turned her head to kiss his cheek lightly.
His fingertips traced down her palm to her wrist, trailing along the edges of her sleeve. "We could be here for quite a while, you know. That's a fierce storm outside."
"Let's make good use of the time, then." She slid over to sit on his lap and kissed him gently.
Author's Note: Concrit is ALWAYS appreciated, so please, tell me what I did wrong (or what I did right, if anything). Thanks!