Set after the opera scene, on the way to Vector. (It's sad that after 10 years, I still practically know the game script by heart.) Written for Locke's birthday, 11/29/04. [Gen.]
Note: Sorry about the couple of weird line-breaks in this one. I can't seem to fix them, even though the breaks aren't there on my text file. D: Sorry!
by Mina Lightstar
Not long after Setzer Gabbiani had agreed to fly their party to the Empire, Locke had decided to retire. Celes, Sabin, and Edgar had chosen to remain on deck, watching the scenery from above. Night had long fallen, and Setzer had relayed that they would not land on Imperial lands until dawn. Locke had chosen that moment to seek a quiet place.
Setzer's airship was classy, spacious, and had all the earmarks of
sophistication. Locke hadn't thought much of Setzer upon first sight, but already he was warming up to the carefree gambler.
Even the cushioned couches here are wonderful, he thought
wryly, sitting down on one. Locke had been fortunate enough to find a small room to himself, though there didn't seem to be any beds to be found. Perhaps Setzer had one for his own use in a private chamber somewhere. All the same, the couch was comfortable, so Locke toed off his boots and settled down on the cushions.
Briefly, he wondered if Setzer had truly cared for Maria, the opera singer whom Celes had impersonated. The gambler's affections had seemed fickle; so quickly he had abandoned Maria for a chance at Celes' hand. Locke had yet to speak privately to Celes, to ask her what Setzer had done after snatching her right off the stage -- what he had said.
But Celes seemed all right, and Setzer had backed off after losing
their bet, so Locke couldn't bring himself to worry. With Vector in the distance, he decided it would be prudent to try and get some sleep. Somehow, he wasn't sure he'd be able to feel rested when sleeping on Imperial land. It was true, he'd always wanted an inside look at the Empire, but that didn't mean he wasn't aware of what he would be dealing with.
Realizing that the train of thought was going to keep him awake, Locke pushed it aside and closed his eyes. They'd be flying for at least an hour before arriving near Albrook; he had time for a nap.
"Did your terrible acting tire you out?" asked a familiar voice from the doorway.
Locke's eyes snapped open. He hadn't even heard the door open. Upon pushing himself up, he saw that Edgar had joined him. "Edgar," he greeted his friend. "You surprised me."
Edgar smiled and shut the door behind him. "Getting rusty already?"
"Wouldn't say that," Locke quipped. "Just don't consider you a
His friend laughed, coming across the room to plop down on the couch beside him. "I'm surprised you can sleep."
"Well, I can't now," Locke pointed out, folding his arms and leaning against the back of the couch.
Edgar chuckled. "Well, it's just that you were itching to go along
with Celes. I figured you'd still be on deck, waiting for Vector to come into view."
Locke closed his eyes for a moment, seeing images of Rachel, Banon, and even Celes behind them. "I never doubted I'd be near Imperials, fighting Imperials, sneaking around Imperials...." He paused, frowning. "But to be this close to the capital... I... didn't think I'd be one of the Returners to do this." Edgar didn't reply right away. When Locke turned his head to look at him, his friend was staring at his hands, which he'd clasped in his lap. "Edgar?"
The King of Figaro shook his head, and then raised it to meet Locke's eyes. "I think I know how you feel. There's a sense of accomplishment there, too. Like we're that much closer to what we swore we would help bring about."
Edgar meant Gestahl's downfall, but Locke knew that his friend also spoke of their individual losses. So many had suffered needless loss because of Gestahl's empire -- Locke and Edgar among them.
"But you know," Edgar went on, "four people are not going to bring
about the Empire's downfall."
"'Course not," Locke agreed, knocking Edgar's knee with his own.
"We're just going in to save those Espers -- and make a mess of the research facility while we're at it."
"You're good at that type of thing," his friend chuckled. "Making a mess of things."
"Only to hinder another's progress." Locke liked to think he'd done an admirable job causing confusion among the Imperials when they'd first occupied South Figaro. Then, his objective had been to delay the discovery of the Returners' hideout and escape to join the others in Narshe. He'd been surprised to find himself sidetracked with a tortured Celes.
"There's something I wanted to ask you about."
The slight change in Edgar's tone made Locke blink. He turned to face Edgar. "Oh?"
"Mm. 'Celes, listen to yourself! You can't become his wife! You
just can't!'" The King of Figaro raised an eyebrow.
Locke averted his eyes, frowning again. His words, those -- words he had spoken when Celes had made her bet: heads for Setzer's aid, tails for her hand in marriage. "Well, would you have wanted to watch her throw herself away over a coin toss?"
The corner of Edgar's mouth quirked. "That's not what I mean and you know it."
"Ah? And what is it you mean?"
The half-smile was suddenly gone, replaced by a look that was almost stern. "I didn't say anything about Terra; she was -- is -- a special case, since she doesn't remember anything about herself and needs people she can trust to look after her."
"Wait, this has nothing to do with--"
"But Celes." Edgar's brow knit together as he thought. "I told her
once that your past was, ah, complicated. I told her that it wouldn't be a good idea for her to go thinking you'd fallen for her."
Locke shifted uncomfortably. "Edgar...."
"And now I start hearing things like this." Edgar tapped his chin.
"So it makes me wonder."
His friend, probably noticing Locke's distress, was quick to add, "I'm not accusing you of anything. I'm not even going to probe, if you don't want me to. I just wondered... if you and Celes...."
"No." Locke pronounced the word softly, but firmly. "We aren't. And we won't," he added. "Edgar, really, we -- I -- don't have time for that kind of thing." He didn't bother to point out that he still had some issues to work out before he could ever open up that way again.
"No time? Is that so?" Edgar mused. "We'll see."
Locke's fingers clenched, bunching up the fabric of his pants.
"Edgar, you know I'm still...."
The King of Figaro made an exasperated noise. "Sometimes, I'm
positive that the only way to relieve you of this guilt is for Rachel to come down and talk some sense into you."
Locke winced. "Edgar, stop."
Realizing what he'd begun, Edgar backed off immediately. "Sorry.
Really, I am." He sighed. "I just wish you could... I just worry about you."
"It's all right," Locke replied, smoothing things over. "But, Edgar, Celes is my friend. We don't... no, we just aren't that close."
Edgar nodded, albeit wearily, and leaned back against the couch with his eyes closed. Locke followed suit, recognizing the sign that the conversation was over for the time being.
Given the way he and Celes tended to act together, Locke supposed he could understand Edgar's questioning what lay beyond their public demonstrations. Still, with so much else going on, how could any of their allies believe that romance was on their agenda?
But still, he thought as he listened to Edgar's breathing even out, she looked very pretty in that dress.