Edgar reflects, Locke interrupts. Written for Brie, just because she asked.
The Burden of the Crown
by Mina Lightstar
Edgar liked to carry himself confidently, assuming the air of someone who wasn't under a great deal of stress. Even when he was threatening to buckle under the pressure, he always managed to collect himself beforehand. A king could not afford to fall, in any way; an entire realm depended on his actions, decisions, and judgment. Such was the burden of the crown, and Edgar knew it well.
He had ascended the throne after a tragedy. His father had perished, the victim of foul play. Poison had been suspected, but the infiltrator who had planted it in his food had never been captured. Ignoring the Empire's murder of his father and continuing to give them lip service had been the hardest thing Edgar had ever done in his life. But sometimes the right decisions were the ones that hurt the most to make, and so he made them.
That period, ten years ago, had been one of the most trying weeks Figaro had ever gone through. Not only had the kingdom lost its king -- and its queen, not so long ago -- but the king's sons, twin heirs, were themselves divided. Their father's dying wish had been for Figaro to be divided between them, but instead, the only thing that had been divided was the bond between them. Or so Edgar had feared.
In the end, they had been divided only by sheer distance, and different ambitions. Sabin had never been fond of politics, or the prospect of ruling the realm one day. Palace life simply wasn't suited to him. At Sabin's wish to lead his own life, Edgar had finally realized what had to be done... and he'd flipped the coin.
That had also been a hard choice, but the right one to make. And oh, how far he'd come since that last night with his brother. He often wished they could all see him now. Would his parents be proud of him? Would Sabin approve?
Contrary to what many people thought, it was not always good to be the King. But he tried his best to balance everything out. Now, with the Empire rapidly gaining more power, it was becoming a trifle more difficult to conduct his secret business with the Returners. Edgar feared that the day to make another hard decision was drawing near. Soon, he would be forced to either stop supporting the resistance movement, or openly declare his opposition to the Imperials.
Oh, he knew which option he would pick. It was just a matter of knowing that by doing so, he would be placing his people in jeopardy. He hoped they would support his choice regardless.
"Stop thinking so hard. You'll hurt yourself."
Edgar chuckled despite his gloomy thoughts, because no matter what seemed to happen, there would always be at least one man who never treated Edgar like a king. "And when did you come in?"
"Was easy." Locke waved a dismissive hand as he crossed the room and joined Edgar by the fire. "Any real treasure hunter can tiptoe around a king when he's mooning over some serving girl."
Edgar made a face, and saw Locke smirk from the corner of his eye. "What serving girl? I was thinking about politics and good judgment. But I understand you couldn't tell, being a thief, and all."
"You wound me." Locke raised a gloved hand to tap his heart. "Right here."
Edgar grinned, and turned away from the fire to face his friend. "Yes, well, what serving girl do you speak of? If it's Reina, then I'll have you know she's making those eyes at you, my dear boy."
Locke rubbed the back of his head, looking sheepish. "No serving girl at all, actually. I was going to say Terra right away, but thought better of it."
"Good move," Edgar quipped out of habit, and then the sentence relayed back to him. "Hey, wait. What do you mean about Terra?"
Locke waved his hand again. "Oh, like I didn't see. You're not one to lie to the ladies, Edgar -- unless they're Imperials. I heard you." He feigned what Edgar deemed to be a very poor Edgar-esque pose, and spoke in what Edgar deemed to be an even poorer Edgar-esque tone. "Your beauty has captivated me! I'm dying to know if I'm your type!"
Edgar wrinkled his nose. "If you stuck around long enough to hear that, then you also heard that her abilities were a 'distant third.' Really, Locke. One of the Empire's weapons is a guest in my castle, and you think wooing her is all that's on my mind?"
"Hardly," Locke admitted after a pause. "I didn't mean it that way. But you shouldn't label her as an Imperial weapon. Arvis said..." he hesitated, even though it had been proven time and time again that what they spoke of was never overheard in Edgar's chambers, "that they, you know, with a slave crown."
Edgar closed his eyes briefly. "It's good, then, that she can't remember much of that time." Royal crowns were not the only kind that came with burdens.
"She can't remember much of anything," Locke pointed out. He put both hands behind his head. "I think Banon should meet her."
"I thought you'd say that."
"You agree, then?"
"Mm." Edgar tugged at his yellow ponytail and moved from his sitting room to the bedroom, dimly aware of Locke following him. "But we can't let her misunderstand our intentions. I think I speak for both of us when I say that I don't want to force Terra into anything, but at the same time... we'd be foolish if we don't let her know about her options. And even more foolish if we let a chance to gain such a valuable ally slip by."
"Agreed," Locke said softly. "But we have to be careful not to push her. She -- she already doesn't know what to do. She's confused, and she remembers nothing."
Edgar decided to carefully sidestep the conversation, seeing the direction it was potentially heading in. After their banter about wooing women, it would not be prudent to broach the subject of Rachel. If they had no other concerns, no other obligations, he might sit Locke down and talk him through it. But there were more pressing matters than Locke's perpetual state of guilt, even though Edgar would very much prefer to help heal the latter.
"It's been a while since I've seen you in person," he said, steering the conversation away from Terra. "Do I mean so little that it takes a Magitek crisis in Narshe to warrant a visit?"
Locke snickered as Edgar sat on the edge of his bed. "I was busy. Being on-call for numerous Returners leaves me with little leisure time."
"So you did miss me?" Edgar batted his eyelashes. The action just made Locke laugh again.
"A little, I guess."
"Ah! So there is no one else. Your charms haven't improved much, then."
Locke casually flipped him off and made his way toward the bed, taking a moment to shed his gloves and drop them on the table. He stopped just short of Edgar's sitting form. "I think the Empire may show up here again. I tried my best to make sure we weren't seen traveling toward the castle, but..."
"Forget it. It's already taken care of." When Locke raised an eyebrow, Edgar winked. "There are chocobos for the three of us standing by, if the need arises. Kefka didn't look satisfied with my answer, did he?"
"Missing a few buttons," Locke said, reaffirming his earlier opinion of Emperor Gestahl's clown. "I should have known you'd be ready, though."
"Yes, you should have." Edgar patted the space on the bed beside him invitingly. Even though Locke had taken off his gloves, a sure sign that he was in the mood, Edgar was relieved when his friend sat down and stopped talking of things that could wait a few hours.
Their meetings usually devolved to more intimate things. Locke's visits were fewer and farther between than they used to be, and neither of them had ever been the sort of men to let opportunities pass them by. And even though they had something of a history, Edgar had been quietly surprised when, after Rachel's death, Locke had allowed their relations to come about. Locke and Rachel had been a perfect match, despite their differences, and in the beginning, Edgar had feared that Rachel's death would destroy Locke. It nearly had, and might have if Edgar had not been there.
Years later, after filling the void in his life with something important and trying to make a difference, the pain of believing he was at fault for Rachel's death had dulled. The guilt was still there, and would be until Locke finally found what he needed to assuage it, but it didn't have quite the hold on him it once did. Perhaps he thought Rachel would approve of his being a Returner, or perhaps he thought that Rachel would insist that he help save the world before occupying himself with her.
A crown was not necessary to carry a heavy burden.
Edgar was shaken out of his thoughts when he realized that Locke had been staring at him quizzically for quite some time. "Sorry. I was thinking."
Locke smiled. "I told you it was hard on you." Then the smile faded into a frown. "Did you not wanna do this?"
"I started it," Edgar pointed out, he reached behind his friend's head and tugged at the knot of the bandana.
Locke took the hint and started undoing it. "Well, you know we never have to do this. I don't -- hell, I don't know how to say it. We're friends, first and foremost. I don't ever want to lose that."
"Friends that come with benefits are hard to find. We lucked out." The trysts had begun as simple male bonding, and had continued when they discussed the prospect of friendly, casual sex. At first, Edgar had thought that Locke was imagining Rachel, but vocalizations had dispelled that notion.
After a long session of breathless kissing and heavy petting, Edgar pulled away so he could look down at Locke's flushed face, hair mussed and pupils dilated.
"What?" he croaked.
"Was just gonna say," Edgar's voice sounded husky even to his own ears, "that if we're going all the way tonight, you'd better not fall asleep right after. You can't let anyone find you here."
"Oh, go to hell," Locke groaned, cuffing Edgar across the ear. "You're the one who falls asleep."
Edgar chuckled, pleased with himself, and then made another important decision: that Locke would appreciate it if he went down, just not necessarily to Hell.
And when they were finished, they made themselves presentable and Edgar saw Locke out the door. And then Edgar got ready for bed, feeling better about what was to come.
Their friendship -- and everything that came with it -- made each of their burdens easier to carry.